In Panchapalli village in the district of Faridpur, about 160 km southwest of the capital city Dhaka, a Hindu mob brutally beat eight Muslim labourers and lynched two of them to death on Thursday 18 April 2024 accusing them of starting a fire in their Mandir (Hindu Temple).

The local primary school is situated next to the village’s Mandir where these Muslim labourers had been working on a government-funded construction project. These poverty-stricken had been working during the day and sleeping in a classroom at night.

Just after the sunset on this day, some of the villagers noticed that the clothes worn by the deity in the Mandir were burning. They came together to put out the fire, and witnesses later reported that Muslim labourers from the adjacent school building also joined the efforts.

However, once the fire was doused, the local Hindu mob turned on them and accused them of starting the fire because they were the only Muslims on that spot. The mob took them to the school building under construction and started beating them with bricks, bamboo sticks, iron rods and all other available construction materials.

Local police came to the location within hours, but the mob started a riot. Eventually, higher government officials including the District Commissioner and members of the paramilitary force Rapid Action Battalion arrived there by midnight and were finally able to rescue the beaten bodies of those labourers.

Two of them were declared dead. A relative of the deceased labourers later described that their bodies were so broken that it was difficult to hold and carry those dead bodies.

In a sadder turn of events, both deceased were identified as brothers, Ashraful (19 years old) and Arshadul (15 years old). The impoverished parents lost both their children.

The grief-stricken mother said that the brother had previously left working in this construction project and returned home as some local young thugs demanded extortion money from their sub-contractor and threatened to beat them. However, the sub-contractor assured their parents that no harm would come and brought them back to work just the day before this incident.

What followed was even more disturbing. Many Hindus on social media started cheering and celebrating this killing, they threatened to rape Muslim women wearing hijab and kill whoever eats beef, as they consider cows a holy animal.

No Bangladeshi mainstream media covered this event on the following day or the day after. Rather the local people started posting some pictures and videos on social media and users from all over the country started writing angry and agitated posts and comments. Eventually, some newspapers published the news after a few days. It has been several weeks since the killing and beating, nobody has been arrested yet.

Such bizarre and fanatic displays of communal hatred and discrimination due to religious identity have been commonplace in neighbouring India, they have now started to appear in Bangladesh as well.

The Awami League, the ruling political party, has held power for more than fifteen years now by all possible means including rigged elections, enforced disappearances and indiscriminate arrests and tortures, supported directly by the BJP, the ruling party of India.

The Awami League has been disproportionately appointing Hindus to most government positions and recruiting them into law enforcement agencies. The poisonous outcomes of such blatant discrimination and injustice have now started to appear.

This incident and its aftermath prove that the rise of Islamophobia, a global concern, is not confined to Muslim-minority societies only. Rather the hateful expression of Islamophobia can be severe and dangerous in a Muslim-majority society such as Bangladesh.

It’s not the population that can tackle Islamophobia, rather justice and human rights are the proper tools to eradicate Islamophobia.

Bangladesh, despite being a Muslim-majority country, is one of the severe examples of Islamophobia in the present world where unrelated individuals are targeted, tortured and killed only because they are Muslims, where people are not allowed to organise Iftar events during Ramadan and university students are not allowed to organise prayer events in public.