This Dussehra, the tricity would witness social evils too go up in flames in a symbolic gesture along with the burning of the effigies of Ravan, Kumbhkaran and Meghnad. And in a true secular tradition of the Hindu festival, this year, again, the craftsmen making these effigies are Muslim.
The SAS Nagar Dussehra Committee has decided to burn a fourth effigy, of rapists, sending a message for a safer society for women. The Sector-17 Dussehra Committee in Chandigarh has plans to burn an effigy of black marketeering. Last year, many committees had burnt the effigy of corruption.
"There has been a spate in the incidents of rape, and the Delhi gangrape in December shook the entire nation. Rapists are not even sparing kids," said Madhu Bhushan from the SAS Nagar committee. "The fourth effigy will have the words 'Main Hoon Balatkari (I am a rapist)' written on it."
Ravi Sehgal of the Sector-17 committee said, "The fourth effigy will not only symbolise black marketeering but all prevalent social evils."
"The trend is picking up," said Badshah Quraishi, a Muslim craftsman from Agra busy preparing effigies in the city. "The fourth effigy is a tad smaller in size."
The effigies are made mostly by groups of 15-20 Muslim craftsmen from Uttar Pradesh, who make the business visit annually. Most are from Saharanpur, Mathura, Meerut and Muzaffarabad.
Badshah Quraishi is part of group of 25 from Agra: "There has been a significant increase in the number of craftsman coming to Chandigarh. We work in sets of 3-5 persons and prepare the effigies in 3-5 days. The charges are `30,000- 50,000." Quraishi has been a regular for 25 years now.
Akram, a craftsman from Saharanpur with 15 years' experience, told HT, "Most of the artisans have other regular jobs like that of a barber, painter, tailor and mechanic. This income is extra."