At least 10 dead as Bangladesh residents protest Modi’s visit

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March 27 (UPI) — At least 10 are dead and dozens injured in Bangladesh after demonstrations protesting a visit by India’s prime minister turned violent.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrived in Dhaka, the country’s capital city, on Friday to mark the 50th anniversary of Bangledesh’s independence.

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An Islamic group, Hefazat-e-Islam, led street processions denouncing Modi beginning Friday, the New York Times reported.

Protests took place in at least three cities, with clashes between protesters and police began Friday after weekly prayers.

Five people were killed Friday and five more were killed Saturday.

A spokesman for Facebook also confirmed that Bangladesh residents are not able to access the website.

Hefazat-e-Islam leaders have called for a strike Sunday, Al Jazeera reported.

“Along with the Golden Jubilee, we are also celebrating the birth centenary of Sheikh Mujib who fought for a secular nation whereas Modi is inherently communal,” Imtiaz Ahmed, professor of international relations at Dhaka University, told Al Jazeera, noting that Modi has been criticized in India for “his hardliner Hindu nationalist stance.”

“The scenes of violence we witnessed in Chattogram and Dhaka follow a worryingly familiar pattern of behaviour by the Bangladeshi authorities,” said Sultan Mohammed Zakaria, Amnesty International‘s South Asia Researcher in a statement from the organization. “The right to peaceful protest has come under concerted attack, particularly during the coronavirus pandemic, culminating in this type of bloody repression.”

In 2019 India’s government passed the Citizenship Amendment Bill, which granted citizens status to all non-Muslim immigrants living in the country illegally.

The bill’s passage sparked immediate protests in the country which lasted for months and drew criticism from the international community, including religious freedom watchdogs in the United States.

Human rights groups have also been critical of Bangladesh’s increased restrictions on freedom of speech, which have included crackdowns on protesters as well as the passage of the Digital Security Act, which allows police to arrest anyone who criticizes the government online.

Amnesty International said this weekend’s events follow a “spate of crackdowns” over the past two weeks that have injured more than 100 people in the country — and increased restrictions on permits for public gatherings.

Human Rights Watch issued a statement Friday saying Bangladeshis are “enduring an escalating crackdown on human rights” by the country’s government, and asked the international community to call for an end to the abuses.

“The international community should also call on Bangladesh to protect fundamental freedoms including the right to freedom of expression; repeal the Digital Security Act; and release journalists, critics, and activists who are in detention for speaking out,” the organization’s statement said.