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In Photos: Durga Puja Brings Hindus & Muslims Closer

Many Hindus and Muslims across several puja marquees are working hard to make the five-day festival a success.

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4 min read
Many Hindus and Muslims across several puja marquees are working hard to make the five-day festival a success.
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At a time when West Bengal’s political atmosphere is fraught with tension over Durga idol immersion and Muharram clashing dates, Pappu Shamsi and Ashok Ojha are busy adding final touches to the puja pandal in central Kolkata’s Mohammad Ali Park, ensuring that one of the city’s most-frequented pandals is all set by shashthi.

Irrespective of the politics, many Hindus and Muslims across several puja marquees are working day and night to make the five-day festival a success. Shamsi and Ojha symbolise the communal amity that Kolkata’s many Durga puja pandals have long been associated with.

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Pappu Samshi.
Pappu Samshi.
(Photo Courtesy: Gurvinder Singh)

Pappu Shamsi, a member of the Mohammad Ali Park Durga Puja Committee in Central Kolkata has been involved in organizing the Puja for the past several years. “I have never felt that I am different from our Hindu brothers. I feel proud to be associated with the Puja committee. We share a strong bond of brotherhood and unity,” he said.

Mohammad Ali Park Durga Puja.
Mohammad Ali Park Durga Puja.
(Photo Courtesy: Gurvinder Singh)

Out of 700 members, the puja committee has around 100 Muslim members, Ashok Ojha informs, in Mohammad Ali Park Durga Puja.

Ashok Ojha.
Ashok Ojha.
(Photo Courtesy: Gurvinder Singh)

“What can showcase the Hindu-Muslim unity more prominently than the fact that the ground where the Puja is held is named after a Muslim?” Ojha asks. “The neighbourhood has over 70 percent minority population but never ever any communal tensions have occurred here,” he adds with satisfaction.

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Nabi Hasan Ansari (left) with Gautam Sarkar.
Nabi Hasan Ansari (left) with Gautam Sarkar.
(Photo Courtesy: Gurvinder Singh)

Nabi Hasan Ansari has been the organiser of Akal Bodhan Durgotsav Committee for the past 40 years and for him Durga Puja is an emotional event.

I have never been treated indifferently by my Hindu friends. We consider it to be our Puja and are emotionally, physically and mentally attached to it. We have lot of responsibilities during the Durga Puja and try to make it successful.

Gautam Sarkar who works along Ansari agrees. “We work on the principal of unity in diversity and nobody here is a Hindu or a Muslim, but all are humans,” he says.

Santosh and Ozair Ahmed (left to right). 
Santosh and Ozair Ahmed (left to right). 
(Photo Courtesy: Gurvinder Singh)

Ozair Ahmed, a travel agent believes this puja is the adhesive that will keep the communities close to each other.

Some people are conspiring to create a distance between the two communities for their own vested interests. But Durga Puja is a classic example of our unity and we remain together not only in happiness but also during tragedies.
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Md Nadir from Dusadh Seva Sangh in Chhata gali in Kolkata has been participating in Durga Puja preparations since childhood and continues to do so.

My name is Md Nadir and I am the member of Dusadh Seva Sangh in Chhata Gali in Kolkata. I along with my friend Md Nisar Ahmed have been participating in Durga Puja with my Hindu friends since childhood. We work here for five-six hours and sometimes even for 24 hours during the days leading to the Durga Puja. We share a good rapport and they also join us in our festivals. We urge all to stay together.

The celebrations are not a one sided affair. In Muharram, some Hindus also engage in Tazia processions, says Roshan Rana, secretary of Dusadh Seva Sangh.

My name is Roshan Rana and I am the secretary of Dusadh Seva Sangh. My Muslim friends are like brothers. We are also present when Tazias are being taken out during the Muharram. We have played together since childhood. Even during Durga Puja, we go together for collecting donation and for immersion of idols.
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Umae Kulsum.
Umae Kulsum.
(Photo Courtesy: Gurvinder Singh)

For Umae Kulsum of Chetla Agrani Club, Eid and Durga Puja were never any different. "Muslims are allowed to take part in all the preparations and work shoulder to shoulder with our Hindu brothers,” she says, dismissing divisive beliefs.

(Left) Md Rizwanullah with Santosh Mukherjee.
(Left) Md Rizwanullah with Santosh Mukherjee.
(Photo Courtesy: Gurvinder Singh)

Md Rizwanullah who works for 47 Pally Jubok Brindo Puja Committee agrees with West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s decision of barring idol immersion on Muharram. “It is only to prevent mischief makers from creating any tension and there is nothing political about it,” he maintains adding, “Some people might try to fan communal tension and the government is trying to prevent them.”

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Truly, the Durga Puja not only signifies triumph of good over evil but also the triumph of brotherhood over communal divide.

(The writer is a Kolkata-based freelance journalist.)

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