Paramilitary troops have been deployed to various parts of Bangladesh to maintain order after three people were killed in violence that followed rumours of a Koran being desecrated at a Hindu festival, officials said on Thursday.
Troops were moved to 22 of Bangladesh’s 64 administrative districts by request from local authorities, Lieutenant Colonel Fayzur Rahman of the Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB) paramilitary force told reporters in Dhaka.
The violence erupted after police tried to stop a group of assailants attacking Hindu temples in southern Chandpur district on Wednesday night, local government official Momena Akhter said.
It was not known whether those who died were killed in police shooting or not, she said, adding that the situation was now under control.
A Muslim mob incensed at the alleged desecration of a Koran at a venue celebrating the Hindu festival of Durga Puja are believed to have carried out the attacks in the district of Comilla.
An organizer of the Durga Puja celebrations in Comilla, Nirmal Pal, said that someone may have intentionally put a copy of the Koran on the knee of the Hindu god Hanuman as an act of provocation.
In Islam the Koran is considered the literal word of God and Muslims must ritually wash themselves before even touching a copy. There are dozens of acts that can constitute Koran desecration, insulting Islam or blasphemy, placing the holy book on a non-Islamic shrine would almost certainly be one of them.
Despite the festival organizers removing the Koran as soon as they were made aware of its presence, an image of it quickly went viral, prompting angry Muslim mobs to coalesce in various parts of Comilla, carrying out attacks on Hindus celebrating Durga Puja and vandalizing a number of Hindu deities, said Pal.
The violence quickly spread to other districts across the country, prompting the authorities to deploy additional security forces to keep the peace.
“We are trying to find the culprits responsible for shattering religious harmony,” Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan said, urging the Comilla administration to bring the culprits to justice.