Ram Navami was celebrated on a massive scale across West Bengal on Sunday, with the state’s ruling Trinamool Congress and opposition BJP leaving no stone unturned in their celebrations this year. While the Trinamool leaders termed their Ram Navami celebrations a symbol of harmony among the people, the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) termed the ruling party’s participation as a “victory of the Hindus”.
Defying the Bengal government’s ban on carrying weapons in public, several armed rallies were taken out by the Sangh affiliates in various parts of the state including Birbhum, West Midnapore, Howrah and certain places here, where men, women and even minors waved saffron flags and walked with sharp weapons like swords, knives and axes while chanting the name of Lord Ram.
A number of heavyweight state BJP leaders were also seen participating in the procession with weapons. State unit President Dilip Ghosh rallied with a sword in West Midnapore while state women wing President Locket Chatterjee was seen carrying a trident. Party’s national secretary Rahul Sinha was also seen brandishing a weapon at a rally.
Police seized arms from a rally in central Kolkata’s Maniktala area where the rally organisers were seen brandishing swords. However, none of the rallyists were detained or arrested so far in the city. As many as six major Ram Navami rallies were taken out in the city and adjoining suburbs under strict police vigil. Several smaller rallies by the local units of rightwing organisations were also held.
In a bid to counter the BJP, the Trinamool also organised several colourful Ram Navami processions in every district where activists were seen carrying pictures of Ram and playing devotional songs. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee conveyed her best wishes to the people on the occasion.
Party leaders Laxmi Ratan Sukla, Sougata Roy, state ministers Jyotipriyo Mullick and Bratya Basu led large processions in their respective constituencies and many of them condemned the armed rallies as “hooliganism in the name of religion”.
However, in a procession organised by Trinamool lawmaker Arjun Singh near Barrackpore, some rallyists were seen brandishing weapons themselves. Claiming that Ram Navami has become a social festival in Bengal, Rahul Sinha claimed that the magnitude of the celebration marks the victory of their Hindutva agenda. He also welcomed the rallies taken out by the Trinamool, claiming that the state ruling party had to finally bow their heads and acknowledge the importance of the Hindu population in Bengal.
“This is a big victory for the BJP and its Hindutva agenda. It is important that Trinamool Congress leaders had to bow down their heads to the Hindu population in the state. We welcome this. This is a victory for Lord Ram and Ram Navami,” Sinha, who himself participated in a rally in Hoogly district’s Chinsurah, told IANS.
He said though the BJP was not organising any rallies, all its senior state leaders are participating in the processions organised by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad and the Hindu Jagran Manch. RSS Bengal unit chief Jishnu Basu said their activists took part in large numbers in those rallies. BJP leader Mukul Roy, who defected from the Trinamool last year, was also seen leading a rally in North 24 Parganas district’s Newtown area.
“Arms are nothing but symbols. No one carries arms in the rally to indulge in fights. I think the Trinamool government is trying to create an unnecessary controversy over the armed rallies on Ram Navami,” he said.