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BJP slams Mamata for politicising army's mock drill


Kolkata, 2 December: The Bhartiya Janta Party has hit back at West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee for politicising the moch drill conducted by the Indian Army and alleged that she is least bothered about her state and of late has been campaigning across the country against the Center's demonetisation move.

BJP leader Rahul Sinha said "It's so ridiculous that the CM does not know about the mock drill of the army, which takes place every three to four hour years. It is quite strange that the CM is not aware about it even as the CM and state administration has proper knowledge about the same". 

Mamata Banerjee has said that she is waiting at at the Bengal State Secretariat "to guard democracy" as the army is still stationed at the spot even hours after she expressed her apprehensions on the same.

Mamata Banerjee described the event as extremely unfortunate.

She tweeted "Very unfortunate. Army stationed in front of Nabanno, the Bengal State Secretariat in a high security zone, in-spite of police objection,"

She also said 'this move clearly violates the nation's federal structure, she said "The state was not informed about this development. In a federal structure, the functions of Center and state are clearly divided. But this act clearly violates our jurisdiction".

BJP said, Narendra Modi will become PM Again whether Mamata Banerjee lives on not


Kolkata, 29 November: Disregarding West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee's ominous declaration of removing Prime Minister Narendra Modi from Indian politics, an unfazed Bhartiya Janta Party on Monday said that she has clearly lost her mental balance post demonetisation. 

BJP leader Siddharth Nath Singh said in counter attack "She has certainly lost her cool and certainly lost her mental balance which should be there as a politician, therefore she is angry and ranting these kind of language against the Prime Minister Modi. I can only say to Mamata Banerjee, whether she lives on die I have nothing to do with it, but Narendra Modi will become the Prime Minister of India after 2019,".

Earlier this day, Mamata Banerjee said in a statement, 'I will remove Prime Minsiter Narendra Modi from Indian politics either I will die or live.

Singur awaits land handover to farmers from thursday


Singur (West Bengal), Oct 19: West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee is all set to kick off the process to hand over physical possession of land to farmers from Thursday.

The announcement has led to a second spell of festivities -- after Durga Puja -- in this rural pocket of Hooghly district.

Following the Supreme Court order to return to the cultivators within 12 weeks the land that had been acquired for the Tata Motors' Nano project, the state government has been trying to complete the process of giving physical possession within 10 weeks.

The court-stipulated time-frame will expire by November-end.

"The process of giving physical possession of land will start from Gopalnagar," a district official involved with the process told IANS.

"It is a time-consuming process as there are several legal heirs. We have to convince the farmers about the specific plots they will now own. It will be done in a phased manner," he added.

The apex court on August 31 struck down the land acquisition by the erstwhile Left Front government for the Tata Motors' Nano project.

The main function would be held in a part of the project area where the land is yet to be made cultivable.

"This is a day we had been waiting for since long. We had fought only to get back our land that was snatched from us," said Mahadeb Das, an unwilling land-loser and local Trinamool Congress activist, who lost 1.3 acres of land.

"Everyone is in a festive mood here. Many villagers resumed Durga Puja after almost a decade. There will be no discrimination among farmers. Physical possession will be given to both willing and unwilling farmers," he said in a jubilant mood.

Banerjee has already announced that as much as 80 per cent of total 997.11 acres of land acquired for the small factory project has already been made cultivable.

The government departments would continue their efforts to remove the mass of concrete present over 36 acres of land in the project and make it cultivable, too.

Two weeks after the Supreme Court's order, the state government had in September celebrated the "Singur Festival" in the rural hamlet by distributing land records and compensations.

To mark the anti-acquisition movement, the main function was held at Sanapara -- the same spot of the Durgapur Expressway where Banerjee had held a 16-day sit-in protest in 2008, demanding that the 400 acres acquired for the project be returned to the "unwilling farmers".

The intense -- and often violent -- peasant movement had resulted in Tata Motors abandoning the Singur project and later bringing out the small car Nano from Sanand in Gujarat.

Lakshmi Puja observes in Bengal


Kolkata, Oct 15: Households and community marquees across West Bengal celebrated Kojagori Lakshmi Puja on Saturday night with much fanfare and fervour, fasting late into the night and praying for prosperity and wealth.

