Dhaka, April 12 (The Daily Star/BDNews24) : Wall paintings to mark the Bengali New Year Pahela Baishakh at Chittagong University in Bangladesh were found horribly defaced with burnt oil on Saturday morning, The Daily Star reported on Wednesday.
The miscreants, suspected to be Islamic militants who consider the Bengali New Year as a non-Islamic Hindu concept, used burnt engine oil to smear the walls freshly painted by the fine arts institute students.
Dhali Al Mamoon, a Professor at Chittagong University, said only those who are against good can be behind such an incident.
“We are trying to arrest the culprits,” said Moftain Hossain, Deputy Commissioner (south) Chittagong Metropolitan Police (CMP).
The incident took place two days ahead of the Bangla New Year celebrations.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina defended the celebration of Pahela Baishakh, though it has long been a target for extremists, and has witnessed attacks by militants.
Hardliners like Hefazat-e-Islam have criticized an iconic parade taken out by Dhaka University Fine Arts Students every Bengali New Year.
“Bangalees have been celebrating Pahela Baishakh ever since the time of Mughals. The Mangal Sobhajatra also harks back to that era. The word ‘Mangal’ isn’t a Hindu word.”
“It has no connections with religion,” she was quoted as saying by her Press Secretary Ihasanul Karim.
“People of all religions celebrate the first day of Bangla New Year. The tradition has been there for ages.”
She urged people not to get confused by the misleading statements being made by various individuals, said Ihsanul.
Cultural Affairs Minister Asaduzzaman Noor has promised measures for expanding the Pahela Baishakh celebrations.
Last year, UNESCO recognised Mongol Shobhajatra as ‘Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity’.
Hasina highlighted how New Years are celebrated in different countries including Iran.
She also reminded the people to refrain from consuming Hilsha fish during the occasion.
However Hasina approved the Islamic Clerics’ demand that the statute of justice showing a woman holding the scales of justice should be removed from the compound of the Supreme Court.
“A meeting will be held with the chief justice very soon over the statue,” she told a gathering of Qawmi madrasa representatives on Tuesday with Hifazat-e Islam chief Shah Ahmad Shafi by her side.
Hardliners say the figure, a variation on the Greek goddess Themis but in a sari, goes against Islam.
According to them, the statue erected in December 2016, holding the familiar sword and scales of justice in her hands, amounts to idolatry.
“I don’t like it myself. It’s being called a Greek statue, but how will a Greek statue get here?” Hasina said.
“The Greeks had a certain kind of attire. But there is a sari on this one. That too is ridiculous.”
“I will sit with the chief justice very soon. Have patience, and don’t create a situation about the issue,” the prime minister said.
“Have some faith in me; I will do whatever is necessary about the matter.”
Though the Prime Minister agreed with the Hifazat on the statue, some leaders of her Awami League party had been criticising the radical group for some ‘unreasonable’ demands.
Cultural Affairs Minister Asaduzzaman Noor said, “The way Hifazat is making their demands, it looks like Bangladesh is not a people’s republic, rather it’s an Islamic republic.”
(The defaced wall paintings at Chittagong University)