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Circus eyes return to Park Circus

The Calcutta Municipal Corporation wants to bring circus back to Park Circus, two seasons after it left town because of protests by residents of the area.

The city’s annual winter spectacle could be back, pending the green light from the state’s municipal affairs department. The CMC, on its part, has already floated a tender and Ajanta Circus has won the bid to pitch tent on the Park Circus Maidan for six weeks.

If the municipal affairs department okays it, the CMC will wave the green flag to Ajanta Circus.

“Circus has been off the Park Circus Maidan for the past two years because of opposition from the residents. This year, many of them had written to us to allow circus on the ground,” said Debasish Kumar, mayoral council member (parks and gardens).

He did not give the identity of the residents.

If the municipal affairs department gives the thumbs-up, circus season will begin on December 25 and continue for 45 days.

In 2007-08, the civic authorities had kept the ground free for the city’s best-known itinerant landmark, the book fair. The fair was eventually held at the Salt Lake stadium.

The following year, the maidan was kept off-limits for circus because stall owners of Park Circus Market had to be temporarily rehabilitated there.

Circus returned in the 2009-10 and 2010-11 seasons but residents of the area and an association of morning walkers demanded that the show be shifted to somewhere else because the tents, animals and barricade were restricting their movement and damaging the “just-renovated” maidan. The civic authorities had spent Rs 4 crore on the renovation.

Mayoral council member Kumar had promised the protesters that circus would not be allowed on the maidan in 2011-12. He kept his word. The next season, too, no circus was allowed.

“That’s bad,” Rajan Advani, a member of the morning walkers’ association, said after hearing that the CMC was planning to bring back circus to the Park Circus Maidan.

Shahanshah Mirza, a resident of Talbagan-Orient Row near the maidan, recounted the mess left by a circus in 2010.

“The circus guys dug up 50 per cent of the ground to erect tents. A part of the park was converted into a kitchen and another into a vat. Hundreds of vendors set up shop inside the park to cater to the thousands of circus-goers. The roads leading to the maidan were choked for over 10 weeks,” Mirza said.

“The park should be reserved for walks and sporting activities,” he added.

Some residents have again decided to mobilise support against circus on the maidan. “The CMC officials assured us that there would be no more circus on the ground. They have gone back on their word. We will see,” Advani said.

The anti-circus lobby had alleged that the show promoters used to give free passes to some residents to stifle the movement.