Popularly known as Kojagori Lakshmi puja in this part of India, it is observed on a full moon night (Kojagori Purnima) after Durga Puja. 

The word Kojagori literally means a night of awakening and signifies 'ke jege ache' or 'who is awake' in keeping with the belief that goddess Lakshmi, the Hindu goddess of wealth, visits every house at night to ascertain who is awake and blesses those who are awake, with fortune and prosperity.

To guide the goddess into their homes, women and children drew colourful 'Alpona' patterns from rice flour on the floor, across doorways and inside temples. Powdered rice was used to draw the goddess's feet entering the house.

Families offered grain, flattened rice, gold, clothes, fruits, vegetables as well as fish in obeisance to the deity who is worshipped in the form of clay idols, photographs and earthen discs with paintings of Lakshmi (called 'pat'). 

Sounds of conch shells reverberated across the eastern metropolis in the evening as the rituals started in full swing, ahead of late night vigils to welcome the goddess. 

The puja also coincides with the harvest festival (Nabanna). 

Family gatherings with generous servings of luchis (fried flour chapatis) with an array of sugary chutneys and laddoos helped masked the sadness that prevails after the conclusion of the Durga puja. 

Durga Puja ends in Bengal, Goddess Durga immersed


Kolkata, Oct 11: Teary-eyed devotees bade an emotional farewell, as idols of goddess Durga and her children were immersed on Tuesday in lakes, and rivers and ponds of West Bengal on Vijaya Dashami, bringing to an end five days of revelry and celebration associated with eastern India's biggest festival.

However, as decreed by the state government and the court, idols worshipped in the households or apartment complexes were to be immersed till a deadline of 6 p.m. Four household pujas were given extension till 8.30 p.m.

But reports from the 17 ghats (each having a set of stairs leading to the river) on the banks of the Hooghly said lot of idols were in the queue for the immersion even at 8 p.m.

The idols of community pujas would be immersed from Thursday. The government has decided not to allow any immersion on Wednesday on account of Muharram.

There was a festive look on the banks of the Ganga and other water bodies. With drums playing the immersion beats "Thakur thakbe kotokshon, thakur jabe bisarjan (How long will the goddess stay on earth, She will now be immersed)", children, young and the old joined hands to slowly put the idols into the water.

At Babughat, one of the prominent immersion banks in Kolkata, the rituals picked up pace from around 3 p.m. With the large scale community puja organisers opting to immerse their idols after Moharram, mostly idols of household and apartment complex puja were immersed here on Tuesday.

"We are feeling a bit sorry as today is Dashami. Durga Puja is the time for reunion and merriment for our entire complex. We all get together and enjoy for these four days," said Debasis Sarkar, one of the organisers of Sahana Association Puja Committee of Rajdanga.

Sad at the festival getting over for the year, there was some consolation from the loud cries of "asche bochor abar hobe (See you next year)".

A salient feature at Babughat was the alacrity with which the premise was being promptly cleaned by the 20 KMC workers after each idol was placed in the river. The flowers and debris are washed away and the structures removed to prevent river pollution.

"We are working to keep the river clean. Separate space has been created to dump the flowers and other puja materials. The idol structures will be removed by tomorrow during the time of low tide," said Sahahjahan, a KMC worker busy removing the earthen lamps from the river bank.

A check-in competition was seen at the Babughhat premises.

Social media portal like Facebook and Instagram went into a tizzy as the young brigade from mostly residential apartments flashed out their selfie sticks and were seen glued to their smart phones announcing their presence before anyone else on arrival to the ghat.

"There is a lot of competition among para (locality) pujas. So we thought of outshinig Athe others by checking in first and posting selfies. This is for fun as we are hooked to social media," said Sanju, a 19-year-old devotee.

#BijoyaDashami trended heavily on Twitter all through the afternoon along with #Dussehra as posts flooded notifications of one and all.

Facebook's new Live video facility were also used to the optimum as many were seen filming the entire immersion ceremony and huddling in groups to see the comments.

With Mahanavami over, it was now time for the goddess to return to her husband Lord Shiva at their heavenly abode in Mount Kailash after the annual sojourn to her paternal home.

Tight security arrangements were made at the rivebanks and launches were kept ready to rescue people in case of emergencies, police said.

