Saraswati Puja being celebrated today
Saraswati Puja, a major religious festival of the Hindu community, is being celebrated across Bangladesh today with much enthusiasm, festivity and religious fervor. Saraswati Puja is celebrated on the fifth day of the bright fortnight of the Bangla month of Magh. The day is called 'Vasant Panchami'. Hindu devotees, especially students, worship Goddess Saraswati and celebrate the puja at educational institutions and temples. President Abdul Hamid and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Wednesday greeted the Hindu community on the occasion of Saraswati Puja. Also read: Saraswati Puja being celebrated Jagannath University central Puja Udjapan Committee is organizing Saraswati Puja on the campus. Besides, in the capital, Saraswati Puja will also be arranged at different places.
1971 and the Elderly
The quest for a complete history In our research work exploring how 1971 events impacted on the marginalized people we have covered the experiences of three population groups. They are: a) the rural people in general b) the experiences of women and c) the history of the Hindu community who were targeted specifically by the Pakistan army. However, there are other groups as well and data collection began a few years back to find out how a few other marginal groups lived or died in 1971. In dealing/choosing such marginalized groups we find that two criteria apply. One is those who were socio-economically marginal and thus are marginalized in the historical narrative process. The other is the minority marginalized as they have not been found worthy of much attention. Often both criteria apply to the same group. Read more: 1971 loss a ‘military failure’, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Bilawal says after ex army chief called it ‘political failure’ The Left out majority Villagers are a prime example of marginalization. Not much work has been done on them but increasingly, analysis shows that villagers held the key to effective resistance, sheltering and participation which made a significant contribution in keeping the occupied state alive. Perhaps this was the most significant contribution of them all. The reason is simple. The war was played out in several spaces, national and international but the core was occupied Bangladesh. This is where history was produced as the overwhelming majority of Bangladeshis lived there. They bore the brunt of impact through the critical resistance period from March to end April and faced most of the assault. The resistance would also have been impossible without their support. After the first stage when Pakistan re-captured Bangladesh, many people went to India to be trained to return as fighters. These people found shelter with the villagers which allowed the resistance to happen and ultimately eat through Pakistan’s torso in Bangladesh. Finally, when the joint India-Bangladesh forces mounted the end game, the villagers' support became critical too. As Gen. Aurora, Chief of the Joint Command said, “It’s the villagers who let us in. Had they not wanted, no army could have entered Bangladesh. “ It shows the enormous historical significance which many historians have not addressed properly. In this case the majority has been left out by historians because they had no political significance to sustain the ruling class narrative. The same applies to the history of women in 1971. The marginalized minority There are other members of the marginalized population who are minority by their population size. At the same time they could also be socio-economically that. A case in point is the situation of the sex workers. We know almost nothing about them as they are in general socially invisible and in history have become lost. But it is in many ways a terribly vulnerable time for them as clients dipped amidst the general insecurity. Did they face starvation? Changed their profession? What was the nature of their suffering? There is another group about whom we know very little though they cut across several population segments and were very vulnerable: the elderly. The post 65+ population in Bangladesh today is around 20%. As an intersectional community, they represent every segment whether gender, economy, class, habitation or otherwise. However, we have no specific information on how they lived or died in 1971. Our current work is now focused on these left out groups who are not considered historically significant but who lived suffered and died that year. We are excerpting from two of our case studies. Read more: 'Recognising the Bangladesh Genocide of 1971': ICSF welcomes US Congress initiative Somen Das (as told by his son Horen Das ) “Baba was hurt on the night of the 25th when the Pak army torched the Palpara slum. He hurt his feet when we were all trying to run away. It was dark and we tried to cross the ditches and water and Baba slipped and fell. I pulled him up but he couldn’t walk but we couldn’t stay there. Two other people somehow dragged Baba to the other side of the khal and we reached Moghbazar area. “ “ We took shelter in the home of the family where I worked as a gardener and spent the first few days too scared even to go out of the room. Baba was very ill but we didn’t know where to find a doctor. The malik of the home finally got a doctor and he got some treatment but he needed an X-ray which we were too scared to go and get done.. We heard that DMC had been raided and the Pak army was looking for Hindus. He was given some ointment and pain killers, that is all. “ “My sisters and wife were young and sisters also unmarried, and they were my responsibility so I was very worried about them. My wife’s parent’s home was in the Munshiganj interior and we decided to move there with Ma too. Bab couldn’t walk properly and was always in pain. He refused to go and we were stuck. The malik was very kind and asked us to leave Baba with him and we all left. “. “ We came back after the war and found him alive. He was physically better but his spirit was gone. Palpara was not inhabitable either so we had to move. Ma’s family lived in the old city and Baba refused to go and live in his in-laws' home. He stayed back and did odd carpentry work there. A year later, he slipped and fell down and hurt his head. He was taken to the hospital but he never recovered. “ Rashid Ahmed, Shantinagar (told by Shahed ahmed, his son) “ The army raided our home because some locals had informed them that Muktis had entered our house. Not true but some people wanted to cause trouble for us. Father was a dementia patient and didn’t know what was going on. He was sitting on a wheelchair and burst into tears like a child. We tried to tell the army that he was sick but they shouted at us and we became silent with fear.” “After the search was over, they lined us up and said we are lucky that they saw so many jaynamaz (prayer rugs) and Qurans. So they were sure we were not Hindus. But at this moment father screamed and started to howl. One person went and told father to shut up and shook him. He didn’t understand. I said he was an old man and had gone mad. What else could I say ? They laughed and made faces and then left. We were saved and safe but father hadn’t been fed for hours and became very sick.” More studies of groups needed In Bangladesh, we are more concerned about “correct “history instead of complete history. Instead of looking for facts, we are looking for political affirmations. The result has been the loss of information about many groups whichever way we define. Before all information is lost, people from such groups can try to document the social-economic history to complete the mosaic that creates the history of 1971.
