The High Court’s rejection of a writ petition filed for shifting the date of two Dhaka city elections -- as the Saraswati Puja coincides with the voting day -- has shocked Hindu community members who are demanding deferral of the date.
The court decision received widespread social media criticism and sparked a protest at the capital’s Shahbagh intersection organised by Dhaka University students.
A HC bench of Justice JBM Hassan and Justice Justice Md Khairul Alam yesterday rejected the writ petition seeking a directive to defer Dhaka North City Cooperation (DNCC) and Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC) elections, scheduled to be held on January 30, for a week.
The court said the SSC examination will start across the country on February 1.
The education ministry on December 2 last year fixed January 29 as a public holiday for Saraswati Puja and nobody, including the writ petitioner, raised any objection against the decision back then.
Besides, the Election Commission (EC) has taken all preparations for holding the elections on January 30, it added.
Under the circumstances, there is no scope for shifting the date, said the court.
Writ petitioner Ashoke Kumar Ghosh told The Daily Star that he would move an appeal before the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court challenging the HC order.
He said he was aggrieved with the HC’s order as the court did not take some of his arguments into account while passing the order.
Earlier in the day, Ashoke told the court that the EC had hurt the religious sentiment of the Hindu community and violated the constitution by fixing January 30 for holding the two Dhaka city polls as the Saraswati Puja will be observed on the same day.
Rana Dasgupta, general secretary of Bangladesh Hindu-Buddha-Christian Oikkyo Parishad, told the court that Hindu community’s fundamental right to freedom of religion will be damaged if the DCC elections are held on the day of Saraswati Puja.
“We did not expect this kind of verdict. It has shocked us,” Rana said, adding that they would determine their next course of action after getting the verdict of the Appellate Division.
“… We think that a quarter is working within the government as well as the EC and trying to curb the constitutional rights of the minorities. It seems that EC is not capable enough to understand the religious sensitivities,” he added.
Contacted, Election Commission Senior Secretary Md Alamgir said that they would go ahead with the election date on January 30.
Meanwhile, DSCC BNP mayoral candidate Ishraque Hossain yesterday said the EC should seriously consider the issue of voting day coinciding with the Saraswati Puja.
Demands for deferring the date of city polls have been getting louder in the last couple of days.
Students of Dhaka University blocked the busy Shahbag intersection for nearly two hours demanding deferral of the city polls. They issued an 18-hour ultimatum to meet their demand.
Bangladesh Hindu-Buddha-Christian-Oikya Parishad leaders on Monday put forward the demand at a meeting with Chief Election Commissioner KM Nurul Huda.
On Sunday, Bangladesh Chhatra Oikya Parishad formed a human chain on the DU campus, and a group of DU’s Jagannath Hall students held a meeting with Election Commissioner Mahbub Talukdar in this regard.
On Friday, DSCC Returning Officer Abdul Baten forwarded a letter to the EC. The letter was sent by Jagannath Hall Provost Mihir Lal Saha requesting a change in the voting date.