DURGA Puja in Bangladesh observed with great fervour by nearly one crore Hindu minority is now over after immersion of the deities in Buriganga river on October 24.
All police bandobast was in place to ensure law and order and tranquil as the communal fanatics were thought to cause disturbances. This apprehension came from the fact that many Durga idols were desecrated at regular intervals immediately preceding the commencement of the puja celebrations fuelling a sense of insecurity amongst the Hindus who are already reeling with threats of losing their immobile possessions, forced conversions in many cases and other perils posed to the shrinking number of the minority lot.Having said this, it shouldn’t be insinuated that the government or the local administration didn’t extend appropriate security measures to provide security to instill safety.
The zealots in the political parties and possibly also in a segment of the government, have prevailed over the government for certain undesirable and sensitive steps which construed dampeners to the long awaited DurgaPuja which numbers nearly over 34,000 pandals all over Bangladesh.
To illustrate the point, more specifically, certain district administrations like Hobigunj, Kumillaetc issued notifications.
Objectively speaking, the notifications were insensitive, looking intimidatory. Why? Because they said that Prasads shouldn’t contain any thing intoxicating, there shouldn’t be any loud celebrations causing ‘high‘ decibels of noise. Hindu activists feel that this was to keep the Islamic hardliners in good humour.
Worse still, there were big notifications prominently hung right near the Durga idols outlining the different Namaz timings so that the Hindu rituals did not interfere with the Islamic prayers. This was seen as a clear message to the minorities to remain within their limits and on the other hand, signal to the radicals that the government is aware of the sensitivity of the majority pandering to the communalists.
It doesn’t stop here. A ruling party MP was shown repeatedly on TV calling upon the puja organisers to maintain the “guidelines” issued by the administration. If the MP was involved in proliferating the “instructions” then complicity of the government or the ruling party in these can’t be ruled out. Hindus in Bangladesh are equally sensitive to their religious responsibilities and such strong-arm tactics certainly doesn’t augur well.
Now, the question is what was the idea behind by the administrative agencies to usher in these dampening measures when elections are only three months away?Independent analysts feel that assessment made by the ruling party as well as the agencies indicate that Hindu minority votes may not matter at all in the electoral fray. So, even if the minority groups are slighted, there votes will be inconsequential. On their part, minorities are left with no option but to vote for the ruling Awami League (AL). Having done this calculation, it was perhaps decided that such measures howsoever dampening or unsavoury, could be enforced. In other words, the minority sentiments were not factored.
While discussing these communal issues, it becomes imperative to touch upon the balancing act the AL is treading upon to handle the elections. Hefazat-e-Islam – a perilously communal outfit which is nearly 13 years old, and headquartered in Chittagong, is suspected to be enjoying the blessings of the ruling AL. It was possibly floated to counter another communal and fanatic anti-India and pro-Pakistan body the Jamat-eIslami (JeI) but then, over a period of time it exceeded its agenda and outsmarted its mentors. It was visible by the fact that it set off a trail of communal frenzy and violently targeted the Hindu minority including their property.
Having to deal with its own Frankenstein, the ruling party is now at a loss to deal with Hefazat which has not only doubled up its tentacles and activities but also amassed huge financial reserves to spend on destructive missions. Many belonging to the AL are strongly suspected to be supporting the outfit for political gains.Some who matter in the government are sadly adopting an ostrich- like attitude lest they have to address the challenges. This is certainly detrimental to the minority interests.
Meanwhile, some authoritative and knowledgeable quarters claim that the MP from Chittagong 15 constituency, Abu Reza Mohammad Nadwi remains in touch with Jamaat, pro-Pakistan and anti-India elements to garner support from the Islamic hardliners’ bloc to keep them on the right side. In Chittagong, there is one Alamma Fazlullah Foundation which is starkly pro-jamat, antiHindu and significantly has much funding regularly received from the Middle East countries.
Such fundings may be used against the political adversaries specially against the non-fanatics to further the agenda of the Wahabis and the salafis targeting the minority resorting to communal violence. This also emboldens the pro-Pakistan lobby active in Bangladesh who are looking for an opportunity to see that Hasina government is not allowed to triumph in the upcoming elections.
They may not succeed in their blueprint but their agenda remains. The plan needs to be busted now so that elections don’t witness any communal violence and secular interests are not harmed.
This is particularly essential in view of the surcharged atmosphere arising out of the Israel-Hamas military confrontation leading to heavy polarization and radicalization of the religious ultras.