Hundreds of visitors used to crowd at the shrine of Hazrat Chashni Pir (R), located in the Goaitula area of Sylhet town. Known as Banorer Tila (or Monkey Hill), around 200 monkeys live in this hilly area.
Many people visit the area to watch and feed the monkeys.
However, the ongoing shutdown to prevent the spread of coronavirus is causing serious trouble for the monkeys. Everything is shut in the area and the shrine has no visitors. So, the monkeys have been hungry for the past week.
In this battle against the virus, a wide number of people and animals have already started suffering. Though wealthy people are supporting some low-income households with food and basic necessities, no one is looking after the monkeys.
No one gives them food.
So, the monkeys of Banorer Tila have become violent. They are attacking people around them and even breaking into adjacent residential houses to snatch food.
Previously, the monkeys of the area faced a food and accommodation crisis when nearby hills and trees were cut but their disturbances have increased in the past few days.
Sources said that monkeys belonged to the Daldali Tea Garden, adjacent to Chashni hill. They shifted from the tea garden to the shrine during the 1980s when a portion of the tea garden was cut for human habitation. Since then, the monkeys have settled in the shrine's trees.
However, the locals said that the situation has never been as bad as that of the past week.
Showkat Ali, a vegetable seller, was transiting Goaitula with a van of vegetables. Suddenly the monkeys attacked him and snatched his vegetables – including cucumbers and tomatoes.
Such incidents are occurring frequently, said Azmal Hossain, a resident of the area.
"No one with food can walk through the streets. The monkeys are even biting children if they find them alone on the roofs," he said.
Visiting the Chashni Pir's shrine area, monkeys were observed jumping on the roofs of several residential buildings at the base of the hill.
Selim Ahmed, proprietor of a store at the entrance of the shrine said, "There were many peanut trees on the hill. They are not available today. The number of trees, overall, has also reduced. So, the monkeys are facing a food shortage."
"This hill was the monkeys' habitat, but humans have destroyed their habitat for food and accommodation. Thus, the monkeys are hungry," said Abdul Karim Kim, general secretary of Bangladesh Paribesh Andolan, Sylhet.
"Many solvent people are supporting the poor in this crisis. We should also care for these monkeys. We have to think about all the living beings," he said.
He also said that the environmental activists of Sylhet have also started arranging for food for street dogs and shrine monkeys.
However, Mohammad Muhit Hasan, one of the caretakers of the shrine called for government support to feed the monkeys.
SM Sazzad Hossain, Sylhet divisional forest officer, said they do not have plans to provide food for animals under the open sky but they are distributing food among the animals of reserve areas.