The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Puja dues turn families pariah

Behrampore, Oct. 13: About a dozen people were arrested today for forcing a social boycott on three families here as punishment for their refusal to pay exorbitant Durga puja subscriptions.

For the past eight days, the families of Vivekananda Pal, Anil and Sunil Sarkar, all residents of Behrampore town, have been forced to live without grocery, milk, domestic help and other basic amenities, courtesy members of the local Suryasena Puja Committee.

Each family on Nirupama Devi Road was asked to pay Rs 300 as subscription. The puja organisers asked Pal for the money on several occasions and, finally, on October 3. “I told them I could only give Rs 200. But they threatened us saying dacoits would break into our house. When I left for work later, some of them returned and threatened to molest my daughters and wife,” Pal wrote in his complaint with the police.

He first came to know about the boycott after the local shop refused to give him grocery. “I was stunned. It dawned on me later that it was the handiwork of the club,” Pal said.

Superintendent of police Gyanwant Singh said: “We are still conducting investigations. Action will be taken against more people, if necessary.”

Anil Sarkar’s wife Leela and son Ashok were beaten up by the club members. “After the assault on my wife and son, I filed a complaint with the police,” said Anil. His and Sunil’s family also faced the “boycott”.

Puja committee secretary Nirmal Bera admitted that the families were ostracised. “The budget was increased this year but these families were being stubborn,” he said.

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