At a time when mainstreaming initiatives are gathering momentum, sex workers in three key regions of West Bengal have been denied the permission to celebrate their own Durga Puja, the biggest festival in the state.
Sex workers from Durgapur and Asansol (in Burdwan district) and Bishnupur (in Bankura district) were hopeful that this year, they would be able to put up marquees (pandals) and idols, through donations collected from the members.
“However, barring Bishnupur, sex workers in the other two areas were denied permission by local police authorities.
“We had approached the local police for permission and they told us we had to obtain permits either from the Calcutta High Court or state government,” a spokesperson for Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Samiti (DMSS) told on Tuesday.
Durbar is the largest collective of sex workers in the state with 65,000 members while the state has about twice as many sex workers.
“Bishnupur harbours around 200 workers and they have a very good rapport with the local administration,” the spokesperson added.
Durga puja this year will be celebrated September 29 to October 03. The Bishnupur puja will be inaugurated on September 29 (the day marked as Sashti).
Bharati Dey, secretary of Durbar, said, besides the three areas, sex workers from other pockets in the state had also shown an interest to have their own celebrations after the Calcutta High Court last year allowed the DMSS to hold its own Durga puja, for the first time, within Sonagachi, located in the northern part of the city.
But the sex workers in Sonagachi, said to be the largest red light area in Asia, are a disappointed lot on being denied permission to scale up their puja festivities this year.
The maiden festivity in 2013 saw more than 3,000 sex workers pitching in to erect a pandal and idol within the directed eight ft by 12 ft space in front of the NGO’s office in Sonagachi.
This time the marginalised community was ardently looking forward to a bigger celebration and preparations were in full swing.
“But the Kolkata police authorities have told us we can’t set up a larger marquee (15 ft by 10 ft).
“The advance payment we had made for the bigger marquee and idol has gone waste. We have changed our order for a smaller idol,” the spokesperson said.