Anger in Bangladesh as India’s Modi attends 50th Independence Day

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is in Bangladesh to attend its Golden Jubilee celebrations of independence and the birth centenary of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the country’s founder and father of current Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

Modi’s visit sparked violent protests at Dhaka’s main mosque that were dispersed by police using tear gas and rubber bullets – injuring scores of people – after clashes broke out between groups of demonstrators, officials and witnesses said on Friday.Hundreds of protesters had gathered outside Dhaka’s Baitul Mokarram mosque after the Friday prayers. Witnesses said violent clashes broke out after one faction of protesters began waving their shoes as a sign of disrespect to Modi, and another group tried to stop them.Local media said the protesters who tried to stop the shoe-waving are aligned with the governing Awami League party, which criticised the other protest faction for attempting to create chaos during Modi’s visit.


Local TV showed protesters throwing stones at the police, who were heavily present on the streets near the mosque. Somoy TV reported that at least 40 people were injured, including journalists, and were taken to the Dhaka Medical College Hospital for treatment.

Modi’s two-day tour – his first abroad since the coronavirus pandemic began last year – will cap Dhaka’s 10-day celebrations already attended by leaders from Sri Lanka, Nepal, Bhutan and the Maldives.

Prime Minister Hasina, a key partner for India in maintaining regional stability, welcomed Modi at Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport in Dhaka on Friday morning.

‘We don’t want him’

Friday’s was the latest in a series of protests held across Bangladesh to oppose the visit by Modi, who many Bangladeshis accuse of stoking religious tensions and persecuting Muslims in India.

On Thursday, police in Dhaka fired rubber bullets and tear gas at hundreds of mainly student demonstrators protesting against the Hindu nationalist leader’s visit and criticising the government for inviting him.

Police said the protest got out of hand as nearly 2,000 demonstrators marched in Dhaka, with many throwing rocks and stones at officers. Dozens were wounded, with at least 18 sent to hospitals in the city.

“We fired tear gas and rubber bullets to disperse them… We have also arrested 33 people for violence,” police official Syed Nurul Islam told AFP news agency on Thursday.At another protest outside Baitul Mokarram mosque last Friday, protesters said more than 1,000 people, most of them Muslims, were killed in the Indian state of Gujarat in 2002, when Modi was the chief minister.

“A leader like him should not be allowed to attend the 50th Independence Day event.”

Even though Hefazat-e-Islam calls itself “non-political”, the Islamist organisation has gained eminence after the fall of Jamaat-e-Islami, Bangladesh’s largest Islamist political party.

At the protest outside Baitul Mukarram mosque, Hefazat supporters slammed Modi for “killing Muslims in Gujarat, Kashmir, Delhi and other parts of India”. They took their shoes in their hands to show disrespect to the Indian leader.Foez Ullah, president of the Bangladesh Students’ Union, said Modi’s policies go against the basic tenets of Bangladesh’s founding principles.

“Inviting India’s riotous, communal prime minister Narendra Modi to the golden jubilee of independence is against the spirit of the liberation war,” the group said in a statement.

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