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Durga immersion row: Ex-cops says Mamata should learn from Jyoti Basu, oppn welcomes court stay

Retired police officers said Jyoti Basu asked them to escort immersion and Muharram processions through separate routes in 1982 and 83. No restriction on immersion of Durga idols was ever required in Bengal, said opposition leaders.

kolkata Updated: Sep 21, 2017 23:22 IST
Tanmay Chatterjee
Tanmay Chatterjee
Hindustan Times
Durga Immersion,Mamata Banerjee,Durga Puja
Mamata Banerjee faced severe criticism after the Calcutta high court ordered a stay on immersion restrictions on Thursday. (HT Photo)

Even as opposition leaders on Thursday welcomed the Calcutta high court’s interim stay on restrictions Mamata Banerjee imposed on immersion of Durga idols because of Muharram, critics of the chief minister cited the administrative skills of Bengal’s first Marxist chief minister.

“Though Banerjee never failed to wish Jyoti Basu on his birthdays by touching his feet, she didn’t learn much from him,” a retired officer who served the Kolkata Police during the 1980s and ‘90s told HT.

Read: Calcutta HC sets aside Mamata govt’s restrictions on Durga idol immersion, wants separate routes for Muharram

“In 1982 and 83, processions for immersion and and Muharram were taken out simultaneously because the dates clashed. Basu did not impose any restriction but gave clear instructions to the police to escort the processions of both communities through different routes. There was no trouble whatsoever,” said another former police officer.

Officers from the Special Branch of the Kolkata Police said according to the almanac Dasami and Muharram come within 24 hours of each other after a gap of 25 to 30 years. “This happened in 2016 as well and justice Dipankar Dutta of the Calcutta high court set aside the restriction the state imposed on immersion. Last year, however, only some families from Kolkata moved the court,” said an officer.

Opposition leaders welcomed Thursday’s court order and described it as “defeat for Mamata Banerjee’s politics of appeasement.”

Read: Will not succumb to conspiracy: Mamata on Calcutta HC setting aside govt order on Durga idol immersion

“Legislature is one of the four pillars of democracy. It is sad that Hindus of West Bengal have to move court to exercise their democratic rights because the government is against them,” said Jishnu Basu, south Bengal secretary of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the ideological parent of the BJP.

In 2016, a local club in Bengal’s Nadia district made an idol of chief minister Mamata Banerjee, depicting her as Devi Durga. (HT file photo)

“Truth has prevailed and Mamata Banerjee should now apologize in public. She wanted to play her communal card. No Muslim group ever said that it wanted restriction on immersion,” said Rahul Sinha, BJP national secretary.

CPI(M) politburo member and MP Md Salim alleged that Banerjee “tried to help the RSS and BJP” by stopping immersion during Muharram. “This was an attempt to create a crisis and the high court saved the situation. Muslims never wanted idol immersion by Hindus to be regulated by the state. The dates coincided during the Left Front regime as well but there was no communal problem,” said Salim.

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

“The responsibility to take out processions peacefully now lies entirely with the police. And, we have seen the police failing to stop the Basirhat riots three months ago. The chief minister won’t be controlling law and order on the streets.” quipped Pirzada Jiauddin Siddiqui of Furfura Sharif in Hoogly, a popular shrine in the state.

“No religion preaches violence and common people don’t kill each other. Instigations always come from troublemakers,” the cleric added.

Veteran Congress MLA and leader of the opposition in the Assembly, Abdul Mannan said: “Immersion and Muharram have taken place simultaneously so many times without posing any threat to any community. Wooing one community will obviously irritate the other. This applies to both Hindus and Muslims. The administration should always be neutral.”

First Published: Sep 21, 2017 21:20 IST