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Mamata Banerjee relaxes blanket ban on weapons in Ram Navami processions; BJP, VHP, RSS see communal card

Earlier this month, the Trinamool Congress raised eyebrows when its leaders announced that they, too, would celebrate the festival in the districts amid fanfare.

kolkata Updated: Mar 22, 2018 12:39 IST
Tanmay Chatterjee
Tanmay Chatterjee
Hindustan Times
Mamata Banerjee,BJP,RSS
During Ram Navami on April 5, 2017, members of Hindutva outfits carried swords in Bhawanipore, which is the home turf of chief minister Mamata Banerjee. Kolkata did not witness anything like this before. (HT File Photo)

Relaxing her blanket ban on public display of arms during Ram Navami, Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee on Wednesday told the state police that organisations taking out such processions for more than 10 years can be allowed to carry traditional weapons.

The move, completely unexpected and unprovoked, invited sharp reaction from Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Rashtriya Shayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP) leaders who saw in this an attempt to counter them by wooing the Hindu community.

Earlier this month, the Trinamool Congress raised eyebrows when its leaders announced that they, too, would celebrate the festival in the districts amid fanfare.

Read: Trinamool’s decision to celebrate Ram Navami is moral victory for the organisation, says RSS

“Some organisations in Bengal have been celebrating Ram Navami and taking out processions with traditional weapons for a long time. Right now I can think of two such organisations in Howrah and Asansol. Let them celebrate the way they have been doing all these years. Only those who have started this trend recently should not be allowed to carry weapons. The police have to do the screening carefully,” said Banerjee without naming the BJP or any Hindu group.

Read: Won’t allow processions with weapons: Mamata throws challenge at RSS, VHP

The chief minister made the statement in the middle of an administrative review meeting at Bolpur in Bibhum district. The meeting was aired live by several television channels. She asked director general of state police Surajit Kar Purakayastha and other senior officers present on the dais to implement her new guideline and remain vigilant.

Read: Bengal BJP chief vows Ram Navami rally with weapons despite Kolkata Police ban

“Banerjee is stepping backwards because we have scared her. First she said no processions would be allowed on Ram Navami. Now her party is celebrating the festival. Earlier she said nobody could carry weapons. Now she says weapons can be allowed. In the deathbed, every Hindu chants the name of Lord Ram. The chief minister has realised that her regime is drawing to a close,” said BJP national general secretary Rahul Sinha.

Kharagpur MLA and Bengal BJP president Dilip Ghosh, who made news last year by wielding a sword in a procession in his constituency, said Ram Navami would be celebrated in the same manner this year. “Let the government do what it wants,” said Ghosh.

Read: Kolkata police bans carrying weapons in public, Bengal police may follow

“Does the chief minister really believe that allowing some Hindu groups to carry weapons will make the entire community forget the riots at Basirhat, Dhulagarh and Kaliachak? Bengal never witnessed a more communal government in the past. To prove that she is secular, Banerjee should first remove the communal elements in her cabinet,” said Jishnu Basu, south Bengal general secretary of the RSS.

Read: TMC leaders to organise conference of Hindu priests in Bengal district

VHP organising secretary in Bengal, Bihar, Odisha and Andamans, Sachindra Narayan Sinha said numerous organisations in Bengal have been taking out armed processions for decades. “I took part in such processions in Asansol 30 years ago. The chief minister must realise that Ram Navami was not invented by the VHP or BJP. What she did today is an insult for all Hindus. By trying to please one religious group she is losing the trust of another,” said Sinha.

Last week, Jishnu Basu said the Trinamool’s decision to observe Ram Navami was a moral victory for the RSS because the state’s ruling party had opposed the celebrations in 2017.

First Published: Mar 22, 2018 12:39 IST