If the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) has its way, the city's 75-year-old tradition is all set to be broken. The civic body has refused to grant permission to Shivaji Park's famed Durga Puja, citing the Bombay High Court's order, which had deemed the park a silence zone.
The Bengal Club, organisers of the Durga Puja have filed a petition in the high court, which will come up for hearing on Monday. In May this year, the HC had ruled that the park be classified a silence zone and had asked the BMC to set aside 30 days in the year where non-sporting activities would be allowed there. Now, the BMC claims that there have already been non-sporting activities on 25 out of those 30 days and hence, permissions for the 8-day Durga Puja celebrations can't be granted.
Amit Choudhury, vice-president, Bengal Club, said, "We've been celebrating the puja since 75 years now and it's not right for the BMC to suddenly not grant permission.”
The puja, which was first held in 1968, has been a well-known feature of the park, attracting more than a lakh visitors over eight days. He added, “The BMC has been granting permission for commercial festivals in the park. With us, they aren’t even thinking twice before breaking this 75-year-old tradition.”
Civic officials said they were helpless. “The court’s order to restrict non-sporting activities to 30 days a year came recently and many events were held before that. Hence, 25 out of 30 days have been exhausted,” said assistant municipal commissioner, G North, Devendra Jain.
Ashok Rawat, whose petition got Shivaji Park the status of a silence zone, said, "During these Durga Puja celebrations, the organisers set up food courts, cook on the grounds and trucks damage the ground."
Choudhury said all precautions had been taken to ensure neither locals nor the ground were affected this year. “We aren't using any loudspeakers. Also, we have shifted all our cultural activities to a nearby auditorium. We are not letting trucks inside the ground to ensure it is not damaged.” The high court had allowed them to go ahead with preparations while reserving the hearing for Monday.