Religious minorities go on hunger strike against sectarian violence
Together, Hindus, Buddhists and Christians call on the government to provide them with greater protection. The Muslim who posted photo on social media that led to clashes was arrested.
Dhaka (AsiaNews) – Hindus, Buddhists and Christians took part in a hunger strike in solidarity with the Hindu community which recently came under attack from Muslim radicals.
Seven people have died in the sectarian clashes and hundreds of houses have been set on fire since 13 October, when Durga Puja celebrations were underway.
“Please stop the persecution of the Hindu community. The government should guarantee our security,” pleaded Neem Chandra Bhowmik, one of Bangladesh’s main Hindu leaders.
The violence was triggered by a picture showing a copy of the Qurʼān placed at the foot of the statue of a Hindu deity.
Posted on social media, the image sparked outrage among Muslims, some of whom attacked Hindu houses and temples.
It was later discovered that a Muslim extremist, Iqbal Hossain, now in police custody, was responsible for the picture.
Hemanta Corraya, secretary of the Bangladesh Christian Association, expressed solidarity with the Hindus attacked.
“We want justice for our brothers and sisters,” he said. “We also want the government to stop the propaganda on Facebook” which has favoured a return of sectarian violence.
“The voice of religious minorities has not been raised in Parliament," said Nirmol Rozario, president of the Hindu Buddhist Christian Unity Council.
“If religious minorities leave the country, even the government risks disappearing, giving way to sectarian violence. Not only minorities are at risk, but also those who believe in secularism and have a progressive vision.”
To avoid this, Rozario urged Bangladesh’s secularist parties to unite against those who fuel divisions.
The Hindu Buddhist Christian Unity Council, which brings together the country's religious minorities, made a series of demands to the government during the hunger strike held on Saturday.
Its requests include the creation of an independent commission of inquiry, compensation for merchants who lost their business, and greater minority participation and representation in government.
Protesters called on the government above all to cover the costs of the vandalised temples, provide medical treatment for the wounded, pay two million taka (US$ 23,300) to the families of those killed, and relocate those who have lost their homes.
The investigation should also be quick and impartial and include a look at the role of the police which failed to intervene to stop the violence.