Terror threat fails to dampen Tripura’s Durga Puja spirit

By Sujit Chakraborty, IANS,

Agartala : Colourful pandals (marquees), beating of drums and festivities – Tripura is in a celebration mode for the five-day long Durga Puja, but under a tight security cover amid fears of terror strikes.

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“We cannot rule out possibilities of extremist violence and hence massive security arrangements have been made to ensure that the festival passes off peacefully,” Director General of Police Pranay Sahaya told IANS.

On Wednesday, four synchronised powerful bombs went off in two big markets, one bus stand and a locality in Agartala, creating panic ahead of the festival season.

Two live bombs were also found in the city on the same day while another powerful bomb was recovered Sunday from a temple here. These were defused by experts of the National Security Guards (NSG).

However, despite the terror attacks, more than 2,000 community prayers are being organised across the state, including about 300 in the state capital here.

“Unlike previous years, there are no reports so far this year from anywhere in the state about tribal guerrillas creating problems or asking people not to organise Durga Puja,” Sahaya said.

Despite incidents in the past when tribal rebels targeted Hindus for celebrating religious festivals, Pujas are being organised in tribal-dominated areas this year.

For the first time in the last 10 years, Durga Puja is being celebrated in about 200 tribal and extremist dominated areas. Tribal youths are busy participating in traditional style, a police official said.

Authorities have stepped up patrol in vulnerable areas with sniffer dogs and special anti-sabotage groups.

“Assam Rifles and other paramilitary forces trained in counter-insurgency, besides Tripura State Rifles, have been alerted and asked to maintain strict vigil in the mixed populated, sensitive and extremist-affected hilly areas during the Pujas,” the official said.

More than 22,000 security personnel, including state police and paramilitary forces, were pressed into service, besides private security personnel and volunteers, to ensure peaceful Durga Puja festivities.

With the beating of drums and crowds thronging the pandals, Durga Puja began Sunday with Hindus from adjoining Bangladesh expected to attend the festivities and rituals in Tripura.

Traditional themes continue to dominate pandals with Indian temples and historical events forming part of the decorations.

Just concluded Beijing Olympic Games, climate change and global warming, artificial iceland, Tripura’s royal palace, Birla Planetarium in Kolkata, Kamakhya temple in Guwahati, Sun temple of Konarak, ONGC’s Bombay High, the devastating tsunami, a Buddha temple in China, Kashmir’s Dal Lake and imaginary temples are being depicted through the puja pandals.

To attract pandal hoppers, a local club has collected 200 birds and 300 frogs for display in front of the marquees.