Don't only look at the crime, look at punishment too: PM
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Tuesday asked all not to magnify any incident that goes against any religion, rather look at the punitive measures that have been taken by the government. “Do not magnify any incident that takes place in any area (of the country), rather I will request you to look at the punitive measures of the government against that incident,” she said. The Prime Minister said this while speaking at a greetings exchange programme with the Hindu religious people of the country on the occasion of Durga Puja. The programme was held at the premises of Dhakeshwari National Temple while the Prime Minister joined the programme virtually from her official residence--Ganabhaban. Sheikh Hasina also sought cooperation from all including the Hindus to maintain communal harmony in the country. “I will seek your cooperation in this regard and hope that you will cooperate,” she said. Read: Be vocal against anti-state propaganda: PM She said that the government always tries to uphold the non-communal spirit or secular character of the country and step forward towards prosperity maintaining that. The Prime Minister again categorically warned that no one will be allowed to undermine anyone’s religious sentiment. “No one will be allowed to say anything (derogatory) hitting others’ religious sentiment. This is applicable for any religion,” she said. She said that religion is about one’s belief. “It is one’s belief on Allah or the Creator, we have to go with that belief.” In this connection, she said that Islam is a very open and generous religion, and there are directives in Islam to show respect to all other religions. She mentioned about Surah Kafirun where it is stated that every person will perform their respective religious rituals and people from all religions will enjoy equal rights. “And we believe that from our heart.” Read: Convey misrule, brutality under BNP regimes: PM tells expat Bangladeshis
Bagerhat’s Durga Puja attraction: 151 idols in one mandap
Durga Puja is a major festival in Muslim-majority Bangladesh where close to 8 percent of more than 160 million people are Hindu. Despite communal tensions in recent years during the largest festival of the Hindu community, participation of people from different faiths has given the celebration a unique character. This year, a major draw in Bagerhat district is the largest number of idols at a single puja mandap. Also read: Disappointment in Bagerhat as Shikdar Bari avoids large-scale Durga Puja celebration for third year running Organisers say a total of 151 idols of different deities have found their place, depicting the stories of Hindu epics – Ramayan and Mahabharat – at the Chulkathi Banikpara Puja Mandap in Bagerhat’s Sadar upazila. The display is attracting not only Hindus but also people from other communities to the Banikpara Mandap to have glimpses of the idols. Celebration of Durga Puja began at the Banikpara Mandap in 2001 in a small way. But in 2005, a massive celebration was held with 101 idols.
