The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Popular pandals split over shift
- Talbagan agrees to new site, Sitala Mandir stands its ground

For one of the traffic-stopper Bosepukur pujas, 48 hours have been enough to go from resistance to reconciliation. For the other, however, a couple of days are not enough to shift either its stance or its puja site.

Two days after Calcutta High Court struck down the demand of the Bosepukur Talbagan Sarbajonin Durgotsab Committee for holding its crowd-pulling puja off the Rashbehari Avenue-EM Bypass Connector, the organisers said they were willing to move elsewhere in deference to “public opinion and the court’s wishes”.

But the other puja at the centre of the controversy, the Bosepukur Sitala Mandir Durgotsab Committee, which played a wait-and-watch game all along as its neighbourhood cousin took the matter to court, stood its ground. Even as the district police brass insisted that no puja would be allowed to hold up traffic on the thoroughfare, the Sitala Mandir organisers were busy constructing their pandal.

On Friday, the Talbagan organisers, still reeling under the shift order from a division bench of the court comprising Chief Justice A.K. Mathur and Justice A.K. Banerjee, had said they would call off Durga Puja 2003. But on Sunday they said they would celebrate the pujas, after all.

The South 24-Parganas police had offered Talbagan two alternative spots — the Rajdanga Club Samanway Committee ground a little distance away or the Calcutta Municipal Corporation’s Jhiler Math. “Keeping public opinion and the court’s order in mind, we will have our puja at Jhiler Math this year,” announced committee spokesperson Subhendu Ghosh. “Doing away with the puja at this point, after we have already spent several lakhs, is just not feasible. But police must ensure that there’s no waterlogging at the new site.”

Deputy superintendent of police (crime) Tamal Bose welcomed the Talbagan move. “We have no objection to any puja as long as it does not violate court orders and stop traffic,” he said.

The Sitala Mandir puja organisers, however, refused to budge. “This stretch has 10 other pujas. If they can be allowed, why not us'” demanded spokesperson Samir Raychaudhuri, in the same vein as the Talbagan organisers had done on Friday.

Raychaudhuri warned of “ugly incidents” if the pandal — made famous by the use of earthen cups and sugarcane for the last two pujas — was not allowed at the same spot. “We have already spent Rs 4 lakh and it’s not possible for us to shift now,” he added.

Superintendent of police Deb Kumar Ganguly, however, insisted that the Sitala Mandir organisers would have to shift if they wanted their puja to go on. “The organisers will be prosecuted if they do not dismantle the pandal,” he warned.

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