'It does not matter which religion they belong to,' says the prime minister
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has sounded a tough warning, saying anyone involved in the attacks on Hindu temples and Durga Puja venues in Comilla will not be spared.
"The incidents in Comilla are being thoroughly investigated. Nobody will be spared. It doesn't matter which religion they belong to. They will be hunted down and punished," she said on Thursday.
The prime minister made the remarks while exchanging greetings with people of the Hindu community during an event at Dhakeshwari National Temple in Dhaka on the occasion of Durga Puja. She joined the program from Ganabhaban through a videoconference.
Terming the incident of vandalizing temples in Comilla "very unfortunate," she said that those who are unable to earn the confidence and trust of the people and have no ideology can carry out such attacks.
“We are getting a large amount of information. We will definitely trace those who carried out the attacks… This is the age of technology,” she added.
“They must be found. We did so in the past and will do it in the future, too. They must face due punishment. Exemplary punishment will be given so that none can dare to engage in this type of incident in future,” said the prime minister.
The prime minister also called upon all to work in unison and remain vigilant to stop the recurrence of such heinous acts.
She said that people irrespective of caste, creed and religion celebrate all festivals together in Bangladesh, adding: "Religion is for individuals and festival is for all and we enjoy every festival together."
But, there are a few cliques who are out to destroy the spirit by staging some communal incidents, she said.
"Some people are religiously blind and they always want to create communal conflicts. These people belong not only to the Muslim community but also to all other religions. In that case, if we all work together, they will not be able to cause any harm," she said.
Hasina said the Comilla incident occurred at a time when the country was progressing towards development at full speed and it was aimed at hampering the journey of the nation's uplift and creating a problem in the country.
On Wednesday, tensions erupted among a faction of locals in Comilla after news broke on social media about the alleged desecration of the Holy Quran at a Durga Puja venue on the bank of Nanuar Dighi.
At one point, the situation began getting out of hand and riots started spreading to a number of Puja venues in the adjacent areas. The local administration and police came under attack while trying to establish order.
Later in the afternoon, RAB and BGB troops were deployed to bring the situation under control.
Similar incidents also occurred in different districts across the country on Wednesday night and Thursday, leading the government to deploy Border Guard Bangladesh troopers in 22 districts alongside additional law enforcement officials.
There have been reports of several people getting killed during clashes in Chandpur, while dozens of people have been either injured in clashes or arrested by law enforcers in multiple districts until now.
At Thursday's event, a Hindu community leader sought the government's intervention in view of the information that some people are planning to attack them during immersion of the idols of goddess Durga on Friday.
Prime Minister Hasina said they are aware of this matter and measures have already been taken to this end.
She called upon the leaders of the Hindu community, particularly the Bangladesh Puja Udjapon Committee, to formulate a policy to determine how many Puja mandaps will be set up across the country to celebrate the Durga Puja -- keeping in mind the constraint of security personnel to ensure safety and security of the mandaps.
She also urged the Hindu community not to consider them as a minority and perform their religious rituals with the same rights enjoyed by followers of other religions as they have born and brought up in the country and fought shoulder to shoulder to liberate the country during the 1971 Liberation War.
"We believe that those who are born on the soil of this country and who are its children will practice their respective religions freely," she said.
In this connection, the prime minister recalled Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, saying that he had turned Bangladesh into a secular country by incorporating the matter in the constitution.
"Bangabandhu wanted the people of all faiths to perform their respective religions freely," she added.
Describing Bangladesh as a country of religious harmony, Hasina said that the people of Bangladesh will perform their religious rituals with dignity and sincerity.
She renewed her determination to build Bangladesh as a peaceful country where there will be no room for militancy and terrorism.
The prime minister said: "Our aim is to build Bangladesh with that thought and spirit with which Bangabandhu brought independence for the nation... We want Bangladesh to be established as a hunger- and poverty-free developed and prosperous country as dreamt by the Father of the Nation."
Highlighting various measures taken by her government to uplift the Hindu community, she said that her government was committed to ensuring the welfare of all irrespective of caste, creed and religion.
Hasina said the dignity of Bangladesh has been established on the global stage as it has turned into a developing nation, adding: "We want the country to be a developed and prosperous one by 2041 with upholding the dignity."