Slapping a ban on outdoor programmes in the evening of Pahela Baishakh should not be a way to protect women; it will only add fuel to extremism opposed to women's freedom, rights activists said yesterday.
At a press conference at the Jatiya Press Club in the capital, they criticised Dhaka Metropolitan Police's decision not to allow celebrations of Bangla New Year in public places after 5:00pm on Thursday.
"Such a step surely indicates that they (government) are giving in to the extremists and standing against free thoughts and the spirit of freedom and universality of the Liberation War," said Sultana Kamal, convenor of Nari Nirapotta Jote.
The Jote was formed by some 150 individuals and organisations to coordinate protests against the sexual assault of at least 20 women near Suhrawardy Uddyan in the capital during last year's Pahela Baishakh celebration.
The state takes an oath to provide security round the clock to all citizens irrespective of gender, religion and ethnicity, Sultana Kamal said.
Describing Pahela Baishakh as a national and universal festival when people from all ethnic groups, communities and religions share their joy, she said the ban would limit the festivity and indulge the wish of those who are against the festival.
"The culture of fear will be promoted through this.”
The state is doing nothing against those who are doing the politics of attack and killing, rather it is asking progressive-minded people to go backward, Sultana Kamal added.
The authorities should install more security cameras and deploy more vigilant forces instead of imposing a ban on cultural programmes in open spaces after 5:00pm on the day, said Farah Kabir, country director, ActionAid Bangladesh, and a member of the Jote.
Jinat Ara Hoque, another member of the Jote, said the government should take more security measures like ensuring proper lighting and installing watch towers instead of telling people to go home from public places, including Suhrawardy Uddyan and Ramna Batamul.
Citing overnight classical music programmes held in the Army Stadium, Jinat said security could be ensured without putting restrictions on gathering or cultural programmes.
The Jote pressed home four demands, including bringing all perpetrators of violence against women to book.