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Durbar as part of its objective took all its efforts to reach out people from different walks of life with an objective to engage them in sex workers’ issues. Expose the general community members before the reality of sex work and workers, Durbar developed a strategy to organize open ground festival.

Millennium Milan Mela

Millennium Milan Mela was held in Calcutta from March 3rd to 6th, 2001, at the Salt Lake Stadium, Kolkata. Several well-known women’s rights activists had been participated in this Mela. The Mela was organized in an open ground, around seven sub themes, and each sub theme was addressed through workshops, seminars, debates, exhibitions,.cultural performances e.g. song and mimes, theatre, puppet shows and folk arts etc. through which issues related to women rights were highlighted. The Mela opened on the morning of March 3 spraying colours as the month is identified one of the popular festival called Holi. This was followed by the release of pigeons, a colourful repertoire of songs and dances was performed in the dais by the Komal Gandhar, the cultural wing of DMSC. The day was declared as the International Sex Workers’ day.

The Mela brought together women groups representing marginalized women which includes socially disadvantaged and stigmatized groups, indigenous and marginalized folk artists, lesbians, and transgender people. The Mela was also opened to general people who came and joined in many discussion sessions in addition to enjoying various cultural events. During these four days Mela, around 45,000 people representing different walks of life attended this Mela.

Shanti Utsav

Shanti Utsav (Peace Festival) was celebrated on the eve of International Sex Workers’ day, between 3rd and 9th March 2002 at Yuba Bharati Krirangan, Salt Lake City, Kolkata with a view to convey the message of peace and harmony across the world. The mela provided the space for lively discussions on issues of individuals’ freedom of choice and liberty. Another focus of the Mela was to discuss the issues of rights and development of marginalized and minority communities. 

Some of the key themes that were discussed at the mela ground were on the status and rights of sex workers, on the role of the state regarding the development of marginalized communities, issues of sexual minorities, and the role of women in the health sector development as well as on anti-trafficking initiatives. Around fifty thousand participants came down to this Mela ground and shared their views on issues of women and sex workers rights.

Sonagachi Ek Yug (12 years’ celebration of Durbar) 

Sonagachi Ek Yug (12 years’ celebration of Durbar): DMSC has organized the mega celebration of SonagachiEkYug (12 year celebration) for successful completion of 12 years of Sonagachi Project.The program started on 21st February 2014 and ended on 3rd March, 2004. Several cultural events were organized at the Mela ground. In addition to that, DMSC organized small scale events of similar nature in more than 20 sites in the state of West Bengal, to mark the success of 12 years of the Sonagachi project. During this programme in addition to commoner a good number of policy makers e.g. Member of Parliament, Mayor of Corporation, ministers representing different Government departments attended this program. A large number of intellectuals and academicians also took part in the said program. During this week long program around 75 thousands people from the mainstream society attended this Mela

International Sex Workers Day (2009)

Durbar organized a week long program from 27th February to 3rd March 2009 at Kolkata, India. The program was inaugurated by the Hon’ble Mayor of Kolkata. The inauguration ceremony was also graced by other dignitaries from the different walks of life. 

The conference was attended by 61 International Participants from various countries e.g. Australia, Nepal, Bangladesh, Hong Kong, Cambodia, England and America. More than 1250 sex workers from different states of India also attended the program in addition to 3000 sex workers coming from different districts of West Bengal. In the program a large number of policy makers (90) did put their signature supporting all the priority demands. Also during that time Durbar established partnership with four academic Institutions for research and capacity building initiatives for Sonagachi Training and Research Institute. The programme also focused on strengthening and collectivizing the unorganized labour sector while recognizing their need for collectivization, building and strengthening network among themselves.

100 years of Women’s Day

Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee (DMSC) celebrated ‘100 years of Women’s Day, 1000 miles to go’ from 8th January to 8th March, 2011 in different districts of West Bengal. The inaugural ceremony of the programme was a seven days fair in an ‘open ground’, named Shradhananda Park, Kolkata. The main objective of the Mela was bringing forward issues of marginalized communities through respecting their emotional, aspirational issues and their ongoing struggle and victimization. We celebrated our success and simultaneously we were keen to focus on the emerging newer challenges. In addition to that we were interested on the issues of positioning of women in the broader development and political arena. The other focus was on different cultural activities which were undertaken on women’s issues and challenges in which renowned cultural troupes (Dance, Drama etc.) of West Bengal participated. A special effort was made to focus on the folk cultures of Bengal like Chhou, Natua, Bhawaiya, Nachni, Baul song etc. More than 250 sex workers from different states of India attended the program and in addition to them 10000 sex workers came from different districts of West Bengal to attend the Mela alongside with the other marginalized women and local population. The organizations’ various wings set up different stalls at the Mela ground viz. Amra Padatik – KomalGandhar, Sristi, Durbar Prakashani (Publication), USHA Cooperative Society. Sristi displayed its various wares which attracted a large number of people

Sex Workers Freedom Festival, an Alternative International AIDS Conference Hub in Kolkata, India (2012)

The first-ever Global Hub of the International AIDS Conference, dubbed as the Sex Workers’ Freedom Festival (SWFF), began on 21st July with a pre-event gathering of sex workers dressed in vibrant and colorful attires.  Sex workers representing 43 countries swamped Swabhumi from 22nd to 27th July 2012 for a unique event that was successfully hosted by Durbar MahilaSamanwaya Committee (DMSC) along with the Global Network of Sex Work Projects (NSWP) and the All India Network of Sex Workers (AINSW).

