Prevailing “social conditions”, “administrative ease” and “prevention” of any untoward incident are what sources in the West Bengal government have cited for a clampdown on Durga idol immersions on the day of Vijay Dashami (30 September) after 6 pm and on the next day (1 October) coinciding with Muharram.

On the condition of anonymity, a source close to West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said, “The social conditions in the state now are such that we cannot take chances of the two festivals happening side by side. If any untoward incident happens, the government will be held responsible. This is a preventive measure and not to hurt any religious sentiments as we want the festive season to pass peacefully.”

Earlier this week, at a meeting with Puja committees in Kolkata, Mamata Banerjee issued a ban on Durga idol immersions on the day of Vijay Dashami after 6 pm and on the next day (1 October) as that day coincides with Muharram, a festival of mourning observed by a section of Muslims across the world.  

The Opposition in Bengal has, however, questioned the “administrative capabilities” of the Mamata Banerjee government and accused her of “divide and rule” politics in the state.

Roopa Ganguly, MP, Rajya Sabha, and senior BJP leader of the state, told The Sunday Guardian, “This move has come as a reflection of her divide and rule politics which she has been resorting to for the past many years. Durga Puja in Bengal is not only for Hindus, but for everybody. This move shows her incapability and her loss of trust in her own police to handle any situation in Bengal.” 

The Opposition has also slammed the government in the state for doubting the intentions of the people of Bengal and about their “communal brotherhood”.Shatarup Ghosh, leader of the CPM in Bengal, told this newspaper, “Both Muharram and Vijay Dashami  have coincided even earlier, but now the government is seeing all Bengalis with an eye of suspicion. Who is the government to come and tell us how we should celebrate festivities? In Bengal, I have always seen both the communities celebrating each others’ festivals with harmony, but this government wants to divide us. This is a reflection of competitive communalism in Bengal.”

“The order clearly shows the administrative failure of the state government, where the government is unsure of the capabilities of its police force to handle any situation. Even during the CPM government, such festivals had coincided, but we never stopped one religion from celebrating its festival against the other,” Shatarup added. 

Last year, the Calcutta High Court had rapped the state government for banning Durga idol immersions in the same manner that it plans to do this year as well. The state BJP is also planning to hold protests across West Bengal against the “appeasement” politics of the Mamata Banerjee government and for defying the High Court’s order.

Sayantan Basu, state secretary, West Bengal BJP, told this newspaper: “The Bengal government does not even have any respect for the High Court. It has turned a blind eye towards the majority community’s sentiments while playing appeasement politics.”

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