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Mamata Bibi’s Muslim appeasement again!

Author: Sandhya Jain
Publication: Niticentral.com
Date: October 10, 2013
URL: http://www.niticentral.com/2013/10/10/mamata-bibis-muslim-appeasement-again-143856.html

As the Bakr-Id festival this year (October 16) comes close on the heels of Dussehra (October 14), Hindus in West Bengal are feeling somewhat peeved and slighted by the State Government’s diktat to accommodate the visarjan ceremonies around the convenience of Muslim community. All over the country, after the Navratra pujas are observed, the Durga pratimas are taken out in huge processions for visarjan (immersion in a river or stream) on the morning of Dussehra. This is a festive occasion, celebrated with fanfare for hours, and is concluded only late in the afternoon, but before sunset.

In West Bengal, visarjan is a major event and usually the devotees take two or three days to bid adieu to the Devi, partly because the pandals are so numerous, and partly because the people participate whole heartedly in several immersion ceremonies. As a result, festivities usually drag out over a couple of days. This year, however, the administration has issued strict orders to the devotees to either complete all visarjan ceremonies on October 14 itself, or wait until October 17 to do so, in order that Bakr-Id may be observed without incident on October 15 and 16.

This has made Hindus unhappy as it follows reports (Anandabazar Patrika, October 7, 2013) that Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee inaugurated some puja pandals and on the same day, in between the inaugurations, urged the gathering to maintain peace, discipline, and communal harmony at all costs. She said news or rumours intended to break the peace and harmony should be ignored. In the event of any untoward incident resulting in damage to any image of Devi, she appealed to the people not to get upset, but to inform her directly, and she would replace the image from her own pocket. On no account, she pleaded, should the people create any disturbance; they must also ensure that the problem does not spread. There are always some people who “pollute the society”, she warned.

On the night of October 6, unidentified miscreants had severely damaged the images of Durga and other deities in Alipur village under Kaliachak police station in Malda district. This puja is popularly known as 22 Chakra Club Durga Puja. Although district level police officers visited the village the next morning, no FIR was lodged.  On October 8, right in the midst of the Durga Puja season, a Hindu Samhati activist of the Kakdwip area, Saurav Sasmal, was picked up by police from Ukiler Bazar without any valid reason, spreading uneasiness among the populace. The organisation alleges that his name has been falsely added to another case, in order to harass the activists.

Previously, on May 17, 2013, the Kakdwip police had arrested Hindu Samhati supporter Chanchal Chakraborty inside Kakdwip court and slapped a “totally false case” on him, according to Samhati president Tapan Ghosh. He was jailed for 15 days.  Kakdwip is a small sub-divisional town of immense strategic and spiritual significance for the Hindu community. Located 80 km south of Kolkata, it is a key transit point for millions of Hindu pilgrims who visit the holy pilgrimage spot of Ganga Sagar where the sacred Ganga meets the sea. Pilgrims going for Sankranti Snan (ceremonial bath) in the sea have to pass through Kakdwip. Hence, this is not a site that Hindus can afford to lose control of.

However, in recent years, there have been growing instances of harassment of Hindus and atrocities against women, most notably the shocking gang-rape of a lady before her small child in March 2013. There is apprehension that Kakdwip is deliberately being converted into a haven for fundamentalists and turned into a “no-go” area for Hindus, with the tacit connivance of the State administration, even though it is one of the major tirthas of the Hindu community, not just in Bengal, but nation-wide.

Hindu leaders believe that Saurav Sasmal was arrested because on January 23, 2013, he led a procession of young Hindu Samhati activists and, for the first time in the history of the district, demonstrated against Pakistan and even burnt the Pakistani flag to express anger at the brutal beheading of Indian soldiers at the Line of Control in Jammu & Kashmir.
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