The Dashami rituals in the morning saw married women preparing the goddess and her children for their long journey back home by smearing the deities and each other with red vermilion.

They also offered sweets to the god, and prayed for the well-being of their families and long lives of their husbands while performing these rituals.

There were long queues before sweet shops as people started visiting relatives and friends to wish each other "Shubho Bijoya (Happy Vijaya Dashami)".

President Pranab Mukherjee inaugurates military station in Bengal

Baharampur (West Bengal), Oct 8: President Pranab Mukherjee on Saturday inaugurated a new military station in Murshidabad district in West Bengal.

Mukherjee, who had also laid the foundation stone of the Berhampore Military Station in 2014, said that the station has great importance because it is the only such station between Siliguri (in north Bengal) and Kolkata which is very near to Bangladesh border.

In his address, he also appreciated the sacrifices of Indian soldiers and said that they have shown exemplary courage in every battlefield. He saluted the brave hearts whose sacrifices are unparalleled.

Mukherjee, who is on a five-day visit to West Bengal, also inaugurated the Kamoda Kinkar Mukhopadhyay Sarani, a street named after his freedom fighter father, at Suri in neighbouring Birbhum district. He also launched the silver jubilee celebrations of Dishari Club.

He said Mukhopadhyay was among the freedom fighters who fought relentlessly to free the country from British despotism.

He said that during the freedom struggle, several renowned patriots followed Mahatma Gandhiji's principle of non-violence and there were many others who followed the stream of revolution and there was another stream too which posed organised threat to British imperialism and they were the tribals. Birbhum is one of the districts from where the Santhals rose up to fight the British hegemony.

The president lauded the 'Clean India' initiative of the Narendra Modi government and said that the entire country and all its villages and cities should be kept clean and pollution-free.

He said everybody should come forward and work unitedly under this initiative.

Bengal resonates with prayers, revelry on Maha Saptami


Kolkata, Oct 9: After a scintillating start, the Durga Puja spirit soared on Saturday which marked Maha Saptami -- Day Two of the Puja -- as thousands of revellers decked up in their best hit the streets of the metropolis and other places across West Bengal.

Bells chimed, cymbals clanged and the invigorating beats of 'dhaak' (drums) set the pace for the rest of the day.

People from the metropolis, the Bengal villages, other parts of India as also various countries walked shoulder to shoulder in gay abandon, paying obeisance to the goddess and watching in awe the colossal marquees -- many of them beautiful works of art -- on Maha Saptami (the seventh Lunar day).

They danced, mingled with friends and family, relished the street food on makeshift stalls and patiently stood in long queues before the landmark marquees. Even spells of rain failed to dampen their spirits.

At least 3,000 community pujas have been organised in Kolkata, with diverse themes, lighting and decorations wooing the people.

The day began with morning prayers, as the rituals started off with 'pran pratistha', wherein the deity was symbolically endowed with life and invoked in a group of nine plants bunched together -- the Navapatrika.

The 'Kola Bou', a tender banana plant symbolising a bride, was given a river bath amidst drum beats, wrapped in a sari and placed next to the idol of Lord Ganesha, the elephant-headed god.

Through 'pran pratistha', the spirit of Durga as a warrior goddess is awakened, and she starts her battle against all evils manifested as Mahishasura -- the buffalo demon.

In consonance with custom, fasting devotees offered flowers to the goddess in obeisance and later gorged on an array of delicacies.

President Pranab Mukherjee donned the priest's robes and performed customary rituals for the Durga Puja at his ancestral home in West Bengal's Birbhum district.

The five-day carnival is the biggest annual event in this part of the world when even newspapers shut down and roads are chock-o-block with humans throughout the day and night.

People flooded the innovative marquees with family in tow. With hands folded in prayer, children joined their parents in chanting "Dugga Dugga" (Durga). Vacationers and shutterbugs jostled past crowds to get their best snaps and capture the fervour.

The Golaghata Sarbojoni Puja, in east Kolkata, the theme is dedicated to postcards stamps and letter boxes. The marquee resembles a giant mailbox. It has been set up with at least 50,000 postcards with the help of Kolkata BPO.

Organisers at the Beliaghata 33 Pally marquee have dabbled in nostalgia surrounding the Ambassador yellow taxis. They have artistically incorporated 15 taxis, 200 silencer pipes, 300 car doors and other parts of the vehicles to signify the importance of the cabs.

