|A Buddhist man looks at the ruins of a temple in Ramu, Cox’s Bazar|
At least 240 people were arrested in connection with last weekend’s destruction of Buddhist sites and villages in Chittagong and Cox’s Bazar districts, a police official said today.
The violence allegedly erupted after a picture of a burnt Qu’ran appeared on the Facebook profile of a local Buddhist man. It resulted in 19 Buddhist temples and around 100 homes being destroyed.
Several protests condemning the attacks have been staged this week. Yesterday, several hundred people formed a human chain in front of National Museum in Dhaka.
“I’ve lost the words to console my Buddhist brothers and sisters. Every culprit behind these heinous attacks should be arrested and handed exemplary punishment,” said Anisul Haque, a prominent writer and journalist.
Ministers and leaders from the ruling Awami League say the violence was premeditated and instigated by local opposition legislators and Islamist parties.
Leaders from the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party and Jamaat-e-Islami have denied the allegations, saying that the authorities’ inaction shows that the ruling party was behind the violence.
Today a High Court bench ordered the secretary of the Home Ministry, the police chief and district administrators in Cox’s Bazar and Chittagong, as well as police chiefs in four other areas, to explain within a week why the administration failed to stop the violence.
The officer in charge at Ramu police station in Cox’s Bazar, the predominantly Buddhist area worst hit in the riots, has been removed for his inaction.
A curfew has been lifted in the area but law enforcement, border guards and army personnel continue to mount patrols.
Meanwhile, victims say aid from the government has been insufficient. Many Buddhists who fled are still homeless.
Babita Barua, 35, a local college teacher, said compensation was paltry compared to the huge losses the community sustained.
“Attackers destroyed our belongings and valuables worth tens of thousands, but up to now I’ve received 25,000 taka [US$305]. The army has constructed a tin fence around our burnt homestead, but we are still living under the sky,” she said.
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