The BJP on Tuesday withdrew the Asthi Kalash Yatra of former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee in Darjeeling and Kalimpong towns of north Bengal after the police refused permission for the yatra in Darjeeling and barred the party from doing both nagar parikrama (rally of the town with the ashes) and keeping the ‘asthi kalash’ at a public place in Kalimpong.
Senior police officers in Darjeeling told The Indian Express that permission was denied to the BJP since there was a political programme of the Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) scheduled between Tuesday and Thursday. Permission for the GJM programme, a senior officer said, had already been granted. “So we could not permit BJP,” the officer added.
The BJP’s kalash yatra was scheduled for Monday and Tuesday. Darjeeling superintendent of police could not be reached for a comment.
The BJP and the Trinamool Congress traded charges over politicising the kalash yatra. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had started the kalash yatra on August 22, handing over the kalashes to BJP state presidents – the party’s Bengal unit chief, Dilip Ghosh, brought it here.
On August 25, letters were sent to Darjeeling and Kalimpong police seeking permission to bring in the kalash over August 27 and 28 (Monday-Tuesday). The BJP sought permission to keep the asthi kalash at Darjeeling’s Chowrasta for six hours, and at Dumbar Chowk in Kalimpong for two hours.
In Kalimpong, the party had also planned a nagar parikrama, where a car carrying the kalash would move around the town before the asthi was to be kept at a local RSS office. The yatra was to end by immersing the asthi in Teesta river.
“In Darjeeling and Kurseong, police denied us permission outright,” said Annapurna Chaturvedi, BJP convener of Kalimpong. “In Kalimpong, we wanted permission for nagar praikrama and to keep the aasthi kalash at Dumbar Chowk to let people pay their respect to the late Prime Minister. But the police said we are not allowed to do both – we were only allowed to bring it in a car and keep it at the RSS office before immersing it. We decided to withdraw altogether.”
State BJP general secretary Sayantan Basu said, “It is sad, unfortunate. This was not a political programme, but the administration and the police, under Trinamool Congress, deliberately stopped the Asarhi Kalash Yatra from entering the Hills.”
Trinamool Congress leader and North Bengal Development Minister Rabindranath Ghosh, however, said, “The BJP is politicising everything – even this issue. The police permission was denied since there was a programme of another political party. The BJP is trying to rake up a controversy out of this.”