“You cannot enter here,” a police officer said as she stood guard near a mosque in the Panisagar block in North Tripura. Another police guard seated in the lane leading to the structure gestured at us to deny entry. We asked them if we could see the mosque. “No, you cannot see the place, you have to take permission from the police station,” the first police officer said.
The mosque in question, the Panisagar Jame Masjid, was built by personnel of the Central Reserve Police Forces in 1982 and is located next to a Hindu temple, the Debasthan temple, reportedly built the same year. On the intervening night between 21 and 22 October, a night before Friday prayers, unknown assailants allegedly set fire to the mosque, which is also often called the CRPF mosque. Earlier that day, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, an arm of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, had held rallies in Dharmanagar, a town about fifteen kilometres away, as well as in Agartala, the state capital, to protest violence against Hindus in neighbouring Bangladesh. Tripura shares a border with the Muslim-majority nation.
In mid October, a Quran was found at a Durga Puja pandal in Bangladesh’s Comilla, allegedly desecrated. The incident set off communal attacks in the country, leaving seven people dead. More than eighty Durga Puja pandals were reportedly destroyed in the violence. As news of the violence flowed across the border into Tripura, the VHP decided to protest the attacks with a series of rallies across the state.