What has happened?
- At least four persons were killed in Bangladesh’s Chittagong and dozens severely injured when activists from Hefazat-e-Islam, an Islamic fundamentalist group,
- As well as students affiliated with Left parties clashed with the police during their protest against the ongoing visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi there.
- The protests, which were already going on across the country against Modi’s scheduled visit, intensified after the prime minister landed in Dhaka to take part in Bangladesh’s National Day celebrations.
About the protest
- Just as the Friday prayers got over, protesters gathered at Dhaka’s Baitul Mukarram mosque where Hefazat activists clashed with police and Awami League supporters.
- When PM Modi was participating in the National Day celebrations in Dhaka along with his Bangladeshi counterpart Sheikh Hasina,
- Massive clashes erupted near the mosque where as many as 60 people, including two journalists, were injured.
- The protesters were raising slogans against Modi, prompting the local police to fire rubber bullets at them and resort to baton-charge.
- The Hefazat-e-Islam activists also protested in Chittagong and raised slogans against Modi.
- Some student organisations were also involved in the protests in both Chittagong and Dhaka, where they clashed with pro-Awami League student organisations.
Chittagong went out of control
- In Chittagong, the situation spiralled out of control as the protesters attacked the local police station and also tore down the National
- Day banner hanging outside the police station.
- “Eight people were brought to the hospital with gunshot wounds and among them four succumbed to their injuries.”
- Rafiqul Islam, a police official, told Reuters, “We had to fire teargas and rubber bullets to disperse them as they entered a police station and carried out extensive vandalism.”
Who are these protesters?
- The Hefazat-e-Islam, or ‘Saviour of Islam’ is an Islamic fundamental group, which is a coalition of several small organisations.
- It has traditionally not sought power through elections, but looks to use its street muscle to change Bangladesh’s traditional secular culture and politics,
- Through the imposition of what it believes are proper Islamic ways.
- While the Hefazat-e-Islam has been creating trouble across Bangladesh, in 2018, right before the elections,
- The Sheikh Hasina government had entered a political understanding with the group.
- But Bangladesh has been witnessing an unabated rise in religious extremism and communal hatred over recent years.
- Traditionally, the Hefazat has always allied with the Jamaat-e-Islami, which has ties with the Bangladesh’s main opposition party, Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP).
- The Hefazat came to prominence in 2013 when a Bangladeshi blogger was killed outside his home owing to a clash between police and Islamic protesters, who took to the streets accusing such bloggers of blasphemy.
- The group that year had launched a 13-point charter of demands, which included enactment of an anti-blasphemy law with provision for the death penalty, exemplary punishment to all bloggers and others who insult Islam, cancellation of the country’s women development policy, a ban on erecting sculptures in public places and a ban on mixing of men and women in public, among others.
- They had even launched widespread protests against French President Emmanuel Macron for his comments over Prophet Mohammed’s caricatures in Dhaka last year.
Why they are protesting?
- Experts said the student protesters are not “anti-India, but they are against PM Modi”, but Hefazat activists “are completely anti-India”.
- “The protesters are mainly students who are affiliated to the Left parties and Hefazat-e-Islam activists,” Farid Hossain, political analyst and writer based in Bangladesh.
- “The students are protesting because they believe Prime Minister Modi is guilty of the Gujarat riots and that he represents a Right-wing pro-Hindutva party.
- On the other hand, there are these Hefazat activists, who have been protesting since last year when they came to know that PM Modi will be visiting Dhaka.”
- Protesters also criticised the killings of Bangladeshis by Indian border guards.
- India says such casualties happen when Bangladeshis are involved in cross-border smuggling and attempt to cross the border “illegally”.
- Many Bangladeshis are also unhappy with India’s unwillingness to sign a water-sharing treaty for the Teesta river, one of many common rivers.
- India helped Bangladesh gain independence from Pakistan through a nine-month bloody war in 1971.
- Earlier this week, Bangladesh’s Foreign Affairs Minister AK Abdul Momen told Al Jazeera that since India helped Bangladesh achieve its independence,
- “So it is very natural that the Indian prime minister will be asked to become Bangladesh’s Golden Jubilee celebration’s main guest”.
- “We are not concerned what the fundamentalists are saying about Modi’s visit. They do not represent the voice of the country’s people,”
- He said, adding that “only a small fraction of people” were protesting.
- “They are making an issue out of it without any valid reason,”
Q) Which Indian state shares smallest border between India and Bangladesh?