Noboborsho is one of the most joyous festivals celebrated in Bangladesh, and has always been the symbol of our secular cultural identity.
The Boishakh celebration held in Dhaka tends to be so colourful and joyous that words cannot do it justice. The first day of the Bengali year is indeed a special occasion in the life of each and every Bangladeshi.
Early in the morning of Noboborsho, Dhaka-dwellers participate in the procession known as Mongol Shobhajatra, which truly describes the secular Bangladeshi culture.
Before the sun rises over the horizon, women all over the country dress up in traditional, colourful saris, and decorate their hair beautifully with fresh flowers. They participate in the rallies to welcome the first day of the year.
Pohela Boishakh is especially intense for Dhaka-dwellers, as they celebrate the day with unparalleled enthusiasm in feasting and participating in cultural activities. The entire city prepares to greet visitors from different countries as well. The Dhaka University area becomes the centre of all celebration.
It is sad, though, that during the Pohela Boishakh celebration in 2015, a group of predators at TSC of Dhaka University molested a number of women and girls, turning the festival of Boishakh into a carnival of ghouls. Women became victims of a heinous and barbaric incident of repression.
The cheerful spirit of Boishakh has completely been tainted by the wrong-doers for satisfying their sexual lust and nefarious intentions. Some video footage taken by the witnesses showed how the attackers were assaulting the women on the streetsin the presence of law enforcers. Thankfully, some of the perpetrators have been put behind bars lately.
In the past, there have been numerous incidents where women were sexually harassed who joined in different national celebrations. Such instances have happened many times before, and proper actions have not been taken.
Once this true spirit is understood, and we start to realise our obligation towards the value of human beings, perhaps only then we can stop being disrespectful towards women
Therefore, some men go around thinking it is OK to take advantage of women under the garb of “celebrating Noboborsho.” It is a gross violation of human rights to humiliate a woman physically in the pretext of a festival.
There are many existing laws to protect the rights of women, but the existence of the law is not at all sufficient to prevent this malady. Every time we choose to ignore or walk away from such incidents of sexual harassment and eve-teasing, we put some other woman in danger.
Moreover, justice delayed is indeed justice denied. If one is wronged, justice must be served in the quickest possible manner by giving stringent punishment. If this equity is not provided by the legal system, then the establishment of “rule of law” is not possible.
As another Boishakh is knocking at our door, many women and girls of the capital are haunted by the awful incidents in 2015. But we always consider that Noboborsho approaches with new joy, enthusiasm, hopes, and promises, and it is the perfect time to let go of all the fears, grudges, and sadness of the past years.
We cannot change the past, but we can surely hope for the best in the coming years.
The new sunrise brings new hope, and gives us courage for a new beginning. The New Year gives us a fresh 365 days to grow, learn, and evolve with a lot more opportunities of aspiration and optimism.
Once this true spirit is understood, and we start to realise our obligation towards the value of human beings, perhaps only then we can stop being disrespectful towards women.
Dhaka is our beloved city. We embrace everything that our city has provided, despite the many imperfections. This beautiful city has shaped our lives, and gave us plenty of joy.
With the beginning of a new dawn, it’s time that the conscience of Dhaka-dwellers wakes up to protect every citizen, making each and every place safe enough for everyone to celebrate the colorful Boishakh.
Miti Sanjana is an Advocate, Supreme Court of Bangladesh, and an activist.