Stressing the need to maintain communal harmony in the country, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said Tuesday Mahatma Gandhi had always stood for tolerance and showed respect to all religions. Describing Gandhi as a “true leader of the masses” who could take everyone along in his fight for rights, Banerjee said the country was currently going through “difficult times” due to rising fuel prices and religious intolerance.
“We need leaders and statesmen like Gandhiji who could guide us during times of crisis,” the chief minister said after laying the foundation stone of a new museum complex at the state-acquired Gandhi Bhawan in Beleghata here, on the occasion of Bapu’s 149th birth anniversary. Those who respect and follow Gandhiji’s ideals will protect the unity and integrity of the nation, she asserted.
“Let us give a call for amity and unity and defeat communalism. Bengal, which stands for tolerance and civility, can never be intimidated by threat, coercion, money power or religious blindness,” the CM said. India can only move forward when all communities -Dalits, Adivasis, Jains, Hindus, Muslims, Christians, Buddhists – walk together, hand-in-hand, she maintained.
“These days, people post Gandhiji’s photo and make glowing comments about him on social network, but how much they remember his ideals is questionable. Gandhiji had always respected all communities,” the CM quipped, without naming anyone. Banerjee announced Rs 3.5 crore grant for construction of the museum complex and renovation work at Gandhi Bhavan, where the “father of the nation” had stayed for around a month during the 1947 riots in the city.
“It was due to his efforts, the bloodbath had stopped in Bengal and the rioters handed over the arms. When the country got freedom at midnight on August 15, 1947, Gandhiji was sitting inside this building, praying for the mayhem to end,” she said. On the occasion, the CM, through a remote control, also laid the foundation stone of ‘Mahatma Gandhi Visva Vidyalaya’ at Tamluk in East Midnapore and announced a chair in the freedom fighter’s name at Calcutta University.
A family member of Bibhu Ranjan Das, a small-time trader killed on September 26 in West Midnapore during the BJP-sponsored Bangla Bandh, was given a cheque of Rs 2 lakh during the programme. The CM said the state government will organize a symbolic padayatra (procession) next year to mark the Dandi March undertaken by Gandhi in 1930. “We have started celebrations a year ahead of the 150th birth anniversary of Gandhiji in 2019. The government plans to introduce Gandhian studies in the school syllabus, too, to help students learn his ideals,” Banerjee added.