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People involved in attacks on Hindu temples, Durga Puja venues will be hunted down: Bangladesh PM Sheikh Hasina

Dhaka: Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has said that anyone involved in the attacks on Hindu temples and Durga Puja venues in Cumilla will not be spared irrespective of which religion they belong to. She said they will be hunted down and given “appropriate punishments” in order to stop the recurrence of such communal acts, said a Dhaka Tribune report.

“The incidents in Cumilla are being thoroughly investigated. Nobody will be spared. It doesn`t matter which religion they belong to. They will be hunted down and punished,” she said on Thursday.

Sheikh Hasina made the remarks while exchanging greetings with people of the Hindu community during an event at Dhakeshwari National Temple in Dhaka on the occasion of Durga Puja. Joining the program from Ganabhaban through a video conference, she termed the incident of vandalizing temples in Cumilla “very unfortunate.”

“We are getting a large amount of information. We will definitely trace those who carried out the attacks… This is the age of technology,” she said, adding “They must be found. We did so in the past and will do it in the future, too. They must face due punishment. Exemplary punishment will be given so that none can dare to engage in this type of incident in future.”

According to Dhaka Tribune, the prime minister called upon all to work in unison and remain vigilant to stop the recurrence of such heinous acts, adding “Religion is for individuals and festival is for all and we enjoy every festival together.”

Hasina reportedly said that the Cumilla incident occurred at a time when the country was progressing towards development at full speed and it was aimed at hampering the journey of the nation`s uplift and creating a problem in the country.

On Wednesday, tensions erupted among a faction of locals in Cumilla after news broke on social media about the alleged desecration of the Holy Quran at a Durga Puja venue on the bank of Nanuar Dighi. At one point, the situation began getting out of hand and riots started spreading to a number of Puja venues in the adjacent areas, said the Dhaka Tribune report.

It further said that the local administration and police came under attack while trying to establish order. Similar incidents also occurred in different districts across the country on Wednesday night and Thursday, leading the government to deploy Border Guard Bangladesh troopers in 22 districts alongside additional law enforcement officials.

There have been reports of several people getting killed during clashes in Chandpur, while dozens of people have been either injured in clashes or arrested by law enforcers in multiple districts until now.

Prime Minister Hasina called upon the leaders of the Hindu community, particularly the Bangladesh Puja Udjapon Committee, to formulate a policy to determine how many Puja mandaps will be set up across the country to celebrate the Durga Puja — keeping in mind the constraint of security personnel to ensure safety and security of the mandaps.

She reportedly urged the Hindu community not to consider them as a minority and perform their religious rituals with the same rights enjoyed by followers of other religions as they have born and brought up in the country and fought shoulder to shoulder to liberate the country during the 1971 Liberation War.

Notably, at least three people were killed and 60 injured including journalists, police and common people, in the communal violence during Durga Puja celebrations in Chandpur`s Hajiganj Upazila on Wednesday. Earlier in Cumilla, at least 50 people were reportedly injured as a group of religious extremists clashed with law enforcers in the Nanua Dighirpar area over reports of “demeaning the Holy Quran” at a Puja Mandap.

Violence in Bangladesh during Durga Puja “disturbing”: India
Meanwhile, India has termed the reports of violence in Bangladesh during Durga Puja “disturbing” and said that the Indian High Commission along with the consulates are in close contact with the government and local authorities. The Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Arindam Bagchi on Thursday said that New Delhi has noted the prompt action of the Bangladesh government to ensure the control of the situation.

When asked about India`s reaction to the incident, Bagchi said, “We have seen disturbing reports of untoward incidents, involving attacks on a religious gathering in Bangladesh. We note the government of Bangladesh has reacted promptly to ensure the control of the situation including deployment of law enforcement machinery.”

He further said, “We also understand the ongoing festive celebration of Durga puja continues with the support of the government of Bangladesh agencies and a large section of the public. Our high commission and our consulates are in close contact with government and other authorities and at the local level.”