Forty-year-old housewife Amina Ahmed takes her nine-year-old daughter Nisa to join the Probhat Feri every year.
Unlike before, this year the crowd was unbearable.
Pushed by the masses, Amina and Nisa were shoved onto a nearby barricade. Amina’s sari got tangled in the barricade and was ripped and Nisa’s hands were injured by the barbs.
Protective of her child, Amina appealed to the crowds, asking them to stop pushing, but no one listened.
University student Saima Nayeem has asthma, and the overcrowding made her feel claustrophobic and brought on an attack.
“I come each year. But the crowd is too much this year. It made me sick. I urged people let me leave the procession line, but no one helped,” said Saima.
“I finally managed to find a place on the footpath where I was able to stop and use my inhaler. I then rejoined the procession,” she added.
Amina, Nisa and Saima were just part of the many who faced problems while visiting the Shaheed Minar on Tuesday.
Visitors to the Shaheed Minar claim that the law enforcement agencies and the authorities concerned did not make proper arrangement for entry and exit from the location. Had they done so, much pain and turmoil could have been avoided.
Farhad Mia, a government employee, said: “I expected it to be crowded today, but not this much. The authorities should take steps to ensure a peaceful and disciplined procession like in previous years.”
Sohel Rana, a businessman, said: “The Probhat Feri was haphazard this year. Creating this sort of one-way flow for the procession – from Polashi intersection to Shaheed Minar – causes much crowding and leads to injuries and other suffering.”
Police and members of Bangladesh National Cadet Corps were stationed near the central area to help maintain discipline among the crowds.
The new security measures also included barricades in front of Swadhinata Chattar, which created a bottleneck leading to the metal detector machines spaced two to three feet apart.
At one point, the pushing and shoving evolved into all out physical violence which only abated when police stepped in.
“People ignore instructions and their lack of discipline causes all the problems,” said police officials.
Maruf Hasan Sarder, deputy commissioner (Ramna zone) of Dhaka Metropolitan Police, told the Dhaka Tribune: “This year a much larger crowd thronged the Shaheed Minar, but we had the situation firmly in control. There were no untoward incidents reported.”
He added that people need to be more disciplined, since they are the real reason for all the public suffering faced during the Probhat Feri.