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Upendra Bharti | HENB | Kolkata | Oct 7, 2016:: As per Bengali rituals the Sharodiya Durgotsav (Autumnal Durga worship) cannot be completed without the soil from the doors of the prostitutes. Making it all pervading, ensuring everybody’s participation and adorning all class, the flora and fauna, Bengali Hindus worship Durga. But, the state restrictions on Hindu festival leads the situation in such a way for which the Sex workers under Sonagachi Red light area in Kolkata stopped holding Durga Puja this year.
Claiming harassment by the police, the sex workers have decided to discontinue their own Durga Puja in city’s Sonagachi area from this year.
The Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee (DMSC), an organisation of sex workers, which has 65 000 sex-workers (Male, Female & Transgender) registered and unregistered sex workers on its roll, alleged that for the past five years they have been at the receiving end of police harassment.
“Since 2013, we have been organising the puja at Sonagachi. Every year we have to move court to obtain permission after the police and KMC officials reject our application,” a DMSC spokesperson said wishing not to be named.
She said it was practically impossible to spend Rs 50,000-60,000 to fight court case every year simply to hold a Durga Puja.
When contacted, a senior official of Kolkata Police’s North Division said, “We did not receive any application requesting for holding puja this time. So I cannot comment on this matter.”
According to DMSC office-bearers, Sonagachi, the city’s red light district, being a congested place, the sex workers were given a small area to organise the Puja since 2013.
“But we wanted a bigger area near Dalpatti More in Sonagachi. We were not allowed. We were told to organise the Durga Puja inside a small clinic and the pandal outside the clinic,” the spokeswoman said.
She said the area being very small, they in 2014 requested the police to give permission to hold the puja outside the clinic.
“Initially, we were allowed but later the permission was withdrawn. We again moved the court and were allotted a place in a community hall. But that hall was not spacious. So this year we decided to discontinue the puja,” she said.
Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee’s Durga Puja set an unique example of communal harmony as the sex-workers belonging to Islam or Christian faiths also wholeheartedly participated in their Durga Puja.