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Monday, October 18, 2021

‘Lakhimpur Kheri’ finds space in a Puja pandal

The Dum Dum Park Bharat Chakra Puja Committee, which is in its 21st year, highlights the plight of farmers and their struggle against three Central agrarian laws.

By: Express News Service | Kolkata |
October 7, 2021 5:23:36 am
A Durga Puja pandal depicting the farm law agitation and Lakhimpur Kheri violence was unveiled in Kolkata on Wednesday at Dum Dum Park Bharat Chakra Club (Express Photo: Partha Paul)

Expressing solidarity with farmers after four of them were killed in Uttar Pradesh’s Lakhimpur Kheri district on Sunday during a protest, a Durga Puja in Kolkata this year has woven the incident into their pandal (marquee) theme.

The Dum Dum Park Bharat Chakra Puja Committee, which is in its 21st year, highlights the plight of farmers and their struggle against three Central agrarian laws.

At the entrance, the artist who designed the pandal has placed a tractor with two wings attached to it. The wings, organisers said, symbolise freedom from bondage and the wish of people that the farmers’ protest achieves its objectives soon.

The artist has also placed footwear of different types and sizes at the entrance, along with police barricades. “The footwear symbolise gathering at a protest and also highlight how police action sometimes forces protesters to run away, leaving their slippers behind,” a member of the Puja committee said on Wednesday.

Inside the pandal, a painting of an SUV and two actual tyres adorn a wall along with a slogan that reads, “Motorgari oray dhulo, niche pore chashi gulo [The motorcar speeds up, sending up clouds of dust, and crushes farmers under its wheels].”

Artist Anirban Das who conceptualised the pandal’s theme has also used other slogans such as “We are farmers, not terrorists”, “No farmer, no future”, “Jai Jawan, Jai Kisan”. Das said jute papers had been used to highlight the slogans. A “paddy field” surrounds the Durga idol to explain the centrality of agriculture to life in India.

The Puja committee’s secretary Pratik Chowdhury told The Indian Express, “With Durga Puja being one of the greatest carnivals on earth, we often take the opportunity to spread messages. It is nothing political. The Puja pandal theme usually follows current topics. So, we thought since there have been several farmers’ protests for ages, and this is the most talked-about topic, why not make it a theme of the Puja pandal and show solidarity with farmers? We have spent Rs 25-26 lakh to create this theme.”

He added, “There have been many peasant protests and revolts in India. We have tried to touch all the movements such as Tebhaga Movement and Neel Bidroha [Indigo Revolt]. At the entrance of the pandal, police barricades have been put up, several shoes and footwear have been used to show huge gatherings at farmers’ protests.”

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