Dhamrai's famous Rath Yatra festival, said to be the second biggest in Asia, will be celebrated as planned, the local parliamentarian has said.
But locals insist that it will only take place if MP MA Malek can manage the local Hindu community and allow them to open their shops and permit makeshift shops for the fair.
There were allegations that Dhamrai municipality Mayor Kabir Mollah was planning to prevent this year's Rath Yatra and illegally seize land belonging to the temple that organises the festival.
Nanda Gopal Sen, joint secretary of Dhamrai Rath Yatra Celebration Council, told the Dhaka Tribune the mayor’s followers had shown blatant disrespect towards the Hindu festival and threatened the locals.
Dhaka district authorities and the local MP visited the temple on Sunday night and held talks with the council.
“They assured us to take action against miscreants and followers of the local mayor after investigation,” Nanda said. “We told them to speak to the local Hindus and if the latter agreed, then we would go ahead with the Ulta Rath Yatra.”
MP Malek said: “The local administration assured the council last night of takoing action against the local mayor's goons. The Rath Yatra will be held as per previous schedule and shops will be reopened.”
Rath Yatra, literally meaning chariot journey, is one of the oldest festivals in the world. In Bangladesh, the colourful celebrations draw thousands of devotees and spectators at Dhamrai, on the outskirts of Dhaka.
The Rath Yatra started on June 25 this year. The Ulta Rath is the conclusion of Puri Jagannath Rath Yatra and is slated for Monday, July 3.
Nanda had previously said they were planning to postpone the Ulta Rath Yatra to protest against the attack on the fair's shopkeepers by Mayor Kabir’s followers.
Local police had ratcheted up security and closed down the fair, insisting that there were chances of a militant attack.
Nanda said police did inform them about a militant threat. “Police told us to keep only two entry points of Rath Yatra open and shut down all the shops in the fair for security reasons.”
Earlier this week, police and followers of Mayor Kabir forced all the shops to close down.
Kabir's goons attacked people who had travelled to Dhamrai from various district and set up makeshift shops on the fair grounds and threatened them to leave the area, Nanda alleged.
He claimed that policemen were withdrawn after the shops were forced to close.
Dhamrai police station Officer-in-Charge Rezaul Haque rejected claims about possibility of militant attacks in Rath Yatra.
“A dispute between the local MP and municipal mayor created the problem,” he told the Dhaka Tribune, replying to a question.
Several local Hindus claimed that the mayor was targeting the land beside the temple from where the return Rath Yatra was organised.
A member of the Rath Yatra Council, requesting anonymity, said Mayor Kabir had forced them to allow him to set up a cattle market on the temple's land during last year's Eid-ul-Azha.
Local MP Malek said the root of the problem lied in the mayor’s followers destroying makeshift shops on the fair grounds.
Kabir denied the allegations, and blamed police for forcing closure of the shops.
Dhaka's Additional Police Superintendent Asraful Azim was quoted by a newspaper as speaking about a possible militant attack and instructing shutting all shops.
He, however, later said there was no such threat, adding that, “We have taken security measures to ensure a safe Ulta Rath Yatra this year too.”