The pujas at the houses of erstwhile zamindar (landowner) families of Hatkhola's Duttas, the Devs of Shovabazar in North Kolkata and Bhowanipore's Mullicks also drew a steady stream of onlookers.

Traditional pujas usually have medium-sized idols within one frame (ek chala) and are decorated with pith.

According to Hindu mythology, the festivities and prayers begin with the symbolic arrival of the goddess on earth on the sixth day of the first quarter of the moon and ends on Dashami or the 10th day, which is celebrated across the country as Dussehra.

Traditionally, every pandal has an idol of goddess Durga depicting her as slaying Mahishasur. She is shown riding a lion and wielding an array of weapons in her 10 arms.

Agartala Durga Puja pandal pays tribute to Uri martyrs


Agartala, Oct 8: Departing from the normal, a Durga Puja pandal (marquee) here is paying tribute to the 19 Indian Army soldiers martyred in a terrorist attack on their camp in Uri in Jammu and Kashmir last month.

Thousands of puja revellers thronged the Agantuk Club Durga Puja pandal (marquee) here to pray before the goddess and pay their respects to the martyred soldiers.

"We have displayed the photographs of those martyred in Uri to keep alive the memory of their sacrifice," Kanraj Sarkar, a senior member of the Agantuk Club, told IANS.

"TSR (Tripura State Rifles) troopers also paid their homage to the slain soldiers," he added.

Sarkar, who conceptualised the pandal, said several especially-made oversized candles would illuminate the area.

"After the Uri attack, we changed the design of the pandal and decided to pay homage to our soldiers who sacrificed their lives for the nation. And, after the surgical strikes (across the LoC in Jammu and Kashmir), we felt there is utmost need to show our gratitude to them," Sarkar said.

Meanwhile, though at least 2,515 community Durga Pujas, including 1,495 in rural and interior areas and about 100 family events are being held in Tripura, the one at the Durgabari temple of the erstwhile royal family remains the main attraction for numerous reasons, including for its centuries-old customs that are kept alive to this day.

The erstwhile royal family closely oversees the 500-yeaqr-old Durgabari temple's Durga Puja, which is sponsored by Tripura's ruling Left Front led by the Communist Party of India-Marxist. The state government's sponsorship is mandated under the agreement by which the Tripura merged with the Indian Union on October 15, 1949.

With 'Maha Sasthi' or 'Bodhan' -- the welcoming of the Durga idols -- the five-day long Puja began on Friday at the Durgabari temple, located in front of the 115-year-old Ujjayanta Palace, eastern India's biggest royal mansion, now turned into a museum.

Traditional themes, prevailing issues and events continue to dominate Puja pandals in the state with historical events forming part of the theme for decorations.

Since Friday afternoon, people have started visiting the pandals to see the imaginative decorations and Durga idols across the state. Teenagers and children are adding to the festivities.

"Unlike in the past, there are no reports about extremists creating problems or asking people not to organise the Puja. The number of Durga Pujas has also increased in rural and remote areas," Tripura Director General of Police K. Nagaraj told IANS.

President of India arrives in Bengal's Birbhum to celebrate Durga Puja


Kolkata, Oct 7: President Pranab Mukherjee on Friday arrived on a five-day visit to West Bengal to celebrate Durga Puja at his ancestral house in Mirati in Birbhum district.

Mukherjee flew in a helicopter to his elder sister Annapurna Devi's house at Kirnahar town in the afternoon amid tight security.

The President has for years taken up the priest's role during puja in his household at Mirati.

Mukherjee is also scheduled to inaugurate a new military station at Baharampur in Murshidabad district, besides attending a felicitation programme at Birbhum district headquarters Suri on Saturday.

At Suri, he will also formally rechristen a road after his freedom fighter father Kamada Kinkar Mukherjee.

On Sunday, he will launch a health awareness programme, before returning to Delhi on Tuesday.

In the wake of the tension on the country's western border, security has been beefed up for the President, a police officer said.

Interacting with the media on his arrival, Mukherjee said he will meet commoners and old acquaintances during his sojourn, as he had done in previous years.

"I extend my best wishes to all on the occasion of Durga Puja," said Mukherjee.