Hindu Festival Returns Despite Ethnic Cleansing by Christian Militants
Posted October 7, 2005
Times of India
[ THURSDAY, OCTOBER 06, 2005 12:42:13 AM ]
There are no Bengalis in Tripura's Jampuijala-Takarjala anymore. They left a few years back, staring at death and defeat at the hands of tribal militants. And with them vanished the annual Durga Puja. This year the goddess has returned.
The tribals, who once helplessly saw her being sent away, have brought her back.Tribal communities, who could do little as Bengalis fled what was one of Tripura's killing fields, a "free zone"of separatist militants, said they took the initiative as they "missed"their Bengali neighbours too much.
Bikash Debbarma, secretary of Radiant Club in Takarjala, said: "This year our club will organise the puja in a big way. It will have a distinct tribal touch though.
The Durga idol will be attired in tribal dresses like Ria and Pacchra. A tribal, Sumanta Debbarnma, would construct the pandal. And we shall invite the families who fled from Takarjala to attend the puja."
Trigger-happy militants had forbidden all Hindu festivals in large parts of the state, Jampuijala-Takarjala being one. The situation turned worse with large-scale displacement of Bengalis from the area due to violence.
An area with mixed population once, the region does not have any non-tribal population now.
But the tribals are undeterred.Since last year, winds of change have begun blowing across the land with many local clubs deciding to organise Durga Puja. "As many as 13 puja panels in Jampuijala-Takarjala sought permission from the police station.
And all these clubs and puja committees are run by tribals,"a police officer from the area said. In fact, this is for the first time that Durga Puja is being held at remote Sombariabazar.
The festive mood is pervasive. The Shantikami Club here has decided to organise a four-day long cultural programme and stage a play that has aptly been called Abar Phirey Takao, Turn Back to Us Again.
"We can't forget how Jampuijala was once considered the best example of mixed culture and communal fraternity,"said a nostalgic Abhiram Debbarma of Humchung Club.