DHAKA (TIP): Bangladesh celebrated the Bengali New Year with tens of thousands of people joining the Pohela Boishakh festivities across the country, defying threats of fundamentalist Muslim groups.
Amid tight security, festivities began with the break of dawn when artistes of major cultural group Chhayanaut welcomed the day with Rabindrath Tagore’s famous song ‘Esho hey Baishakh, esho, esho’ under the banyan tree at the Ramna Park in Dhaka.
Men, wearing traditional panjabi-pyjama, women attired in saris with red borders, and children in colourful dresses joined the open concerts and the Shovajatra, braving the hot weather and threats of Islamists who are opposed to the celebrations, in which people carry masks of animals and colourful garlands, as “un-Islamic”.
Traditional Boishakh music filled the air as Dhaka University’s students organised a colourful “Mongol Shovajatra” procession carrying statues and other traditional props in a key-feature of the celebration.
The organisers focused on fighting religious radicalism amid increasing attacks on writers, publishers, foreigners, dissidents and violence against women and children.
President Abdul Hamid and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina greeted the countrymen on the Pohela Boishakh.
“The Bangla New Year rekindles our nationalist spirit… there were attacks again and again. People were killed in bombings. But no evil attempt of the fanatics, communal forces ever succeeded,” Hasina said.
“Bigotry and ugly religious fanaticism have no place in our national culture,” Cultural Affairs Minister Asaduzzaan Noor said yesterday, apparently referring to the Islamists reservations against the festival.
However, the security vigil with deployment of hundreds of policemen and members of elite anti-crime Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) with riot vehicles, sniffing dogs and two-wheelers partly surpassed the festivity.
Security forces directed revelers to go through their makeshift checkpoints on the street while they kept a sharp watch on the people from temporary watchtowers. RAB choppers enforced a vigil hovering over the major festival spots.
Police issued a restriction on celebrations in public places after 5 PM for security reasons and prohibited people from wearing masks. Traffic restrictions were put in place.