The Kolkata High Court deserves praise for the forthright manner in which this noble institution has protected a tradition in Bengal that stretches back millennia. Chief Justice Rakesh Tiwari and his colleague Justice Harish Tandon have ordered the West Bengal government to do what tradition and common sense demands, which is to permit the immersion of the idols of Maa Durga on every day designated for the purpose following Vijay Dashami. It was astonishing that the Trinamool Congress government decided to ban the immersion of idols during the period of Muharram, on the flimsy ground that having both take place simultaneously would lead to communal clashes. It is clear that Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee was very poorly briefed by the Home Department of the state government. The fact is that there have hardly been any clashes whatsoever between the Shia community and the Hindus in any part of India after 1947. The Shia community in India has been exemplary in taking a stance opposite to that of the Wahhabi fringe within the Muslim community. This latter has been responsible for practically all the communal clashes that have taken place in India, beginning with the horrible violence let loose by the Jinnah Muslim League in Kolkata in 1946. While commentators blame such clashes on the Sunni community, it needs to be mentioned that the Sunni community is overall as peace-loving as the Shia, with only the Wahhabi fringe indulging in acts of intimidation and violence, not merely against Hindus or Christians, but against numerous Muslims as well. It needs repeating that 76% of those murdered by ISIS are themselves Muslims, even though social media gets filled with images of the execution of Christians, Alawites, Druze, Yazidis and others by this gang of criminals that for too long was tolerated and indeed assisted by western countries and their regional allies as a means of warring against the Iran-led Shia alliance in the Middle East. By conjuring up the prospect of a communal holocaust as a consequence of idol immersion on the day of Muharram, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has cast a slur on a community that has shown its commitment to communal harmony in an exemplary way, the Shia community of India, and specifically, West Bengal.
By agreeing to the uncalled for recommendation of her officials to seek to ban idol immersion during a festival that is central to the rich and variegated culture of Bengal, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has in effect stated that her government is either unwilling or incapable of maintaining law and order. To prevent a necessary action on the grounds that it cannot be protected by the arms of the state is akin to cutting off the head of an individual to cure a headache. Had the Durga Puja ban gone into effect, the impact on relations between communities would have been immediate and long-lasting. Mamata Banerjee is following in the footsteps of Lord Mountbatten, who argued for partition on the grounds that there would otherwise be a communal firestorm that would take away hundreds of thousands of lives. Such a firestorm did take place, but only after Mountbatten’s remedy for it (the partition of India) was carried out. The entire subcontinent is still experiencing the aftershocks of the parting kick of the British raj to its people. It may be mentioned that the Shia community in West Bengal nowhere asked for idol immersion by the Hindu community to be proscribed in the manner sought to be imposed by the Trinamool Congress government. The only letter sent by community elders was a request to permit the Tazia procession to take place on the eve of Muharram or on the day itself. Nowhere was any other demand made. Such a letter was fully within the spirit of secularism that CM Mamata Banerjee constantly gives speeches about, and what is opposed to genuine secularism is the way in which the West Bengal authorities sought to discriminate between two communities, by denying permission to conduct an immersion that has been the practice for millennia. The High Court has wisely and appropriately acted in the matter, and thereby preserved communal harmony in West Bengal from efforts at furthering the divide between two communities that should ever live in peace beside each other. The Kolkata High Court deserves the gratitude of the entire nation for its forthright defence of a tradition going back millennia, a tradition that is so dear to the vibrant Bengali people.