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Durga Puja row: After HC setback, Mamata says police permission must to immerse idols on Muharram

The West Bengal government has decided to not challenge a Calcutta high court order, which put on hold a controversial order restricting idol immersion on October 1 (Muharram) and was widely seen as setback for chief minister Mamata Banerjee.

kolkata Updated: Sep 23, 2017 07:56 IST
Sumanta Ray Chaudhuri
Sumanta Ray Chaudhuri
Hindustan Times, Kolkata
Durga immersion,Durga puja,Mamata Banerjee
Bengali women play with vermilion during ‘Sindur Khela’ during the Durga Puja festival, in 2016. (Parveen Kumar/HT File Photo)

Durga Puja organisers will need police permission to immerse idols on Muharram that might be denied on law and order grounds, West Bengal announced on Friday.

The government also decided to not challenge a Calcutta high court order, which put on hold a controversial order restricting idol immersion on October 1 (Muharram) and was widely seen as setback for chief minister Mamata Banerjee.

State director general of police Surajit Kar Purakayastha told media that local police stations might deny permission for immersion to puja organisers if it felt that communal harmony would be disturbed. State government sources told Hindustan Times that puja organisers would have to submit application to the local police station well in advance.

“The police will evaluate the safety aspects involved with the procession and immersion and take a final call on whether to accept or reject the application,” Purakayastha added. The police report to Mamata Banerjee, who also holds the home portfolio.

The decision was taken at a meeting at the state secretariat chaired by the chief minister.

On Thursday, the high court had put on hold the government’s order and ordered immersion on all days, criticising the state government for arbitrarily using its powers to restrain puja immersions after 10pm on September 30, the last day of the five-day festival and October 1. The government has said it feared a communal flare-up.

Party sources told Hindustan Times that elected public representatives of the ruling Trinamool Congress will work in their respective constituencies to persuade puja organisers to refrain from immersions on October 1.

“None of the three almanacs mention immersion on Ekadashi (October 1). In its order the court has also said immersion can be done on October 1 ‘wherever permissible’,” said home secretary Atri Bhattacharya.

Sources said the government decided to not approach the top court based on legal advice from senior Congress leader and advocate Kapil Sibal “He advised us not to approach the apex court on technical grounds, following which chief minister took the final decision not to go ahead,” said a member of the state cabinet, who refused to be named.

During Friday’s meeting, Mamata Banerjee issued a set of instructions to police and administration, sources added.

“She asked the police to keep special vigil in the areas close to the Bangladesh border areas. She said that she has got information that some Hindutva groups are planning to create problem in the areas over the immersion issue,” said a state government official.

The second instruction was to the police to draw up alternative routes for immersion and Muharram in advance – as instructed by the high court.

The third instruction, according to a minister present in the meeting, was to all ministers and elected representatives of Trinamool Congress. “The chief minister clearly told us to be present in our respective localities during the festival days and coordinate with police and administration to avoid any kind of tension over immersion,” the state cabinet member said.

Mamata Banerjee has frequently alleged in public meetings that saffron camp supporters have hatched plans to create communal flare-ups during the Durga puja, especially after plans of “shastra puja” (weapon worship) by RSS and VHP came to light.

First Published: Sep 22, 2017 18:08 IST