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Ras Mela to start today

Cooch Behar, Nov. 26: The Ras Mela will be inaugurated here tomorrow and the fortnight-long event has been extended by three days this time to mark its 200 years.

The district administration is expecting a record turnout for the annual event this year.

District police chief Pranab Kumar Das said 800 policemen, including officers, had been deployed. “We have put in place a security ring around town and on all roads from Assam. The police and the BSF are keeping vigil on the border with Bangladesh. We have 10 watchtowers and 10 close-circuit cameras around the venue,” he said.

District magistrate Mohan Gandhi, who is also the chairman of Debottar Trust (which looks after all property that belonged to the erstwhile princes), will inaugurate the fair at 9.20pm tomorrow.

Biren Kundu, the Congress chairman of Cooch Behar municipality that organises the fair, said: “The worship of Madan Mohan by Maharaja Harendra Narayan and the fair began in 1812 at Bhetaguri in Dinhata, which was the capital of the erstwhile kings. The capital was shifted here in 1828. After the Madan Mohan temple was built here in 1890, the fair started being held at the Ras Mela grounds and the (nearby) MJN Stadium.”

He added: “Artists like Kumar Sanu and Vinod Rathore would perform at the fair.”

Last year’s footfall was around 1 lakh a day, police sources said.