Appeasement or precaution? West Bengal government’s decision on Durga immersion !

Saurabh Paul

The Government of West Bengal has released an order in the last week banning the immersion of Durga pratima on Vijaya Dashami and Ekadashi. On the one hand, as per the expectation the release of that order has been followed by series of protest and press release from Hindu groups.

On the other hand, unexpectedly a number of Muslim organisations have expressed their discomfort on this stand of the government headed by Mamata Banerjee. Pirjada Twaha Siddiki of Furfura Sharif vehemently criticised the state government on this issue. According to him, the processions with tajiyas and Goddess Durga may go side by side.

This is probably for the first time, that the leaders of the Muslim community have come up openly against such a decision of the state government. Apart from the Hindu groups such as VHP or RSS, section of urban Hindu population has started to express their annoyance. We cannot forget that, apart from the rural support, the urban population has notably supported the incumbent government in the last assembly elections.

Have anyone noticed that in the last few years, apart from participating in the Iftars, the chief minister has inaugurated a huge number of Durga pujas, Jagaddhatri pujas as well as Saraswati pujas in and around Kolkata. For the last few years, she has stopped covering her head with her sari during the official occasions such as Independence Day.

Her government’s policies for a specific community have paved the way for BJP to increase their vote share in the state. The data from the past elections results manifests that. The huge section of urban educated Hindu Bengali community, who earlier voted for the Let Front are inclining towards the Saffron brigade. Three reasons can be identified; first, the general image of party members (Trinamool Congress) is more of ‘goons’, rather than ‘Bhadralok’.

Second, the Hindu population is visibly unhappy with the State Government’s policies such as ‘pension for the Imams’, imposing ban on immersion of Durga pratima on Vijaya Dasami for consecutive years, etc. The third point is more psychological. It is said that, ancestors of a large section of Hindu population in West Bengal had migrated from East Pakistan during either 1947 or 1971.

These people have inculcated a sense of ‘hatred’ for the Muslim community, which was publicly latent during the Left Front regime. The Saffron brigade, which has proved itself as an emerging force in the state is nurturing that hidden hatred’ of the majority group.

Now it is the question whether Mamata can afford this shift of voters from the majority community. It would be wrong to get her otherwise, as she has proved her political mastery to win several in recent past. She may justify the order as a precaution for any further tension. Now she has the opportunity to cite the latest communal tension at Basirhat. She has tried her best not to disclose earlier tensions at Kaliachak, Dhulagarh, etc.

The State Government had specifically taken care of those agencies such as local media not to come up with those news. But in the last case, i.e. of Basirhat, Mamata herself disclosed the news in certain circumstance and tried to prove her initiative to normalise that situation. It might be the case that she has realised the increasing discontent of the majority population silence of the State Government on such issues.

During my visit to few villages on the Ayodhya Hills, in Purulia district in July, this year, I experienced that the Hindu and tribal villagers were no more inclined towards the Trinamool Congress. Rather the BJP is en-route of gaining mass support in the region. They simply have understood that the incumbent regime is pro-Muslim. This can be an alarming situation.

The people of a part of rural Bengal such as Purulia are overlooking their other concerns and focussing on their religious identity as a reason to change their political affiliation. At the end, it is necessary to mention that some leaders of the minority community must have sensed the rapid rise in the support base of the Saffron brigade.

Minority peoples’ experience in NDA ruled states might have helped them to estimate the probable outcomes of the rise of religious majority groups. Is it the reason for the minority leaders’ stand of criticising such decision of the state government which widens the communal gaps? We have to wait to see how Mamata Banerjee’s and her party handle the escalating discontent of the majority community to counter the rise of Saffron brigade.

Saurabh Paul, Kolkata







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