Winnipeggers grieve, protest following attacks against Hindus in Bangladesh

More than 75 people lit candles, played instruments and chanted the Hare Krishna mantra on the steps of the Manitoba legislative building Saturday night following an attack on a temple in Bangladesh last week.

Vigil comes after multiple attacks on Hindu temples in South Asian country in recent days

Priti Senapati said she fears for her two sisters in Bangladesh, who aren't leaving their home after 6 p.m. out of fear. (Prabhjot Singh Lotey/CBC)

More than 75 people lit candles, played instruments and chanted the Hare Krishna mantra on the steps of the Manitoba legislative building Saturday night in response to ongoing attacks against Hindus in Bangladesh.

The vigil was held in solidarity with the ISKCON community and Hindus in the South Asian country.

ISKCON, short for the International Society for Krishna Consciousness, is a Vaishnava community with more than one million members worldwide. 

Saturday's event followed attacks that began last Friday, when hundreds of Muslim fundamentalists began protesting in Bangladesh's southeastern Noakhali district.

Several Hindu religious sites have been vandalized, including an ISKCON temple. The waves of clashes have left at least six people dead, according to local media.

Muslim leaders in Bangladesh have denounced the attacks. 

Vishwamvhar Kripa Das, the president of ISKCON Manitoba, said he cried when he heard about what was happening.

Vishwamvhar Kripa Das, president of ISKCON Manitoba, chants Hare Krishna with fellow protesters. (Prabhjot Singh Lotey/CBC)

"This is not a religious protest, this is not a political protest. This is totally for the human rights," said Das, who helped organize Saturday's vigil.

Das and others at the protest said they want the Bangladeshi government to do more to find and prosecute the people responsible for the attacks, and hope the Canadian government will help pressure it to do so. 

Police in Bangladesh said hundreds of people have been arrested.

A history of religious violence

In Bangladesh, Hindus make up less than nine per cent of the population. 

That number was more than 30 per cent before the British drew the line between Hindu-majority India and Muslim-majority Pakistan in 1947, known as the partition of India.

It divided the subcontinent along religious lines, displacing millions along the partition's borders and sparking a deadly period of violence.

Bangladesh went on to secede from Pakistan as a secular country in 1971, but its constitution upholds Islam as the state religion. 

The consequences of partition impact South Asian communities to this day.

Ankit Bahl doesn't have any personal connection to Bangladesh, but felt compelled to show up to the vigil in Manitoba.

"It's our responsibility as Hindus to stand up in solidarity for our brothers and sisters," said Bahl, whose family suffered persecution after the partition in Punjab. 

"I can relate a little bit to how the Bengali people feel, because my own family went through a similar issue on the other side of the Indian subcontinent." 

Ankit Bahl doesn't have a personal connection to Bangladesh, but as a Hindu, he said he felt compelled to show up. (Prabhjot Singh Lotey/CBC)

For Priti Senapati, the issue is much closer to home. She has two sisters in Bangladesh, who aren't leaving home after 6 p.m. out of fear. 

"I'm scared," she said. 

"I'm here for my sisters and all Hindus." 


Cory Funk

Associate Producer

Born and raised in Winnipeg, Cory cut his teeth as a business and politics reporter in Halifax before moving home to join CBC Manitoba's current affairs team. He's also lived, worked and studied in Ottawa and St. John's. You can email him at or message him on Twitter @CoryJFunk.

With files from Reuters