| Tripura Assembly. File picture |
Agartala, June 9: A puja has been performed in the Tripura Assembly building — a Marxist citadel for more than three decades — to drive away ghosts.
Religious rituals were offered to Lord Narayan, the Hindu god for orderly maintenance of family and society, within the hallowed premises of the Assembly building yesterday. The daylong rituals, worship and the chanting of the hymns of holy Bhagawad Gita were conducted in strict secrecy in the room allotted to the media on the ground floor with entry rights restricted to only 300-odd employees of the Assembly.
Neither Speaker Ramendra Debnath nor Assembly secretary Subhas Bhattacharjee attended the religious rituals though they gave permission for it, responding to entreaties from the employees.
Marxist political culture has been predominant in Tripura for the past three-and-a-half decades with the CPM-led Left Front enjoying power for more than 31 years since 1978 and for more than 21 years uninterruptedly since 1993. But the concept of life and society, as propounded by Karl Marx, seems not to have had any effect on the mass psyche.
A clerk in the Assembly, Purnendu Ghosh, however, said the rites and rituals were performed in a specific context.
“Since the Assembly was shifted here in the capital complex from its erstwhile location within the royal Ujjayanta Palace in 2012, at least seven of our colleagues have died — all prematurely. This huge building becomes a haunted house from evening. On many occasions over the past two years, some of our colleagues have fallen ill or senseless while moving through the building at night. Even guards dare not patrol the building at night. Many have heard eerie sounds and mysterious laughter. In March this year, Nantu Chakraborty, 55, a healthy colleague, was diagnosed with cancer and died within a fortnight,” he said.
Ghosh, one of the main enthusiasts for the puja, said shortly after the “mysterious happenings” they came to know that more than 250 corpses, all slain by rioteers at Mandai in the June 1980 ethnic killings, had been buried at the site of the new Assembly building.
“After the Mandai massacre, the state government, headed by then chief minister Nripen Chakraborty, got jittery that the sight of the bodies might spin the situation beyond control and ordered a mass burial at the very spot the Assembly building stands now. This piece of information unnerved all of us,” he added.
He said all the employees, particularly women, were scared and keen to organise a puja to propitiate the gods or get rid of the evil spirits creating all the troubles. “Our main problem is staying within the Assembly during sessions of the House when our departure gets delayed. The women were preparing to go on mass leave to avoid being present in the Assembly after dusk during the budget session in March.”
Ghosh said the employees kept trying to organise the religious ritual. When they sought the Speaker’s permission, he laughed off the idea. But finally, in the face of their entreaties, he gave the green signal, with a condition — it must be performed in strict secrecy on a holiday with entry restricted only to employees.
Taking a cue from the Speaker, the Assembly secretary directed the employees to organise the programme in the media room of the building.
The religious programme was organised yesterday, a Sunday, in strict secrecy in compliance with the Speaker’s wishes but only after a priest had cleared the date as suitable for puja according to tithi (auspicious date).
“None of us took photos of the events even on mobile phones,” Ghosh said.
The Speaker was not available for comment while the secretary, a former district and sessions judge, refused to go on record.