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Cumilla sees tighter security for Durga Puja

Published : 02 Oct 2022 10:19 PM

Authorities in Cumilla have placed tighter security measures this year to help celebrate the Durga Puja peacefully following last year’s violence in the district that spilled over into other regions of the country, officials say.

Cumilla Deputy Commissioner Mohammad Kamrul Hasan said that they deployed Ansar members to guard the puja mandaps round the clock while additional members of police, the Rapid Action Battalion (Rab) and the Border Guards Bangladesh (BGB) have been engaged to patrol the celebration sites.

He said they were alert to prevent any vested quarters from attempting to destabilise the communal harmony and hamper the celebrations in the district.

He also said that this year organisers set up a mandap in the Nanua Dighir Par area where violence broke out in October in 2021 after a copy of the holy Quran was found there.

On October 13 last year, a Muslim man allegedly placed the Quran on the lap of an idol at the mandap in Cumilla while another suspect, also a Muslim man, called 999 helpline reporting the "desecration of the holy book", according to police statement.

As rumours spread, Muslim mobs were quick to attack the mandap, sparking a communal violence in the district and elsewhere, amid much embarrassment to the government of Prime Minister Shiekh Hasina.

The violence spread, leaving at least eight people dead across the country.

The Cumilla incident that went viral on social media, also triggered attacks on temples, houses and businesses of the Hindu community in several districts, including Chandpur, Noakhali, Chattogram and Rangpur.

To quell the violence, police had opened fire on the Muslim mobs, killing at least five.

Last week, the deputy commissioner held a meeting with the leaders of Cumilla Puja Udjapan Parishad and Cumilla-6 lawmaker A. K. M. Bahauddin Bahar to chalk out plans for a joyful celebration of the religious festival.

The deputy commissioner said that a control room has been opened - from where all information about Puja mandaps in the entire district would be handled. The upazila nirbahi officers have been directed to take steps by listing the temples and mandaps, he added.

Md Abdul Mannan, Superintendent of Police in Cumilla, said that everyone should stay alert so that no one can spread rumors using social media.

“Anti-liberation forces can use religion to take political advantage. So, we must be careful about them and face them unitedly,” he said.

“We want to prove that Cumilla has a tradition of religious harmony through the peaceful celebration of this Durga Puja,” the SP said.

Nirmal Paul, general secretary of Cumilla District Puja Celebration Committee, said that 794 puja mandaps have been set up in the district this year.

“We hope that the puja will be celebrated smoothly this time with the help of the administration and the law enforcement agencies,” he said.

Tapas Bakshi, President of the District Puja Celebration Committee, expressed his satisfaction over the security measures.

"We are happy with the overall security arrangement. The list of risky mandaps has been given to the administration so that they can take proper steps considering the situation,” he said.

Over the violence in Cumilla, a dozen cases were filed in the district. Different law enforcement agencies including police, the Police Bureau of Investigation (PBI) and the Criminal Investigation Department (CID) have been engaged with the investigation of the cases. But many have expressed their frustration over the slow pace of the investigation to ensure justice as promised by the government.

This year, the Durga Puja began on Saturday, with the incarnation (bodhon) of the Goddess in temples across the country.

The five-day festival will culminate with the immersion of idols on October 5.

Close to 8 percent of Bangladesh’s more than 160 million people are Hindu.