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Hasina warns Bangladeshis against attacking Hindus

January 20, 2014 20:05 IST

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Monday warned Bangladeshis against attacking the minority Hindu community, saying such assaults could have repercussions in neighbouring India.

"Don’t forget that Muslims are the minority in India. So, if you attack Hindus here (Bangladesh), minority Muslims may be attacked in India," she told a rally in southwestern Satkhira district.

"People of all religious faiths would continue to enjoy equal rights in Bangladesh...I want to warn you not to break the peace of the people, otherwise you have to pay for it."

Satkhira witnessed widespread violence, with minority Hindus being major victims, ahead of the controversial January 5 polls that were swept by Hasina's Awami League after the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party boycotted the general election.

Hasina, who visited Satkhira during her first tour outside Dhaka since the re-election of the Awami League, said operations by paramilitary Border Guard Bangladesh and the police will continue in the region to track down those responsible for violence.

"The culprits involved in killing people and destroying their homes and business establishments will be tracked down wherever they take shelter," she said, accusing the BNP’s main ally, the fundamentalist Jamaat-e-Islami, of spearheading the attacks.

Security forces were deployed in Satkhira, a Jamaat stronghold, on December 15.

The high court had on January 15 directed the government to take adequate steps for the security of Hindus. It asked authorities to submit a report on damage caused by recent attacks on the minority community.

The Hindu-Buddhist-Christian Unity Council, a major forum of minority communities, welcomed the order and acknowledged that the new government had given "due importance" to the issue, but reiterated its demand that perpetrators of violence should be tried by special fast track courts.

A report by the HBCUC said since the election schedule was announced on November 25, a total of 495 Hindu homes were damaged, 585 shops were attacked or looted and 169 temples were damaged.

"During this period, nearly 2,500 Hindu families were affected," HNCUC leader Rana Dasgupta told PTI. A police report stated that losses of Hindu property and resources during January 5-12 were worth Taka 28 lakh.

According to the 2012 census, Hindus make up 8.4 per cent of Bangladesh's population of 150 million.

Anisur Rahman in Dhaka
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