Hindu priest hacked to death in Bangladesh, India voices concern
Dhaka/New Delhi, July 1 (IANS) A Hindu priest was hacked to death in Bangladesh on Friday, in a chilling similarity to the murder of another priest from the religious minority in the southwestern district of Jhenaidah last month.
Shyamananda Das, 50, was serving at the Sri Sri Radha Madan Gopal temple at Uttar Kastasagarha in the Jhenaidah district’s Sadar Upazila for the past three years, bdnews24.com reported.
Police said three motorcycle-riding assailants hacked him down early on Friday, exactly in the manner priest Ananda Gopal Ganguly was killed last month in the same Upazila.
Indian Ministery of External Affairs spokesperson Vikas Swarup said that the Indian government was concerned over the growing number of attacks on the minorities in Bangladesh and conveyed it to the government in Dhaka.
“Our High Commission in Dhaka closely monitors incidents targeting the religious, socio-economic and political freedom of the minorities in Bangladesh and raises these issues with the Bangladeshi authorities appropriately,” he said.
“At appropriate occasions, our concerns have also been conveyed at high political levels, including during the visit of Foreign Secretary to Dhaka on May 11-12, 2016,” the spokesperson added.
“Government of Bangladesh has assured us (India) that they are fully committed to safeguarding minority rights, that many of the incidents are not communal in nature and arise from disputes of a political or private nature and that stern action would be taken against the culprits,” he informed.
Jhenaidah Superintendent of Police Sheikh Altaf Hossain said the latest murder resembles killings across Bangladesh in the past two years in which motorcycle-riding suspected militants shot and hacked down secular bloggers, publishers, writers, Hindu priests, Buddhist monks, Christian pastors and even foreigners.
Quoting an eyewitness, Hossain said the murder took place around 5.20 a.m.
“Shyamananda was picking flowers for puja (worship) outside the temple when three assailants approached him on a motorcycle and hacked him down,” Hossain said.
“To make sure he died, they rained multiple blows on his head and neck with sharp weapons.”
Das, who hailed from Musuridanga village in Narhail Sadar Upazila, was rushed to the Jhenaidah Sadar Hospital, but was declared dead by doctors around 6 a.m.
The eyewitness told police that the faces of the killers were covered with “gamchha” (a local variant of towel). One of them was carrying a long-bladed machete.
Bangaladashi Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal in Dhaka told reporters that “law enforcers will be able to catch the killers very soon as there is an eyewitness”.
He claimed the suspected militants and assailants involved in the past similar murders were “under surveillance”.
“That’s why we think we’ll be able to catch them (killers) soon.”
On June 7, priest Ananda Ganguly, 69, was murdered in an identical fashion in Mahishdanga village.
The US monitoring group SITE Intelligence has said the Islamic State had owned responsibility for Ganguly’s murder.
But police say his killers were linked to the Islami Chhatra Shibir, the student affiliate of the Jamaat-e-Islami whose top leaders have been convicted for the mass killing of Hindus during Bangladesh’s freedom struggle in 1971.
So far, four people, including Das and Ganguly, have been murdered in Jhenaidah alone.