Writ petition against state of West Bengal for prohibitory orders on idol immersion during Muharram

The petition has been filed on behalf of the ‘Bonedi Bari Puja’, traditional Durga pujas celebrated in the city’s ancient residences.

Written by Aniruddha Ghosal | Kolkata | Updated: October 2, 2016 6:04 am
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A writ petition has been filed in the Calcutta High Court challenging the state government’s order prohibiting the immersion of Durga idols after 4 pm from October 11 to 12 on account of Vijay Dashami coinciding with Muharram.

Terming the order “illegal, wrongful, mala fide and without any basis”, the petition asks for it to be quashed, and has accused the authorities of “putting in peril the freedom of religion and the right of the petitioners to observe and celebrate their religion”. The petition is likely to be heard on Monday.

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The petition has been filed on behalf of the ‘Bonedi Bari Puja’, traditional Durga pujas celebrated in the city’s ancient residences. The petitioners, Ajoy Kumar Dutta and Kanchan Dutt, have filed the writ against the Kolkata police commissioner and deputy commissioner of police (North) besides the state, and have sought “permission for immersion of the deity of Holy Mother Durga on October 11, 2016, at around 6 – 7 pm.”

While releasing the festival edition of Jago Bangla, the mouthpiece of TMC, on Friday, Mamata had urged the public to “maintain communal harmony”.

Joint Commissioner of Police (Headquarters) Supratim Sarkar said, “There will be no idol immersion after 4 pm on October 11, which is Dashami, as the Muharram procession will start after that. On October 12, again, there will be no immersion due to Muharram. On October 13 and 14, people will be allowed to carry out the immersion process for the whole. As per now, this is the final plan.” The government had made similar arrangements in 2015.

According to the petitioners, the biggest impact the decision had had was on the scores of pujas celebrated in the city’s old homes, concentrated in north Kolkata, where some pujas had a history of over 150 years. A patriarch of one such puja, who didn’t wish to be named, explained, “We are all very concerned about this. The modern pujas, in big pandals, aren’t as affected. But for us, tradition dictates that the goddess leaves our home by 4 pm and is immersed by 7 pm. This is according to the rituals of Hinduism and hasn’t been violated for over a century. This decision has hurt our sentiments greatly.”

The petition goes on to claim that Muharram is not observed “on October 11, when the immersion procession of the deity prayed at the said ancestral residence of the petitioners is scheduled” and that “Muharram would not be taken out this year along the route followed by the petitioners for immersion of the deity of Goddess Durga prayed at the ancestral residence of petitioners”.