An attempt at a communally harmonious Ganesha puja pandal met with severe opposition from VHP and Bajrang Dal activists forcing organisers to change the idol soon after its installation here on Wednesday.
The Hira Panna Group of City Light area in Surat,which has been setting up theme-based Ganesh pandals in the city,had installed a statue of Mother Mary with an infant Ganesha in her arms. The plan was to immerse the idol and donate the Mother Mary to a church coming up in Dumas.
On Wednesday,when the idol was unveiled and news spread,activists of VHP,Bajrang Dal and president of Ganesh Utsav Sewa Samiti Anil Biscuitwala came to the pandal along with several priests and forced the organisers to remove the idol.
The objection was to the cross hanging from the right hand while it held a Ganesh in her left hand,in place of infant Jesus.
Under mounting pressure from all sides,the youths of H P Group removed the cross from the hand of the statue in the evening and replaced it with the tricolour,apparently turning it into a replica of Mother India.
We are getting pressure from all sides to remove the idol of Mother Mary but we are firm on our decision and we will not remove the idol. The small Ganesha Idol is removable. And after immersion,we have decided to donate the 11-foot statue of Mother Mary to a new church in Dumas area of Surat. We have done nothing wrong, said one of the organisers.
We just want to spread message of communal harmony but some people do not seem to like it and they are making big issue of it. To settle the controversy,we have removed the cross and replaced it with Indian flag, added the organiser.
Ganesh Utsav Samithi president and BJPs Rander councillor Anil Biscuitwala said,We went to the spot and tried to convince the organisers that such a concept would spread a wrong message. The two religions should not be mixed as it might lead to controversies… Our motive was to resolve it peacefully,and later,the organisers agreed to remove the cross and replaced it with the national flag,which now looks like Mother India with Lord Ganesha in her arms.