Durga is among the most potent Hindu deities. But that does not mean She can avoid abduction in militancy-mauled Assam.
Myriad militant outfits have often robbed Durga Puja of its gloss in Assam. Attacks – like the blast last year that injured five persons near a pandal at Japarigog here – have invariably resulted in festivities under security cover.
The authorities are determined to buck the trend, claiming foolproof security to ensure a safe Puja across some 350 pandals in this State capital. “We are leaving no stone unturned to guarantee an incident-free festival,” said Kamrup (Metro) deputy commissioner Prateek Hajela.
But all the security arrangements cannot help Goddess Durga from falling into the militant trap – at least at the venue of the Puja organized by the Beltola Lakhimandir Sarbajanin Puja Committee. The festivities begin on the day of Saptami on Friday.
Here, ‘militant’ Mahishashura and his fellow demons are poised to abduct Durga in a palanquin. The organizers spent the bulk of a budget of Rs 8 lakh on giving a “militant twist” to the Durga story.
“We are not playing with religious sentiments,” asserted Committee president Shibram Rabha. “This dramatized Durga is to attract the crowds; so we have alongside a conventional idol for worshipping.”
The Committee has splurged on thematic lighting too, as have most of the major Puja bodies elsewhere in the City. In contrast, the Pujas in Manipur are pale with protests over “fake encounters” getting stronger by the day.
The Pujas organized by the Meitei community and some 200,000 Bengalis across Imphal Valley have consequently been low-key this time. Organizers have also sought from the government police protection fearing subversive attacks from militants.
“Musical concerts and Shumang Leela (traditional courtyard theatre) were an inseparable part of Pujas. But these are unlikely this time given the situation we are in,” said a member of Puja Committee in State capital Imphal.