Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Buddhist Temples Torched By Muslims in Bangladesh!

Fire-damaged Buddha statue.
Criminals torched the Buddha idol in Shakyamuni pagoda of Boalkhali in Chittagong after breaking into the monastery early yesterday. They burnt its robe but managed to make way with five smaller idols and the donation box.

Mystery shrouds arson attacks on Buddhist temple and orphanage at Patiya, and looting and vandalism at another temple at Boalkhali in the last three days.

The incidents, carried out in similar fashion, have sent shock waves through the Buddhists in the areas. They hark back to September last when two temples were vandalised at Kolagaon union in Patiya. Also that month, fanatics destroyed 18 Buddhist temples, monasteries and more than 50 houses at Ramu upazila in adjoining Cox’s Bazar district.

On Saturday, a fire broke out at Dhatu Chaittya Bihar under Mukut Knight village in Patiya around 3:00pm. Suman Sri Vhikhu, chief monk of the temple, told The Daily Star that it was an arson attack, but he did not know who were behind it.

Suman said he was at Patiya Sadar to buy some religious books for the temple when the arson took place. “When I returned, I found all valuables, including my laptop, TV and furniture in my room of the temple, gutted by the flames,” he said, adding that the Sramons (junior monks) and villagers doused the fire later on.

None of the neighbourhood could also say who set fire to the temple. Around the same time the following day, the temple’s orphanage was burned down. Again, no one knew who committed the arson.

No one was hurt as children were attending school at that time, the chief monk said, adding that firefighters from Patiya rushed to the spot and doused the fire. Mafiz Uddin, officer-in-charge of Patiya Police Station, said police had visited the spot and were looking into the matter.

Fire-damaged Buddhist orphanage.
Upazila Chairman Idris Mian, and Upazila Nirbahi Officer Rokeya Parveen also visited the spot and assured the local Buddhist community of safety. In neighbouring Boalkhali upazila, unidentified criminals broke into Shakyamuni Buddhist temple at Jaisthapura village in the early hours yesterday.

The temple’s monk, Ginanonda Mohathero, said, “The miscreants vandalised the place of worship, set fire to ‘chibor’, robe of idol Buddha; pilfered five small idols, and a donation box of the temple.”

He said the monks were asleep at that time. Jahirul Haque Sabuj, officer-in-charge of Boalkhali Police Station, told The Daily Star that they had visited the spot. He said it might be a robbery.

On September 12 last year, fanatics went on the rampage at Ramu in Cox’s Bazar following a posting demeaning the Holy Quran from a fake Facebook profile. Several hundred statues of Lord Buddha were looted from different monasteries during the mayhem.
                                          Buddhists Face The Brunt This time
(Following is the Daily Star’s Editorial on the constant attacks on Buddhits in Bangladesh.)

Following the large-scale and systematic attack on Buddhist temples in Ramu in the very recent past, Buddhist residents at Patiya have faced similar onslaught. Going by newspaper reports, it is not yet clear which individuals or parties are responsible for carrying out arson attacks accompanied by looting and vandalism of a Buddhist temple and orphanage in the Boalkhali area.

The right to worship and religious freedom are enshrined in the Constitution as an inalienable right of every Bangladeshi.

We condemn such incidents in the strongest possible terms any attack on any temple or site considered by any community, large or small, to be holy. What is now evident from the Ramu and Patiya incidents is that there has been a very large failure in intelligence on the part of law enforcement agencies to detect and prevent such well-orchestrated attacks.

Incidents such as these require meticulous planning and logistics involving a group or groups of people to execute. With practically all the agencies at the disposal of the State ranging from police to the various intelligence organs concentrated wholly on the activities of opposition parties, it is little wonder that such ‘gaps’ in information gathering about probable attacks on religious sites is sidelined. This is a serious anomaly that must be addressed.

Suffice to say, the failure of the State to guarantee protection of religious minorities smears the country’s image. For in the final analysis of things it is wholly the responsibility of the government to ensure physical safety of community members and preserve the sanctity of places of worship. It has become more imperative than ever to put in place human “intelligence” networks around vulnerable pockets of minority communities.

Any failure to protect our fellow brethren belonging to other faiths will automatically strengthen the hands of communal forces in the country. And it will act to undermine the very foundations of the secular State that Bangladesh claims to be.

The collective vigil of the community at large is also vital for ensuring harmony and peace in society.