Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s double standards regarding party politics and minority appeasement have been exposed as Muslims in West Bengal’s Malda district observed Muharram by carrying weapons during their processions. Muharram coincided with the last day of Durga puja celebrations.
Malda’s Mirjatpur area witnessed around 25,000 to 30,000 people in taziya processions carrying weapons of different shapes. Mamata’s being soft on Muslims was evident by the fact that local police station officers, as well as the officer-in-charge (OC), were seen providing security to the procession, which continued till late in the night across the town.
The TMC government’s practising double standards can be gauged from the fact that a few days ago, it had restricted idol immersion till 10 pm on September 30 (Dussehra) and banned immersions the following day, citing Muharram processions across the state.
Faruque Hussain, one of the people carrying weapons, justified the move. “These are not proper arms. They are blunt weapons. We just used them for display. Here the rule is that there will be different groups of people and they will learn how to fight among themselves. Small children too take part in it. All weapons are made of stick or steel. Earlier, people used to fight with sword, but nowadays they don’t go for it. Many of them keep roza (fast). All these rituals have been followed for years. We perform these acts to make people aware of what used to happen at that time. We are not fighting, so there is nothing to take permission for. Police know everything so they help us. The Superintendent of Police has also helped us. Police are present on all routes where we used to celebrate the festival. As it is our ritual, we have to follow it every year.”
The Calcutta High Court had revoked the state government’s decision restricting timings of idol immersion on the day of Dussehra by saying that the administration could not interfere with the people’s faith.
A local TMC leader sought to clarify further.
Md Asif Hussain said, “The ritual of displaying swords and other weapons is a part of the festival. We don’t use them, but just exhibit them as a part of a competition. Muharram is observed to pay homage to all our fighters who have sacrificed their lives during wars. Although we have informed the police regarding our procession, we don’t have to take any permission as the weapons are never put to use and nobody is harmed.”
ARMED PROCESSION DURING RAM NAVAMI CELEBRATIONS IN APRIL
Similarly in April during the Ram Navami celebrations, the BJP and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) headed by state party president Dilip Ghosh had celebrated the festival with a procession of people carrying weapons for the first time in the state.
The RSS had called the move a part of ‘upholding Hindutva’ in Bengal.
Criticising the show of strength, top Muslim clerics in the state had demanded a ban on the right-wing organisation at that time and a complaint had been filed against Ghosh for trying to stoke fear among residents.
Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had opposed this hardline nature of religion and criticised the BJP for fanning communalism in Bengal. The chief minister had alleged that the people who had used weapons during the rally had violated Bengal’s culture, Hindu tradition and law and order as well.
But locals and leaders of the Muslim community have defended the show of weapons this time, calling it a harmless ‘tradition’ and not anything to cause communal discord or inspire fear among residents.
TRADITION GOING ON FOR DECADES: MUHARRAM COMMITTEE IN MALDA
Members of the Malda Athkoshi Muharram Committee said that the procession was conducted without any permission from officials as it had been a tradition for decades.
Even Trinamool Congress MPs are echoing the same.
TMC MP Idris Ali, “We did everything under the guidance of honorable Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. We accepted both Hindus and Muslims. We accepted idol immersion as well as Muharram. Secular Hindus and secular Muslims all want peace and our honorable Mamata Banerjee is a symbol of communal harmony. Everybody listens to her.”
The TMC-run state machinery justified the need to ensure police supervision. Block Development officer of Ratua block 2 in Malda district stated, “A minor incident took place last year. So this year, tight security arrangements have been made. We will examine the appropriate action that can be taken against those who came with arms and swords in the rally.”
But BJP seems to be watching this closely and monitoring it too.
BJP’s Malda District chief Subrata Kundu said, “Rituals are supposed to held in peace but we come across with many dangerous situations. There was a huge chaos due to this rally. In some places, even power supply was disrupted. These people didn’t take any permission. When our state president took out a rally according to our tradition, a complaint was lodged. But as was seen, the same police allowed the rally. People were frightened seeing this. So we felt that when the government announced that there would be no rally like this, was she talking about an individual community only? We want to raise one question before the administration that is the ban only for the BJP party workers, and not for others. We will write a letter to the police administration that if there is a rule, it should be applied to everyone and not only to us.”
Banerjee’s appeasement politics has always been out for all to see as the TMC chief had chosen to stay mum over the triple talaq issue when the Supreme Court had abolished the system in August. Now her double standards are evident as she banned Shastra Pujan but permitted the carrying of weapons in Muharram processions.