Durga Puja is one of the biggest festivals celebrated in the Indian subcontinent, but this year, Pujo did not pan out well for our neighbours in Bangladesh.

Incidents of vandalism of the divine Goddess’ idols and Puja Mandapas were reported from across Bangladesh.

Local extremist groups allegedly wreaked havoc on Hindu devotees throughout the 10-day festival, causing loss to life and property, trying to obstruct traditional proceedings and rituals.

Here is an account (a timeline) of incidents of vandalism and attacks reported in the country as described by a minority council of Bangladesh. The organization which had marked June 9 as Black Day in history is now observing October 13, 2021 as Black Day, here’s why.

First incident of vandalism

The first incident of vandalism of Durga idols by extremist groups this year was reported by the organization on September 22 in Kushtia city of western Bangladesh.

Second incident of vandalism

After Kushtia, the second incident of violence was reported in Joypurhat. The Bangladesh Hindu Unity Council questioned the strength of the law and order system of Bangladesh when the second incident was reported the same week.

Third incident of vandalism

The third attack on Durga idols took place on October 11 when the idol was on the road, making entry into a Puja Mandapa in Kotwali, Chittagong. The police reportedly apprehended one man as protests broke out in the streets of Chittagong.

Fourth incident of vandalism

Another incident of vandalism of idols was reported from Rastampur village of Ashulia, Dhaka, on October 11. The organization issued a statement following the incident asking all Puja mandap authorities and volunteers to take care of their temple and mandap security.

Fifth incident of vandalism

Another attack was reported on October 11 at the Tipu Sultan Road in Pura Dhaka, according to the organization’s Twitter post. They could not enter the Shankhnidhi temple, after which the idol was on the street where devotees sat down and continued to offer prayers.

Failing to worship at the historic temple in Dhaka due to the terror of local extremists, the devotees were given a temporary place to worship where the idols were then transferred.

The organization shared on Twitter that the Sankhanidhi House and Sankhanidhi Temple were originally built by Lalmohan Saha from Kolkata, in 1921. During the war of liberation of Bangladesh in 1971, the Hindu residents of Bhaban migrated to India. The building was transferred to private ownership which the devotees wanted back.

Sixth attack on devotees

On October 12, a communal attack was reported in the Puja mandap of Karunamayi Kalibari in the Chawkbazar area of Chittagong during Aarti where one of the culprits was caught in the act and handed over to the cops.

Seventh attack in Comilla

The seventh attack in Comilla was the one that caught most media attention. Attackers had reportedly attacked devotees and idols in the Puja Mandapa of Nanua Dighi par. Several other Puja Mandapas in the vicinity were then vandalised by local extremists.

The Daily Star newspaper reported that at least three people were killed and many others injured on October 13 as a mob and the police clashed in Chandpur’s Hajiganj upazila following the incident at Comilla.

Bangladesh PM Sheikh Hasina’s party Awami League informed in a tweet that the party General Secretary issued a stern statement and warning to extremists saying that no one involved in any communal violence in the country will be spared.

Bangladesh Police detained 43 people as of Thusday, over communal violence that erupted at Comilla puja venues in Bangladesh, after news broke out on social media that the site was being used to desecrate the Holy Quran.

Following these incidents, the Bangladesh Hindu Unity Council took to twitter saying, “Why is there so much Hatred against Hindus in Bangladesh ??? Hindus live in Bangladesh by birth. Most of those who lost their lives in 1971 were Hindus. The Hindus of Bangladesh considered the Muslims as their brothers. How can 8% Hindus be the cause of problems for 90% Muslim?”

The organization also shared an account of the incident as said to have been described by a Muslim resident, Kazi Tanim who announced via Facebook post that the incident was a planned attack.

Student organizations condemn attacks

Student organizations in Bangladesh issued official statements requesting devotees to remain in temples and authorities to help them. Many organizations further requested Minister for Religious Affairs to investigate the matter.

The Prime Minister, too, said that those behind the violence in Comilla city will be hunted down and be given appropriate punishments so that no such acts are repeated in future.

Bangladesh Hindu Unity Council and significance of June 9 Black Day

The Bangladesh Hindu Unity Council is a unit of the Bangladesh Hindu Buddhist Christian Unity Council (BHBCUC) also known as the Bangladesh Hindu Bouddha Christian Oikyo Parishod. It is a non-profitable organization established to protect the human rights of the religious and ethnic minorities of Bangladesh.

On 9 June 1988, Islam was declared as state religion with the Eighth Amendment Act of the Constitution of Bangladesh and it was on that very day that the BHBCUC was formed and 9 June was observed as Black Day by BHBCUC since then.

The non-partisan organization was initially founded in 1975 in Dhaka, Bangladesh, by Chitta Ranjan Dutta, the retired Major General of Bangladesh Army. 

Also read: Bangladesh communal violence: 43 arrested in Comilla, 20 in Gazipur

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