Muslims disrupt Hindu festival Saraswati Puja in multiple locations across India and Bangladesh
On January 26, Hindus of India and Bangladesh celebrated Basant Panchami, a day dedicated to worshiping the Hindu goddess of knowledge and art, Saraswati. What were the odds that these celebrations would be safe from attacks from the crowds of jihadis who thrive in pockets in India and throughout Bangladesh? Multiple incidents of violence by Muslims were recorded on the day of Basant Panchami: idols were smashed and pavilions were ravaged. That the day also coincided with India’s Republic Day may have added to the intense hate with which these attacks were planned and carried out.
Attacks began in Bangladesh days ahead of the occasion. On the night of Monday, January 23, idols of the goddess were desecrated in the Purbadhala upazila of the Netrokona district in Bangladesh. The Officer in Charge of Purbadhala Police Station, Mohammad Saiful Islam, arrested one suspect who was identified from CCTV footage. The Jatiya Hindu Mahazayot, the largest organization of Hindus in Bangladesh, has revealed the attacker’s name as Akram. What is peculiar is that the police claimed that the accused was intoxicated, or was perhaps a drug addict. This has become a shamefully common excuse used repeatedly in Bangladesh after a Muslim is caught attacking or desecrating Hindu establishments.
The local organizers of the Saraswati Puja event have also complained that such criminals almost never get punished for perpetrating their hate crimes, which emboldens them to continue their plans against Hindu homes, temples, and shops.
Again, on the night of Thursday, January 26, a gang of 9-10 Muslims disrupted the observance of Saraswati Puja and vandalized the idol of the deity. The incident is reported from Naraich village in Mohanganj upazila in the Mymensingh Division of Bangladesh. Six people, namely, Farook Mia, Nishad, Apu Mia, Sabikul Mia, SM Munna Khan, and Anon Mia have been identified as accused in this case.
Antar Sarkar of the Naraich Village Youth Association revealed that these men arrived at the Puja pavilion at around 9:30 pm, while the worship was going on. These men started taking videos and pictures and were agitated when the organizers forbade them from doing so, as such practices interrupt the Puja process. They heatedly argued with the organizers and took to violence out of a desire for vengeance.
They didn’t stop just at destroying the idol of the deity or tearing down the event’s pavilion; they also attacked the Hindu devotees who had gathered to offer their prayers. Such repeated attacks expose the utter failure of the Sheikh Hasina government to protect the minority Hindus, Buddhists, and Christians in Bangladesh.
Episodes of Muslim violence were also recorded in the Indian states of Bihar and Jharkhand. Residents of Muslim tola threw stones at Hindu devotees during the Saraswati Puja procession, an event that marks the conclusion of the worship, in Dokidih village of Jamtara district in Jharkhand. The Hindu procession was marching through a pre-arranged route when Muslims started throwing stones at them from the roofs of the Muslims’ houses. A large crowd also gathered from the neighboring areas, leading the Hindus to allege that the attack had been premeditated. Some rioters also invaded Hindu homes and assaulted women and children.
Four policemen, including Inspector Manoj Kumar, ended up with severe injuries. The police were forced to fire several rounds in the air to disperse the attackers. Yet this Muslim mob continued to create disruptions during and after the immersion process, in the presence of a heavy police force.
In Bihar’s Gopalganj district, Hindu youths Ankit Kumar and Hariom were critically injured after being stabbed with sharp weapons. This ambush was led by Mohammed Shahadat and Mohammad Sonu Miyan. Shortly after the attack, Ankit succumbed to his injuries. News reports claim that the dispute was related to Saraswati puja, while police downplayed the matter, claiming that the turmoil broke out over a cricket match.