Sex workers from all over the world gathered in Kolkata to oppose the United States’ decision for not granting them travel visas based on the identity of sex workers. DMSC ran this parallel XIX International AIDS Conference Hub in Kolkata in partnership with other sex workers’ organizations.

Conference Chair Dr. Smarajit Jana said, “What was unimaginable a decade back is happening at the SWFF in Kolkata.  The time has come to deliberate on issues of rights violations of sex workers perpetrated across the world.  The Conference which has been, for the last 25 years a forum of a three-way dialogue between the scientists/planners, the people living with HIV and the most at risk communities. This is the first time the rights of vulnerable communities which includes sex workers has been thwarted by the U.S. Government which goes against the general ‘values’ and views of AIDS intervention program”. There were daily satellite communication between the two conferences, (the main conference held in Washington DC and the conference in Kolkata) which provided an opportunity for international delegates, the scientific community, sex workers, sex worker allies and many other stakeholders to join together with the participants of Kolkata, SWFF. It provided ample opportunities for participants to exchange ideas and experiences, SWFF acted as a platform to share views and aspiration of the community, and their voice to respect rights of those who are in Washington D.C. and to all other governments. 

The representatives of sex workers from across the world articulated seven ‘freedoms’ for creating a global platform for sex workers to establish their rights so that they can meaningfully participate in their fight to end AIDS. The seven freedoms for sex workers as declared in the conference were:-

  1. Freedom of movement
  2. Access to quality in health services
  3. Freedom to work and choose occupation
  4. Rights to associate and unionize
  5. To be protected by the law
  6. Freedom from abuse and violence
  7. Freedom from stigma and discrimination

The SWFF provided for the first time to transgender sex workers a meaningful platform to speak and to join the wider campaign to safeguard rights of all sex workers – female, male and transgender. The SWFF also created an opportunity to celebrate the 20th year of DMSC’s Sonagachi Project, a community-led HIV Intervention program, which has been globally acclaimed as the best Model Project for AIDS prevention among sex workers.

Protibade Naari: Protirodhe Naari 2014 (Women in protest, women in resistance)

The six days long Sex Workers Festival “ProtibadeNaari, Protirodhe Naari” began on 29th January, 2014 with a star studded inauguration ceremony attended by eminent scholars, academicians, actors, human rights activists, in addition to MLAs & MPs of the country. Sex workers from 16 states of India under the parasol of All India Network of Sex Workers (AINSW) gathered in Triangular Park in South Kolkata, West Bengal from 29th January 2014. The program continued till 3rd February 2014 and during these six days Mela a series of discussion was held highlighting rights and social inclusion of sex workers and their access to social security. The framework what they proposed to restore rights and dignity pivoting around decriminalization of sex work. Sex workers from 16 states of India gathered in the program.

Number of theme based discussion was held in the Mela with special focus to

  • Women’s’ Rights to information
  • Women’s access to Health related rights and services
  • Women and their rights to food
  • Rights to education for girl child belonging to marginalized communities.
  • Equal rights and social justice for women.
  • Women and their rights to live in Stigma and Discrimination free environment

The 6 days long sex workers’ congregation was studded with various debating sessions and discussions focusing issues of social significance e.g. child marriage, Nuclear power, Depression, Homosexuality etc. There were couple of informative sessions, capacity building workshops etc. which addresses a wide range of issues ranging from Right to Information, Right to Food, Right to Social Security, Rights to access social entitlement of working women to Social inclusion and Access to Social and Political rights and dignity of Sex Workers. Like always, the special attraction of the Mela were the Documentary Films and the Cultural events. The theme of the films were based on diverse issues of Women rights and development. Each days ends up with colorful cultural events participated by renowned cultural troupes and organizations including KomalGandhar.

First Lok Sanskriti Sammelon (Folk Art Conference) of Manbhum Lok Samskriti and Nachni Unnayan Samity

To celebrate the successful completion of 10 years of the recognisation of Nachni community as a folk artists,ManbhumLoksanskriti O NachniUnnayanSamiti in collaboration with Durbar MahilaSamanwaya Committee organised a 3 days (1st April-3rd April 2017) long open ground fair ‘Lokosanskritimela 2017’ at Surulia, near Deer Park, Purulia. The fair got few essence of the almost extinct folk art of Purulia.

The year 2017 is a landmark in the history of Nachni community. They got their recognisation as folk artists by the government of West Bengal in 2006 and completed 10 years of their journey. Durbar MahilaSamanwaya Committee as part of the mission stands in support of the marginalised communities and help them to fight for their rights and recognition.

