Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Saturday paid tributes to Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar, a 19th century social reformer, on his bicentenary birth anniversary, and seized the occasion to hit out at “certain outsiders” for vandalising a bust of the polymath last year.
“Remembering great social reformer & educationist Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar on his 200th birth anniversary. He was a pioneer for Bangla language & drafted primer Barnaparichay. Also known as ‘Dayar Sagar’, he fought for widow remarriage, banning child marriage & polygamy,” she tweeted.
“Vidyasagar truly represents the pride of Bengal & serves as an inspiration to us till date. His bust was unfortunately desecrated in 2019 by certain outsiders, which only shows their disregard for Bengal’s legacy. However, his teachings are deeply inculcated in our values,” she said in another tweet.
A bust of Vidyasagar was vandalised at a Kolkata college during a Lok Sabha election rally led by then BJP president Amit Shah in May last year. The TMC and the BJP blamed each other for the incident. Prime Minister Narendra Modi promised to install a grand statue of Vidyasagar at the same spot. The chief minister, however, stole a march over him and unveiled a new bust within a month of the incident.
Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar called Vidyasagar one of the greatest reformers of all time. “Today marks the 200th birth anniversary of late Sanskrit scholar, writer, educationist, social reformer and philanthropist Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar. He was one of the greatest reformers of all times. His contributions to the upliftment & betterment of the society is immense,” he tweeted. Calling on Banerjee, he said “we need to strengthen the democratic fabric” by following the ideals of Vidyasagar.
Born in 1820 at Birsingha village in Medinipur, Vidyasagar is widely known for his social reform movements in the mid-19th century. He worked for emancipation of women and made significant contributions to simplify and modernise Bengali language.
TMC secretary general and Education Minister Partha Chatterjee on Saturday said people would never forget the desecration of the bust. “We will never forget how on the eve of the bi-centenary birth anniversary celebrations of Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar, a political party, driven by religion-based politics, tore down the statue of the educationist and social reformer of Bengal by storming a college,” he said at a virtual programme held by his department to mark the celebration.
He alleged that the “forces” that had desecrated the bust continued to demolish the pride, heritage and culture of Bengal.
“They want to erase the names of Rabindranath Tagore, Bankim Chandra Chatterjee, Madhusudan Dutt and Kazi Nazrul Islam from the History books. But can they strike off the names of our luminaries, can they make us forget the rich contribution of Bengali culture in this way? They can’t,” he said.
Chatterjee expressed his dismay that Bengali was not included in the list of classical languages in the New Education Policy.
“Can you imagine that? Can Tagore, whose two songs are the national anthems of two countries, be neglected in this fashion for the next generation? Can they make irrelevant the literary works of Sirshendu Mukherjee, Joy Goswami and Abul Basar?” he asked.
BJP leader and MP Locket Chatterjee said, “Vidyasagar fought for the empowerment and freedom of women. In West Bengal, women have neither security nor freedom. We want to form such a government in 2021 which will ensure the security to women.”
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