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Holy Book Vs Facebook: Islamists in Bangladesh damage Durga Puja pandals, attack Hindus over a rumour of ‘insult to Quran’

Is Facebook responsible for the violence? There are several other modes of communication when a community wants to attack another community. Is it Facebook's fault that a community is always geared up to kill and destroy places of worship of another community?

The Hindus in Bangladesh labelled October 13 as a ‘Black Day’ after a stray Facebook post triggered widespread violence against the minority community in Bangladesh.

Several Durga pandals were vandalized, close to 150 families were attacked and at least three Hindus were reportedly killed in the violent clash after a Facebook post claiming ‘insult to Quran’ at a pandal went viral on social media on Wednesday. 

The Islamic extremists immediately took to the streets and vandalized temples in Chandpur’s Hajiganj, Chattogram’s Banshkhali, Chapainawabganj’s Shibganj and Cox’s Bazar’s Pekua and brutally attacked the Hindu devotees. 

Facebook post claimed Hindus ‘insulted Quran by placing it in pandal

Reportedly, videos and photos of the Quran kept in a Durga Pandal of Cummila were circulated widely on social media. The Islamists claimed that the Hindus had deliberately kept their holy book in the pandal as a mark of insult. 

However, denying the claims of insulting the Quran, Shibu Prasad Dutta, the general secretary of Cumilla Mahanagar Puja Udjapon Committee, informed that someone placed a copy of the Quran at a Durga Puja pavilion in Nanua Dighir Par early in the morning when no one was watching, as a deliberate act to create a rumour. 

The same was confirmed by a district official who said, “The miscreants took some pictures of this and ran away. Within a few hours, using Facebook, the propaganda spread like wildfire with the provocative pictures.”

He hinted at the involvement of some  Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and Jamaat-e-Islam workers.

Local Muslim boy shares Facebook post hinting at planned conspiracy

A local Muslim boy named Kazi Tanim who is supposedly an eyewitness, took to Facebook to narrate the incident. 

Tanim in his post said that he stays next to the Durga Pandal installed at Camilla. He shared that though a Hindu-dominated area, both the communities had been living peacefully since years in the area with even Muslims visiting the pandal during the festival. 

He further revealed that the pandal is devoid of any devotees post 4 PM and was deserted on Tuesday night after the aarti as usual. No person guards the pandal especially at night as the area has always remained peaceful.

Tanim, however, said several police vehicles visited the pandal before the violence broke out. They interrogated a bunch of boys standing around the pandal suspecting the administration had received some inputs well before the social media post went viral. No action was taken by the police or administration said Tanim.

He also informed that the Quran was kept in a way that it was easily visible to any passerby, plausibly with an intention to incite communal disharmony. He said by the time the priest arrived and requested the Quran to be removed, a mob had gathered to stop puja and the pandal was vandalized. 

He asserted that no Hindu would deliberately place a Quran in a Durga Pandal and that it was done purposely to flare communal tensions. He also requested for thorough investigation at the end of his post. 

‘Too little, too late’

If the Facebook post by the user named Tanim is to be believed, then too little was done by the administration to curb this well-planned attack on Hindus in Bangladesh despite receiving intel. 

Several locals took to Twitter to share the visuals of the brutal attacks and widespread vandalism of Hindu temples and pandals on the divine occasion of Navratri. 

Telecoms Minister Mustafa Jabbar had said that steps were taken to pull down the posts and videos immediately. “We’ve requested the removal of more than 100 Facebook links. We hope they will be blocked soon,” informed Jabbar claiming that the ministry was in touch with Facebook officials.

However, several Hindus and their pandals have already come under attack by then. 

Additional Deputy Commissioner (Overall) Shahadat Hossain also informed that a three-member committee has been constituted to investigate the matter further.

Village burnt after a Hindu boy criticized Maulana on social media

This is not the first time that a social media post was used as an excuse to attack Hindus. 

