Chandigarh gifts new lake for Chhat Puja

November 1st, 2008 - 11:18 am ICT by IANS  

Chandigarh, Nov 1 (IANS) The city administration has gifted a new lake to residents for festivals like Chhat Puja, but some migrants here, with incidents in Maharashtra on their mind, perceive alienation in the move. Spread over 3.5 acres in Chandigarh’s southern part of Sector 42, the new lake has been officially declared by the administration as the place for religious worship and activities.”The new lake will provide an ideal site to thousands of people living in the southern sectors of the city to perform their religious ceremonies like Chhat Puja,” a spokesperson of the administration said.

The administration had in November last year banned religious activities, especially Chhat Puja, in the city’s famous tourist spot, Sukhna Lake.

One third of the city’s 1.1 million population is made up of migrants from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh. Since most of them live in the southern sectors, many have welcomed the new lake in Sector 42.

“We will not have to travel a very long distance to Sukhna Lake to worship. This is a good step,” Arjun Babu from Bihar told IANS.

Sukhna Lake is located in an upscale locality of the city and is adjacent to the sprawling residences of the governors of Punjab and Haryana and also big bungalows owned by the high and mighty of the city.

Most of the migrants on the other hand used to live in slum settlements but the administration has provided them with rehabilitation flats to remove slums from the city.

The administration says the new lake will also serve as a recreational centre and provide an ideal water-harvesting option.

“The administration has prepared a blueprint for developing and revamping the whole area surrounding the lake in the coming days. We have plenty of land available in the backdrop of the lake, there are plans to build water fountains, jogging tracks, and a pathway so that people can come and stroll over here,” said the spokesperson.

There are, however, some who feel that the step to restrict religious activities to the new lake will take away their freedom to worship at a place of their choice, like the Sukhna Lake.

Their resentment comes in the backdrop of attacks on non-Maharashtrians, especially those from Bihar and Uttar Pradesh, in and around Mumbai.

Bhai Lal, a software professional working in a leading software company in Mohali town in Punjab, around 10 km from here, said: “This step of the administration reveals that despite living here for many years we are still not an integral part of this city.

“We are contributing equally to the economy of the city and are at par with any other individual. We should be free to perform our religious ceremonies and rituals at any public place,” said Lal, who has been living here for six years.

The Chhat festival, in the first week of November, is celebrated in honour of the Sun god and devotees offer prayers while standing in water. People have for long used the Sukhna Lake for the festival.

“It is fine that the administration has a soft corner for us, but earmarking a separate place for our religious ceremonies is quite irrational and illogical,” Jai Ram, who hails from Bihar but has been staying here for the last 30 years, told IANS.

“However, these celebrations were always an eyesore for the administration as the venue is a major tourist spot.”

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