Hindus persecuted in Bangladesh due to Facebook ‘blasphemy’ rumors – pogrom in Comilla

In Bangladesh, anyone can be arrested anytime and anybody, especially a Hindu, could be easily charged under blasphemy laws based on fake rumors on Facebook with regards to the insult of Islam and its Prophet Mohammed. On 1st November, 2020 more than 10 Hindu households were vandalized and torched in Comilla (Cumilla) district after a man allegedly showed support on Facebook (FB) for France defending cartoons depicting Mohammed. The incident took place at the Korbanpur village under Muradnagar Upazila of Comilla on Sunday afternoon, creating panic among the community

Here are some recent blasphemy cases foisted against the minority Hindus of Bangladesh.

1. Jibon Bhowmick and Anil Bhowmick – 31st October 2020

The office of the local Union Parishad Chairman Bankumar Shiv and the house of an accused, Sankar Debnath, were set on fire. Mr. Sankar Debnath is a headmaster of the Blue Bird English Medium School. Mr. Kishor Debnath Kissan of village Korbanpur, 4 no. Dhal Union, Muradnagor, Cumilla allegedly made a post supporting France that said French President Marcon is a good youth leader. Some others liked the post or responded with their own comments.

However, local Islamic fanatics circulated the alleged FB post and asked people to join a protest march against Mr. Debnath on 31st October 2020. Meanwhile, the police arrested Mr. Jibon Kumar Bhowmick and his son Mr Anik Bhowmick over the same issue, but on 1st November, the Islamists destroyed their houses and looted all their belongings.

2. Mithun Mandal – 12th October 2020

Satkhira Detective Branch (DB) of police on Monday took a suspended student of Jashore University of Science and Technology (JUST) into custody over allegedly making derogatory comments about Islam’s Prophet Mohammed on social media.

The suspended JUST student Mithun Mandal is in his first-year in the Department of Finance and Banking. He was held from his home in Debhata Upazila of Satkhira. Satkhira DB police Inspector Yasin Alam Chowdhury said they are investigating the matter. “Mithun will be arrested if the allegations against him are proved. We took him into custody in order to save him from agitated locals.”

JUST authorities in an emergency meeting decided to suspend Mithun, said the university’s Public Relations Officer Abdur Rashid.

3. Tithi Sarkar – 27th October 2020

The authorities of Jagannath University (JnU) on Monday suspended a student for allegedly posting derogatory remarks about Mohammed. The suspended student was identified as Tithi Sarker, a third-year student of the Zoology Department. A suspension order signed by Registrar Md. Ohiduzzaman has been issued. On Saturday, students of the university staged a protest rally under the banner of “general students” demanding permanent expulsion of Tithi Sarkar within 72 hours.

Last heard, Tithi Sarkar has gone missing.

Mithun Mandal, Tithi Sarkar, Protik Majumder, Dipto Pal, Dipti Rani Das, Mithun Dey (left to right) – Bangladeshi students suspended/arrested in last few days for alleged blasphemy against Islam

4. Protik Majumder and Dipto Pal – 28th October 2020

Both the students have been served show-cause notices to explain by November 2 as to why they should not be expelled and sued under the DSA (Digital Security Act). The authorities at Noakhali Science and Technology University (NSTU) have suspended the two students for allegedly posting derogatory remarks about Islam and Mohammed.

The suspended students were identified as Protik Majumder, a student of the environmental science and disaster management department, and Dipto Pal, a student of the pharmacy department.

5.Dipti Rani Das – 28th October 2020

Dipti Rani Das (17), a student of a local college was arrested by Parbatipur Railway Police on Wednesday (Oct 28, 2020) night when she was trying to flee in disguise as reported by Parbatipur Model Police Station In-Charge.

It is alleged that Dipti, a daughter of a hardware businessman, Dilip Kumar Das of Mujaffar Nagar of Parbatipur sub-district Town, uploaded various ‘objectionable posts against Quran’ which led to a protest in the town by devout Muslims. Protesters wanted immediate arrest and severe punishment to be meted out to Dipti. Dipti allegedly questioned the ‘mode of attack upon the non-Muslims as directed in the Quran’.

