As the four-day-long Durga Puja festivities began in earnest on Thursday with different parts of West Bengal celebrating it in various styles, the Maoist-affected Jangalmahal region in Paschim Medinipur district too was not far behind this time — shedding off the legacy of violence perpetrated by the left-wing extremists and looking forward to a new beginning.
More than 150 pujas have been organised in the four most-troubled blocks of the district, suggesting an improvement in the security situation.
The number of community pujas being held is significant in view of the fact that barely one-third of it could be organised last year due to the Maoist activities.
“Twelve community pujas have been registered under Lalgarh police station area alone. Several pujas are being organised in the Goaltore, Binpur, Jhargram and Nayagram areas which were virtually the strongholds of the Maoists last year. It goes on to show that the situation in the region has improved following the security operations,” District Superintendent of Police Manoj Kumar Verma told The Hindu.
Security, however, remained a persistent issue amidst celebrations with three people falling victims to suspected Maoist violence on Wednesday.
Though security has been stepped up at the puja venues, Mr. Verma admitted that it was not possible to stop individual killings altogether with the Maoists still holding sway in certain pockets.
The celebratory spirit has cheered up the local business community too.
As successful security operations have reduced the influence of the Maoist-backed Police Santrash Birodhi Janasadharaner Committee, regular bandhs and blockades observed by the outfit have stopped, facilitating pre-puja business.
Sukumar Bhunia, a member of the Midnapore Traders' Association, said that both the wholesale and retail businesses have benefited.
“People are trying to resume their normal routine centering around the puja celebrations. Last year, the small traders were the worst-affected as they could not do business in the remote areas. But this year, people have been flocking to Midnapore town for shopping,” Mr. Bhunia said.