Sixty six houses were vandalised and at least 20 homes of Hindus set on fire in Bangladesh over an alleged blasphemous social media post amid protests by the minority community against incidents of temple vandalism during the Durga Puja last week, media reports said on Monday.
The arson attack happened late on Sunday at a village about 255 km from capital city Dhaka, the bdnews24.com reported.
The police rushed to a colony of fishermen as tension mounted over a rumour that a young Hindu man from the village had "dishonoured religion" in a Facebook post, the report quoted district's superintendent of police Mohammad Qamruzzaman as saying.
As the police stood guard around the man's home, the attackers set fire to other homes nearby, the report said.
The Fire Service Control Room said that their report from the scene indicates that 29 residential houses, two kitchens, two barns and 20 haystacks belonging to 15 different people were torched in Majhipara, adding that an "unruly crowd" has been identified as the cause of fire.
The fire service received a report of the fire at 8:45 PM and finally put it out by 4:10 AM, the report said. There were no immediate reports of casualties.
The arson comes at a time when there is a rising communal tension over an alleged incident of blasphemy at a Durga Puja venue in Cumilla in Bangladesh's Chittagong division which led to attacks on Hindu temples and clashes between vandals and the police in Cumilla, Chandpur, Chattogram, Cox's Bazar, Bandarban, Moulvibazar, Gazipur, Chapainawabganj, Feni and other districts.
Dozens have been arrested over the attacks and the spread of communal hatred on social media, the report said.
The Bangladesh Hindu Buddhist Christian Unity Council alleged that at least four Hindu devotees have died in the attacks in Chandpur and Noakhali.
Meanwhile, the elite anti-crime force Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) has arrested two more men in connection with the looting and vandalism of temples and shops belonging to the Hindu community in Feni, about 155 km from Dhaka.
"They were arrested for their involvement in communal violence and inciting people on social media. They were handed over to the local police station," said Imran Khan, assistant director of the paramilitary force's Legal and Media Wing.
In a separate report, the bdnews24.com, quoting the prominent rights group in Bangladesh Ain o Salish Kendra (ASK), said that as many as 3,679 attacks on the minority Hindu community took place between January 2013 and September this year.
The attacks included vandalism of and setting fire to 559 houses and 442 shops and businesses of the Hindu community, it said. At least 1,678 cases of vandalism and arson attacks on Hindu temples, idols and places of worship were also reported in the same period, it said. While 11 citizens from the Hindu community have died in these incidents, another 862 were injured, the report said.
On Thursday, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina promised to bring to justice the culprits behind the violence, saying anyone involved in the attacks on Hindu temples and Durga Puja venues in Cumilla will not be spared.
"The incidents in Cumilla are being thoroughly investigated. Nobody will be spared. It doesn't matter which religion they belong to. They will be hunted down and punished," she said while exchanging greetings with the Hindu community members during an event at Dhakeshwari National Temple in Dhaka on the occasion of Durga Puja.