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Four killed in Bangladesh protest against India’s Modi visit

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At least four people were killed in the Bangladeshi city of Chittagong after police fired at protesters during a demonstration against a visit by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, police officials said.

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.

The protesters in Chittagong were from the Hefazat-e-Islam Bangladesh, an Islamist group opposed to the visit of Modi, who critics say has been pushing a Hindu-first agenda in India.

Mohammad Alauddin, another police official in Chittagong, said that eight people were brought to a hospital in the city with gunshot wounds, of which four succumbed to their injuries

Protests at the main mosque in the city of Dhaka 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.

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.

Many Bangladeshis are also unhappy with India’s unwillingness to sign a water-sharing treaty for the Teesta river, one of many common rivers.

Earlier this week, Bangladesh’s Foreign Affairs Minister, AK Abdul Momen said that since India helped Bangladesh achieve its independence, “so it is very natural that the Indian prime minister will be asked to become Bangladesh’s Golden Jubilee celebration’s main guest”.

“We are not concerned what the fundamentalists are saying about Modi’s visit. They do not represent the voice of the country’s people,” he said, adding that “only a small fraction of people” were protesting.

But Imtiaz Ahmed, professor of international relations at Dhaka University, feels inviting Modi for the celebrations was “not a good choice”.

“Along with the Golden Jubilee, we are also celebrating the birth centenary of father of the nation. Sheikh Mujib fought for a secular nation whereas Modi is inherently communal. He [Modi] is criticised in his own country for his hardliner Hindu nationalist stance,” Ahmed said.

Aljazeera

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