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Bangladesh violence: 20 houses set ablaze, 66 damaged in protests over blasphemy
Communal tension has gripped Bangladesh as the violence triggered by an alleged desecration of the Islamic holy book Quran at a Durga puja mandap in Comilla last week escalated leading to protesters setting fire to dozens of houses in Rangpur district on Sunday night and Monday in reaction to fresh allegations of blasphemy on the social media.

DHAKA, Oct 19: Amidst protests over a blasphemous social media post dishonouring Islam, rioters torched 20 houses and rampaged 66 others on Sunday and Monday in continuing violence in Bangladesh since the Durga puja incidents of last week. Four hundred and fifty people have been arrested. The fresh violence took place in Pirganj Upazila in Rangpur district, 250 km from Dhaka.

The attackers belonged to the local units of the Jamaat-e-Islami and its student wing Islami Chhatra Shibir, Dhaka Tribune reported quoting sources. Police said clashes erupted after a Facebook post dishonouring Islam. The attackers rampaged the houses in the neighbourhood of the man who posted the content.

The arrests have been made in the past five days over the attacks on puja venues, temples, Hindu homes and businesses, and for spreading rumours on social media amid the Durga Puja, the largest festival of the Hindus.

Last week alleged dishonour of Islam at a Durga puja pandal in Comilla had sparked the ongoing violence on Wednesday, which was in fact simmering for some time. Noakhali, Chandpur, Cox’s Bazaar, Chattogram, Chapainawabganj, Pabna, Moulvibazara, Kurigram, Bandarban, Sylhet, Chittagong and Gazipur were some of the areas affected. Paramilitary forces were deployed to bring the situation under control. Several puja mandaps or pandals were vandalized in Chandpur, Chittagong, Gazipur, Bandarban, Chapainawabganj and Moulvibazar. One more person was killed in Begumganj Upazila of Noakhali district on Friday. A mob also attacked an ISKCON temple in Noakhali and other Hindu temples.

Four people were killed in violence during the Durga puja celebrations. The 10-day annual festivities concluded on Friday evening with the immersion of idols of Hindu Goddess Durga in water. Processions for immersion of the idols were taken out on the last day from puja mandaps set up for the celebrations during the period. The timing had also clashed with the Muslims' Friday prayers. Incidents of clashes were sporadic but had started early last week.

The four people were killed during clashes at Hajiganj sub-district in Chandpur on Wednesday last week. Dozens of people were injured in clashes in other districts as well. The violence spread to Durga Puja venues in Noakhali, Chandpur, Cox’s Bazaar, Chattogram, Chapainawabganj, Pabna, Moulvibazara and Kurigram.

Puja venues were vandalized in Chandpur, Chittagong, Gazipur, Bandarban, Chapainawabganj and Moulvibazar and the clashes resulted in the casualties.

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