Just when people across New Delhi were divided into two over the recent ban imposed on selling of crackers in the state by the Supreme Court of India ahead of Diwali. The latest development is coming from the state of West Bengal, where the Darjeeling district administration has banned Chhath Puja celebrations on the bank of river Mahananda in Siliguri citing National Green Tribunal (NGT) recommendations as the reason. The District Magistrate of Darjeeling has ordered that no Chhath Puja rituals will be conducted on the river Mahananda to prevent it from getting polluted by the reckless dumping of waste.

Earlier on October 10, the district administration had issued strictures, warning the worshipers of stern action in case of violation. The direction issued by the DM stated that the NGT, Eastern Bench had passed orders to prevent the River Mahananda from pollution and unnecessary construction during Chhath Puja.

Now as per the latest reports, the District Magistrate, Joyoshi Dasgupta has released an order asking the worshipers to not build ghats inside the river premises. As per a Jansatta report, ghats can be built at least 3 foot away from the flowing water, the report further states that the administration has also ordered a ban on disposing of any flowers or puja material inside the river keeping in mind the adverse effect it has on the river’s ecosystem.

People of Siliguri and Kurseong subdivision which are home to the Mahananda river have been asked not to obstruct the flow of the river by any means and the Chhath Puja devotees cannot go inside the water to fulfill the rituals.

Small water bodies including rivers and ponds are of great significance in Chhath Puja as people consider bathing and offering flowers and other puja material as an important part of the festival. Chhath Puja is celebrated across the eastern states of Bihar, Jharkhand and some parts of Uttar Pradesh where people dedicatedly offer prayers to the Sun God. Huge gatherings turnout on river banks to celebrate the occasion with both male and female members of the families taking part in the ritual.

The prevention has created a large uproar amongst the public who are calling this decision an ax on their religious rights and are claiming that Chhath is a festival of cleanliness and in no ways, the rivers are polluted in the proceedings. “The ban is totally unfair, the river should not be polluted but there are other ways to ensure its clean Chhath is a festival which promotes cleanliness and if by decorating and constructing ghats river is getting damaged than the committee will ensure the river will be cleaned but the ban is not justified”, said Mithilesh Mishra, the president of Bihari Yuva Chetna Samiti.

Mahananda is one of the most polluted rivers in West Bengal, a majority of encroachments on the banks of the river has made it unfit. NGT and the district administration have hence decided to take forth steps to protect the river from pollution and damage.