With apology to Sant Kabir – Devi khadi kanooni bazar mein
Bair hui nyayalay
Vakil unki sarkari
Bhaktojan bane ashay
With the unwrapping of current happenings in the country , the Divine Grace has been crest- fallen on the floor of His Lordshps where He/ She has been summoned as litigant persona ; be it to decide gender discrimination of the devotees ,to adjudicate the birth place of deity or to restrain devotees Darshan of the idol from close proximity, it is the judiciary ` saranam gachcha`( Redeemer ).
The festival of invoking Maa Durga ( popularly known as Sarodotsav) bears an umbilical cord to the people and residents of the Bengal – the bangalis : the singularly exuberant Bangaliyana by tradition. Aswin , a month of autumn arrives when cotton flake like cloud gliding around blue sky, when Kash ( tall alley grasses) flowers blooming in abundance, when high pitched beat from Dhak ( drum) resonating in the air and our heart wafting with pleasantly cool atmosphere ; it is then the Godess Durga accompanied with her children begins her journey of home coming during the holy fortnight – Devipaksha . The invocation rituals of the Ma Durga begin on the sixth of Aswin fullmoon fortnight ( Mahasasthi) and are being performed till Tenth of the fortnight ( Vijayadashami ) ending with immersion of the idols into the river.
The invocation of the Godess Durga had its root in the ancient Purana as a symbol of the omnipotent Adi Shakti but it used to be worshiped during the spring month of Chaitra fortnight of the full moon as Ma Basanti.The current calendar of Puja festival , also named AkalBodhan, as per folklores had been initiated by Raja Kansnarayan of Taherpur ( some said Raja of Dinajpur ) during the Moghul rule in the end years of 1500 A.D. Later the landlord from Barisha the Saborna Roychowdhury began to worship Ma Durga since 1610 A.D.In the initial years, the Puja used to be celebrated in the household of the wealthy or the rich landlords to exhibit their opulence to the British rulers- many of the British officials would enjoy as invitees the special entertainment programmes in their honour. The community worship called Baroyari Puja ( twelve friends) was first organized in 1910 by a group at Baghbazar and now becomes popular as Sarbojanin Puja at public places with contributions as well as participations of the community.With the passing of years, what used to be pure orthodox way of celebration transformed into commercial pomp and showmanships barring domestic and few community like Baghbazar Pujas.
As it is most likely, any festival or celebration with mass appeal and participation will have political ramnifications expected to implore the multitude of voters. As a matter of fact, the link of Puja festivals with the political programmes had been established during the pre independence years as a cover to misguide the British rulers.But after independence, barring few early years the mass celebrations has become jamboree of political muscle powers where political leaders become covert patrons.Obviously following tussle of power centres , the Puja committee and the Divinity are occasionally dragged to the temple of the justice.
In the early 2021, the state of West Bengal is scheduled to go for the Assembly election and the ruling dispensation has much to worry this time with the Right Wing brigade already denting vote bank.With couple of months left before the election schedule announced , the Durga Puja is a god sent channel for party propaganda and public relations ; Ms. Mamata Banerjee , her party supremo and the chief minister in a calculated strategy to offset her minority appeasement image announced in the month of september2020 govt. allowance of Rs. 1000 /- per month and free house from govt. scheme for 8000 Hindu priests. On a subsequent announcement she sanctioned Rs. 50000/- to each of 37000 Puja Committees in the state . Added to it 50% concession in electricity bill and waiver of all permissions statutory also she conceded.
From October 14 , 2020 Ms. Banerjee on a pandal hopping spree has continued to inaugurate Puja in different parts of the city ; an act though popular to her image but in consequence afterwards has warranted massive uncontrolled crowd assemblies within pandals and all Covid protocols flouted.Under a crazy and alarming situation forthcoming, a division bench of Calcutta High Court responding to an application on October 19 passed an order –to summarise,
- Each puja pandal is declared as No Entry zone and no devotee or visitor will be allowed inside pandal as viewer or otherwise
- The area of no entry will be 5 meters for smaller and 10 meters for big pandals
- Only organizers will be allowed iside 25 for smaller and 50 for big pujas.
In a separate order from another bench ,it has been ad interim stipulated that the grant money of 50000/- from public exchequer must be used for purchases relating to masks, shields ,sanitisers with proper vouchers for audit and 25% may be used on non entertainmental public awareness activities.
The judicial intervention in the domain of administration or for that matter extra judicial outreach deactivates the checks and balances in any democratic setup and causes apparent point of conflict.We have quite often in the recent years came across the judiciary to intervene to set right legislative logjam, to adjudicate faiure of law and order , matter of religious faiths.Even the very Calcutta High Court order appears more a role play of the judiciary what ought to have initiated from the Administration or the Police and they failed miserably and alarmingly.In the process we find a few chips as how the public who paid subscriptions, who are devotees to the idol, whose money indirectly doled by govt. stand restrained from entry and also different from the organizers numbering 25 / 50? Why the pomp and extravaganza is not made to curtail beyond a limit? Why the concerned authorities are not taken to task even strictured (when there is live instance from Kerala the spurt in Covid infections post Onam festivals) for most irresponsible steps in the name of falling livelihoods.The state by now on record has around 330000 affected persons with daily additions. Should to remember a quote “ A hangman`s rope always support the hanged “,It would be inappropriate not to blame the oppositions – the right winger itself has organized celebration of puja fully aware of Centre`s advisory and otherwise awaiting to gain on the ruling party`s folly ; the left winger and ally desire to fishing in the already troubled political water.In such a scenario the judiciary is hailed by the people as ultimate savior, a role it always likes to abhor for itself .With the increasing data on infection during the days post Court order justifies the veracity of the sanctions imposed. An appeal is preferred on behalf of the Puja committees but rejected. In fact dilution of the order will be at the perils of the common people often bait in the big political game – the Election.
PRASIDA VISVESWARI PAHI