Fresh Bengali New Year’s resolve to take the fight to religious fanatics

Bangladeshis are ready to welcome in Bengali New Year 1422 with the resolution to continue the fight against communalism and religious fanaticism.

Published : 13 April 2015, 09:19 PM
Updated : 13 April 2015, 10:04 PM

Pahela Baishakh, the most colourful celebration in the Bangla calendar, falls on Tuesday.

Search engine giant Google has put up a doodle to mark the day.

For Tuesday, the Met Office has forecast mainly dry weather for Dhaka with a maximum temperature of 33.5 degrees Celsius.

However, it said, there are chances of rain or thunder showers in some areas of Dhaka, Chittagong, Khulna, Barisal, Rajshahi and Sylhet.

The people are hoping for peace and stability after three months of continuous political turmoil that killed over 120 people.

But the situation now seems calm as the three city corporations in Dhaka and Chittagong are preparing to go to election at the end of the month.

Bitter political rivals Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia exchanged greetings in welcome break, at least for now.

However, the murder of two secular blog activists in the last two months and the emergence of new militant outfit have triggered fresh concerns.

Organisers of Mangal Shobhajatra, a colourful procession wishing the nation well, in Dhaka say they will call for unity against religious fanaticism.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, too, has urged everyone to use ‘Pahela Baishakh’ as a tool against communalism and religious extremism.

Leading cultural troupe Chhayanaut, which organises programmes at Ramna Batamul ringing in the new year, says they will call for a united stand against fundamentalism.

In 2001, an explosion at Ramna killed 10 people and injured many others.

Security has been intensified in Dhaka and Chittagong to avoid a repeat of such attacks.

Police have urged everyone to wrap up open-air programmes by 5pm.

The Election Commission has cautioned the candidates not to flout polls code by giving largesse to woo voters.

This year, the celebration comes three days after Bangladesh executed war criminal Jamaat-e-Islami leader Mohammad Kamaruzzaman.

Secular movement Ganajagaran Mancha will celebrate the arrival of the new year at the ‘village of widows’ Sohagpur, which bore witness to Kamaruzzaman’s brutality in 1971.

President Md Abdul Hamid, Prime Minister Hasina, Opposition Leader Raushon Ershad, BNP Chairperson Khaleda, among others, greeted the nation.

The president hoped Pahela Baishakh would strengthen the nation’s unity and usher peace.

Hasina wished the nation a peaceful, happy and prosperous new year.

She hoped the occasion would help people to resist communalism, religious fanaticism and militancy, uniting them against forces burning innocent people alive and destroying property.

The BNP says its chief Khaleda will attend a function of the party’s cultural wing at Naya Paltan.

Khaleda’s party and allies have been enforcing an indefinite blockade since January to press for a snap election.

She returned to her Gulshan residence earlier this month ending her three-month stay at her Gulshan office when she skipped paying homage on the Mother Language Day and the Independence Day.

On Monday, the Cabinet cleared a proposal allowing public servants of ethnic-minority origin to enjoy two additional days of optional leave with the Pahela Baishakh.

Thailand’s Culture Minister Vira Rojpojchanarat has arrived in Dhaka “exclusively” to enjoy and know about the Bangla new year celebrations.

This year’s Mangal Shobhajatra theme – ‘Onek Alo Jaalte Hobe Moner Ondhokare’ (burn many lights in the darkness of hearts) – has been chosen after the killing of blogger and writer Avijit Roy and online activist Oyasiqur Rahman.

A 20-feet tall statue symbolising the rise of communal forces will be at the Shobhajatra that calls to eliminate such evil forces.

Fine Arts Faculty Dean Prof Nisar Hossain said Bengali culture provided space for the peaceful co-existence of religions.

“Religious fanaticism only strengthens our stand [against it], which we believe, is very important given the recent events,” he said.

The beginning

Pahela Baishakh celebrations have become an integral part of Bengali culture.

Mughal Emperor Akbar had introduced the Bengali calendar in the year 1556 in the Gregorian calendar to facilitate tax collection in the then 'Subah Bangla', much of which is now in Bangladesh.

A highlight of Pahela Baishakh is to open the Halkhata (a new book of accounts) - again, a tradition since the time of Akbar.

Initially, strictly a financial affair it went on to become an inseparable feature of the Baishakhi celebrations.

Traders and businessmen of all communities close their old books of accounts and open new ones.

They invite customers, sharing sweets as a mark of goodwill and renew business deals.

Toufique Imrose Khalidi
Editor-in-Chief and Publisher