A local club in north Kolkata is celebrating the Durga Puja by honouring the struggle of farmers protesting against the farm laws for nearly a year. Massive art installations at the pandal portray the plight of the farmers while sharply criticising the violence in UP’s Lakhimpur Kheri that left eight dead, including four farmers.
At the entrance of the Dumdum Park Bharat Chakra pandal is a giant replica of a tractor used by farmers to till the land. A graffiti of a car and a farmer lying on its path adorn the sidewalk with a line in Bengali that reads “Motorgari uray dhulo, niche pore chashigulo (While cars speed away raising a storm of dust, farmers come under their wheels)”.
Hundreds of sandals on the ground symbolise the scenes from an agitation where protesters lose their shoes in stampedes due to police action. The main pandal has been decorated with paddy hanging from the roof.
Artist Anirban Das, who conceptualised the theme, told news agency PTI that the names of farmers who died in the course of the agitation have been written in chits of paper on the giant tractor which also has large wings. “The wings symbolise their wishes of being free from the bondage,” he explained.
Another poster at the pandal in English reads, “We are farmers, not terrorists. Farmers are food soldiers.”
The puja committee’s secretary Pratik Choudhury said they wanted to highlight the exploitation of farmers.
“From the days of Tebhaga movement in 1946-47 to the recent agitation against the three pro-corporate farm bills, we have sought to narrate the story of the farmers who provide the food to us,” he said.
“The recent incident in Uttar Pradesh’s Lakhimpur Kheri where four farmers were knocked down by a vehicle and killed during a protest happened when our pandal was almost ready. But, we incorporated it,” Mr Choudhury added.
Farmers in the country have been protesting for nearly a year against three laws, which they say would benefit the big corporates. The government defends them, stating that reforms are needed for the sector. Several people have lost their lives during the course of the agitation.
On Sunday, four protesting farmers were allegedly crushed by vehicles driven by BJP workers in Uttar Pradesh’s Lakhimpur Kheri. Four others also died in the violence that followed, including BJP workers and a driver who were allegedly lynched by the protesters.
The Uttar Pradesh Police has registered a case against Union Minister of State for Home Ajay Mishra’s son Ashish but no arrest has been made so far.
Durga Puja pandals in Kolkata have always depicted the current socio-economic and political issues. Last year, the Barisha Club in south Kolkata had erected a pandal on the migrants’ crisis amid the nationwide coronavirus-induced lockdown.