Dhaka: Bangladesh's Hindus have been rattled by a string of attacks linked to the recent controversial general election, with leaders of the minority community saying such violence can be stopped only if the government takes stern action against perpetrators. Activists of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party and fundamentalist Jamaat-e-Islami were blamed for attacks on the Hindus, who were accused of backing the Awami League which won the January 5 polls despite a boycott by the opposition.
Activists of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party and fundamentalist Jamaat-e-Islami were blamed for attacks on the Hindus, who were accused of backing the Awami League which won the January 5 polls despite a boycott by the opposition.
The activists torched, vandalised and looted homes, shops and businesses establishments of Hindus in the northwestern districts of Dinajpur, Lalmonirhat and Thakurgaon and at Noapara in western Jessore district, which was the worst affected area. According to statistics from the Hindu-Buddhist-Christian Unity Council (HBCUC), 485 households and 578 shops owned by Hindus in 32 districts were vandalised since the election schedule was announced on November 25. During this period, 152 temples were also damaged. "It appeared that the state has failed to take adequate steps to protect the minority community," said Mizanur Rahman Khan, chairman of the statutory Bangladesh Human Rights Commission. Hindu community leaders have cautiously welcomed government actions to prevent attacks on minorities, including a decision last week to set up special tribunals under an anti-terror law to punish those responsible for violence. "We see the situation is improving with no major attacks or intimidation if Hindus in the past two days thanks to growing social resistance and government action," Kajal Debnath, presidium member of the HBCUC, told PTI. But the community leaders feared the improvement could be a short-lived phenomenon if culprits were not brought to justice quickly and given stern punishment like life sentence. "The most important deterrent could be making a provision under which lawmakers of a (violence-affected) constituency will be held liable along with ensuring the accountability of the local administration and police for any attacks or intimidation," Debnath said. Information Minister Hassanul Haq Inu reiterated the government s "zero tolerance" policy for communal intimidation as announced by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. He told PTI that steps were being taken for "stern punitive actions" against culprits.