Islamists target Hindus in Bangladesh in the pretext of anti-France protests

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Suman Bhattacharyya
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Two Al- Qaeda terrorists, Said and Cherif Kouachi, had, on January 7, 2015, forced their way into the premises of the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo, killing 12 people and injuring 11 others.
In early September, Emmanuel Macron, the President of France, defended the right to freedom of speech and expression, in response to Charlie Hebdo, which announced it was set to republish cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed. Macron’s stand was criticized by Muslim groups all over the world.
The criticism and condemnation by the Muslim groups often flared into violent protests. In one such recent incident, triggered by the position of the French President and vehement protests by Islamists, several Hindu houses were attacked and burnt down in Comilla district of Bangladesh. The incident occurred on the night of Lakshmi Puja on 31 October 2020, in Kurbanpur village under Muradpur in Comilla. The rioters did not even spare the house of the local Union Board Chairman, Ban Kumar Shib.
Interestingly, the Bangladesh Police have arrested a Hindu school teacher and his friend on charges of blasphemy. The local magistrate cancelled his bail petition and sent him to jail. The Police justified themselves on the ground that they were arrested on charges of blasphemy and creating unrest. However, the Bangladesh Police have not arrested any of the rioters involved in arson, loot and violence.
Several Hindu organizations in Bangladesh have protested against this ghastly incident in Muradpur and demanded justice. Ruma Modak, renowned theatre activist and college teacher in Bangladesh, has written a long social media post depicting the violence and atrocities committed on Hindus in the country.
According to local sources, the arrested Hindu teacher, Principal of a local kindergarten, has some relatives in France. One of his relatives apparently posted a congratulatory note on social media celebrating Macron’s stand on the defence of freedom of speech and expression and combating radical Islam. The school teacher from Kurbanpur had shared this post. This led to the communal riot in the villages of Kurbanpur and adjacent Andikot, where a few hundred Muslims attacked Hindu houses causing rampant loot, arson and desecration of the household idols on the fateful evening of Lakshmi Puja.
Ban Kumar Shib, who is a local Professor and influential political leader in the area, had tried to pacify the Muslim rioters and tried for a negotiation. But all his efforts went in vain as the rioters were adamant. Shib’s house was also eventually attacked and set on fire that night. Bangladesh Police have claimed that they deployed 4 platoons of security forces in these two villages to control the situation.