Monks protest making 117-yr-old monastery into polling booth

Kolkata: Buddhist monks in the city are up in arms against the Election Commission’s decision to turn a 117-year-old monastery into a polling booth.

Located in Bowbazar area, the Buddha Dharmankur Sabha also houses a small school inside the premises of the monastery where polling will be held on May 12.

“This is the first time that they have instructed us to keep it available for polling purpose. It is a very small school which is inside the monastery.

How can polling be held inside a religious place? They don’t do it inside temples and mosques, then why a monastery? Is it because we are peaceful and a minority?,” Hemendu Bikash Chowdhury, general secretary of the monastery said.
We have already complained to the poll body against the decision and even met the Chief Electoral Officer Sunil Gupta, Chowdhury told PTI.

“But they have gone ahead with the decision. What is more shocking is that they have told us to keep the premises free on May 14 also, the day of Buddha Purnima. If repolling is ordered, then it would be held on that day,” monks of the monastery said.

The authorities say they are forced to cancel the Buddha Purnima celebrations on that day inside the monastery, the oldest in Kolkata.

Bhikshu Bodhipala, head monk of the Bowbazar monastery, said the entrance for the monastery and the school is the same and as hundreds of people will turn up in the complex for voting, their daily prayers and religious activities would be hampered.

“We respect the democratic exercise of voting but that doesn’t mean they will violate our religious space,” he said.

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