Bangladesh ruling party rallies for Hindus after deadly violence

Awami League plans series of rallies over next two weeks after one of the country’s worst bouts of religious violence.

Bangladeshi writers and activists take part in a human chain, demanding justice for the violence against the Hindu minority, in Dhaka [Mohammad Ponir Hossain/Reuters]

Thousands of members of Bangladesh’s ruling party have rallied in support of the nation’s besieged minority Hindus after one of the worst bouts of religious violence in the Muslim-majority nation in more than 10 years.

The wave of clashes left at least six people, including two Hindu men, dead and dozens of homes destroyed, according to local media. Police said 450 people had been arrested.

The attacks began on Friday when hundreds of Muslims protested in the southeastern Noakhali district accusing Hindus of a blasphemous incident involving the Quran, Islam’s holy book.

Several Hindu religious sites were vandalised and homes were attacked and torched.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s Awami League party held a rally in the capital Dhaka on Tuesday, with thousands marching along a four-km (2.5 miles) route in the heart of the city, calling for an end to the violence.

“Stop this communal evil, Bangladesh,” read one banner held by women supporters.

Elsewhere in Dhaka, several hundred writers gathered, holding up handwritten messages and small posters.

A protester holds a placard during a protest in Dhaka calling for an end to communal violence and demanding justice for the violence against Hindus [Mohammad Ponir Hossain/Reuters]

“Teach Your Children to Love, Not to Kill,” one said.

Peace appeals

Awami League legislator and former Joint General Secretary Mahbubul Alam Hanif said party workers planned a series of rallies across the country over the next two weeks.

“The panic has to be removed,” Hanif told the Reuters news agency.

Hindus make up approximately 10 percent of Bangladesh’s nearly 170 million people.

Authorities have filed 71 cases in connection with the violence during the Hindu festival of Durga Puja, a Bangladesh Police spokesman said.

Communal tensions have long simmered in Bangladesh, whose constitution designates Islam as the state religion but also upholds the principle of secularism.

“Recent attacks on Hindus of Bangladesh, fuelled by hate speech on social media, are against the values of the Constitution and need to stop,” tweeted Mia Seppo, the United Nations’ resident coordinator.

Rights group Amnesty International called for an investigation and punishment for the perpetrators.

Source: Reuters