“Bhir theke shobai dure thako/Corona ke chhute diyo na [Everyone keep away from crowds, don’t allow corona to touch you].”
These lines from a song written by Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee to spread awareness about the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) , and sung by her Cabinet colleague and singer Indranil Sen, rang out in public places across the state on Friday morning on the occasion of Rabindranath Tagore’s 159th birth anniversary. The song was played at traffic signals, programmes hosted by the government and the ruling TMC, and radio and television channels along with some of the poet’s compositions.
On May 6, Additional Director General of Police (Law and Order) Gyanwant Singh had issued a circular to all district police officials, directing them to play the song, along with Rabindra Sangeet, in areas under their jurisdiction.
“Collection of selected Tagore songs…along with the awareness song written by Hon’ble CM, WB, on coronavirus should be played at important residential areas and housing complexes of cities and towns between 9 am and 11.30 am,” read the directive.
The government’s move, however, drew sharp criticism from the BJP, while the TMC defended the directive.
“West Bengal Police issued an order to mandatorily play Mamata Banerjee’ song at important residential areas and housing complexes of cities and towns on the occasion of Rabindra Jayanti. Instead of commemorating Gurudev, WB government is imposing CM on people! This is outright insulting!” tweeted BJP MP Locket Chatterjee.
Her party colleague Mukul Roy, who was once Mamata Banerjee’s trusted aide, also questioned the connection between the Chief Minister’s song and celebrations of Tagore’s life. “It is not just an affront to Gurdev but also makes light of the fight against corona!” he said on Twitter.
TMC leader Madan Mitra accused the saffron party of engaging in “dirty politics”, and said the Chief Minister had tried to use the occasion to spread awareness about COVID-19.
Though Tagore’s birth anniversary is celebrated on a grand scale every year, especially in Kolkata and the university town of Santiniketan, the celebrations this time were muted because of the pandemic. No public events were allowed by the government.
In the morning, the Chief Minister paid tribute to the poet at Rabindra Sadan. She sang a Tagore song, “Dariye acho tumi amar ganer opare”, with Indranil Sen in front of a flower-decked portrait of the Nobel laureate.
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