Festivities cut short as religious and indigenous groups are deprived of holidays

October 6, 2022

DHAKA – Holidays during the festivities are often taken for granted by people. After all, it’s a time when people come together to engage with their respective communities and celebrate their long-awaited festivities with friends and families. However, this is often far from reality for many people, and so I set out to find out how different religious and indigenous groups are deprived of holidays during their festivities.

For 15-year-old Rupantee Saha*, a ninth-grader studying in high school and college in Monipur, holidays are unavailable for many of her religious festivities. Although she receives a vacation on the occasion of Durga Puja, many other religious holidays, celebrated by her family, require her to take time off from school.

Photo: Chakma Orchid

However, taking time off from school is not an easy process as she has to pay a heavy fine if she misses more than three days a month.

“Because I have to pay 1600 taka – which is my monthly fee – if I am away for more than three days, I am often unable to visit my village on certain less religious holidays. known. Even if we submit a formal request, fees are often not waived due to hostility and lack of cooperation from authorities,” Rupantee explained.

Rupantee’s plight is shared by many others. Adrijeet Deb, 25, strongly recalled how her public university entrance exams largely coincided with the Puja and Diwali season.

“These public university admission exams are a great opportunity for students. Since I had to study during the holiday season, I had to miss a lot of celebrations, which was very frustrating for me. When you work hard throughout the year, you tend to look forward to those festivities to share with your family and friends. Instead, being pushed around with the burden of studies and not being able to enjoy these festivities is pathetic,” he said.

Adrijeet also explained that his father, who was a doctor, only received partial leave for three days in a period of one year – only one day during Durga Puja, one day during Diwali and one day during Saraswati Puja. This meant that he could spend very little time with his family during the festive seasons.

Adrijeet’s sister also had to deal with this while working as an intern at Chittagong Medical College Hospital, “My sister didn’t like it very much, and neither did her husband and their family, as they had to wait for hang out with her after her shift is over.”

According to him, she also had to work actively during the two Eid holidays, which lasted three days each, and that was extremely daunting as hospitals during Eid are sorely understaffed.

Although Adrijeet received his fair share of holidays as he worked in the private sector and adequate partial holidays were guaranteed under his contract with his company, many other people are not so lucky.

For Christina Joyeeta Munshi – who currently works as a junior analyst at a private policy research organization and is a follower of the Christian faith – the experience of applying for leave in a private workplace has been largely disappointing.

Recalling one particular incident, Christina explained, “When I was working as a sub-editor for an online news media company, they asked me to volunteer for a feature on December 24, which is Christmas Eve, even though I had already taken some time off on that day. Then they again asked me to join the office on December 26th for a special interview, again on the day I had already taken time off to celebrate Christmas.

According to Christina, “Celebrating Christmas is a lucrative and enriching process, with multiple aspects, such as decorating the church or one’s own house, sitting down with family and making a wide range of cakes and pithas, arranging gifts for loved ones and meet his friends and families.So when you only get one day vacation for such an important festival, it finally makes you miss all the atmosphere of such a long-awaited event which is celebrated with family and friends in my community.

While religious communities are often deprived of holidays during their festivities, indigenous communities also face a similar problem. For Anton Chakma, 23, a student in the Department of Japanese Studies at the University of Dhaka, celebrating Biju – the Chakma community’s most important cultural festival – with his family seems like a distant dream.

Although he did not have any exams during the Biju celebrations this year, he saw many of his native juniors not being able to celebrate the festival as they had exams that week. He recounted how one of his cadets called him the day before Biju and said, “Dada, I won’t be able to go home this time. Are you going?”

Seeing his fellow natives unable to attend their festivities demoralized Anton, as native students at the university are a tight-knit community. He decided not to return home and to celebrate Biju with his family and friends. As a result, Anton, like many of his native friends, had to miss out on various religious and social aspects of the Biju festival, such as performing religious rites with family members – an experience they look forward to every year.

Anton further noted that “this problem is not only prevalent in universities, but indigenous students in schools and colleges, including my own sister, have to face such difficulties because they often have to take courses or take exams during the Biju festivities”.

Anton’s remarks about the problems faced by indigenous students in schools were also echoed by May*, a 17-year-old student studying at an English-speaking school in Dhaka. As a descendant of Rakhine and a practicing Buddhist, she celebrates three festivals throughout the year – Sangrai, Buddha Purnima and Probarona Purnima.

However, she only gets one day vacation for Buddha Purnima and Sangrai and no vacation for Probarona Purnima, despite the fact that Rakhine Water Festival and Probarona Purnima are celebrated for about a week by Rakhine community members in her hometown of Cox’s Bazar.

“In my hometown, the festivities can last for about a week, which is much grander and more beautiful. This is something we obviously lack due to our limitations. I grew up hearing my parents talk about how joyful these events were and how the whole village had this air of excitement and enthusiasm when preparing for these festivals – an experience that is definitely missing here in the city,” explained May.

Photo: Chakma Orchid

Design: Aaqib Hasib

Photo: Chakma Orchid

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