STORY: Buddhist monks held a candlelight vigil and protested in the holy town of Bodh Gaya in India’s eastern Bihar state on Monday (October 01), paying homage to the people who lost their lives in the attacks carried out by Muslim mobs on Buddhist temples in Bangladesh.
Bangladesh accused Muslim Rohingya refugees from Myanmar on Monday of involvement in attacks on Buddhist temples and homes in the southeast and said the violence was triggered by a photo posted on Facebook that insulted Islam.
Thousands of Muslims went on a rampage in Buddhist areas of Bangladesh near the border on Saturday, setting ablaze more than a dozen temples and monasteries and at least 50 homes. Property was looted, including statues of the Buddha.
Police said violence spread to the port of Chittagong, where at least two temples were vandalised. But police drove the attackers away and tightened security around Buddhist areas.
Police said they arrested nearly 170 people on suspicion of vandalism and an investigation was ordered into the violence.
Priyapal Bhante, a Buddhist monk, said that the community was attacked, as they are in minority and added that it was unfortunate that the Bangladesh government could not protect the Buddhists.
“Our neighbouring countries like Bangladesh, we never expected such that they will create such a damaging atmosphere and attack the Buddhist minority in Bangladesh. It is unfortunate that the international community, they could not include the government of Bangladesh, could not protect the minority Buddhists, especially in Chittagong and in the Chittagong hill track and other parts of Bangladesh in Cox’s Bazaar area also. So, due to that reason, we peace lovers and peace worshippers came out from our monastery, in support of those people, those who have been affected,” he said.
At least five homes were torched by the Muslim mob and they vandalized three temples.
Bhante said that some monks have died in the attack and it was the responsibility of the Bangladeshi government to maintain law and order.
“As far as our contact there, we have already confirmed that some of the monks have been killed by the attacker, we don’t know who are the attackers. This is the responsibility of the established government, being a member of the United Nations, the Bangladesh government, they should protect them. This is their responsibility to maintain law and order and protect their own innocent citizens. But, the reason is that they are in minority in an Islamic country, so they are facing this kind of a situation,” he said.
The Bangladeshi troops have been deployed in several Buddhist areas to guard the minorities.
It was one of the worst sectarian attacks in Bangladesh, spreading fear throughout the Buddhist minority.
Rohingyas were involved in a week of rioting with Buddhist Rakhines across the border in Myanmar last June and aid agencies say they bore the brunt of a government crackdown to halt the violence.
Rohingyas are not included in any census in multi-ethnic Myanmar and have no citizenship. Bangladesh does not accept them and pushed back out to sea refugees fleeing that unrest.
Police said the latest attacks were launched after Muslims found a Facebook photo of a burned Koran, allegedly posted by a young Buddhist man who was taken into safe custody by police. The Facebook account was closed.
Leaders of the Buddhist community, which makes up less than 1 percent of Bangladesh’s population of 150 million, accused unidentified activists of sowing discord.
Many Bangladeshi Muslims have taken part in protests in recent days against a film made in California and deemed insulting to Islam.
Though most Rohingyas were turned back from Bangladesh during last June’s violence, local residents accuse some of infiltrating the country and teaming up with Islamists.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, attending the UN General Assembly in New York, called for tough measures to prevent further attacks on minority communities, state media reported