Radical Islamists set on fire, vandalised and looted houses of several Hindu families in Bangladesh’s Comilla district over rumours about a Facebook post allegedly slandering Islam, prompting authorities to order stern, punitive action against the culprits, reports PTI.
Some media reports suggested that at least 15 temples at Nasirnagar in Brahmanbarhia district in Bangladesh were vandalised on Sunday and over 100 houses in the area belonging to Hindus were looted.
While the Indian government is looking into the alarming incident, the Congress party voiced its concern over the reports of the attack on the minority Hindu community in Bangladesh and urged the Centre to take up the issue immediately with the neighbouring country.
After the violence, which allegedly lasted for hours, two temples in adjacent Madhabpur in Habigunj also came under attack, the report said quoting police and eyewitnesses.
“It is reported that Hindu families in Bangladesh have been targeted by fundamentalist forces resulting in the arsoning and other violence as a reprisal of the stand taken by our government. Indian government should take up the issue with the Bangladesh government as immediately as possible so as to prevent further escalation,” he said in a statement.
Six persons have been arrested for their alleged involvement in the attack and paramilitary Border Guards Bangladesh (BGB) deployed at Nasirnagar and Madhabpur Upazila headquarters along with the Rapid Action Battalion, police and Armed Police Battalion, the report said.
Locals said the Nasirnagar incident started with a Facebook post by one person from Harinberh village under Haripur Union Parishad.
Police detained the accused on Friday immediately after the allegation of blasphemy against him. The man has been sent to jail following a court order.
The households were vandalised and later set on fire on Sunday after a Bangladeshi man, who lives in France, allegedly praised President Emmanuel Macron for taking steps against 'inhumane ideologies' after a teacher in Paris was decapitated for showing caricatures of the Prophet, officials said.
The headmaster of a kindergarten school in Purbo Dhour and another person reportedly shared his comments welcoming Macron’s action in a comment on the post which was spread on social media with the claim that the headmaster supported caricatures of the Prophet.
As the rumours about the Facebook post spread, tension mounted in the area on Saturday.
The village chief, himself a Hindu, handed them to police. They were produced before a local court which denied bail and sent them to jail pending trial. The police launched a case under the Digital Security Act against them.
'Orders have been issued to arrest anyone who appeared as suspects alongside launching routine legal procedures against those involved,' Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal told PTI.
He said extra police forces were sent to the affected village to ensure security of people in the neighbourhood.
'We have mobilised mobile courts to award punishment to the suspects as immediate actions but the culprits will face sterner punitive actions after detailed investigations,' Kamal said.
Cumilla's police chief Syed Nuril Islam told PTI over phone that five people have been arrested and a mobile court has sentenced each of them to one and half years of imprisonment identifying them from a video footage.
'Three cases were lodged by now and another two are being framed over the incident,' Islam said.
He said youth activists of an 'anti-government political party' reportedly mobilized the mob which carried out the vandalism in which two Hindu temples were also damaged'.
'The situation is under control now,” Md Abul Fazal Mir, deputy commissioner of Comilla district, said.
The deputy commissioner said the locals carried out arson attacks on homes, including those of the two arrestees.
Demonstrations against France over caricatures of the Prophet have been taking place in different Muslim-majority countries for some days.
Bangladeshi authorities have deployed four platoons of police in Kurbanpur and Andikot villages to keep the situation under control.
Reached by phone, a resident of the village at Muradnagar sub-district of Comilla, referred to as Laxmi Babu, said the culprits torched nine houses and two temples on Sunday 'but the situation is now normal after police held a meeting with villagers'.
Bangladesh Hindu-Buddhist-Christian Unity Council, meanwhile, said they sent a delegation to the scene for gathering detailed information.
'Right now, I can just tell you the incident is pathetic...religious sentiment is not a one way traffic,' council's presidium member Kajol Debnath told PTI.
He said that the vandalism came two days after the Islamists killed an elderly Muslim teacher in northwestern Lalmonirhat on an identical plea 'which is more pathetic as it cost a human life there'.
Inputs from PTI, ANI