The government will put in place extensive security measures for this year’s puja holidays with the attacks on places of worship in Bangladesh last year in mind, according to Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan.
Each puja venue is required to have a CCTV camera installed and its own group of volunteers on alert at all times, he said following a meeting on Sunday with law enforcers on security for Durga Puja.
Durga Puja, the largest religious event on the Hindu calendar, will start on Oct 1 and end on Oct 5.
There will be more puja venues this year compared to 2021, the minister said. At the moment, the number of venues is listed at 32,168, but this may change.
The minister urged the puja celebration committees to keep the number of venues down and arrange them in locations that are easily reachable by law enforcement vehicles.
In addition to detective police, Ansar personnel will be deployed to the venues too, Khan said. They will be on 24-hour watch at the venues to prevent any untoward incidents during the Hindu holiday.
Police intelligence has not heard much about planned attacks during the holiday, the minister said in response to a question from the media. Police will take action if any such information surfaces, he said.
Asked why the attacks on a puja venue in Cumilla last year took place despite the security measures in place, the home minister said it was because the puja committee for the venue had not listened to the government’s directives.
If volunteers had been on duty at the venue, the attack would not have happened, Khan said.
The Cumilla puja venue attacked and vandalised last year had one security guard on duty, but he spent the night at some distance from the venue, sleeping on a bench.
This year, CCTV cameras are required at every puja venue, the minister said. Ansar and volunteer personnel will also be on duty and communal harmony will be maintained in the country.
When it was pointed out that not all areas will have access to CCTV equipment, the home minister said that is why the government is urging people not to arrange puja venues in out-of-the-way places.
CCTV cameras aren’t too expensive and they can also be rented, he said.
Sometimes puja venues are set up right next to each other and there is no need to make two so close together, Khan said.
The minister said that anyone can also contact the 999 emergency number. Police headquarters and the district control rooms will remain open to provide security round the clock.
Mobile courts will be out on patrol and firm action will be taken against anyone spreading rumours on social media, the minister warned.