Three die in Muslim-Hindu clashes in Chandpur, sparking fears about religious harmony
The violence follows the alleged desecration of a Qurʼān during the Hindu festival of Durga Puja. For Bangladesh’s Religious Affairs Minister, restoring peace is the priority, people urged not to take justice in their own hands.
Chandpur (AsiaNews) – Three people died after clashes broke out overnight pitting Islamic extremists, local police and Hindu faithful near a Hindu temple in Hajiganj, in the southern district of Chandpur.
The violence follows news posted on social media, especially Facebook, claiming that a group of Hindus desecrated a copy of the Holy Qurʼān in Comilla during the celebrations of Durga Puja, an annual Hindu festival celebrated from 11 to 15 October.
Within hours, Muslim extremists responded to the alleged offence, by vandalising numerous Hindu idols and temples as well as Hindu homes.
In the evening, a violent clash broke out between two factions, which also involved the police.
In addition to the three confirmed deaths, several people were wounded in the village of Hajiganj, including 17 policemen; in the city of Comilla, where the alleged desecration took place, more than 30 people were wounded in the violence.
“It was an act of provocation,” said Nirmol Pal, secretary general of the Comilla City Puja Celebration Committee. “To interfere with our celebrations, Muslims put a copy of the Qurʼān in our holy place and accused us of desecrating it.”
According to one version of events circulating on social media, an alleged eyewitness, Kazi Tanim a Muslim from Comilla, claimed on his Facebook profile to have seen someone bring a copy of the Qurʼān into the Hindu temple and then place it at the foot of a statue.
Many now fear that these clashes could be the beginning of more tensions and the end the religious harmony that had lasted in this region for many years.
For his part, Religious Affairs Minister Faridul Haque Khan urged people to restrain themselves and refrain from taking justice in their own hands. The priority now is to maintain religious harmony and peace.
“We are closely monitoring the situation in Comilla,” he said. “The local administration has been instructed to investigate what really happened. Anyone involved in destroying religious harmony [in the country] must be brought under the ambit of law and arrangements be made to give proper punishment.”
At present, the local administration in Chandpur has banned all public gatherings. In addition to Comilla and Hajiganj, clashes were reported in Chattogram, Kurigram, and Moulvibazar.