6.Mithun Dey – 30th October 2020

Police have arrested a young man in Feni for Islam’s Prophet Mohammed and his wife Ayesha on Facebook. The young man, Mithun Dey alias Piklu Neel, 32, was arrested on Thursday (October 29th) night. Mithun Dey is the son of Kali Prasad alias Bachchu Dey, a resident of Doctor Para in Feni town.

Piklu was arrested on Thursday night. After the arrest, Chana Ullah, son of Ashek Elahi of Fazal Uddin Qari Bari of Dhalia Union of Feni Sadar Upazila, filed a case against him at Feni Model Police Station. After the case was filed, Piklu was arrested. The OC further said that Piklu was sent to jail through the court on Saturday.

Here are some old cases where large scale violence was launched against entire Hindu neighborhoods, over ‘blasphemous’ social media posts:

7. Rasharaj – 30th October 2016, at NasirNagar

Mr. Rasharaj is an Illiterate Hindu fisherman who did not post anything on FB and whose friend had made a FB ID for him some days back. He was targeted by two local persons who started a rumor saying Mr. Rasharaj put up a post on FB insulting Islam. On the basis of this rumor, the local mosques and leaders led a mob of people and attacked Hindu families. They destroyed houses of 50 Hindu families and 17 Hindu temples of Nasirnagar. The police arrested few people in connection with the case but it is said that all of them later got bail.

8. Moni Rani Das -12 June 2018, at Nasirnagar

On 12th June 2018, Mohammed Rafiq Mia and his goons again attacked Nasirnagar and destroyed the houses of Hindus in the area. During the attack, nine people were injured due to bricks hurled at them. The injured have been identified as Moni Rani Das, Anjana Das, Bipula Rani Das, Maloti Rani Das, Samir Das, Jitu Das, Opira Rani Das, Dulu Das, and Jantu Das. Among them, Moni Rani Das was critically injured and admitted to Nasirnagar Health Complex. The on-duty doctors said she has lost a lot of blood due to a head injury.

9. Titu Roy – 10th November 2017 at Thakurnagar, Rangpur

According to rumors, one Titu Roy, originally from Thakurpara but currently living in Narayanganj, put up a FB post defaming Mohammed. Following this, an attack was carried out by a 20,000-strong crowd reportedly assembled from six to seven neighboring villages, including Paglapeer, Mominpur and Horialkuthi, after the Jumma (Friday) prayers. The aggressors set fire to at least 30 houses of two Hindu villages and injured 10-12 people and insulted Hindu females and children. They also looted and vandalized many houses in those Hindu villages.

10. 29th September 2012 at Ramu, Cox’s Bazaar

At Ramu, Buddhist villages and temples were attacked once again based on fake news regarding alleged blasphemous FB posts. At midnight on 29th September 2012, at Ukhiya Upazila, Cox’s Bazaar, Patiya Upazila at Chittagong, Islamic goons destroyed 12 Buddhist temples and 50 houses were also destroyed in a single day. Police refused to ensure justice for the victims and even though the government reconstructed some of the temples, people live in fear even today.

Bangladesh has no blasphemy law like Pakistan but in September 2018 a Digital Security Act (DSA) was passed and under sections 56A and B of this law, the police are arresting Hindus in the name of insulting Islam. This is nothing but ‘blasphemy law’ with a different name. Almost every other day, fanatical Muslims are vandalizing protimas (murtis of deities), temples, and insulting Hindus Devis and Devatas, yet there is no action on them. However, Hindus and Hindu students are arrested by the police without investigation.

The authorities of educational institutions are going one step ahead and without any proof and/or inquiry, they are dismissing Hindu students from the institutes for the supposed insult of Islam. Despite the fact that none, including the minorities of Bangladesh, actually carry out any act insulting Islam, it appears that there is a large section of people who want to run the country on Bangladeshi outfit Hifazat-e-Islam’s agenda of running the country on the basis of Islamic law.


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About the Author

Sona
Delhi-based observer of Hindu human rights in Bangladesh