Trouble in Bangladesh: On attacks against Hindus

The UN, the U.S. and India have condemned incidents of majoritarian violence against Bangladesh’s Hindu minority community during Durga Puja in the past few days. What is particularly worrying is that the attacks which have left at least six people dead and dozens injured, have followed, according to the Government, fake news reports shared over social media, indicating a conspiracy to instigate the violence. The mob violence appears to have begun in Comilla, in Chittagong district, where an image allegedly showing disrespect to the Koran was circulated, and resulted in several major mob attacks on Hindu temples and homes belonging to the minority community. The Narendra Modi government, which has sought to preserve good relations with Bangladesh’s Sheikh Hasina government, has also praised the authorities for moving quickly to take control of the situation. According to the police, more than 450 people have been arrested over the past week of violence and more than 70 cases filed in different parts of Bangladesh. Prime Minister Hasina has promised strict action and sought to reassure minorities during an address via videoconference to Hindu devotees at the Dhakeshwari national temple. In a message for New Delhi, she also said that Bangladesh’s big neighbour must be sensitive to the situation, and alluding to violence against minorities in India, asked that “nothing is done there [India] that affects our country [Bangladesh]”. The Indian High Commission in Dhaka, which was in touch with law and order officials at the Centre, also stepped in to meet with members of the Bangladeshi Hindu community, including representatives from the ISKCON group that was attacked. The ISKCON headquarters in West Bengal as well as BJP leaders also called on Mr. Modi to personally intervene.

Given the seriousness of the attacks and the fear that has gripped the Hindu minority in Bangladesh, the international and Indian concern is not surprising. However, New Delhi will have to act cautiously in light of all the various links between India and Bangladesh. While the Indian High Commission’s act of meeting local minorities comes from a sense of compassion, it could be read as an act of interference. The impact of the Citizenship (Amendment) Act in 2019 had a widespread effect in Bangladesh, and at least 12 people were killed in protests against Mr. Modi’s visit to Dhaka earlier this year. As a regional leader, India has every right to be concerned about the plight of communities in the subcontinent. However, it must ensure that its domestic drivers do not upset carefully built foreign relations. And any act that is seen as religiously partisan is bound to destabilise the otherwise close and productive relations between the two countries, which have a shared history of cooperation over much of the past 50 years.

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Printable version | Nov 29, 2021 6:43:32 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/editorial/trouble-in-bangladesh-on-attacks-against-hindus/article37079639.ece

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