If this is appeasement, I will do it till I’m alive: Mamata on Durga immersion
Mamata Banerjee’s comments on Durga Puja came hours before the Calcutta high court decides on the idol immersion row, which her government has restricted on account of Muharram.Updated: Sep 21, 2017 13:10 IST
West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee struck a defiant note on Thursday and rubbished charges of minority appeasement, hours before the Calcutta high court’s verdict on a ballooning controversy over immersion of Durga Puja idols.
Speaking at a Puja pandal in south Kolkata’s Palm Avenue, Banerjee asked why she wasn’t accused of appeasement when she inaugurated Durga or Ganesh festivals and only when she attended Id prayers.
“If this is appeasement, I shall continue to do so as long as I am alive. I will do it even if a gun is held to my head. I don’t discriminate. That’s the culture of Bengal, that’s my culture,” she stated.
The two-term chief minister is battling a raucous BJP and right-wing groups who accuse her of pandering to the state’s Muslim population.
The latest controversy broke out two weeks ago after the state government restricted Durga Puja idol immersion to 10pm on September 30, the Vijaya Dasami or the most auspicious day, and banned any such activities the day after because of Muharram celebrations. Many have called the order an infringement on the fundamental right to practice religion and approached the high court, which rapped her government on the issue on Wednesday.
But an aggressive Banerjee has junked the charges and said the restrictions were important to maintain law and order at a time when tens of thousands of people are on the streets for five straight days as part of the festival.
While inaugurating another puja at Haridevpur in south Kolkata, the chief minister had said on Wednesday, “Tolerance is a hall mark of Bengali culture. I don’t like those who are intolerant. They are ignorant of Bengal’s traditions.” Muslims constitute about 27% of the population and is considered a reliable vote bank of Banerjee’s ruling Trinamool Congress.
CPI(M) general secretary Sitaram Yechury also criticised the state government. “The controversies are results of competitive communalism by Trinamool and BJP in Bengal. TMC is pursuing politics of appeasement of minorities and BJP is trying to fan majority communalism. In this way both are helping each other to grow,” Yechury said.
BJP’s national secretary and former party state president in Bengal, Rahul Sinha said that the logic expressed by chief minister was baseless and a deliberate attempt to create communal divide.
“Muslims in general in Bengal are not against Durga idol immersion (on Muharram). But she is deliberately taking such steps to appease some fanatics and create communal divide. And now, when her plan is out in the open, she is resorting to such vague logic,” argued Sinha.
Durga Puja is West Bengal’s most important festival that kicks off on September 26. The festival sees hundreds of puja pandals.