Colorful Dhaka procession marks new year festivities

Thousands of people took to the streets of Dhaka to celebrate the Bengali new year. (AN photo by Shehab Sumon Dhaka)
Updated 15 April 2019
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Colorful Dhaka procession marks new year festivities

  • Bangladesh president and prime minister send greetings to citizens

DHAKA: Thousands of people took to the streets of Dhaka on Sunday to celebrate the Bengali new year.
Vast inflatable animals and colorful banners could be seen in a procession — known as Mongol Shovajatra — to mark the holiday.
The Mughal emperor Akbar is said to have introduced the Bengali calendar in 1556 for the purpose of tax collection.
The first day of the new year, Pohela Boishakh, is when businessmen traditionally update their account books and people settle debts.
“During the Mughal regime, it was an agriculture-based economy and that’s why people didn’t have enough cash in hand,” Dr. Shamsujjaman Khan, Bangladesh folklore expert, told Arab News.
“Since it is centered on the paddy-harvesting period, the farmers used to sell it to have the cash and bought new clothes and other necessary things for their family, which eventually turned it into a festival. This is the most secular occasion for the people of this land, since people from all religions and classes take part in this festivity. It is an integral part of our culture and heritage.”
President Abdul Hamid and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina sent their greetings to citizens, expressing wishes for a happy and prosperous nation.
Mongol Shovajatra was the main attraction for Dhaka-dwellers celebrating the new year.
The procession has been organized by students from the Fine Arts Institute of Dhaka University since 1989.
UNESCO declared the procession part of the country’s “intangible world cultural heritage” in 2016.   
“It’s a procession which represents the essence of Bengali culture where people unite at the beginning of every year and promise to fight against all evil forces,” 39-year-old businessman Abdur Rahman told Arab News.
He has been taking part in the procession for 11 years.
Tahmina Begum, a 21-year-old student at Dhaka University, was at the procession with classmates and friends.
“It’s a symbol of our communal harmony as people from all religions and sects participate,” she told Arab News.
“It is the only festival which upholds the secular spirit of our country and I feel very proud to be a part of this festival.”


Woman shot dead in N.Ireland in ‘terrorist incident’

Updated 19 April 2019
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Woman shot dead in N.Ireland in ‘terrorist incident’

  • A car-bombing and the hijacking of two vans in Londonderry earlier this year were blamed on a dissident paramilitary group
  • A 1998 peace deal largely brought an end to three decades of bloodshed in Northern Ireland between republican and unionist paramilitaries

LONDON: A woman has been shot dead during riots in the city of Londonderry in Northern Ireland and the killing is being treated as a terrorist incident, police said Friday.
Images posted on social media showed a car and van ablaze and hooded individuals throwing petrol bombs and fireworks at police vehicles.
It was not immediately clear who the woman was or who shot her.
“Sadly I can confirm that following shots being fired tonight in Creggan, a 29-year-old woman has been killed,” Assistant Chief Constable Mark Hamilton said in a statement on Twitter.
“We are treating this as a terrorist incident and we have launched a murder enquiry.”
The violence came in the run-up to the Easter weekend, when Republicans opposed to British presence in Northern Ireland mark the anniversary of a 1916 uprising against British rule.
A car-bombing and the hijacking of two vans in Londonderry (also known as Derry) earlier this year were blamed on a dissident paramilitary group.
Arlene Foster, leader of the Democratic Union Party, which is in favor of Britain’s presence in Northern Ireland, described the death as “heartbreaking news.”
“A senseless act. A family has been torn apart. Those who brought guns onto our streets in the 70s, 80s & 90s were wrong. It is equally wrong in 2019. No one wants to go back,” she wrote on Twitter.
A 1998 peace deal largely brought an end to three decades of sectarian bloodshed in Northern Ireland between republican and unionist paramilitaries, as well as British armed forces, in a period known as “the Troubles.”
Some 3,500 people were killed in the conflict — many at the hands of the Irish Republican Army (IRA).
Police have blamed a group called the New IRA for the flare-up in violence in recent months.
Some have expressed fears that recent attacks could be a sign that paramilitaries are seeking to exploit the current political turbulence over Northern Ireland and its border with the Republic of Ireland caused by Brexit.
Michelle O’Neill, the deputy leader of Irish republican party Sinn Fein, condemned those responsible for the killing.
“My heart goes out to the family of the young woman shot dead by so-called dissidents,” she wrote on Twitter.
“This was an attack on the community, an attack on the peace process and an attack on the Good Friday Agreement,” she added, while calling for calm.
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