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The Telegraph

Report Dhaka, Oct. 16: Durga Puja celebrations will be muted this year in Bangladesh

The Hindus have decided to cut down on festivities to protest against violence aimed at minorities in this predominantly Muslim nation.

The decision of the Hindu-Buddha-Christian Oikya Parishad comes in the wake of increasing attacks on minorities since the October 1 elections. Several thousand Hindu families have fled their homes in Agailjhara in southern Barisal district and taken refuge in neighbouring Gopalganj, the home district of former Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

Hasina lost to rival Begum Khaleda Zia, whose four-party alliance, including Islamic fundamentalist outfits Jamaat-e-Islami and Islami Oikya Jote, swept to power winning more than two-thirds of the seats in the 300-seat Jatiya Sangsad.

The Hindu-Buddha-Christian Oikya Parishad, representing 12 per cent of the country’s 130 million people, has blamed the attacks on “terrorists” from Khaleda’s Bangladesh Nationalist Party and the Jamaat.

According to reports in leading dailies such as Ittefaq, Sangbad and Prothom Alo, the attacks started before the elections. The violence – extortion, threats, forceful eviction or occupation of land and rape – was aimed at keeping the minority voters away from the polling stations. In the post-poll violence, the minorities have been targeted for supporting Hasina’s Awami League. The country’s minorities have traditionally backed the League for its secular policies.

Home minister Air Vice-Marshal (retd) Altaf Hossain Chowdhury has dismissed the reports about attacks on religious minorities as “baseless, exaggerated and politically motivated”.

He told reporters that only a small part of the incidents are said to be true, but most of these have been blown out of proportion. Chowdhury, however, warned that violence against the minorities will not be tolerated.

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