Hindu temple worker hacked to death

Latest victim of attacks on religious minorities in Bangladesh

NEW DELHI • A Hindu temple worker was hacked to death in western Bangladesh yesterday, police said, the latest in a series of attacks on religious minorities by suspected Islamists.

Three men on a motorcycle attacked Mr Shyamananda Das as he walked along a road near the temple early in the morning.

"They hacked him on his neck three times and there was one stabbing mark in his head," deputy district police chief Gopinath Kanjilal said. "He died after he was taken to hospital."

Police said the 50-year-old, also known as Babaji, was a volunteer who helped conduct prayers at temples.

"He was a temple volunteer who travels from one temple to another to serve the Hindu devotees," said local police chief inspector Hasan Hafizur Rahman.

"He was attacked as he walked outside the temple to collect flowers for prayer services."

No group has claimed responsibility for the attack, but police said it bore the hallmarks of recent murders of religious minorities by suspected home-grown Islamist militants.

Last month, a Hindu priest, 70-year-old Ananda Gopal Ganguly, was hacked to death in the same district.

Days later, a Hindu monastery worker was murdered in the same way in a north-western district.

Deputy police chief Kanjilal said an activist with the student wing of the country's largest Islamist party, Jamaat-e-Islami, had been arrested over the attack.

Hours before the murder, two Jamaat student activists were shot dead in a gun-fight with police just a few kilometres from the Hindu temple, two police officials said.

"They are local leaders of Islami Chhatra Shibir and were suspects in last month's murder of the Hindu priest," chief inspector Rahman said.

Bangladesh is reeling from a wave of murders of secular and liberal activists and religious minorities that has left some 50 people dead in the last three years.

Victims of the attacks by suspected Islamists have included secular bloggers, gay rights activists and followers of minority religions including Hindus, Christians and Muslim Sufis and Shi'ites.

Since April, more than a dozen people have been hacked to death amid a sharp spike in targeted killings.

Most of the recent attacks have been claimed by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria militant organisation or the South Asian branch of Al-Qaeda.

However, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's government has blamed home-grown Islamists for the attacks.

Experts say a government crackdown on opponents, including a ban on the Jamaat-e-Islami following a long political crisis, has pushed many towards extremism.

Last month, police arrested more than 11,000 people, including nearly 200 suspected militants, in an anti-Islamist drive criticised by the opposition and some rights groups, which said it was used as an excuse to clamp down on dissent.

At least nine suspected Islamists were shot dead in what police said were gun-fights. Some rights activists contradict that account and say they were extrajudicial killings.

Jamaat-e-Islami is a long-standing ally of the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 02, 2016, with the headline 'Hindu temple worker hacked to death'. Print Edition | Subscribe