We are horrified by the violence committed against Bangladesh’s Hindu community during and after the festival of Durga Puja.
In recent days, Bangladeshi Hindus, who make up around 10 percent of the country’s population, have faced the worst violence in years. The violence erupted on October 15, after a photo went viral on social media, showing a copy of the Qur’an placed at the knee of a Hanuman statue in Cumilla district. In reaction, Muslim mobs attacked Hindu homes, shops, and shrines. This violence spread from the southeast to cities such as Dhaka and Feni, all the way to the northern Rangpur districts. According to the Guardian, over 80 pandals set up for Durga Puja were attacked. In Rangpur district, a mob burned over 20 Hindu homes. According to Amnesty International, seven people have been killed and hundreds injured.
We understand these attacks as part of a growing trend of violence against minorities across South Asia. From Afghanistan to Pakistan to India to Sri Lanka, we have seen how a rise in majoritarian politics and misinformation spread via social media are directly connected to increasing attacks on marginalized communities. We know violence in these countries is mutually reinforcing; attacks on a minority in one country often trigger counter-attacks in another.
Just as we condemn Hindu majoritarian violence against India’s religious minorities and oppressed castes, we stand with Bangladesh’s religious minority communities: Hindus, Christians, Buddhists, atheists, and others, many of whom are also Dalit and oppressed caste communities. We are glad to see that Bangladeshi civil society groups — Hindus, Muslims, and others — have held mass rallies condemning these recent attacks.
We join our comrades at Naripokkho, the Bangladesh Development Initiative, as well as Amnesty International and the United Nations, in demanding accountability and transparency from Bangladesh’s government. Unlike in India, where the ruling party and state institutions are often complicit in attacks against minorities, we are relieved that Bangladesh’s Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and senior government officials have strongly condemned the attacks. We understand that around 450 people have been arrested in the aftermath of the attacks, and authorities have filed over 70 cases so far. The Ministry of Home Affairs has also transferred police officials who failed to stop the violence.
However, there is much more that must be done. Historically, attacks on Bangladesh’s minorities have rarely been prosecuted. We hope that this time, Bangladesh’s government will ensure justice for all who have suffered in these attacks.