At least seven people were confirmed killed during the violence last week in the city of Cumilla in the Chittagong Division, Bangladesh. On Wednesday, October 13, the city government deployed paramilitary troops for the Durga Puja festival, a significant Hindu festival in Bangladesh. Four Muslims were killed on Wednesday after the police opened fire on the crowd. As the violence continued, two Hindus and one Muslim were killed between October 15 and 16.
The violence started when a picture showing the Quran was placed beneath the feet of a Hindu god, Ganesh Murti, inside a Durga Puja temple. According to local news outlets, the initial reports of the picture came from Nauar Dighir Par Durga Mandir in Cumilla. As a response to the desecration of their holy book, Muslim crowds began attacking Hindu temples and statues.
Faridul Haque Khan, State Minister for Religious Affairs, called for restraint and asked people not to take the law into their own hands. “Anyone involved in destroying religious harmony in the country will be brought under the ambit of law,” Khan added.
One day after Khan’s call for peace and restraint, a dozen platoon of Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) were deployed across 22 locations in Comilla.
Saiduzzaman Chowdhury, Upazila Administration Chief, said that they requested additional police presence as the celebration for the Durga Puja continues. Obaidul Quader, a minister of the Awami League Government, blames the violence on “fanatic elements.” He added that the government will “not let them proceed with their evil design.”
In Bangladesh, a dominantly Muslim country, Hindus are the largest minority comprising almost 10% of the total population. A 2015 report of the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics that the Hindu population increases by 1.5 million every year. The report noted that although the fertility rate is high, the actual population may be significantly lower due to Hindus choosing to migrate to the dominantly Hindu India.
Aside from the human casualties, buildings, temples, and houses were damaged or burned. According to the Bangladesh Hindu-Buddhist-Christian Unity Council, at least 70 temples were burned during the violence.
Bangladesh Hindu Unity Council announced on Twitter that they are not able to publish what transpired. One of their tweets says, “Hindus of Bangladesh will never forget Durga Puja in 2021,” The council also posted on Twitter that the Hindus have seen the real faces of some people. “We don’t know what will happen in the future,” the council added.
We will never Forget and Never Forgive. #DirectActionDayInDurgaPuja pic.twitter.com/xqm3sjne3w
— Bangladesh Hindu Unity Council (@UnityCouncilBD) October 17, 2021