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Asian Tribune is published by World Institute For Asian Studies|Powered by WIAS Vol. 12 No. 2041

Durgotsab And Hindu religious status in Bangladesh - Part-I

By Rabindranath Trivedi

Durgotsab is an annual Hindu festival which celebrates worship of the Hindu goddess of power, Durga or Shakti. And it has always been an integral part of the Hindu culture. However, the origin of public celebrations of grand Durga Puja can be traced back to the 16th century.

With the ascent of the Mughals, Durga Puja became more of a status symbol in those days. Grand celebrations, gala feasts and huge fan fare was part of the very first 'Sharadiya Durgotsab' festivals organized by Raja Kangshanarayan of Taherpur and Bhabananda Mazumdar of Nadiya in 1606.

Annual festival of Durga Puja soon became the most celebrated festival and as a day for merriment with friends, relatives, neighbors and acquaintances. Opulence and extravagance became an inseparable part among the powerful and rich Bengalis. However, there were people who celebrated Durga Puja on their household level in a traditional manner, which were characterized by much more devotion and sentiments attached to the festival than the mere show off of the richer and more prosperous people.

The Community Puja is organized by each and every locality where a committee collects fund from the people to meet the expenses for the pandal construction, sculpture preparation, ceremonies, etc. It involves feasting, organization of games for children and other activities for all the people of the locality. The creation and ornamentation of the sculpture is marked by rites and rituals. The clay used for the sculpture of Goddess Durga is collected from the banks of river. There is an old custom of mixing a handful of soil collected from the locality of sex workers and then making the sculpture.

1971: Hindus Celeberate Durgostab In Refugee Camps

It may be mentioned here during Bangladesh War Hindus as evacuees in relief camps in India also observed DURGOTSAB in 1971. We were then at Bangladesh war could remember all those days in 1971. The elected representatives of Assemblies under leadership of Syed Nazrul Islam and Tajuddin Ahmed formed exiled Government at Mujibnagar on 10 April 1971, a guerrilla army to fight the occupied Pakistan army government troops. 3 million Bangladeshi civilians died in the fighting that followed, and 10 million of refugees poured into India. About half a million women were dishonored and violated by Pakistani occupation armed forces in 1971.

Pakistan had declared emergency in November 24 and made a formal declaration of war with India on December 4,1971The whole Hindu refugees were on the street. Chanting ,’Joy Bangla’ Women repeatedly sounding ’ULU’ as if Devi Durga was marching to face Demon Mohishasura. More than hundred Durga puja pandels were erected in the refugee camps. It may be mentioned here Indira is also one of name of Devi Durga.

The Liberation War of Bangladesh is the most memorable event in her brief history as it brought about her independence. To win this freedom, three million people had to shed their blood, almost the entire population, barring a few, of the then East Pakistan rose in revolt against Pakistan's military regime. The triumph of the freedom fighters of Bangladesh was not theirs alone. As Mrs. Indira Gandhi said, 'All nations who value the human spirit will recognize it as a significant milestone in man's quest for liberty'.

The Hindus belief was then in a final burst of triumph, the truth must pinned devil force like Mahishashur down with her foot drove the trident into his heaving chest as he strove to hold back his escaping life-breath. Thus the demon met his doom in December 1971 gazing into truth frenzied eye; for the glance reread demon force doom—and deliverance’. After three blood-soaked episodes in 1950, 1964 and 1971 within the space of a quarter century under Pakistan, Dhaka found itself the capital of a sovereign country in December 1971. 3 million Bangladeshi civilians died in the fighting that followed, and 10 million of refugees poured into India. About half a million women were dishonoured and violated by Pakistani occupation armed forces in 1971.

Hindu Refugees became citizens in the Bangladesh Republic and aftermath

In December 1971, the Indian Army advanced into East Pakistan and joined the Mukti Bahini guerrillas. The combined forces of the Indians and guerrillas overpowered West Pakistan, which surrendered on Dec. 16, 1971. The exile Bangladesh Government, Mujibnagar established itself in Dhaka on 22 December 1971. 10 million Refugees in India returned to mother land and became citizens in the People’s Republic of Bangladesh In the post liberated Bangladesh faced staggering problems as an independent country. Millions of its people were homeless. Trade, transportation routes, and communication lines had to be restored. Hospitals, factories, and schools had to be rebuilt. Reconstruction programmes began almost immediately. But floods and food shortages caused widespread suffering, and charges of political corruption weakened the government.

Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman (1920-75), father of Bangladesh Republic, was released from Pakistani prison on `10 January 1972. He returned to Bangladesh in triumph and became the country's Prime Minister. In 1974, Bangladesh joined the United Nations (UN).Bangladesh has a parliamentary system of government. In August 1975, military leaders killed President Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, alone with almost all of his family members except two daughters – Sheikh Hasina and Sheikh Rehana. They dissolved the parliament, took control of the government, and began to rule under martial law, and 10 weeks after four National Leaders who were in custody had been gunned down within jail precincts on 3 November 1975. Ziaur Rahman (known as Major Zia), an army officer, became head of the martial law government in November 1975. He took the title of president in April 1977 and amended the Constitution of Bangladesh. In 1978, the regime elected Major General Ziaur Rahman, Chief Martial Law Administrator (CMLA) as president. He became head of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) in September, which had been formed under martial law after the presidential election in June 1978. In 1979, a new parliament endorsed Fifth Amendment and the military leaders ended martial law in April 1979.

On 17 May 1981, Sheikh Hasina returned Bangladesh from exile as the President of Awami League. She came to limelight when she was elected President of Awami League on 16 February 1981.The scenes were reminiscent of Bangabandhu’s triumphant return to war devastated Bangladesh from Pakistani jail on January 10, 1972. His was ‘a journey from captivity to freedom, from desolation to hope’. Bangabandhu’s triumphant return was a history of fulfillment of Independent Bangladesh, but Sheikh Hasina’s return was different with a mission for the realisation of her father’s ideal. On 30 May 1981, rebels led by a military officer killed President Major General Ziaur Rahman in Chittagong. Vice President Justice Abdus Sattar was elected president later that year.

In March 1982, military leaders again took control of the government of Bangladesh. Lieutenant General H. M. Ershad suspended the Constitution and established martial law under his rule. From 1982 to 1984, Ershad banned political activities. He took the title of president in 1983. In May 1986, Ershad allowed the first parliamentary elections in Bangladesh since 1979. In August, Ershad resigned from the army in order to run as a civilian candidate for president. He became head of the Jatiya party, a party formed by his supporters. In November 1986, the people elected him president. Soon after, the Parliament passed a law protecting Ershad from prosecution for actions taken during the period of martial law. He then ended martial law and restored the Constitution.

Beginning in late 1990, thousands of people held violent protests against Ershad's government. Ershad resigned as president on 6, December, 1990 and Bangladesh's chief justice Shahabuddin Ahmed became acting president. Ershad was later arrested and tried. He was convicted of abuse of power, corruption, and possession of illegal firearms, and sentenced to 20 years in prison. He has appealed against these convictions. Parliamentary elections were held under an interim government of Justice Shahabuddin Ahmed in February 1991. Since then two parties AL and BNP altered power but fate of religious minorities remained unaltered under the so called 5th, 8th and 15th amendments in the constitution of Bangladesh.

The state turned authoritarian for fifteen years (1975-1990), military dictators ruled the country the initial constitutional commitment gradually diluted by successive amendments through a martial law ordinance, secularism was dropped from the guiding principles of state through a martial law ordinance, secularism was dropped from the guiding principles of state introduced by the regimes. Democracy, rules of law, human rights are crying for justice, but justice is at stake. ‘The great hopes and expectations that the Bangladesh War of Liberation had enkindled in the hearts and minds of all citizens including Hindus have given a way to a sense of frustration, indeed to deep sense of betrayal.’ The population of Hindu minority has declined from 15% (1974) to 10% (2001). In Bangladesh, the Hindu minority becomes the coveted enemy under VPA.

(To Be Continued)

- Asian Tribune -

Durgotsab And Hindu religious status in Bangladesh - Part-I
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