Kolkata: As a symbol of Hindu-Muslim unity, a group of girls from both the religions are organising a Durga Puja inside a shelter home for trafficked women here.
Rescued earlier this year after being trafficked to Mumbai from West Bengal's Murshidabad, two Muslim girls are not only taking part in the festivities at NGO Sanlaap's shelter home in Narendrapur but are also worshipping the goddess of power and cooking the 'bhog' that would be offered to the deity.
Following all the traditions, 23-year-old Shabana Begum (name changed) wakes up early each morning during all days of the 'Navratri' and spearheads the puja preparations for the day. She fasts till 'anjali' is offered to Goddess Durga.
"I had been to Durga Puja pandals before but never participated in it. This is the first experience for me where I am doing it by following all rituals and traditions. We are enjoying it and have accepted it as one of our festivals," she told a news agency.
Besides her, there are around 20 other girls, mostly followers of Islam, who decorated the pandal and are taking care of daily activities.
Sanlaap director Indrani Sinha says the Hindu priest was also surprised when he found Muslim girls cooking the 'prasad' that is offered to the Goddess.
"Durga puja is not just religious but it is also a part of our cultural traditions. The festival has also become a part of our process to rehabilitate and integrate them into the mainstream society. It helps the inmates in building bonds with each other and the whole shelter home becomes like a family," she says.
At present, around 133 girls are staying in the shelter home for girls who have been trafficked, rescued from prostitution and other vulnerable girls.
Chandranath Nag, in-charge of the centre, says when girls see the idol of Durga killing the buffalo-demon 'Mahishasura' they get motivated thinking that they can also fight the evil forces in their own lives.
"It is very symbolic for them as they have been trafficked and now they can fight for their rights. Our Durga Puja is about empowering them," he points out.
Just like Durga Puja, all inmates come together to celebrate Eid, Christmas and all other festivals.