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Sylhet Shahi Eidgah “Entrance of women is forbidden”

A signboard hanging from one of the entry points of Sylhet Shahi Eidgah in the city reads “Entrance of women is forbidden”, while another inside the territory reads “Protect the sanctity of Shahi Eidgah — women’s entrance is forbidden”. One notice says it is ordered by the authorities, and the other says it is ordered by the locals, making the locals confused and at the same time surprised. The authorities concerned, however, denied putting up any signboards there. Photo: Collected

Sylhet Office : Eidgah is an open-air place where Eid congregations take place twice in a year — Eid-ul-Fitr and Eid-ul-Azha, two largest religious festivals of the Muslims. It is usually a public place that isn’t used for prayers at other times of the year.

Sylhet Shahi Eidgah, a five-hundred-year historic ground situated in the city, is no exception. As it remains free during other times of the year, it has become a gathering place for city dwellers — men and women alike — for long. In recent years, different corners inside the territory have seen a major facelift as the authorities concerned have ensured walkways and sitting arrangements inside the Eidgah so that people of all ages can stroll, rest and socialise.

But much to the shock of the residents, they have lately discovered that there are some signboards hanging at all entry points of the Eidgah and inside the ground, forbidding women from entering the ground.

Some of the signboards read: “Entrance of women is forbidden”, “Protect the sanctity of Shahi Eidgah — women’s entrance is forbidden”.

Though the signboards carry the authorities name on those, the people concerned denied being involved in such act.

Faisal Ahmed, a resident living nearby the Eidgah, said he grew up in the area and that the Eidgah had been used by both men and women. He said his mother even used to walk on the ground.

The place was once used by drug addicts and snatchers for a brief period. After the renovation, it is buzzing with people again and has become a nice place for people in the area to socialise.

“Is the place going to be in wrong people’s clutches again?” he asked.

Moreover, last Friday afternoon, many locals went to the Eidgah with their families for passing some leisure time.

Disheartened, they had to return seeing the signboards at the entry points. The locals even complained that some youths on the gates were asking them not to bring women into the ground showing the signboards.

Soon the matter went viral and people started criticising such a move.

Faruk Mahmud Chowdhury, president of Sushashoner Jonno Nagorik (Sujan) of Sylhet chapter, said this is humiliating for the women.

He demanded legal steps in this regard.

In 17th century, Mughal emperor Aurangzeb developed the architecture of the Eidgah with 15 domes and spectacular terracotta design. Historically, during the movement against the British empire, the ground was used as a public gathering, said locals.

Sylhet City Corporation Mayor Ariful Haque Chowdhury said, “There is a committee for the Eidgah that is led by a motwalli (caretaker), but I do not know anything about putting any signboards. I will be looking into the matter.”

Contacted, Jahir Bakht, the motwalli of the Eidgah, said, “As far as I know, Eidgah should be open for all men and women; Islam also permits such equal status for all. Barring women’s entry into the place is really unexpected…”

He said he would take a decision after a meeting with other members of the committee.