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12 Aug 2017

Kurseong to miss century-old Durga Puja

The Raj Rajeshwari Hall before it was torched
Bireswar Banerjee, TT, Siliguri, Aug. 11: The organiser of a 102-year-old Durga Puja in Kurseong has decided not to celebrate the festival this time as the hall where it is held has been torched by suspected Gorkhaland supporters.
The Puja organised by the Bengali Sangha since 1915 is the only one in Kurseong. Since 1930, it is being held in the Raj Rajeshwari Hall, which was set on fire on July 20.
"We have to cancel this year's Durga Puja as there is no other place where we can hold it. We are not sure about next year too," said Sujit Mukherjee, one of the members of the organising committee.
Another impediment to holding the Puja is the indefinite strike, another member said.
"The strike is still continuing and only six weeks are left for Durga Puja to begin. Many members of the association have left for the plains since the statehood movement resumed," the member said.
As of now, only seven or eight of the association's 85 members are in Kurseong.
"Considering the current state of affairs in the hills, we held a meeting a couple of days ago and decided against holding the Puja this year. It is unfortunate but we don't have any option," Mukherjee said.
The association has cancelled the order for the idol placed before a Siliguri-based artisan. Besides, the " dhakis" (drummer) from Malda and the priest who comes from Balurghat every year have also been informed about the cancellation of the Puja.
The single-storied Raj Rajeshwari Hall was built in 1930. Made of stone and wood, the building had been undergoing repairs when the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha called the strike. The shutdown brought the renovation to a halt.
The chief minister had sanctioned Rs 38 lakh for renovating the community hall when the separate Kalimpong district was formed in February.
In Kalimpong too, members of the Kalimpong Sarbojanin Durgotsav Committee, which organises one of the most prominent Pujas in the town, are uncertain about holding the festival this year.

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