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Monks cancel prayers as monastery turns into polling booth

Kolkata : As voters, election officials and security forces occupied a 117-year-old Buddhist monastery here which was turned into a polling booth, monks there were forced to cancel their daily prayers and other religious activities. The authorities of the Bauddha Dharmankur Sabha had complained to the Election Commission for enlisting the name of the small school, located inside the premises of the monastery, as a polling booth, but in vain. "We have prayers twice daily - morning and evening. Both had to be cancelled because the atmosphere inside the monastery was no more conducive for prayers," Hemendu Bikash Chowdhury, general secretary of the monastery in Bowbazar, told PTI. 

He said other religious activities were also cancelled as a result. Bauddha Dharmankur Sabha, also known as the Bengal Buddhist Association, was founded in 1892 by Kripasaran Mahasthavir. It now has branches in Shillong, Darjeeling, Lucknow, Sarnath and Rajgir. Following Theravada, the oldest surviving branch of Buddhism, there are nine monks inside the Kolkata monastery. "They shouldn't allow polling inside a monastery as they don't do it inside temples, mosques or churches. We are peaceful people and a minority, but our religious rights should not be infringed upon," the monks said. The monks also expressed disappointment over the Election Commission's demand to keep the monastery free on May 14, to hold repoll, if necessary. May 14 is Buddha Purnima, and the monastery authorities said they might now be forced to cancel celebrations on that day.

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