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  Opinion   Edit  22 Sep 2017  A clear indictment of Mamata-style politics

A clear indictment of Mamata-style politics

Published : Sep 22, 2017, 12:10 am IST
Updated : Sep 22, 2017, 12:10 am IST

Durga idols can now be immersed on all days, including Muharram.

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee (Photo: Abhijit Mukherjee)
 West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee (Photo: Abhijit Mukherjee)

In a clear indictment of the kind of votebank politics that may have led to the Mamata Banerjee government’s order restricting Durga Puja immersions on Muharram day this year, the Calcutta high court delivered a stinging rebuke while revoking the order. Durga idols can now be immersed on all days, including Muharram. It has again taken the judiciary’s wisdom and majesty to remind politicians not to mix religion with politics, or in this case with law and order. For seven decades, since the horrific Partition-era riots, Hindus, Muslims and others have lived in peace and harmony in West Bengal. While Muharram doesn’t fall under the category of a religious occasion to be celebrated as it mourns the death of Muhammad’s grandson, people never let the contiguous dates of festivals come in the way of observing them.

On the face of it, this was a routine administrative matter that the police should have been told to handle in marking out different routes for Durga idol immersions and the Shia Muslims’ tazia. When so many festivals have been observed around the same dates for so long without any communal problem, where did the police fears arise over breaches of law and order? This seemed to be a clear case of clever machinations by a politician to pander to a religious minority by whipping up an issue when none existed. It is moot whether chief minister Mamata Banerjee should allow an obvious appeasement move to play out like this as she is from a stream of thought that allowed such tweaking of sentiments on the major religions of her state’s people to win elections. The point is that she may be driving a wedge by making this distinction between festivals.

The Mamata government’s failure lay in not being able to make out the difference between regulating religious processions in such a way that communal tensions were averted and prohibiting a procession. Curiously, by trying to stop one procession and allowing another, the government was only creating an invidious distinction that shouldn’t even have been contemplated by an impartial administration. Did a judge have to point out that people have the right to practise their religious activities regardless of which community they belong to? This should have been obvious to anyone running a government in a multicultural state in a religiously diverse nation like India.  The court was being charitable in pointing out that the chief minister had been saying that people were living in harmony in her state while her administration was coming up with such ideas about the fear of friction among people of different religions. It is now incumbent upon the Trinamul Congress government to ensure the festivals pass off peacefully and needless religious distinctions are avoided.

Tags: mamata banerjee, durga puja, muharram