Communal Attacks: At least 17 killed during pandemic

At least 17 people from religious and ethnic minorities have been killed between March and September, as communal attacks continued even amid the Covid-19 pandemic, Bangladesh Hindu, Bouddha, Christian Oikya Parishad said yesterday.

Twenty-seven idols were desecrated, 23 temples either vandalised or torched, and five cremation grounds or religious institutions were grabbed during this period, said a press statement from the Parishad.

It presented the information at a press conference at the Chattogram Press Club. Its General Secretary Rana Dasgupta read out the keynote paper and later issued the statement.

The organisation will take to the streets for two hours from 10:00am on Saturday across the country, protesting these incidents and to press for several demands, including the formation of a national minority commission and enactment of the minority protection act, he said.

In his written speech, Dasgupta said communal attacks on religious and ethnic minorities continued even during the pandemic.

“Criminals involved in the attacks, in many cases, gave their identity as leaders and activists of the ruling Awami League or the BNP,” he said.

He gave some statistics on such attacks, which the Parishad collected from Bangladesh Minority Watch and different media outlets.

“However, this is not the full picture, it’s only a part. Actually, communal violence has become a common phenomenon in Bangladesh,” he said.

“The main purpose of the [communal] attacks is to intimidate religious and ethnic minorities, force them to leave the country and make the country void of minorities,” he added.

He further said 10 people from minority communities faced murder attempts, while 11 faced death threats. Thirty women were tortured, raped and gang-raped, and three of them died by suicide afterwards.

Six women faced rape attempts while 23 were abducted and three remained missing, he said. Twenty-six incidents led to the eviction of minorities from their homestead and lands, and while 73 such attempts were made, he added.

Thirty-four people were told to leave the country while 60 families were forced to leave their villages, he said, adding that seven people were forcefully converted.

Eighty-eight incidents resulted in homes or businesses torched, looted or vandalised, and those left at least 247 people injured.

Meanwhile, four were arrested on false charges of hurting religious sentiments, while 20 families were asked to change their religion during relief distribution by a non-government organisation, said the Oikya Parishad.

Rana Dasgupta alleged that communal attacks carried out in Dinajpur’s Parbatipur and Cumilla’s Muradnagar were based on fake social media posts from hacked Facebook accounts.

He said six minority students were suspended from different universities between October 26 and 28 on charges of hurting religious sentiment. He demanded the authorities withdraw the suspension and release four who were arrested.

He also condemned the brutal killing of Abu Yunus Md Shahidunnabi Jewel in Lalmonirhat.

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