This year's Durga Puja, which ended yesterday with the Dashami, has been a more muted celebration than usual, as have been all other religious festivals this year due to the challenges posed by the Covid-19 pandemic. While there was not the usual festive atmosphere we see during this most significant festival of the Hindu community, the puja was enthusiastically observed in the temples and the significance of the occasion remains the same.
Bangladesh is a Muslim majority country but it is also a nation that is founded on the values of religious harmony and a syncretic culture. The Durga Puja is also an event that brings together members of other faiths and reflects Bengali culture, which celebrates diversity. For Bangladeshis today, faced with the most formidable challenge of trying to fight and survive a pandemic, it is time to reinforce the values of promoting an inclusive society that embraces people of all faiths and communities. As is often the case, the issues faced by minority communities are not always given enough importance, leading to insecurity and disenchantment. The sporadic incidences of vandalism in temples and destruction of deities, the attempts to grab lands of minority groups and communal sentiments expressed by some quarters—these are challenges to our basic values as a nation. They must not be overlooked or understated by the government, or by society at large, but be addressed with sincerity and compassion.
The last day of Durga Puja signifies victory of good over evil, a universal sentiment that is crucial to human existence. At this time of crisis, we must reinforce our inclusivity, and embrace and promote religious and ethnic harmony, which are essential elements in making us stronger, more resilient and united as a country. We extend our best wishes to members of the Hindu community on this auspicious occasion. We hope that through such festivals, our faith in one another is reinforced, and that we are more empathetic to each other, regardless of what creed we belong to.