Community violence slows down Diwali celebrations for Bangladeshis in Australia
Some Bangladeshi Hindus in Australia plan to drop Diwali celebrations this year in “solidarity” with victims of an outbreak of religious violence in their former home country.
- Social media images of alleged religious desecration sparked protests across Bangladesh
- Bangladeshi police say this year’s attacks are the biggest mob violence in the country’s history
- As a result, some Bangaladeshi Hindus in Australia are reluctant to participate in Diwali festivities
Diwali, a week-long festival starting today, is the most important date in the Hindu calendar and a festive time for Hindu communities.
But the deadly violence in Bangladesh has cast a shadow over the festival for many Australians in Bangladesh.
Allegedly fake images circulated on social media of the Koran on the knees of the statue of the Hindu god Hanuman on October 13, scandalizing the Islamic community in Bangladesh which represents more than 90% of the religious population.
Since then, extremists have reportedly torched hundreds of homes and vandalized around 120 Hindu temples during protests across Bangladesh.
More than 10 people have lost their lives in what Bangladeshi police consider the biggest wave of community violence since the country was separated from Pakistan 50 years ago.
Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina condemned the attacks and pledged to ensure that the attackers “face appropriate sanctions”.
The country’s law enforcement agencies have since launched in-depth investigations and made more than 300 arrests.
Violence also crossed the Indian border last week, with Muslim shops and mosques damaged or destroyed since October 21.
Festivities in effervescence
MS, who requested to remain anonymous due to fears of reprisal, is a Bangladeshi health researcher in Canberra and said he was heartbroken to learn that his childhood friend Dilip Das died in one attacks.
Mr Das, a florist by trade, was hit with a stone and suffered a fatal head injury amid an extremist rampage at a Hindu temple in northern Bangladesh.
“It’s frustrating because such an innocent man died so unnecessarily,” MS said
Another close friend of Mr. S’s family was also a victim of the anti-Hindu riots.
“My close family friends are devastated after their home and business were ransacked,” he said.
Mr S said the dismay over the violence was compounded because the attacks occurred during the Durga Puja festival October 11-15 in the run-up to Diwali.
“It is a very difficult mental state for all of us because everyone in our community is in great pain.”
Community leader Ashis Dey said many Bangladeshi Hindus in Australia are skipping the celebratory festivities to show their “solidarity” with their people at home.
“Any celebratory photo on social media can hurt the feelings of our friends and family in Bangladesh. ”
“Fear and fear for their life”
Dr Dey’s mother and sister, who live in Bangladesh, curled up in their homes and avoided social contact during the unrest.
He said his sister was unable to visit his mother for safety reasons.
“It is a very stressful situation because they are afraid that anything could happen to them at any time,” said Dr Dey.
“They are afraid to travel and fear that there is not enough protection for them.”
Dr Dey called his mother and sister every day to check on their well-being.
“We received continuous news about injuries and deaths from social media and news so it made us extremely anxious,” he said.
Diwali a platform for peace
Along with traditional rituals, the Bangladeshi Hindu community in Australia plans to celebrate Diwali with peaceful protests instead of performance activities.
Dr Dey says the festival will have a different meaning this year for his community.
“This will be our cry for better protection and human rights for the Hindu minority in Bangladesh,” he said.
He hopes to call for calmer heads on both sides of the religious divide in the Indian subcontinent.
“We call for an end to all aggression by Muslim and Hindu extremists because extremism will only bring deadly results,” said Dr Dey.