Tripura: Durga Puja in Muslim-dominated slum bears message of communal harmony

Agartala: Unfettered by last year’s blasphemous Durga Puja incidents in Bangladesh that evoked violent reactions in some parts of Tripura, 52-year-old Hanif Ali is busy fixing the lighting arrangements in the bridge that connects his area with Agartala city. 

Being a member of his area’s Durga Puja advisory committee, Ali has been assigned the job to ensure the necessary lighting arrangements in the area. His friend, Shah Alam Miah, is also assisting him in the job. Both of them are very happy this year as the Puja that they started when they were in their late twenties entered its twentieth year in 2022.

Hanif Ali, a small-scale contractor by profession, still vividly remembers his youth days when people of both the Hindu and Muslim communities, shedding all the differences, came together to start community Puja in the local school field. “Under the guidance of our elders, we have worked together to ensure that this Puja was organised in our area in the year 2003. Since then, we did not allow anything to stop the celebration of the annual festival,” said Ali.

The community Puja is organised at Tularmath, Mollapara. The area is a Muslim-dominated slum where the majority of the people are associated with different sorts of menial work. Located a few kilometres away on the East side of Ramangara outpost, this area is a house of around 5,000 people for whom this is the only community Puja that is observed.

Swapan Das, one of the key members of the organising committee told EastMojo that this Durga Puja stands as the symbol of unity among the Hindus and Muslims of the area. Das said, “The year was 2003 when we started this Puja. Earlier, we were covered under different clubs and other organisers. But those pujas were located far away from our area. The elders of the six localities of this place have discussed among themselves and resolved to organise a puja in the school field.”

Initially, he said, local clubs flagged objections and asked them not to split their area but they turned those down. “We have told the club members that people of both the Hindu and Muslim communities have agreed to organise a puja in our own place. We jumped to a consensus with an agreement that we would not go out of our area for the collection of subscriptions. And, since then all the Hindu and Muslim brothers and sisters of the area have been organising the Durga puja for the last 20 years. We did whatever we could but never gave a miss to the annual festival,” said Das.

Echoing similar views, Jahangir Miah of the same locality said, “We don’t have any dispute between us. The Muslim families show their support in the social functions of Hindus and Hindus also take part in the festivities of our religion. There stands no discrimination; we are all brothers and sisters here.”

Shah Alam Miah, another slum dweller who is associated with the Puja, said his locality had never witnessed any sort of face-off or dispute between these two communities. “We keep hearing about reports of conflicts between two communities. But our area is different from other places. In the last 20 years, never ever have we witnessed any kind of face-off, dispute or objection regarding this puja,” he said. Hanif Ali also said that like Durga Puja, Hindus of the area extend full support during Eid and take part in their festivities spontaneously.

Apart from this puja, a number of Durga Pujas are organized in the Sonamura area under the Sepahijala district where Muslim elders head puja committees and extend every support for peaceful celebrations of the festival.   

Also read | Tripura: Durga Puja celebrations begin amid tight security

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