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HC asks Mamata govt not to create communal rift: What happened in Durga idol immersion case

The Calcutta high court asked the West Bengal government to provide a “concrete ground” for its decision to stop the immersion of Durga idols after 10pm on September 30 (Vijaya Dashami) and on October 1 on account of Muharram.

india Updated: Sep 21, 2017 10:37 IST
Durga Puja,West Bengal,Calcutta HC
West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee(PTI Photo)

The Calcutta high court has said the West Bengal government cannot hinder a citizen’s right to practise religion on the basis of assumption of law and order disruption.

Acting Chief Justice Rakesh Tiwary asked the government to provide a “concrete ground” for its decision to stop the immersion of Durga idols after 10 pm on September 30 (Vijaya Dashami day) and on October 1 on account of Muharram.

The HC said: “Let them (Hindus and Muslims) live in harmony, do not create a line between them.”

Here is what has happened in the case so far:

Last month, the Mamata Banerjee-led government issued an order that said the immersion of Durga idols would not be allowed after 6pm on September 30 and on October 1, on the account of Muharram. The time was later extended to 10 pm.

Three public interest litigations later challenged the restrictions on immersion of idols at the end of the five-day Durga Puja festival.

The high court, while hearing the PILs, said a mere assumption that a law and order situation might arise cannot be the basis of imposing curbs on immersion timings.“Why are you creating communal distinction between the two?” the court said.

Observing that chief minister Mamata Banerjee had herself told a public meeting that Hindus and Muslims lived together in harmony in the state, the bench said: “Listen to what the head of the state says and not a police officer.”

“People have the right to practise their religious activities, whichever community they may be of, and the state cannot put restrictions, unless it has a concrete ground to believe that two communities cannot live together,” the acting chief justice said.

“You must clarify why are you apprehending a law and order situation,” the bench told state advocate general (AG) Kishore Dutta, who claimed that it was the administration’s prerogative to decide on steps to prevent any untoward situation.

“Public order and law and order are administrative issues,” Dutta submitted, while claiming that the court’s interference in it would amount to trudging into the administration’s domain.

The issue has triggered a controversy, with members of the Bharatiya Janata Party accusing Banerjee of carrying out vote bank politics and sidelining the high court’s order. Banerjee had earlier warned the BJP and its affiliate organisations such as RSS, Bajrang Dal and Vishwa Hindu Parishad over playing politics during Durga Puja, asking them “not to play with fire”.

First Published: Sep 21, 2017 09:37 IST