Members of two factions of the Matua Mahasangha Thursday entered into a scuffle over holding the last rites of the community’s matriach Binapani Devi who passed away Tuesday evening. The funeral procession was stopped mid-way and returned before starting again, following the arguments and scuffle.
Devi, 100, popularly known as Boro Maa, died at SSKM Hopital due to age-related illness. On Wednesday, her body was kept at Thakurnagar in North 24 Parganas — the headquarters of the Matua community — to allow her followers to pay their last respects. On Thursday, the two factions entered into a tussle over the timing of the last rites. While TMC MP and daughter-in-law of Boro Maa, Mamata Bala Thakur, wanted the last rites to be completed by afternoon, Devi’s younger son Manjul Krishna Thakur and grandson Shantanu Thakur — who heads the pro-BJP faction of the community — wanted the last rites to be performed at 4 pm.
State ministers Jyotipriyo Mullick and Sujit Bose as well as TMC leaders Sabyasachi Dutta, Idris Ali and Nirmal Ghosh were present at the venue. A large contingent of police, Rapid Action Force (RAF) and combat forces were deployed to maintain law and order.
A tussle erupted when Mamata Bala Thakur, state ministers and TMC leaders began the funeral procession at 10 am without taking the consent of the other faction. Enraged, Shantanu Thakur entered into an altercation with Additional SP Abhijit Bandyopadhyay and demanded that the procession return to Thakurbari. “No one told you to oversee the procession. It is our family matter and the family will decide how the last rites will be performed, not the administration. Please make sure the procession comes back,” he told Bandyopadhyay. Shantanu announced that the procession would again start at 11 am.
“We have our rituals and we will follow it. Why is the administration putting pressure on us to complete the last rites in a haste? What is the role of the administration here? It should only maintain the law and order situation. It must not dictate how to perform the last rites,” he added. As a section of the crowd became restless, the procession stopped and returned before once again setting out at 11 am.
“We had planned to take out a funeral procession in Thakurnagar before performing her final rites. She will be cremated behind PR Thakur Memorial Temple. We don’t know why we are delaying it,” said Mamata Bala Thakur.
State Fire Minister Sujit Bose said the administration did not interfere in family matters. “Yesterday (Wednesday), it was decided by the two factions that the last rites will be performed today (Thursday). They also decided about the timing of the funeral procession. We are only here to maintain law and order. But one has to understand that she died on Tuesday and today is Thursday. Her body has started decomposing. It is advised that the last rites be performed as early as possible.”
Bose and other ministers took part in the procession while Shantanu Thakur and other family members were following it. Mamata Bala Thakur and the ministers reached the funeral site set up behind PR Thakur Memorial Temple, a short distance from Thakurbari. They were made to wait for the procession to reach by when state minister Jyotipriya Mullick asked the priests to set up the funeral pyre.
Around 2 pm, the procession reached the funeral site and the body was taken inside the temple. The Shantanu Thakur-led faction began offering payers without asking the other faction to join. A verbal altercation ensued.