While asking Bangladesh authorities to protect Hindus, the international group Human Rights Watch (HRW) has said law enforcement should act “with caution and restraint”.

“The authorities need to be de-escalating violence, not shooting live ammunition into a crowd,” HRW’s Asia Director Brad Adams said in a statement issued by the group here.

“Bangladesh authorities are dealing with an extremely stressful situation that could easily escalate into even more bloodshed, unless law enforcement acts with caution and restraint,” he added.

HRW’s statement did not identify or directly condemn those carrying out the attacks on Hindus in Bangladesh, but turning to India it said that Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has “called on Narendra Modi’s government to quell communal violence in India, where the ruling party has fueled violence targeting the minority Muslim community”.

However, HRW acknowledged that “Hindus, who make up about 10 per cent of Bangladesh’s Muslim-majority population, have repeatedly come under attack”.

“Since the first attacks, mobs have torched dozens of Hindu homes and vandalized temples and statues throughout the country.”

The HRW statement quoted a Bangladeshi human rights group, Ain o Salish Kendra, as reporting that “at least 3,679 attacks on the Hindu community since January 2013, including vandalism, arson, and targeted violence” have taken place.

Adams said that Hasina “is facing a critical moment to show in words and action that she is serious about her party’s commitments to democracy and human rights” and “her calls for an end to the violence should lead to transparent investigations and real legal protections for the Hindu community in Bangladesh”.

The statement said that “authorities have reportedly filed at least 71 cases in connection with the violence and arrested 450 people” and added that Hasina “has promised strong action, declairing ‘Nobody will be spared. It doesn’t matter which religion they belong to'”.

Backing up its call for restraint by law enforcement, HRW said: “The UN Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms by Law Enforcement Officials states that security forces must ‘apply non-violent means before resorting to the use of force and firearms,’ and that ‘whenever the lawful use of force and firearms is unavoidable, law enforcement officials shall: (a) Exercise restraint in such use and act in proportion to the seriousness of the offence and the legitimate objective to be achieved; (b) Minimize damage and injury, and respect and preserve human life’.”

(Arul Louis can be reached at arul.l@ians.in and followed @arulouis)

–IANS

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