Bijoya Dashami celebrations, one of the most colourful part of Bengal’s biggest annual festival, fall on September 30 this year, a day before Muharram.(File)
Bijoya Dashami celebrations, one of the most colourful part of Bengal’s biggest annual festival, fall on September 30 this year, a day before Muharram.(File)

RSS, VHP refuse to abide by Mamata govt's Durga immersion curbs in Bengal

With Muharram scheduled a day after Dussera this year, Mamata Banerjee asked the people to cooperate with each other and not to fall prey to provocation leading to communal problems.
By Snigdhendu Bhattacharya | Kolkata, Hindustan Times
UPDATED ON AUG 24, 2017 10:04 PM IST

The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’s (RSS) Bengal unit has said it will not abide by the Mamata Banerjee government’s decision to restrict immersion of Durga idols on Bijoya Dashami after 6pm on September 30 in order facilitate the Muharram processions the same day.

With Muharram scheduled a day after Dussera this year, West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee asked the people on Wednesday to cooperate with each other and not to fall prey to provocation leading to communal problems.

“Hindus will immerse the idols following shaashtra guidelines. It is the government’s duty to ensure both communities are able to perform their rituals as per religious guidelines. Hindus will immerse idols after 6pm on Bijoya Dashami as the almanac allows it,” said Jisnu Basu, general secretary of RSS south Bengal.

Bijoya Dashami celebrations, one of the most colourful part of Bengal’s biggest annual festival, fall on September 30 this year, a day before Muharram - when Shia Muslims mourn the battle of Karbala. At several places, Muslims practice the procession on the eve of Muharram.

Immersions take place on Bijoya Dashami and the day after, especially after sundown, because the processions are decorated with creative light panels. The lighting has been a major attraction of immersion processions.

On Wednesday, the chief minister held a meeting with organisers of major pujas in Kolkata and announced that immersions will not be allowed after 6pm on September 30. “Immersion will resume on October 2 and will continue till October 4,” she had said.

On October 3, the state government is expected to organise processions of the best pujas on Red Road.

Last year, when Muharram fell a day after Dashami, a series of small to medium scale communal clashes took places across various districts in West Bengal that continued for nearly a week. While no lives were lost, properties were destroyed.

Sachindranath Singha, Vishwa Hindu Parishad’s (VHP) in-charge for West Bengal, Odisha, Sikkim and Andaman, told HT that Hindus will continue immersion processions after 6pm, as according to the Hindu almanac Dashami ends at 11 pm.

“The government cannot deprive the Hindus to appease the Muslims. We will not let them do that. It is the administration’s duty to ensure peace during Bijoya Dashami processions. What if Bijoya Dashami and Muharram fall on the same day next year or in the near future? Will Hindus be barred from Dashami celebrations altogether?” Singha said.

Asked whether they plan to move court, the RSS general secretary said there was no need for that.

Singha, however, did not rule out legal measures.

“Last year, under similar circumstances, the court was approached at the last moment and the judge rebuked the state government for appeasing minorities at the cost of the majority. His order makes it clear it is the administration’s duty to ensure peaceful commencement of both events,” Basu said.

In 2006, when a few families approached the Calcutta High Court against the government order restricting immersion on Dashami after 4pm, justice Dipankar Dutta ordered that since Dashami was to end around 6pm, Hindu families must be allowed to immerse idols till that time.

“To put it curtly, the state government has been irresponsibly brazen in its conduct of being partial to one community, thereby infringing upon the fundamental rights of people worshipping Maa Durga,” the order said.

The judge added, “Never has there been a restriction on immersion of Durga idols on Bijoya Dashami at any earlier point of time. It has been brought to the notice of this Bench that in the years 1982 and 1983, Muharram was observed on the day following Bijoya Dashami, but no restriction of the nature impugned herein was imposed.”

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