HOOMGARH: At a time when entire West Bengal was busy celebrating Durga Puja – that concluded on Wednesady -- a silent revolution was underway in the remote tribal hamlets of the state. Hudur Durga or remembrance of Asura King Mahishasura’s ‘martyrdom’ was held in 721 different tribal-dominated villages in the state.
The festival that first came into prominence in Purulia district in 2009, has emerged as one of the rallying point of Dalit and Adivasi assertion in the larger Bahujan context. “Durga Puja is a festival of the savarna bhadraloks. Our history has it that Durga was married to Mahishasura, and after making him drink wine and having sex, she stabbed her to death. Durga was an implant of the Aryans who could not defeat Mahishasura in war,” said Chariyan Mahato, the first organiser of a Hudur Durga event in Purulia in 2009.
“Dasain folklore says Mahishasura was killed by deceit by Aryan implant Durga as the Aryans were unable to defeat the Dravidians during the annexation of Bengal from present-day Uttar Pradesh during the period of 600-400 BC ,” said Saradindu Uddipan of Dalit Bahujan Solidarity Movement, West Bengal at a Hudur Durga event here.
“This year, the state boasted of over 721 Hudur Durga sabhas. Some 521 sabhas were held in 2015 and 400 in 2015. Most sabhas were held in Malda, Uttar Dinajpur and Dakshin Dinajpur districts in north Bengal,” Uddipan claimed. His organisation plans to unify the separate Hudur Durga events into one chain of celebration which can emerge as a movement. “We will have a state committee meet to unify the celebrations as Dalit-Bahujan assertion. The 64 SC and 40 ST communities of Bengal feel connected with Mahishasura,” he said.
Starting in the fourth day of the 9-day festival, Mashishasura Shaheed Swaran Sabhas or Hudur Durga sees attendance of representatives of Dalit communities such as Bagdi, Bauri and Namasudra apart from the Adivasi communities such as Santhalis and Mundas. An idol of Mahishasura is garlanded and the speakers from different communities speak about the history of Mahishasura ‘martyrdom’ and why it is necessary to remember him, when the whole state is celebrating his death.
With the imminent collapse of the Left Front government which encouraged Class identity rather than on caste or ethnic lines, several identity movements gained strength in the state. The present Trinamool Congress government also seems to play along with the assertion movements. “Our history in written in our folksongs. The state government is trying to develop the sub-cultures within the larger culture,” said Salboni MLA Srikanto Mahato. “Whatever we as SCs and STs got is because of Dr B R Ambedkar,” he added.
Calling for rule of Bahujans in West Bengal, former IAS Swapan Biswas said,“We are not against any community. We just want our share. Hudur Durga is our awakening.” However, the organisers also feel that the assertion in form of celebration of a festival won’t make way for electoral unification of Bahujans in politics. “More than 90% of the Bahujans don’t have consciousness. They see slavery as bliss. This has to change,” Uddipan added.