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No place for puja

By Radhica Sookraj

Barrackpore police have already made preparations for Divali celebrations today, but they are uncertain about where they should put up their tents.

Already, directives have come from Police Commissioner Trevor Paul that celebrations should not disrupt station operations.

The Guardian learnt that organisers were fearful about going against the commissionerís rules.

Detectives said yesterday, however, they could not set up their tents across the road, because there were two rum shops there.

"The owners have no problems with us putting the tents there, but we cannot do puja outside the rum shops," one said.

Several others recommended that the puja be scrapped and the celebrations continue outside the bars.

The organisers at Barrackpore Station said, however, puja materials had already been purchased and they could not cancel the religious aspect of the festivities.

A religious band had already been hired and food already catered.

This is the first year that a Police Commissioner has banned Divali and Eid festivities at police stations.

It is uncertain whether Christmas parties at stations will also be banned.

At an informal meeting yesterday, some of the personnel at Barrackpore station recommended that the celebrations be held directly outside the station, but detectives said they could not block the free flow of traffic at Papourie and New Colonial Roads.

During the past five years, Barrackpore police have been holding their celebrations at the side of the station.

The charge room remains functional, while residents are invited to participate in puja, food, and non-alcoholic drinks.

Scores of villagers assist in the festivities, which the cops say boost community cooperation and the publicís faith in the service.

"These Eid and Divali festivities boost our relationship with the community. It is a good thing," one cop said.

Up to late yesterday, a location for the celebration had not been found. Off-duty officers said they were still hoping that Commissioner Paul would change his mind and allow them to have the celebration in the station compound.

Detectives promised that the celebration would take only about two hours, and would not affect the charge room.

Attempts to contact Paul on his cellular phone proved futile.

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