Ironically, there will be no cycle and motorcycle rallies this year from Kolkata to Dhaka on Bhasha Divas. This will be the first occasion when it will be missed since 1971. The spoiler: the attacks Opposition supporters are organising in the streets of Bangladesh that have prompted the local administrations to advise the enthusiasts in Bengal against the trip.
Significantly, Mamata will be going to Dhaka on a state visit on Thursday evening, and this could have been the perfect year for such a road rally.
“We have abandoned our Bhasha Divas rally. We have postponed the trip to April 14 - the Bengali New Year’s Day - but by no definition can it be the same Bhasha Shutra rally,” said Swarojit Roy, who is organising Dhaka-bound rallies to mark the Bhasha Divas for years.
Roy and his men can’t be accused of chickening out as protests are increasingly violent and have started taking lives. Since end-January at least nine persons, including three children, were burnt alive when the Opposition supporters hurled petrol bombs at buses and trains.
Even passengers on board the Kolkata-Dhaka Maitree Express had a narrow escape when petrol bombs were thrown at Iswarwardi station on February 8. Following the attack, security on Maitree Express was beefed up and the Kolkata-Dhaka bus service is running with police escort to and from Bongaon to Dhaka.
But cycle and motorcycle riders would have been completely exposed if such vicious attacks are launched.
This year around 120-odd cyclists were expected to reach Dhaka from Kolkata and several other places of North 24-Parganas and Nadia. These rallies were scheduled to flag off on February 14 and would have arrived at Darshana on the Bangladesh side of the border on November 16. From there it would have taken days to reach Dhaka crossing five districts of Bangladesh - Chuadanga, Kustia, Rajbari, Manikgaunj and Dhaka.
“While Chuadanga, Kustia and Dhaka are safe, there is a huge concentration of Opposition suppor ters in the districts of Rajbari and Manikgaunj. The situation was not good even in the last two years, but this year it’s worse. Opposition supporters are hurling petrol bombs at common people and so I have advised all to cancel, or postpone their programmes,” Matiar Rahman, the former chairman of Darshana Municipality and the Awami League district president of Chuadanga district, told Hindustan Times on Wednesday.
The participants are ruing the lost opportunity.
“Everything was arranged and most of the participants paid around 6,000 for the trip. But what to do? Roads are not safe and the whole idea of spreading the message would be lost if we go by bus, train, or air,” said Subrata Biswas, another organiser from Nadia.
This would have been the third year for Amitava Sengupta, a professor from Barasat, to undertake the rally to Dhaka.
“It is unfortunate that I am going to miss the opportunity. We hoped to reach Dhaka on cycle and come back on bus. Several cyclists gift their cycles on their way back to local NGOs and this time these NGOs would also miss it,” said Sengupta.