The past week has been marred with news reports of communal violence and mobs clashing with police in Bangladesh, which left seven people reportedly dead.
The violence started with allegations of desecration of the Holy Quran, after photos and videos went viral showing the Islamic holy book being placed on the knee of a statue of the Hindu deity Hanuman, at a Durga Puja installation.
The videos and photos in question were taken outside a pandal at the banks of Nanua Dighi (Lake) in the city of Cumilla in Bangladesh. The lake is surrounded by Hindu families, who have been observing Durga Puja and creating such pandals for the past 20 years.
How It All Started
On October 13 - one of the major days of Durga Puja - a photo appeared on social media showing a copy of the Quran kept on the lap of a Hanuman statue, causing a mob to attack the pandal on the banks of the Nanua Dighi at Cumilla.
Achintya Das, one of the organisers of the event, told BBC Bangla that the guests at the event were present till half past midnight on October 12. After the guests left, said Das, the area of the installation was covered by a curtain.
The statue of Hanuman was erected outside the Durga Puja installation, which was out in the open, and left unattended. Das also mentioned that a security guard was present there until dawn. The Quran was placed on the Hanuman statue after the guard had left, according to Das.Meanwhile, on Wednesday morning, a young man made a call to the police on emergency number (999) and informed about the Quran being placed at the pandal. Police officials told BBC Bangla that they were informed of the Quran being placed at the feet of a Hindu deity.
At the same time, a Facebook user went live from the pandal, and showed the Quran being removed by the police.
Soon, the video went viral and the word had spread - the Quran was allegedly desecrated at the Hindu festival. The mob attacks followed shortly after.
Violence Spread With Social Media Posts
Despite the local administration and authorities assuring better security in the area, several pandals and Hindu houses in Cumilla were attacked by mobs.
Locals told news website bdnews24.com that the people who attacked were not locals, but unknown outsiders.
Meanwhile, the posts carried images and videos of the Hanuman statue with the Quran started spreading across Bangladeshi social media. So did the violence.
Soon, protests against the alleged desecration of Quran had spread across several districts in the country - reports of puja pandals being attacked and Hindu idols being vandalised started surfacing.
The police, along with units of the Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) and Border Guards Bangladesh (BGB) were deployed around the country to quell the spreading violence.
At Cumilla, the police reportedly shot tear gas and fired at the crowd, leading to many being injured, including several police officers. However, the violence continued through Friday and Saturday, with more attacks on Hindu celebrations around the country.
One of the bloodiest clashes between protesters and mobs happened at Hajigung at Chandpur, where four people reportedly died, after the police open fired at the crowd.
The situation started returning to normal by Saturday, as the police and paramilitary units manned the streets across the country.
Who Placed The Quran?
The police and district administration have told the media that an inquiry has been launched to find out who had placed the Quran on the knee of the Hanuman statue.
While several arrests have been made, the authorities are yet to narrow down on the perpetrators.
Deputy Commissioner Mohammad Kamrul Hasan told BBC Bangla, "We have formed a committee headed by an additional district magistrate to investigate who kept the Qur'an in the shrine, and the police are also conducting separate investigations. I am also taking information from the agencies. I hope we can identify those responsible."
The government has also launched its own investigation to find out who had kept the Quran at that spot.
Meanwhile, Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina promised strong action against those who led the communal violence.
"The incidents in Cumilla are being thoroughly investigated. Nobody will be spared. They will be hunted down and punished," she said on Wednesday, according to a report by Dhaka Tribune.
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