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

boBangladeshis have welcomed Bengali New Year 1ep resolve to continue the fight against communalism and religious fanaticism.

The main celebration started with an event organised by the Chhayanaut at Ramna Batamul on Tuesday morning.

Thousands thronged Ramna and adjacent areas since dawn.

Strokes on Sitar gave a solemn air to the Ramna Batamul atmosphere from 6:15am.

Chhayanaut singers started their performance after 15 minutes, calling 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 the 2001 attacks.

Police have urged everyone to finish outdoor events by 5pm.

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

Police personnel at Ramna welcomed the people of Dhaka with sweets and roses.

Thousands join the Chhayanaut singers to sing the national anthem after 8pm.

Women have been seen wearing white sarees with red laces. Men wore paijama and Panjabi.

Many have been roaming with Baishakhi tattoos on face.

The Mangal Shobhajatra started from the Dhaka University’s Faculty of Fine Arts after the programme of Chhayanaut.

The procession organised by the Faculty has become one of the main features of the celebration.

People have also organised small events in their areas in the capital city like in other districts of Bangladesh.

Traffic is not allowed today in Ramna area and Dhaka University campus for the celebrations.

Flutes, monochords and drums are being sold in makeshift shops.

The main attraction remains panta and hilsha fish. Sweets and cakes are also being sold.

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 Sheikh Hasina, Opposition Leader Raushon Ershad, BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia, 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.

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

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’ ( 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], We believe, the fight 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 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, to share sweets as a mark of goodwill and renew business deals.