Durga Puja begins Saturday
Durga Puja, the biggest religious festival of the Hindu community, is set to begin on Saturday with the incarnation (Bodhon) of goddess Durga at temples across the country, marking Sashthi. The five-day puja will come to an end with the immersion of idols of goddess Durga in rivers and other water bodies on October 5. All the preparations have been taken for celebrating the religious festival smoothly with tight security at every puja mandap in the country. Read: Keep vigil against vandalism during Durga Puja: Obaidul Quader asks AL members The Maha Saptami puja will be held on Sunday while Maha Ashtami, Kumari Puja and Sandhi Puja on Monday, Maha Nabami puja on Tuesday and Bijoya Dashami will be held on Wednesday. Recitation of the verses from the Holy Chandi and blowing of conch shells (Shankha) and beating of drums will be heard in temples and pandals in the city and elsewhere throughout the day. The Mahalaya, the auspicious occasion heralding the advent of goddess Durga, was celebrated on September 25 last. In Dhaka city, the main puja mandaps have been set up at Dhakeshwari National Temple, Ramkrishna Mission and Math, Kalabagan, Banani, Shakhari Bazar and Ramna Kali Mandir. Dhaka Metropolitan Police (DMP) Commissioner Md Shafiqul Islam on Thursday said police are ready to thwart any possible militant attack during the Durga Puja celebration. Besides, the Puja Mandaps, where there are no CCTV cameras, will be kept under surveillance by police and Ansar members for 24 hours. President Abdul Hamid and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina have issued separate messages greeting the members of the country's Hindu community on this occasion. In his message, President Hamid said the main religious festival of the Bengali Hindu community is Durga Puja. The country’s Hindu community has been celebrating the puja amid huge enthusiasm and festivity with different rituals since ancient times. Durga Puja is not only a religious festival, but also a social one, he added. “Communal harmony is the eternal tradition of Bengalis. This tradition must be carried forward in our overall progress together,” he urged all. Read: Benazir directs police to ensure impenetrable security during Durga Puja In her message, PM Hasina said Durga Puja is not only a festival of the Hindu community, it is now a universal festival. Destruction of evil forces and worship of truth and beauty are the main motives of Sharadiya Durgotsob. “On the occasion of Durga Puja, I wish peace, welfare and prosperity to all citizens including the Hindus,” she said. Durga Puja will be held at 32,168 mandaps (pandals) across the country, including 241 in the capital city, this year.
Disappointment in Bagerhat as Shikdar Bari avoids large-scale Durga Puja celebration for third year running
Preparations for celebrating Durga Puja, the largest religious festival of the Hindu community, are going on in Bagerhat with the famous ‘Shikdar Bari Durgotsob’ in limited scale like the last two years following Covid pandemic. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, the elaborate puja celebrations organised by the Shikdar family will be on a limited scale for the third consecutive year to protect the rituals, said Shishir Shikdar, member of the family's Shikdar Bari Durga Puja organising committee. Like the visitors and Hindu devotees, the organisers are also upset because the grand celebration of Durga Puja is not being organised on a large scale. But provided that the pandemic tapers off, from next year Durga Puja will be organised on a large scale like before, Shishir added. Read: Durga puja: A festival that unites Bangladesh! The Tradition of Shikdar Bari’s Durga Puja In 2011, Dr Dulal Krishna Shikdar introduced the grand celebration of Durga Puja with 251 idols at his ancestral home Hakimpur village of the Bagerhat Sadar upazila. He wanted to raise society's awareness of the value of practicing sanatana dharma (traditional religion, or Hinduism) through the grand puja. Since then, the number of idols of gods and goddesses has been increasing there every year. In 2019, Durga Puja was organised with 801 idols of gods and goddesses on the Shikdar Bari Puja mandap. The celebration became more vibrant and different every year to spread the festival among people of all religions. Around autumn with the fragrance of Shiuli in the air, millions of visitors and devotees from all over the country, regardless of caste and religion, flock to the spectacular Shikdar Bari’s puja mandap. The preparations for the celebration of Shikadar Bari Durga Puja ran almost throughout the year. The artisans started making idols six to seven months in advance with straw and clay. Idols were decorated with different colors and different types of ornaments, both local and foreign. Three months before the puja, the workers would be busy with decoration and lighting work. Various gods and goddesses of Satya, Treta, Dwapara and Kali Yuga were arranged in this puja mandap as companions of Mahamaya Goddess Durga. Eminent industrialist Liton Shikdar, son of Dr Dulal Krishna Shikdar, was organising the festival with his own initiative. Unfortunately, this traditional Durga Puja is being organised in that puja mandap to protect the religious rituals in a limited scale.
The struggle for Bangladesh's secular soul
As Bangladesh prepared for the largest religious festival of the Hindu community earlier this month, communal violence spread in several parts of the country after news emerged on social media about the alleged desecration of the Quran at a Durga Puja site in Cumilla. The recent incident and its ripple effects elsewhere have resulted in insecurity, and frustration among Hindus who make up 10 per cent of Bangladesh's population, suggesting that the road to non-communalism and pluralism is still far away for Bangladesh. Although security was heightened across the country, Bangladesh saw spates of communal violence, which led to at least eight deaths, scores of injuries, and thousands of arrests during the puja celebration.
