Expressing anguish over the flouting of the order of the National Green Tribunal by devotees during the Chhath Puja, who broke open the gates of a Kolkata waterbody and performed rituals, Kolkata Mayor Firhad Hakim on Tuesday said that the state cannot suppress expression of any religious belief by using force.“They were not taking the law into their own hands. How can we use batons or tear gas on such people?” Mr. Hakim said.On November 2, thousands of people broke open the locks of the Rabindra Sarovar and performed Chhath Puja in the waterbody. In an order in 2017, the NGT had “strictly prohibited” performance of any puja, community picnic or organisation of other social events in and around the Sarovar. Spread over 192 acres, Rabindra Sarovar boasts of a huge biodiversity. On November 3, a film of oil floated above the lake water and several animals were found dead. According to the Mayor, 14 ponds were specially constructed for the puja so that devotees spare this waterbody. “I am sorry that despite taking many initiatives, we could not stop the devotees from going to Rabindra Sarovar. We did all what we could do but the people who traditionally come to Rabindra Sarovar came in large numbers and we could not stop them,” he said. The Mayor also suggested that ‘environmentalists’ should have instead spread awareness on the issue.“If the Mayor had listened to what the environmentalists had to say, then they would not have approached the courts,” Naba Dutta, a well-known environmentalist, said. Mr. Dutta said the ban on performing puja at Rabindra Sarovar was a result of years of legal intervention and it did not happen in one day. Trinamool Congress MP Abhishek Banerjee had expressed his displeasure over the way devotees stormed into the lake.