Two men in Bangladesh, accused of spreading communal hatred by using the social media platform Facebook, have admitted to their crimes – a Bangladeshi supreme court stated. The Facebook fueled deadly communal violence against the minority hindu community of Bangladesh broke out on October 13 during the Durga Puja festivities after an alleged blasphemous post on Facebook was posted by the accused. The ferocious mayhem continued for a few days and spread to each and every part of the country.
Facebook post included a photo that showed a copy of the Qur’an placed at the knee of a Hindu deity during the Durga Puja festival in the eastern district of Cumilla.
From 13 to 15 October 2021, Muslim mobs instigated communal violence against hindu communities across Bangladesh during the festival of Durga Puja festival. More than 80 temples and makeshift worship arrangements were vandalized.
The Bangladesh government deployed paramilitary Bangladesh Border Guards forces in 22 of the 64 administrative districts of Bangladesh to quell violence against the hindu community. As of 22 October 2021, at least 7 people have been killed across the country, including 3 hindu’s, in the “worst communal violence in years” as termed by The New York Times.
Hindu’s make up 10% of Bangladesh’s 165 million population.
Bangladesh prepared for the largest religious festival of the hindu community in the second week of October 2021. Like every year, makeshift arrangements to offer worship were set up across the country. In the morning of October 13, allegations of defaming the Muslim holy book Quran emerged from a makeshift temple in Cumilla district when unconfirmed reports of finding a copy of Quran on the lap of an idol was circulated through the social media platforms. As an immediate reaction the government urged people to calm down and instructed the police to investigate the incident. However, soon after the report was circulated, an angry mob started attacking local temples in Cumilla due to the lack of proper resistance from government officials. The religious tension soon transcended to other districts of Bangladesh.
By 22nd October at least 3 hindu people were reported killed by alleged Muslims, at least over 150 hindu’s were injured by alleged Muslims, and at least 80 hindu temples were destroyed across Bangladesh by angry Muslim mobs, additionally over 100 hindu people injured were reported from various places in several incidences. At least 5 Muslims were shot to death by local police, 4000 Muslims were charged and 400 Muslims were detained by the police.
Reports of attacks on temples, houses, shops of hindu minorities, looting of belongings, and murder were documented in at least a dozen districts of Bangladesh mostly in the southern area, including Cumilla, Chandpur, Noakhali, Chattogram, Bandarban, Cox’s Bazar, Narshingdi and Gazipur.
Cumilla : The incident started in Cumilla district where attacks were carried out on different temples from October 13 till October 16. Durga puja venue of Nanua Dighir Par and Chandmoni Kali temple became the target for the attackers soon after the rumor of demeaning Quran spread across the area. A septuagenarian Hindu man, Dilip Das, died in a hospital, succumbing to the injuries.
Chandpur : At least 4 people died in Chandpur when Police fired at an angry mob brought out a procession, and launched an attack on some Durga puja venue of the district, on October 13.
Ariyan Sajjad, a member of Hajiganj municipality Chhatra League, and Hridoy Hassan Zahid, the son of local Awami League leader Shahida Begum, called the local Muslims to launch an attack on temples and pandals of Hindus in protest of the “desecration of Quran” in Cumilla. A mob was gathered after the posts and swooped on the Hindu temples and pandals after a short protest.
Chattogram : In Chattogram, a group of zealots from a procession brought out in the Andarkilla area started throwing brickbats targeting the Jemson Hall Puja Mandap. Witnesses said as the group threw brickbats at the temple housing the mandap and tried to vandalize it, police chased them away leading to a clash between the law enforcers and the zealots. Police fired shots in the air and lobbed tear gas canisters to disperse the attackers, who had brought out the procession after Juma prayers. Police said they detained around 50 protestors from the spot.
Bandarban : Under the leadership of a local Awami League leader, a temple and establishments owned by Hindus were attacked by an angry mob on October 14 in Lama area of Bandarban. The Lama central Hari Mandir was attacked from a rally of angry mob who were protesting the “demeaning of Quran”. They also attacked the shops of Hindu people in the Lama market area. Lama Upazila Awami League general secretary Zahirul Islam addressed the mob before they started attacking the temple according to the local police officials.
Noakhali : Jatan Kumar Saha and Panto Das, two Hindu devotees were killed in Noakhali when angry mob attacked different temples in the district. On October 15, attackers from a procession of several thousand people stormed in Bijoya Durga Temple in Begumganj area and vandalised the temple. They also beat up Jatan Kumar Saha who died in a hospital. Later, body of another 20-year-old devotee was found in a pond of an ISKCON-run temple of the district.
Feni : A clash broke out on October 16 in Feni between the local Hindu community and Muslims when a group of Hindu dwellers of the district was protesting the nationwide attack on Hindu community during the Durga Puja festival. The clash left around a dozen of people from both communities injured.
Rangpur : A group of mob set fire to around a dozen Hindu-owned houses in Rangpur’s Pirganj Upazila on October 17 after an alleged post by a local Hindu boy on Kaaba went viral. Local Bangladesh Chhatra League leaders instigated the mob alleging that the post demeaned the holy place vandalized the houses, set fire, and obstructed fire-fighters to douse the fire.
It was later revealed that, Saikat Mandal, the vice-president of philosophy department Chhatra League at Rangpur’s Carmichael College, had a personal conflict with a local Hindu youth Paritosh Sarkar. During the nationwide communal violence, Saikat and his followers in Bangladesh Chhatra League collaborated with the imam of a local mosque to instigate the local Muslim population to conduct the attack on Hindu villages of the area.
On 16th October 2021, after Friday prayers, a crowd of over 10,000 Muslims from various Mosques in Dhaka took to streets, carrying banners of Islamist political parties and chanting, “down with the enemies of the Islam” and “hang the culprits”. On the same day, nearby nearly 1,000 Hindus also protested against the attacks on temples and the killing of Hindus by Muslim mobs.
Facebook did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Mob violence has grown increasingly common in Bangladesh over the last decade. The most recent wave of unrest targeting the Hindu community was in 2016 in the Nasirnagar area, also sparked by a Facebook post that appeared to insult Islam.
Around 100 people were injured in the Nasirnagar attacks, while 19 temples and some 300 houses were vandalised.
In 2012, a dozen Buddhist monasteries, shrines and temples were destroyed by mobs in Cox’s Bazar on the country’s southeastern coast, after a rumour circulated that a Buddhist had insulted the Quran in a Facebook post.
In 2019, four people were killed in mob violence triggered by yet another Facebook post that stoked tensions between Muslims and Hindus. At the time, Facebook told local media that it was equipped with proactive tools to detect hate speech, rumors, and related content, with a team of 15,000 people employed to review content from around the world.
When similar violent incidents occurred in Sri Lanka in 2018, Facebook apologized for its role in communal riots that erupted after posts on its platform triggered anti-Muslim anger.