DHAKA,Bangladesh, Mar 19 (AP) — Muslims and student activists rallied in Bangladesh’s capital Friday to denounce the upcoming visit of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to join the celebration of the country’s 50th anniversary of independence.
Modi is due to arrive in Dhaka on March 26, which Bangladesh celebrates as its independence day. It was the date in 1971 when Bangladesh declared itself independent from Pakistan. Aided by India, Bangladesh emerged as a new nation after nine months of bloody war.
After Friday prayers, about 500 Muslims marched onto the streets outside the country’s main Baitul Mokarram Mosque in downtown Dhaka amid tight security.
The protesters carried no banners and did not declare if they have any allegiance to any political parties. They took their shoes in their hands to show disrespect to Modi. They chanted anti-India and anti-Modi slogans, asking him not to come to Dhaka.
Separately, about 200 left-leaning student activists marched through streets on Dhaka University campus where they called Modi as “the butcher of Gujarat.”
Some protesters carried posters reading “Go Back Modi, Go Back India” and “Go Back Killer Modi.”
Modi was chief minister in the western state of Gujarat in 2002 when Hindu-Muslim riots left more than 1,000 people dead. Allegations that authorities allowed and even encouraged the bloodshed have long followed Modi, who has repeatedly denied having any role. India’s Supreme Court has said it found no evidence to prosecute him.
The protesters criticized Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina for inviting Modi, saying the two countries had many disputed issues. The protesters said Modi and his Hindu-nationalist party oppressed Muslims in India. They also criticized the killings of Bangladeshis by Indian border guards. India says such casualties happen when Bangladeshis are involved in cross-border smuggling and attempt to cross the border illegally.
“India’s subordinate government of Hasina has invited Modi, we are here to protest against that,” Hossain Mohammed Anwar said in front of the mosque.
Modi’s visit is the first foreign trip since the coronavirus pandemic began. He is scheduled to travel to a place outside Dhaka that is sacred to the Matua community of India’s West Bengal state.
Matua is a Hindu religious sect that is expected to determine the winner of at least seven constituencies in the Indian state’s assembly elections next month.