By Bappaditya Paul
WEST Bengal today (05 April 2017) remained witness to something that it has rarely seen before and which might be an indication to the days that are in store for the state, so far widely believed to be liberal in nature!
Various frontal organisations of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and BJP today took out armed processions in different parts of the state to commemorate Ram Navami that celebrates the birthday of Hindu god Lord Ram.
Not only adult men, teenage boys and girls also took part in such processions, unfurling saffron flags in one hand and brandishing swords or similar weapons in the other. They shouted slogans like Jai Shri Ram, Bharat Mata Ki Jai, etc glorifying Lord Ram and the country.
Until now, such armed rallies could only be witnessed in Bengal during the annual Muharram processions by the Muslims. Albeit for the past few years, instead of brandishing actual weapons, participants in Muharram processions have been gradually switching over to wooden or plastic replicas of the same.
The armed Ram Navami processions that RSS and BJP frontal organisations today took out included one at Paddapukur (Bhowanipore) in the heart of Kolkata, at Kada Road in Durgapur, and Karidhya in Birbhum district.
Bhowanipore happens to be the home constituency of Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. Participants in the procession there included several BJP leaders and many of them moved at the front in motorbikes, wielding swords in hand.
Participants in the Durgapur procession were mainly teenage and college-going girls, sporting white salwar and saffron dhupatta, and had swords in their hand. Asansol, which is a neighbouring town of Durgapur, has a BJP MP and Union minister in Babul Supriyo.
But of all the processions taken out today, the one at Karidhya in Birbhum was the largest one comprising a few hundred youths and teenage boys. Almost all of them were brandishing swords or similar weapons. Birbhum has a sizeable number of Adivasi tribal population and has been witnessing occasional communal flareups for the past two years.
Upbeat by the turnout in the processions, Bengal BJP state president Dilip Ghosh said that it was “a good sign that Hindu population in Bengal has gained courage and was trying to unite by taking up arms.” Only such weapons that were used by Lord Ram have been brandished in the processions today, he added.
Apprehensive that BJP will gain political mileage by organising Ram Navami processions, Trinamool took out counter rallies in some parts of the state such as Howrah, Siliguri, and Birbhum. In Birbhum, Trinamool workers organised pujas of Lord Ram’s disciple Hanuman all over the district.
Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who addressed an administrative public meeting at Bankura today, hit out at the BJP accusing them of misusing Ram Navami. “This is a solemn festival celebrated in Bengal for ages. Don’t hijack Ram Navami and do not try to incite communal tension,” she cautioned the saffron party.