The Bengal government will take legal action if any political party, or religious community, other than the Sikhs organises processions or rallies with weapons, chief minister Mamata Banerjee announced on Thursday, drawing sharp reaction from the opposition.
While the CPI-M alleged that it was part of her strategy to bargain with Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the BJP said she would backtrack when Muslims take out Muharram processions with weapons.
Banerjee made the announcement at a government programme in Purulia district, hours after Left parties and a section of the intelligentsia criticised the BJP, RSS and some Hindu groups for parading school children and teenage boys and girls with swords, axes, knives and machetes on Wednesday.
“Only Sikhs have the right to carry kirpans in public and they enjoy legal exemption. If any other group hits the streets with weapons, action will be taken in accordance with law. If one religious group carries weapons today, another will follow suit tomorrow. Are we supposed to witness war on our streets? I am not going to let this happen,” said Banerjee.
It was apparent that the chief minister was referring to imposition of the Indian Arms Act as demanded by a section of lawyers and pro-Trinamool intellectuals.
“Mamata Banerjee is scared, and this announcement is the proof. Trishuls and swords are worshipped by Hindus, not used in crime. It is her people who carry bombs and pistols and indulge in violence. They have turned Bengal into an armoury. However, while making the announcement, she possibly forgot that Muslims also carry swords during Muharram. During the coming Muharram she will back out,” Rahul Sinha, BJP general secretary told HT.
Leader of the Left legislative party, Sujan Chakraborty said: “Had she been serious about stopping display of arms, the administration would have stopped the organisers well in advance. But it didn’t. This is just a part of the tactics to bargain with the Centre for more goodies.”
CPI-M state secretary Suryakanta Mishra was more aggressive. “The Trinamool leadership offered active support to the Ram Navami rally organisers. In fact, at Kharagpur, state BJP president and local MLA, Dilip Ghosh, were seen celebrating with the local Trinamool councillor. If the BJP was worshipping Rama, the Trinamool was busy playing its disciple by worshipping Hanuman across Bengal,” said Mishra.
Although the Bengal chief minister went to Purulia to address an administrative meeting and announce some projects, she turned the focus on Ram Navami and chanted at least five mantras addressed to Hindu gods. Narrating before the audience how she earnestly follows Hindu rituals, the chief minister said, “I respect all religions and that is Bengal’s culture.”