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Monday, 15 October, 2001, 21:59 GMT 22:59 UK
Bangladesh Hindu attacks 'exaggerated'
Awami League demonstration
The government has offered protection for minorities
By Waliur Rahman in Dhaka

The new Home Minister of Bangladesh, Altaf Hossain Chowdhury, has dismissed as exaggerated reports of widespread attacks on religious minorities after the general election two weeks ago.

Clay likeness of the Hindu goddess Durga
Hindu leaders have cancelled religious festivities
Dismissing allegations of widespread attacks on minorities, Mr Chowdhury said he had personally visited some of the areas from where such reports had come, but found them baseless.

Mr Chowdhury called the news conference to explain the situation following a decision by the leaders of the Hindu community to cancel celebrations for a major festival to protest at the attacks on them.

The Bangladeshi media has been reporting for last two weeks that attacks were taking place against religious minority groups and that many Hindus had left the country to escape killing and rape.

'Politically motivated'

Local Government Minister and Secretary General of the the ruling Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), Abdul Mannan Bhuiyan, admitted there was some truth in the reports.

But in remarks at the same news conference, he said many of the reports were politically motivated and conspiratorial.

In an oblique reference to the opposition Awami League, both ministers blamed a certain political party for carrying out some of the attacks.

They said what they called terrorists were given money to disrupt law and order and political stability to malign the new government.

Inquiry

Government officials say they have received six complaints so far relating to communal disturbance from various parts of the country.

Sheikh Hasina
Sheikh Hasina: Blamed BNP and allies
The ministers said the government has ordered an inquiry and stern action will be taken against those responsible for such incidents.

They say the police have so far arrested nearly two dozen people in connection with the attacks.

Awami League

The Awami League chief, Sheikh Hasina, who lost the general election, has again alleged that the minorities are being persecuted because they voted for her party.

She has blamed the BNP and its Islamist ally Jamaat-e-Islami for the attacks.

The Awami League also formed several teams with former student leaders who will tour the entire country to collect information about the reported attacks.

Government ministers have appealed to the Hindu community to hold celebrations for Durga Puja - the biggest religious festival of the Bengali Hindus which falls later this month.

They have also promised total security for all temples during the five-day festival.

See also:

03 Oct 01 | South Asia
Bangladesh parliament boycott
30 Sep 01 | South Asia
Deaths mar Bangladesh election
02 Oct 01 | South Asia
Analysis: A tale of two women
28 Sep 01 | South Asia
Campaigning ends in Bangladesh
23 Sep 01 | South Asia
Bangladesh rally bombed
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