For the first time in five years, sex workers of Sonagachi, considered Asia’s largest red-light area, will be able to scale up their Durga Puja to a major celebration that they have been demanding for quite some time.
Inhabitants of Sonagachi in north Kolkata have been organising their own Durga Puja since 2013, albeit with a gap year 2016. However, in pursuance of the Calcutta High Court’s ruling, the magnitude of festivities was restricted to a small community hall.
“We did not appeal in the high court last year as every year we used to appeal to let us have our own marquee and idol and the result was the same,” Kajol Bose, secretary, Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Samiti (DMSS), a sex workers collective,said.
“This time, however, the high court ruled in our favour and we are going for a full fledged marquee as well as idol.”
So with a budget of Rs 4 lakh – double than that of the previous editions – an eight feet by 20 feet marquee has been erected outside the DMSS’s clinic. This is the only puja for the sex workers community in Kolkata, they said.
“A five-member team comprising representatives of police, Kolkata Municipal Corporation, fire department and our collective was constituted by the court to decide the location and other details,” Bose said.
Close to 20,000 visitors from the community are expected and special ‘prasad’ delivery arrangements have also been planned.
“Since it a very busy time of the year for sex workers and they work at night, many would be unable to avail of the ‘bhog’ (prasad) next morning. So we have teams who would distribute the food to sex workers and our staff members,” Bose said.
The Ashtami Bhog comprising khichdi would not only be provided to sex workers of Sonagachi but also to inhabitants of red light areas in Kidderpore and other pockets in the city.
“This year sex workers in Basirhat are holding their own celebration for the first time. Communities in Bishnupur and Cooch Behar have their own festivities as well,” Bose added.