Commercial sex workers have reportedly decided to discontinue their own Durga Puja celebration in Kolkata's Sonagachi area this year, claiming harassment by the police.
The Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee (DMSC), an organisation of sex workers, which has 1,30,000 registered and unregistered sex workers on its roll, alleged that for the last five years they have been at the receiving end of police harassment.
"Since 2013, we have been organising the puja at Sonagachi. Every year we have to move court to obtain permission after the police and KMC officials reject our application," a DMSC spokesperson said, wishing not to be named.
She said it was practically impossible to spend Rs 50,000-60,000 to fight court case every year simply to hold a Durga Puja.
When contacted, a senior official of Kolkata Police's North Division said, "We did not receive any application requesting for holding puja this time. So I cannot comment on this matter."
According to DMSC office-bearers, Sonagachi, the city's red light district, being a congested place, the sex workers were given a small area to organise the Puja since 2013.
"But we wanted a bigger area near Dalpatti More in Sonagachi. We were not allowed. We were told to organise the Durga Puja inside a small clinic and the pandal outside the clinic," the spokeswoman said.
She said the area being very small, they in 2014 requested the police to give permission to hold the puja outside the clinic.
"Initially, we were allowed but later the permission was withdrawn. We again moved the court and were allotted a place in a community hall. But that hall was not spacious. So this year we decided to discontinue the puja," she said.