The inauguration program started by lighting of the lamp by eminent personalities like District Karmadakshya, District Core Committee Member, Member of ZilaParishad, Councellor, Panchayat President, Chief Advisor of Durbar and Secretary of Manbhum Lokosanskriti o NachniUnnayan Committee. Other members who graced the occasion were member of Panchayat Samiti, Purulia, Joint Director Cooperative Society, a representative of Indienhilfee.v Germany, representative of NGO members from Purulia and Kolkata, scholars, academicians, human rights activists and few well-wishers and friends of Durbar and Manbhum Lok sanskriti O Nachni Unnayan Samiti. The guests were graced by the children of folk artisan for whom special permission has been restated by DMSC to improve their health and nutrition of Senabona Day Care Centre. After theinaugural program the dais was taken over by the Nachnis with their traditional folk song.

Sabar Pita GopiBallav Singh Deo whose contribution cannot be over improvised in the development and improvement of the quality of life of tribal communities in the district of Purulia was felicitated in the program.

Though Purulia is the land of various folk arts, their cultural forms are slowly losing its patronage and gradually becoming endangered because artisans are getting improvised and unable to maintain their livelihood and no space to protect their arts. It is Durbar’s initiative to give them the opportunity to showcase their culture at their own soil.
To achieve such level of success the fair got support from many stakeholders including government representatives, civil society leaders and donors.

The closing ceremony of the conference of folk culture was enriched by the presence of Honorable Minister of PaschimanchalUnnayan Parshad, West Bengal, Mr. Shantiram Mahato. In his speech he appreciated the initiative taken by Durbar for the reversal of the extinction of Nachni community. “This platform is helping folk artisans to revive the culture and heritage of Purulia. Apart from Nachni community Durbar is also working with other marginalized community for their existence and rights”, he commented. Each days ends up with colourful cultural events participated by renowned cultural troupes and local artisans of Purulia. The event ended with stunning performances of various folk dances like Chou, Jhumur, Natua, Tushu, Bhadu, Karam, GhoraNach,Baul and Patanach, Hari Sankirtan which were highly acclaimed by the audiences present there. The event attracted more than 5000 people including local collectives, bank officials, academicians, scholars and NGO members. The year 2018 is a benchmark in the history of folk artisans as they completed a decade in getting recognition as folk artists from Government of West Bengal since 2006.

Second Loksanskriti Utsav

To celebrate 12 successful years of rendition , Manbhum Lokosanskriti o Nachni Unnayan Samity in collaboration with Durbar Mahila Samanwaya Committee as scheduled, started cultural event on 4th March 2018 as the beginning of a  3 days long open ground fair ‘Lokosanskriti Mela 2018’ at Surulia near Deer Park, Purulia. 200 cultural troupes who presented their folk art in three successive days. The stage was dedicated to Sabar Pita Gopi Ballav Singh Deo whose contribution cannot be over emphasised who led a single handed battle to help betterment of the quality of the life of tribal communities in the district of Purulia.

The inauguration program started by lighting the lamp by the Paschimanchal Unnayan Mantri Shri Shanti Ram Mahato. Other members who graced the occasion were Shri Sushen Majhi(Mayor in Council, Education), Shri Shamim Dadkhan(Chairman, Municipality), Smt.Chaya Das(Councilor), Smt. Sumita Singhamalla(Director, Purulia Jela Parishad), among many other dignitaries. After the inaugural program the dias was taken over by Bimala Devi and Postobala Devi who mesmerised the audience with their Jhumur song & dance.

Purulia as is known for its rich cultural heritage, there were more than 200 cultural troupes who presented their folk art in three successive days starting from 5pm till morning 5am.Most of these cultural troupes hails from the rural background who still believe in traditional art and culture. Purulia has a strong heritage of folk culture consisting of Jhumur, Tusu, Bhadu, Chou etc. The 3 days festival would be a breathtaking experience with its rustic flavour of vivid folk culture. Since, 2004 Durbar stands in support of the marginalized communities of Purulia and help the artisans to get their rights and recognisation as artists.

Dr. Smarajt Jana in his speech said, “It is very encouraging  as   more than 200 folk artisans group registered their names to perform and many of such group could not be accommodated due to limited time as three full nights appears too less to provide space for more than 200 groups. “ He also informed that this is for the first time the children of Nachni and other folk artisans took part in the Padatik Football League, a league for the children of marginalized communities held in Kolkata. He requested Shri Shanti Ram Mahato to provide support to carry out research with a view to re position Folk arts of Purulia through modifying its formats etc., to make it more appropriate and attractive   in the changing social and technological milieu. Shri Shanti Ram Mahato in his speech gave a positive response in this regard. He asked Durbar to submit a plan of Action for the betterment and development of Folk art and artisans. The fair got few essence of the extinct folk art of Purulia.The mela experienced active participation of the people of Purulia and its suburbs. Each days ends up with colourful cultural events participated by renowned cultural troupes and local artisans of Purulia.The event attracted more than 6000 people including local collectives, government officials, academicians, scholars and NGO members.