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Moslems Attack Hindu Temples in Bangladesh With PM-India, Bjt

October 31, 1990 GMT

CHITTAGONG, Bangladesh (AP) _ Gangs of Moslems, many armed with knives and clubs, attacked Hindu temples, smashed idols and set fire to hundreds of homes in response to clashes in India, witnesses said today.

Angry mobs took to the streets late Tuesday on hearing news of an attempt by fundamentalist Hindus in India to take over a mosque and replace it with a temple at the holy town of Ayodhya. More than 150 people have been killed in India in fighting related to the dispute.

In Bangladesh, police fired rifles in the air to disperse crowds and clamped an indefinite curfew on the city of Chittagong. Police said they arrested 10 people in one incident, but witnesses said they saw police take away 35 people after a separate confrontation.

A crowd of about 100 people defied the curfew imposed at dawn today and assaulted a Hindu shrine. In all, at least 11 temples have been broken into and vandalized since Tuesday, according to officials and witnesses.

The worst violence flared at Kaiballadham, site of the Chittagong’s largest temple. Witnesses said 2,000 people with knives and iron rods rampaged through a residential disrict around the temple at midnight and burned at least 300 houses.

Police fired into the air to disperse a mob that was preventing firemen from approaching the area. Sushil Gosh, one of 500 displaced people who set up a camp on a hill above the temple, said four men were missing.

Police also fired at Reazuddin Bazar and Chittagong Medical College when mobs of up to 200 people tried to storm temples and burn Hindu-owned stores.

One group destroyed about 50 mud-and-straw houses inhabited by low-caste Hindus, mainly fishermen. Another group attacked a garage owned by a Hindu and damaged five vehicles.

Police said about 1,500 Hindu fishermen at central Chowkbazar district fled their homes during the night attack, but returned in the morning when situation was brought under control.

In Dhaka, the capital, tension heightened when about 1,000 Moslems marched on the Indian High Commission or embassy.

Riot police halted the march three blocks from the embassy, but a middle- aged man who appeared by his dress to be a Hindu was beaten by the mob nearby, witnesses said.

The authorities posted police guards at Dhaka’s temples for fear of attacks, but no violence was reported.

When colonial Britain partitioned the Indian subcontinent in 1947, Hindus were left with an overwhelming majority in India. Bangladesh, formerly East Pakistan, is 88 percent Moslem and 10 percent Hindu.