In March this year, over 80 houses of Hindus in the village of Sunamganj, Bangladesh were attacked and vandalized by the supporters of Islamist group Hefazat-e-Islam. The attack was planned after a young Hindu man criticized Joint-Secretary General Maulana Mufti Mamunul Haque in a Facebook post as reported by Dhaka Tribune.

A young Hindu man from Noagaon, Shalla Upazila was reportedly enraged by Mawlana Mamunul Haque’s speech at an event and made a Facebook post criticizing it.

Upon discovering the post, Hefazat leaders staged a protest on Tuesday night alleging attempts to incite communal violence. The police had arrested the boy the same evening to bring the situation under control. Yet several thousand members of Hefazat-e-Islam attacked the boy’s village with makeshift weapons. Their excuse was, the insult to the Maulana was the same as insult to Islam.

Authorities busy blaming Facebook

While attacks on Hindus and Hindu places of worship is nothing new in Bangladesh, after the current violence against Durga Puja pandals, many in the Bangladesh government and other ‘intellectuals’ are busy blaming the social media platform Facebook, not the actual perpetrators who did the violence.

Bangladesh Telecom Minister Mustafa Jabbar keeps highlighting how they are trying to take down the Facebook posts and communicating with Facebook to curb the rumours. A report in BDNews24 says, “Many online activists questioned the authenticity of the incident, calling for calm and criticising Facebook and Bangladesh authorities for their failure to take down the posts.”

But the thing is, is Facebook responsible for the violence? There are several other modes of communication when a community wants to attack another community. Facebook here is a mere tool, rather an excuse of a tool to perpetuate another spout of violence against the Hindu community that has been facing a regular onslaught of attacks for decades, be it in India, Pakistan, or Bangladesh.

Islamic mob set police stations on fire in Bengaluru over Facebook post

Islamic extremists in the month of August last year had gone on a rampage and unleashed extreme violence in Bengaluru over a Facebook post that was allegedly derogatory to Prophet Mohammad.

The Muslim mob hit the streets near DJ Halli and KG Halli police station areas and attacked a Congress MLA’s house after one of his relatives had allegedly made a derogatory Facebook post.

Over a 100 people armed with sticks, iron rods, sharp metal objects and other weapons had gathered around the residence of Congress MLA Akhanda Srinivasamurthy.

The angry Muslim pelted stones and torched vehicles, ATMs, shops near the locality while protesting against the alleged derogatory post made by one of the relatives of Dalit Congress MLA Akhanda Shrinivasamurthy. 

Social media posts of few people involved in the mob violence indicated that the riots could have been pre-planned as calls for the mobilisation of Muslims were allegedly made on social media platforms.

it is astonishing how the Muslim mobs ensue widespread riots and damage minutes within social media posts getting viral.

Claims of blasphemy: The tools are different, but the victims are always the same, non-Muslims

Be it the Bengaluru riots over an alleged Facebook post by Naveen, or the attack on a Krishna Temple of the impoverished Hindu community in Sindh on the day of Janmashtami, the attacks on Durga Puja pandals in Bangladesh, or the death sentence given to Asiya Bibi, Islamists in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh have always found excuses to attack, maim and kill non-Muslims.

The claims of ‘blasphemy’ are often blurred and confusing. Someone claims someone had seen the targeted person destroying pages of the Quran, someone just places a copy of the Quran at a place where it was allegedly not supposed to be, or someone even just points a finger at a victim and says, ‘Look, a blasphemer, let’s kill him’, and all hell breaks loose.

Recently in Pakistan, an 8-year-old Hindu boy was made a scapegoat and was accused of ‘insulting Islam’, because he had allegedly urinated at the wrong place out of fear.

Just last month, Islamists in Bangladesh had destroyed 4 Hindu temples and attacked a Hindu religious procession, just because it happened to pass near a mosque. In March this year, Islamists had screamed ‘Direct Action’ and had attacked Hindu Temples, just because PM Modi was visiting Dhaka.

In 2020, just in the single month of May, Islamists had attacked and vandalized at least 10 temples in Bangladesh.

Is it Facebook’s fault that a community is always geared up to kill and destroy places of worship of another community?

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