Tripura royal scion-turned-politician Pradyot Kishore Manikya Debbarma Wednesday wrote to West Tripura District Magistrate Dr Vishal Kumar and flagged an ongoing construction of a public toilet under the Agartala Smart City project within the compounds of Ujjayanta Palace.
He sought the government’s intervention to immediately stop the construction work on the premises where traditional worship like Kharchi Puja and Ker Puja are performed.
“I am writing this letter to express grave concerns regarding the ongoing construction of a public washroom/septic tank/water tank (under the Smart City Project) within the premises of the Ujjayanta Palace compound in Agartala. The said public washroom/septic tank/water tank is being constructed just adjacent (a few inches next) to the exact spot where our indigenous customary pujas, notably the Kharchi and Kher Puja, are celebrated and worshipped. I am deeply hurt and anguished at this sheer negligence of the administration. This action not only undermines the sanctity of the sacred site but also disrespects the cultural legacy that has been preserved for generations,” Pradyot Kishore wrote in his letter.
He said as per the 1949 merger agreement, which led to Tripura’s integration with the Indian Union two years after the nation’s Independence, the responsibility falls on the district magistrate’s office to facilitate and arrange all customary traditional pujas like Kharchi and Ker Puja held at the palace compound.
Stating that the construction of a public washroom, septic tank and associated water tank at such a “sacred site” disrupts the sanctity of these rituals, the royal scion said the move displayed “a lack of sensitivity and understanding of the cultural heritage” on the part of the local administration.
“Despite the voiced concerns and fervent demands from several individuals to halt the construction work, it has come to my attention that no action has been taken thus far. This lack of response is disconcerting, especially considering the cultural sensitivity of the matter,” his letter said.
In an oblique reference to the Janajati Suraksha Mancha (JSM) – a Hindutva-affiliated tribal body which has called a rally on Christmas Day calling to exclude converted tribals from Scheduled Tribe (ST) status, Pradyot said, “In the current socio-political climate, where certain self-proclaimed protectors of the indigenous communities advocate the demand to exclude the Christians from the ST Category, citing the need to safeguard the tribal traditions and customs, and are apparently given permission to hold a rally on December 25 (Christmas) by the administration, such actions are beyond comprehension. This raises serious questions about the intentions of the people in the administration.”
Pradyot said preserving tribal customs, traditions, and sacred sites is of paramount importance. He said it is incumbent upon everyone to protect and honour these cultural legacies whilst reiterating the need for the DM’s immediate intervention to ensure the stopping of construction activities in the area.
While the erstwhile royal Ujjayanta Palace now belongs to the state government and houses the state museum, the palatial structure’s annexe building is still owned and used by the erstwhile royal family where the customary Kharchi and Ker Puja celebrations are done every year.
No reaction was available from the district magistrate till the writing of this report.
Kharchi Puja is the worship of 14 gods who make the dynasty deities of the Tripura kings.
The Ker Puja in August, in reverence to the vastu devata or the guardian deity, is first observed at the erstwhile royal palace in Agartala and across the state afterwards.