Days after the state government refused permission to an October 3 event at Mahajati Sadan in Kolkata, which was to be addressed by Mohan Bhagwat, the RSS chief will speak at an auditorium of the Centre-run Science City the same day. While Mahajati Sadan could accommodate 1,400 people, the Science City auditorium has a capacity for 2,232.
Earlier, the Bengal government had denied permission to the BJP to hold an event at Netaji Indoor Stadium in Kolkata, where national party president Amit Shah was scheduled to speak — either on September 10 or 12. It had also cancelled the October 3 booking for an event organised by the Sister Nivedita Mission Trust, where along with Bhagwat, Governor Keshari Nath Tripathi was invited. The cancellations had triggered controversy, with BJP and RSS attacking the Mamata government for its “autocratic” and “undemocratic” rule. However, while Netaji Indoor Stadium had cited it is unavailable till Durga Puja, officials at Mahajati Sadan had maintained that the auditorium will undergo maintenance work from September 26 to October 6.
The RSS confirmed that the Bhagwat event will now take place at Science City in Kolkata — run by Union Ministry of Culture’s National Council of Science Museums. Jishnu Basu, RSS karyavaha (secretary) for south Bengal, said: “The hall has been booked and this in fact is better than the earlier venue. He (Bhagwat) will arrive in Kolkata on October 3 and speak at the venue.”
However, sources in the RSS said booking of this venue also saw its fair share of problems. Though the alternate venue was suggested almost immediately after the news of Mahajati Sadan cancellation came in, initially, “the organisation had booked the smaller auditorium” at Science City. The Science City has two auditoriums — a “mini auditorium” with a capacity of 392 and a “grand theatre” that can accommodate 2,232 people. “It was decided that the smaller venue wouldn’t be in keeping with the stature of RSS chief Mohan Bhagwat and would serve to only underline the kind of destructive, anti-democratic politics that the Trinamool Congress was playing,” a source said. Later, the grand theatre at Science City was booked.
Meanwhile, a government official said: “There was some concern about Bhagwat’s presence in Bengal during the communally sensitive period between September 30 and October 1, when Bijoya Dashami and Muharram are falling… We have received information that certain Hindu outfits have planned processions with arms on Dashami.”
In January, Kolkata Police had denied permission for Bhagwat’s rally but the Calcutta HC had overruled its decision. In November 2014, police had denied BJP permission to hold Shah’s public meeting in Esplanade. Later, the BJP had moved HC and obtained permission to organise the rally.