Posts falsely claim photo shows 'attack on Hindus in southwestern Bangladesh'

·3 min read

Following attacks on Hindus in southwestern Bangladesh in July 2022, a photo was shared repeatedly in Facebook posts alongside a claim that more attacks would happen in the Muslim-majority country in the future. The photo, however, has been shared in a false context. It has actually circulated in local media reports since March 2021, when protests erupted in response to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to Bangladesh. AFP geolocated the photo to the city of Brahmanbaria in eastern Bangladesh.

The photo shared here on Facebook on July 16, 2022, following attacks on Hindus in the South Asian nation in mid-July.

The photo shows several men wearing traditional robes and skullcaps -- commonly worn by the students of Islamic seminaries in Bangladesh -- standing with sticks and setting fire to some materials. They are circled in red.

The caption in broken Bengali says the photo was taken in Bangladesh's southwestern Narail district. It says similar attacks to the one pictured will happen in the future, and calls on others to "pray" in order to survive.

The first caption translates as: “The following Fridays will be counted like this. Today is another Friday.

"Pray so that we can survive the peace storm. Photo: Fantastic Narail, Bangladesh.”

The image contains a screenshot of another post, which sarcastically says there was "peace" in Hindu houses in Narail's Dighalia village, situated in the sub-district of Lohagara. 

It reads: “There is all peace here in the Hindu houses in Dighalia village of Lohagara Upazilla in Narail.”

( Mohammad MAZED)

The post circulated online after an attack on a Hindu man in Narail district in mid-July.

Bangladesh's Daily Star newspaper reported a mob attacked the man on July 15 over accusations that he had posted derogatory content about the Prophet Mohammed on Facebook.

A temple, a grocery store and several houses belonging to Hindu residents in the area were also vandalised, the report said.

Anti-Indian protests

The photo was shared here and here alongside a similar claim.

But it actually shows violent protests during Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to Bangladesh in March 2021.

The protesters -- mostly from the hard line Islamist group Hefazat-e-Islam -- criticised Modi for visiting as Bangladesh marked 50 years of independence, accusing him of stoking communal violence against Muslims in India. AFP reported on the protests here.

A reverse image search on Google found the photo -- without the men highlighted -- was published in a report by Bangladeshi news outlet Bangladesh Journal on March 26, 2021.

The report's headline read: "Madrasah students rampage in Brahmanbaria".

Below is a screenshot comparison of the photo in the misleading posts (left) and the photo published in 2021 (right):

"Madrasa students went on a rampage in Brahmanbaria following the clash between police and students at Hefazat-controlled Hathazari Madrasa in Chittagong," the report said.

The photo in the misleading posts shows a gate named "Bangabandhu Square" in Brahmanbaria in eastern Bangladesh.

Below is a screenshot comparison of the gate seen in the background of the 2021 protests (left) and an image of the gate tagged at its location on Google Maps (right):

Sheikh Abu Hena Milon, officer-in-Charge of Lohagara Police station in Narail, told AFP that they were still investigating the case.

"We have arrested eight persons in connection with the incident," he told AFP.

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