DHAKA, Bangladesh, Jan. 8, 2014—About 1,000 rights and political activists rallied in Dhaka on Tuesday to demand justice and better protection for minority Hindus, after attacks by opposition supporters during Bangladesh’s general election on Sunday.
“We are dismayed and ashamed as citizens of Bangladesh to see that communal and fundamentalist forces have once again targeted minority people and that the government has failed to protect them,” said Durgadas Bhattacharya, an advisor to the United Council of Hindus-Buddhists-Christians in Bangladesh, a prominent minority group.
“The government must immediately crack down on this.”
Shafique Ahmed, legal advisor to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, responded to the protesters on Wednesday.
“The government is beefing up security in Hindu majority areas to avert violence,” he said. “Moreover, a plan is being reviewed to set up a fast-track court to probe and prosecute attacks on minority people, to deliver justice swiftly.”
At least 19 people were reportedly killed and 300 hurt on Sunday as supporters of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party and its fundamentalist ally the Jamaat-e-Islami Party attacked polling stations. Most of the violence was directed at Hindus, the protesters claimed.
Rampaging BNP/Jamaat supporters also vandalized and set fire to hundreds of Hindu homes and shops, forcing thousands of villagers to flee their homes and seek refuge in nearby temples.
At least 5,000 Hindus took shelter at a temple in Thakurgaon after a mob destroyed about 35 Hindu-owned homes and 50 shops, said Pushpashila Shyamdas, the temple’s head priest.
“We offered food and accommodation until the situation calmed down,” he said.
Hindus, the country’s largest minority group who make up about nine percent of Bangladesh’s 160 million population, traditionally support the ruling Awami League, which is considered a center-left secular party.
Faruk Hossain, local commander of the Rapid Action Battalion, said most Hindus who fled have returned to their homes.
“We are keeping watch on their safety and security,” he said. (ucanews)