Varanasi (Uttar Pradesh): The latest entrant in the lists of mock cremation in the holy ghats of Varanasi is Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee. The tradition had started about five years ago. In this period, at least 250 mock cremations have been staged by those in the business of protests.
But Buddhababu is in august company. Forget political leaders, even effigies of stars like Rani Mukherjee and Hema Malini have been burnt here with due ceremony.
The idea, no doubt, was triggered by the cherished desire of every ardent Hindu — a cremation in Varanasi is said to be the ticket to heaven. Accordingly, mock cremations, instead of burning effigies on roadside, have gained currency in this temple town.
From small-time leaders of parties like Shiv Sena and local outfits like Kranti Shiv Sena to astrologers-turned-social activists — there are many to shoulder the burden of the kith and kin of the "deceased".
While Mukherjee's "cremation" was staged last year at the Harischandra Ghat cremation ground to protest her misconduct with scribes during shooting of Laga Chunari Mein Daag, Malini's "last rites" were held in protest against her anti-North Indian remarks.
Bhattacharjee's mock cremation was held on December 8 — the "ceremony" was organised by the saffron brigade led by astrologer Lakshman Das. The provocation: His reported remarks on Lord Ram and Ram Setu.
The hub of the activity is Harishchandra Ghat. "Give us just 15 minutes and everything — from artificial corpse to full-fledged pyre and even the man who would give mukhagni to the effigy — will be arranged," said Pawan Chowdhary, who organises cremations at the ghat. "We can even arrange for protestors to attract the attention of the media. Like other event managers, we too have different packages. The cost ranges from Rs 500 to Rs 1,200. The more real you want the cremation to get, the more you have to shell out," he added.
In case of the Bengal CM, the organisers had not only provided the priests with the cremation material, but also arranged the man to conduct mukhagni. "There was even a barber who shaved the man performing the mukhagni," said Bahadur Chowdhary, who was at the helm of the show. Lakshman Das, the astrologer who led members of Ram Setu Raksha Manch, said: "It is the most Indian form of protest, especially against people like Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee, whose soul has become dead. We could also have gone onto post-cremation ceremonies like Dashwa and Trayodashah, but our message was picked up by television channels even without that."
Pawan, however, said, "It is more for social activism and less for business that cremations are arranged, which hardly procure us an earning of upto Rs 100."
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