| 19 April 2024, Friday |

Bangladesh violence spreads after Modi visit, attacks on Hindu temples, train

Hundreds of members of a hardline Islamist group attacked Hindu temples and a train in eastern Bangladesh on Sunday, police and a local journalist said, as violence spread across the country in the wake of a visit by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

At least 10 protesters were killed in clashes with police during demonstrations organised by Islamist groups against the Indian leader’s visit, and violence raged on after his departure as anger swelled over the deaths.

Modi arrived in Dhaka on Friday to mark the 50th anniversary of Bangladesh’s nationhood, and he left on Saturday after gifting Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina some 1.2 million COVID-19 vaccine shots.

The Islamist groups accuse Modi of discriminating against minority Muslims in Hindu-majority India and violence escalated rapidly during his visit.

On Friday, dozens of people were injured in the densely-populated capital Dhaka as police fired tear gas and rubber bullets at protesters. Thousands of Islamist activists marched down the streets of Chittagong and Dhaka on Saturday in protest.

On Sunday, activists with the Hefazat-e-Islam group attacked a train in the eastern district of Brahmanbaria, resulting in ten people being injured.

“They attacked the train and damaged its engine room and almost all the coaches,” one police official told Reuters, declining to be named as he was not authorized to speak to the media.

“Brahmanbaria is burning. Various government offices were set on fire indiscriminately. Even the press club was attacked and many injured, including the press club president. We are in extreme fear and feeling really helpless,” Javed Rahim, a journalist in the Brahmanbaria town, told Reuters by phone.

Several Hindu temples in the town were also attacked, he said.

Islamist activists allegedly also set alight two buses in the western district of Rajshahi on Sunday, while hundreds of protesters clashed with police in Narayanganj, pelting them with stones, police said.

Protesters used timber and sand bags to block roads, as police retaliated with rubber bullets and tear gas, leaving dozens injured in Narayanganj, just outside the capital, Dhaka.

The protests sparked by Modi’s visit have since flared into wider demonstrations against police killings, and the Hefazat-e-Islam enforced a nationwide strike on Sunday.

“Police opened fire on our peaceful supporters,” Hefazat-e-Islam’s organising secretary Azizul Haque told a rally in Chittagong on Saturday. “We will not let the blood of our brothers go in vain.”

  • Reuters