Hindu leaders decide against immersing idols, declare half-day strike over attack on JM Sen Hall

Chattogram Metropolitan Puja Celebration Council has decided not to immerse the idols of goddess Durga in protest against the vandalism of JM Sen Hall’s puja venue.

Meanwhile, Advocate Rana Dasgupta, leader of Hindu, Buddhist, Christian Unity Council, called a half-day strike on Saturday in Chattogram.

A group allegedly attempted to breach the puja venue gate at JM Sen Hall, while throwing brickbats and tearing down festival banners after finishing Jummah prayers at Andarkilla Shahi mosque on Friday.

The leaders of the council, which had organised the puja celebration at JM Sen Hall, declared that they will not carry out immersion of the idols to end the festival “unless security is ensured”.

“Immersion begins from 11 am every year. But the government directed us to get out of the pavilion after 2:30 pm this time around due to the Friday prayers,” said Ashish Bhattacharya, president of Chattogram Metropolitan Puja Celebration Council.

“We were waiting inside the pandal and carrying out religious formalities when the attack took place.”

“Is there any assurance of safety on the streets when our pavillions are being attacked?” he said.

“Let the government speak of our safety, then we will immerse the idols. Until then, no pandals in Chattogram metropolitan will carry out idol immersions.”

Following the Jummah prayers, a group of people held a meeting at the gate of Andarkilla Shahi mosque and then marched towards JM Sen Hall in a procession, according to eyewitnesses.

The procession broke through police barricades at the intersection and then attempted to breach the locked gate of JM Sen Hall. Then they proceeded to throw brickbats and rip apart puja banners on the walls around the street.

The commotion created outside triggered panic inside the venue where women of different ages were preparing for the immersion of the idols.

The police then fired teargas shells to disperse the attackers, who eventually fled the place.

The puja committee members of JM Sen Hall then took position on the street, obstructing traffic.

Around 3 pm, Advocate Dasgupta arrived at the JM Sen Hall intersection and expressed solidarity with the puja celebration council.

Announcing the strike until 12 pm Saturday and vowing to continue demonstrating by retaining position at the intersection, he said, “We are ready to shed blood if anyone attempts to hinder our demonstration.”

Chattogram City Awami League General Secretary AJM Nasir Uddin arrived there at 3 pm to survey the situation.

Declining to comment on the attack, SI Bijoy Basak of Chattogram police (south) said they were “observing” the situation.