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After much controversy, mustard field allotted for Modi’s dalit refugee hub rally in Bengal

BJP sees shadow of politics over landing of choppers carrying Amit Shah and Smriti Irani.

kolkata Updated: Jan 27, 2019 20:23 IST
Snigdhendu Bhattacharya
Snigdhendu Bhattacharya
Hindustan Times, Kolkata
Narendra Modi,BJP,Trinamool Congress
Modi is the main speaker at the February 2 rally organised by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-aligned faction of All India Matua Mahasangha in Bengal.(IANS File Photo)

A controversy is brewing over the venue of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s scheduled rally on February 2 at Thakurnagar, a hub of the dalit refugee Matua community, as the Trinamool Congress (TMC)-backed faction of All India Matua Mahasangha has already obtained permission from the district administration for using microphones on the field from January 28 to February 5.

Modi is the main speaker at the February 2 rally organised by the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)-aligned faction of All India Matua Mahasangha, the religious body of the sect.

Thakurnagar is the headquarters of the Matua community. The large open ground adjacent to the house of Matua matriarch Binapani Debi is a property owned by the Thakur family and is dedicated to the family deity.

“We have obtained police permission for using microphone on the ground for our religious fair between January 28 and February 5. This means, no one else can get permission for a gathering or using microphone during those days,” said local Trinamool Congress MP Mamata Thakur who heads one faction of Matua Mahasangha.

There will be soirees of devotional songs through the entire period for which permission was taken.

There is a 19-bigha agricultural ground nearby which is used to grow mustard. This land has been finally selected for Modi’s rally. The Special Protection Group (SPG) inspected the field on Sunday and gave its nod, said BJP Barasat district president Pradip Banerjee. The fair ground, on the other hand, occupies around 30 bighas (in Bengal, one bigha is equal to 0.33 acre).

The agricultural land selected for Narendra Moodi’s rally in N. 24 Parganas district on February 2. ( HT Photo )

Bengal has already witnessed a controversy after BJP leaders alleged that the administration dragged its feet in giving its nod for landing helicopters carrying party president Amit Shah and Union minister Smriti Irani in Malda and Jhargram.

Modi’s speech at Thakurnagar will be significant for the party since he is supposed to address the concerns of Hindu refugees from Bangladesh over implementation of National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam.

Matuas originally hail from districts of eastern Bengal and have migrated to West Bengal since 1950s, mostly in the face of religious persecution in East Pakistan that subsequently became Bangladesh. In West Bengal, they are presently the second largest scheduled caste community, with an estimated population of three million. They can influence results in at least five Lok Sabha seats.

Trinamool Congress applied for permission to use loudspeakers (on the big open ground) on January 21 at Gaighata police station which forwarded the application to the sub-divisional officer, Bongaon, who signed it on January 24.

Shantanu Thakur, leader of the BJP-aligned faction of Matua Mahasangha and host of Modi’s rally, said police received his faction’s application for the previously proposed dates, January 28 and 31 which were later cancelled, and refused to receive the application for February 2, saying the new date was already blocked. Shantanu Thakur sent the application again by post on January 24.

“The ground is not Mamata Thakur’s personal property. We did not object when chief minister Mamata Banerjee addressed a gathering on this ground last year,” Shantanu Thakur said.

Incidentally, Mamata Thakur and Shantanu, son of her brother-in-law, both claim to be the ‘sanghadhipati’ (head of the organisation).

District magistrate Antara Acharya said the administration has no role when someone is holding an event on private land.

“The land belongs to Matua Mahasangha. They do not need our permission for holding an event. And if someone seeks permission for microphones while promising to abide by the laws, we cannot refuse without reason,” Acharya said.

Pradip Banerjee condemned Trinamool’s role. “It’s no political programme. The Prime Minister is coming to address a religious event. TMC is stooping too low,” Banerjee said.

TMC’s North 24-Parganas district unit chief and food and supplies minister Jyoti Priya Mallick denied involvement.

“The soiree and other associated programmes are being held for the past 50 years there. BJP cannot blame us for mismanagement on their part,” Mallick said.

First Published: Jan 27, 2019 20:23 IST