Parts of West Bengal, including Kolkata, saw Ram Navami celebrated with fervour on Thursday. With Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS)-affiliates bringing out numerous rallies with people brandishing swords and tridents, youth as well as children were seen participating in the celebrations, reported Hindustan Times. Dilip Ghosh, West Bengal BJP president and senior RSS member, seen carrying a sword, also participated in a rally in West Midnapore district in the state. Other than in the capital, mega processions were organised by right-wing outfits such as the Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Hindu Jagran Manch and others, in Howrah, Birbhum, Nadia, North Dinajpur, West Midnapore, and East Midnapore.
Tableaus decorated with saffron flags, carrying idols of Ram Darbar, as well as participants dressed as Ram, Laxman, Sita and Hanuman were taken out from 22 locations in Kolkata and seen across the city, according to HT. “Mandir wahi banayenge” slogans were also raised at these rallies.
While the BJP and the RSS celebrated Ram Navami in a big way in the state, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee accused the BJP of trying to ‘appropriate’ the festival, and asked it not to mix religion with politics. “The BJP should not describe Ram Navami as its own. The BJP has nothing to do with it. It should stop using religion (for politics). (During the assembly election) In UP they shout ‘Sabka sath’, but in Bengal they are playing divisive politics,” she said, addressing a gathering in Bankura district in the state.
Earlier this week, while the BJP-RSS were planning the celebrations, state BJP president Ghosh supported the carrying of weapons during rallies, and said, “We fully support such a programme to celebrate Ram Navami. It will help people to unite against the anti-national forces and vote-bank politics,” adding that there would be more than 200 camps with yatras, public meetings and processions held across West Bengal. “Big processions and meetings will be held in North Dinajpur, Burdwan, Birbhum, Nadia, and West Midnapore, among others,” he told PTI.
The selection of the locations was seen to be significant as North Dinajpur borders Bihar and Bangladesh, and has a high Muslim population, while various parts of Burdwan and Birbhum are known to be communally sensitive.
Bidyut Mukherjee, the organisational secretary of RSS, West Bengal and Andaman and Nicobar Islands, told PTI that each of the processions would see the participation of around 15,000 people. He claimed that festivals such as Durga Puja and Saraswati Puja were not allowed in some parts of the state and the time had come for Hindus to assert themselves.
A senior Trinamool Congress leader, reacting to this said, “The RSS and the BJP for last few years have been trying to polarise the state communally, but they have failed. Everybody has the right to organise religious programmes. But our government will not tolerate any attempt to create division among communities”.
The Vishwa Hindu Parishad has, in the meantime, taken up the construction of the Ram Mandir at Ayodhya issue, and is planning to organise a “Hindu Dharma Sabha” in the state capital on April 11. “We are launching a state-wide awareness programme about the historical importance of Ram Mandir and Ram Janmabhoomi movement,” said VHP spokesperson Sourish Mukherjee.
Both the Congress and the Left maintained a distance from the Ram Navami celebrations in the state today. CPI(M) state general secretary Surya Kanta Mishra had earlier accused the RSS of “masterminding communal riots in the state”.