Bangalore: Mamata Banerjee who is the current Chief Minister of West Bengal from All India Trinamool Congress Party, declared that the immersion of Durga Idol as a part of Durga Puja celebrations will halt for 24 hours on account of Muharram on October 1, 2017. Navratri which is called as Durga Puja in West Bengal includes traditions like immersing Goddess Durga idol in water as a part of the festival. In a notification issued last month on August 23, 2017, the West Bengal government imposed restrictions on Durga idol immersion after 6 PM on September 30, 2017 which is Vijaya Dashami day. The circular also states barring of immersion throughout the day on October 1, 2017 due to Muharram observations. However, the government later issued the revised announcement allowing immersion till 10 PM on September 30, 2017 and the immersion would resume on October 2 and will continue till October 4, 2017.
There were huge furore all around the state from the Hindus against this notification from the government. The BJP, RSS, Bajrang Dal and VHP opposed this decision and accused the Chief Minister for indulging in appeasement policies. “…The state government doesn’t have the right to decide when and how immersion will take place, it can only decide the routes for immersion. This administration, especially the chief minister, has no confidence in herself or in her administration. That’s why she is attacking our religious beliefs and introducing restrictions. If she has so little confidence, let her seek the Centre’s help,” state BJP president, Dilip Ghosh said.
Jishnu Bau, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh Karyavaha for South Bengal also opposed the ban stating that the Durga Puja is celebrated on wider scale compared to Muharram. He said, “I want to ask the police how many Durga puja committees were given permission last year and how many were given the same to hold Muharram processions? There can never be a comparison in this regard as Durga Puja is one of the major festivals here and Muharram is observed in few places. We believe that Hindus will ignore her decision… In Bengal, Hindus will have to ensure their rights.”
Apart from the oppositions from all over the state, there were three Public Interest Litigation (PIL’s) challenging the WB Government’s decision. Advocate General (AG) Kishore Dutta defended the Government’s case on Wednesday, September 21, 2017. The AG argued that it was the Government’s preventive measures to avoid any untoward incident between the two communities.
However, the court bench presided by the Chief Justice Rakesh Tiwary had slammed Mamata government’s decision. He said, “If you say there is complete harmony, are you (the state administration) not creating a line of division between the two communities by your action?”. The bench further stated that it didn’t dispute the state’s right to regulate but held that it couldn’t restrict observance of religious rights. The court further told the government that the disruption of law and order doesn’t sound as a valid reason for this notification.
“Let them (Hindus and Muslims) live in harmony, do not create a line between them,” Acting Chief Justice Rakesh Tiwary said and further asked the government to provide a “concrete ground” for its decision to stop the immersion of Durga idols after 10 pm on September 30, 2017 and on October 1, 2017.
“People have the right to practise their religious activities, whichever community they may be of, and the State cannot put restrictions, unless it has a concrete ground to believe that two communities cannot live together,” Rakesh Tiwary told on Wednesday.
As a reaction to this court order, Mamata Banerjee stated that no one can order what she can do as she stated, “Someone can slit my throat but no one can tell me what to do.”