‘Living in Fear’: Hindus in Bangladesh Recount the Horrors of Communal Clashes

The kin of the victims of the recent spell of violence in Bangladesh recount the horror that they witnessed.

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“My brother has been coming here for 25 years for Durga puja. This is the first time his wife came with him. She came to my house for the first time, beautifully clad in a red saree. Now I will have to send her back in a white saree,” the weeping sister of late Jatan Saha tells The Quint as his wife Laki Rani Saha stands in the background, consoling her four-year-old child.

The child often asks his mother when her father is coming back, because he doesn’t want to have his meal without him. Laki, at that moment, barely holds it together.

Jatan Saha was lynched to death as a violent mob attacked temples and Hindu settlements in Bangladesh’s Noakhali.

According to authorities, over 66 houses were damaged and at least 20 homes of Hindus in Bangladesh were torched during the Durga Puja celebrations while at least six lives were claimed as a spell of violence swept Bangladesh.

Triggered by an alleged desecration incident at a Durga Puja pandal in Cumilla on 13 October, assailants attacked over 80 locations in Comilla, leading unrest and violence in several parts of the nation.

"When the violence started, I was hiding in my room with my child. My husband had been injured in his leg and was coming back home. I didn't even get to see him properly. He left again and was beaten to death in the next five minutes."
Laki Rani Saha, Wife of Late Jatan Saha

Laki adds that her son is restless and she’s barely being able to feed him or put him to sleep. Standing beside her, Jatan’s sister Muktarani expresses her ongoing fear. She is scared that they might be attacked anytime.

"Where do we go with our children? We have never seen such violence in our lives. Whenever they see a crowd, my daughters get startled and immediately start locking doors and windows to protect themselves, because they feel like a mob is coming. My children don't want to leave the house. They are scared that they might be thrown out of their school because they are Hindu."
Muktarani Saha, Sister of late Jatan Saha

On the night her house was torched, all Rani Saha could do was pray to God that they spare her and her family’s life. “We don't want our wealth or anything, just our lives,” is what she kept praying as assailants broke all her windows, poured petrol on the walls and set the house on fire.

But despite the fear, the kin of the victims of the violence refuse to give in to hate.
"Quran, Bible, Gita, they are all the same to us. I teach my child that Quran belongs to Islam but we will still respect it. There is no religion which we won't respect. I teach him about respecting all religions. Despite all this, will you accuse us of not loving Muslims? Why won't we love them, they are humans just like us?"
Laki Rani Saha, Wife of Late Jatan Saha

However, even as arrests are made and the situation seems to be under control, the Hindus are scared of another spell of violence, the older generation heart-broken as they never thought this could happen in their nation; and a mother asks, "Can the government bring my (dead) son back?"

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