Durga Puja ends amid tension, violence across the country

Durga Puja, the biggest religious festival of Hindus in Bangladesh, came to an end with the immersion of Goddess Durga on Bijoya Dashami on Friday, amid tension and violence across the country.

Due to the Covid-19 situation, the traditional Bijoya Dashami procession was not carried out this year. Besides, the idols were immersed around 4pm, instead of 12pm, out of respect for the Jumma prayers of the Muslim community.

Although security was heightened across the country over communal violence, a man — Jatan Kumar Saha — was killed in an attack at Begumganj upazila of Noakhali on Friday.

Shah Imran, additional police superintendent of Noakhali, told reporters: “A group of people took out a protest rally beside Begumganj College Road and DB road area, and attacked from that procession.

“During this attack, one man died and a total of 18 people were injured, including the acting-officer-in-charge of Begumganj police station Kamruzzaman Shikdar,” Shah Imran said.

There were sporadic attacks and vandalism from 2:15pm on Friday. At 5pm, the situation was brought under control.

The district administration has decided to issue Section 144 (prohibiting public gatherings) in Chaumuhani municipality area from dawn to dusk (6am to 6pm) on Saturday.

The mob attacked, vandalized, and looted Hindu households, businesses, and several temples in Chaumuhani during their march, said police.

With this, the death toll during the Puja celebration across the country reached five.

Earlier, at least four people were killed and scores injured as mobs attacked Hindu temples and Durga Puja venues in several districts, following social media posts about the alleged desecration of the Holy Quran at a Durga Puja mandap in Comilla on Wednesday.

Government and law enforcement agencies described the incidents as “planned” with the aim of destabilizing the country.

In Sylhet, locals and police on Friday foiled attempted vandalism at two mandaps in the city’s Hawlader Para. The attackers hurled bricks at the mandaps as well as adjacent houses.

Locals said more than 150 people — equipped with sharp weapons — took out a march and tried to attack Kalibari Mandap around 2:15pm. As the devotees protested, the mob marched towards Hawladar Para and broke the gate of another pandal.

This year, the Durga Puja began on October 11 with the holding of Maha Shasthi puja, Chondipath, incarnation (Bodhon) of the Goddess Durga and Adhibas at temples across the country amid festivity and religious fervor while maintaining health guidelines.

Hindu devotees had been paying tribute to Ma Durga for four days and immersed the Goddess in rivers on the fifth and final day on Friday.

This year, Durga Puja was celebrated at 32,118 puja mandaps across the country, including 238 puja mandaps in the capital.

Besides, puja was celebrated at temples, homes and in public places with temporary stage decorations.

However, tensions mounted on the last day of puja, like Thursday, when a group of Muslim devotees took out a rally after the Jumma prayer from the Baitul Muqqaram Mosque of the capital on Friday.

They clashed with police and several people were detained.

Representatives of Bangladesh Hindu Buddhist Christian Unity Council, Dr Zafrullah Chowdhury, founder of Gonoshasthaya Kendra, and Zonayed Saki, chief coordinator of Ganasamhati Andolon, visited the vandalized puja spots in Comilla on Friday, among others, according to our Comilla correspondent.

Dr Zafrullah Chowdhury said: “Such a big event never happened even after 1947. But now, such a big incident took place in Comilla. The government has to take responsibility so that these incidents do not happen again.”

Local sources said one more person was detained by the RAB, but the authorities did not disclose his name.

Our Chandpur correspondent said Chandpur police has filed two separate cases after the incidents at Haziganj, against 2,000 and 500 unidentified people, respectively, on Friday.

Harunur Rashid, OC of Haziganj police station, said more cases would be accepted if there were people who wished to file them.

He also said that police produced seven people who were arrested after the attack on a temple in Haziganj before the court on Friday.