Intrepid drummer who braved Gorkhaland agitation

Kolkata: As an individual, Kohor Singha, 78 and frail, must be one of the loudest ‘voices’ against Gorkhaland. A resident of Jalpaiguri, Singha braved the agitation and indefinite shutdown to travel more than 50 km to Tindharia in the hills to beat the drums — popularly referred to as dhaks in Bengal — during Durga puja.
Singha, a farmer, who has been beating the drums for this community puja in the hills for the 59th year without a break, says he would have performed his duty even if the bandh was not called off from the morning of September 27, the second day of Durga puja.
The Durga and Kali Puja Organisation Committee is in its 96th year, and Singha has vowed to continue performing his ‘duty’ at least till the centenary year, come what may.
“I have seen three rounds of Gorkhaland movement, the most violent being the one in the mid eighties in which hundreds lost their lives. The latest one broke all records with a 104 days of strike. If the Tindharia youths could organize puja despite the odds, I am sure no power can prevent my participation as well,” Singha told HT.
A dhak is heavy and drummers are often asked to carry it on his shoulder for at least 30 mins at a stretch, several times a day, for five days on the trot. But Singha is not perturbed.
This year, on September 21, he begged for a ride uphill until he managed a drop to Tindharia to enquire about the puja and speak to the organizers about his duty during the pujas. He has again gone back to the hills to beat the drum for the Kali puja on October 19.
“The Durga and Kali Puja have become a part of my life. I would perform my duty here till I breathe my last. No agitation can prevent me from this duty,” said Singha.
“We were surprised when ailing Kaku reached Tindharia on September 21 on his own. He managed to reach though only a few vehicles were plying on the hills during the bandh,” said Nauraj Chettri, the secretary of the organizing committee.
Singha’s dedication can be traced to his association with the community puja. He first beat the dhaks at this pandal when he was 19, when he came here with his father. The school Brahma Mandir Prathamik Pathsala, where the puja is organised, was established in 1917 by the Bengalis most of them whom use to work for Darjeeling Himalayan Railway.
Fondly called ‘kaku’ by everyone, Singha has never missed the puja since then. Down the years, the size of the team of dhakis has shrunk. This year, he was the only drummer performing at the puja.
Years ago, Singha used to play the sehnai and dhak. But after he became asthmatic, he focused on the dhak.
The organizers paid him Rs 3,300 this year. “The Bengalis were stricter. They would allow me to beat the dhak only after I took the bath,” Singha recalled.
“We have asked him to bring his sons along. They should take over from him when he is no longer able to continue,” said Chettri.

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