Dhaka, at least 4 dead in protests over Modi's visit
by Sumon Corraya

Demonstrations against the Indian premier’s participation in celebrations for the 50th anniversary of independence and the centenary of the birth of Mujibur Rahman. Islamists accuse him of persecution of Muslims in India. Modi: "Collaboration between our two countries is fundamental for the development of South Asia."

Dhaka (AsiaNews) - At least four people died and a hundred were injured in Dhaka and Chattogram during clashes between activists of Islamist organizations with the police and supporters of the ruling Awami League, during demonstrations against the visit by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.  Those killed are members of the Islamist group Hefazat-e-Islam.

Since last week, radical groups have been protesting against Modi's two-day visit to Bangladesh. They accuse the Indian prime minister of persecuting Muslims in India and therefore argue that he should not be welcomed to the country.

Again today Hefazat-e-Islam is protesting at the Baitul Mukarram mosque in Dhaka. Yesterday they called a day of general strike for tomorrow in response to attacks on their own activists and the deaths of four militants in clashes with police in Hathazari in the Chattogram district. Facebook and Messenger, the apps often used to organize protests, are blocked in some parts of Bangladesh.

Modi arrived in the country yesterday morning for this two-day visit linked to the celebrations for the centenary of the birth of the nation's father, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, and for the fifty years of Bangladesh's independence. He met various groups of people in the afternoon, including religious minorities. Then in the evening Modi participated as guest of honor in a ceremony at the National Parade Ground underlining how cooperation between India and Bangladesh is fundamental for the development of South Asia.

He said: “Democratic forces are in power in our both countries and we have clear foresight to go ahead. Joint advancement of India and Bangladesh is equally urgent for the development of the whole region.” he said.

Speaking as the guest of honour, Modi said the governments of India and Bangladesh have realised the sensitivity of joint advancement and would continue meaningful efforts to this end. He said, “We’ve proved that all problems could be resolved through mutual trust and cooperation. Our land boundary agreement is an example of this.” he said.

The centenary of the birth of the father of the homeland Mujibur Rahman, the Indian Prime Minister said, has strengthened the friendly relations between the two countries, ensuring that 1 billion and 300 million Indians bring their good wishes to Bangladesh on this occasion.

Today Modi is visiting the southern part of the country. Together with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, he paid tribute to Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in Tungipara in the district of Gopalganj. Earlier in Satkhira he had visited the Jeshoreshwari temple, a 400-year-old Hindu place of worship. Today India's premier will also sign a cooperation agreement with Bangladesh.

Yesterday's meeting with religious minorities took place at the Pan Pacific Sonargaon hotel in Dhaka. Among those present was Nirmol Rozario, the president of the Bangladesh Christian Association, who told AsiaNews: “Modi sent us his best wishes for the country's fifty years and we reciprocated. He said he was happy to visit Bangladesh”. Rozario also expressed the hope that this visit will bear concrete fruit on some open issues between the two countries such as the Teesta agreement on the sharing of water resources or the reduction of killings on the border between Bangladesh and India.