A series of rehabilitation steps taken for victims of communal violence
A series of steps have been taken by both the government and the ruling Awami League to rehabilitate the victims of communal violence to boost their confidence and ensure security for them. A total of 102 cases were filed accusing 20,619 people in connection with the violence against the Hindu community. So far 583 were arrested as part of the ongoing drive against offenders. Cash assistance, foods, cloths, other essential commodities and house construction materials have been provided to the affected families by the government and the party. Besides, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina declared that houses would be made for the affected families. “Steps have already been taken in this regard,” she said while addressing a virtual programme on the day. In order to restore confidence among the minority people, the PM directed her party members to intensify vigilance to maintain communal harmony preventing any possible violence in every locality. The government earlier directed the law enforcement agencies to hunt down the culprits responsible for breaking communal harmony. A total of 117 platoons of Border Guard Bangladesh have been deployed in 37 districts and three metropolitan cities while police, Rapid Action Battalion and plain-cloth law enforcers are patrolling round the clock. Read: Hindu community stages protest against communal violence On the part of the ruling party, AL has directed all its units to remain vigilant and assist the law enforcers to thwart any sort of violation of communal harmony, said Biplab Barua, office secretary of the ruling party. Several ministers, senior Awami League leaders, Members of Parliament, high government and law enforcing officials visited the affected and vulnerable areas in the past few days following the directive by the Prime Minister. The Prime Minister’s Office is also monitoring the situation at the directive of the Prime Minister, said PM’s Press Secretary Ihsanul Karim. “Bangladesh is a land of communal harmony and none will be allowed to break it,” he added. Social media and online media are being monitored constantly, and over two dozen people including an assistant professor of Begum Badrunnessa Government Girls College were arrested for their involvement in spreading rumors using false information, according to the police headquarters. The LGRD Ministry issued directives to all public representatives including Union Parishads, Upazilas, municipalities and City Corporations to remain vigilant and play their due role to maintain peace and harmony in their respective localities. To this end, the ministry would hold a virtual meeting on Sunday. LGRD Minister Md Tazul Islam also visited Cumilla from where the incident spread following alleged defamation of Holy Quran. The Religious Affairs Ministry has recently held meetings with clerics of major religions in the several days and directed them to build awareness, motivate people and disseminate the essence of communal harmony for maintaining peace, said a high officials of the ministry. State Minister for Religious Affairs Faridul Huq Khan visited the victims and distributed cash Taka 10,000 each of 61 families alongside provided baby foods and cattle feed in Rangpur. Read: Iqbal, the prime suspect in Bangladesh communal violence, brought to Cumilla The Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief allocated 100 bundles of corrugated iron sheets, Tk 445,000 for house construction and distributed 1200 packets of foodstuffs as humanitarian assistance for the victim Hindu families, said its secretary Md Mohsin. Rangpur district administration on Sunday night distributed Tk 9 lakh cash assistance and 100 bundles of corrugated iron sheets among 65 affected families. Bangladesh Red Crescent Society (BDRCS) has set up a number of tents to give shelter to the homeless people so that they are not forced to spend night under open sky. Information Minister Dr Hasan Mahmud also visited the victim families and distributed Tk 5,000 and 20kg rice among each Hindu family, who became victims of violence and arson attack in Pirganj. On behalf of the Awami League, cash, food and clothes have been given to the victim families, said Barua, also a special assistant to the Prime Minister. He said a central Awami League team will visit across the country shortly led by party general secretary Obaidul Quader. Jatiya Sangsad Speaker Dr Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury and Whip Abu Sayeed Al Mahmud Swapon visited the victims in Rangpur.
Hindu community stages protest against communal violence
Hundreds of protesters from ten Hindu organisations on Friday staged demonstration at Shahbag protesting recent attacks on temples, vandalism of idols, arson and violence against Hindu community. The International Society for Krishna Consciousness (Iskcon) led the events in front of the National Museum in Shahbag. Read:Protection of Hindus, others must be ensured: AI
Man suspected of being Cumilla's Iqbal held from Cox's Bazar
Police Thursday night held a man suspecting him to be Iqbal Hossain, who was identified earlier as the one who kept a copy of the Quran at a Durga Puja venue in Cumilla, drawing accusations of desecrating the Quran hurled at the Hindu community and triggering communal tension and violence across the country. "He was detained from the Cox's Bazar sea beach at around 10:30pm and was sent to Cumilla right away," Rafiqul Islam, Cox's Bazar additional superintendent of police, told UNB. "Cumilla police will confirm if the detainee is the key suspect Iqbal," he added. Police identified Iqbal, the prime suspect of the Cumilla puja venue incident, Wednesday after scrutinising the closed-circuit television (CCTV) footage. Read: Provocation perhaps there behind Cumilla incident: Home Minister He is believed to have placed the holy Quran inside Nanuar Dighi Par puja mandap in Cumilla city in the early hours of October 13, which led to attacks on Durga Puja venues across the country recently.