The anti-Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), National Register of Citizens (NRC) protest hit the Kolkata Derby on Sunday after a section of East Bengal fans unfurled innovative tifos (a choreographed display to form a large image or sign) at the Salt Lake Stadium to voice their dissent.
“Rakta diye kina mati, kagaz diye noy (a paper cannot replace a land acquired through blood),” read the Bengali banner as 63,756 football fans watched a pulsating encounter between Mohun Bagan and East Bengal.
Around 30 members of East Bengal (EB) ultras fan group had worked on the large tifo for 20 days.
“Traditionally the majority of the fan base of East Bengal comes from the immigrant population from Bangladesh who were forced to leave their home during the partition of 1947. Time and again we are mocked saying we will be among the first to show the papers for NRC. There is a lot of cyberbullying around this as we are called Bangladeshis and asked to get out of social media platforms,” one of the EB fans told the indianexpress.com.
“This banner is our answer and sign of strength to all those who question our love for this nation,” he said, adding, “our peaceful gesture was also appreciated by Mohun Bagan fans because it truly touched everyone’s hearts.”
That was not all as another banner portrayed a popular Bengali comic strip character – Batul the Great, created by Narayan Debnath – protesting against NRC and CAA. “‘Pala, pala, pala NRC asche (go away the NRC is coming)’, says the tifo in which the Baatul becomes -Baangal the great and comes to the rescue, showing his muscle power,” explained the fan.
Another display read: “You Bangal, where are the NRC papers”, as Batul responds with “go away”.
Not often do you find the biggest rivals in football united on a common platform.
Supporters of Mohun Bagan, who are mostly residents of West Bengal, unfurled another huge banner that read: “When we were here, there were no documents.” Another read: “Saffron Brits beware! We taught India to fight the British. Never forget.”
This is not the first time a sporting encounter has witnessed such protests in India. A group of spectators wore T-shirts that read “No NRC, No NPR, No CAA” during the first ODI between India and Australia at the Wankhede in Mumbai.
Meanwhile, on the pitch it was Mohun Bagan who defeated East Bengal 2-1 in the much-anticipated derby, the penultimate clash between the two sides in the I-League era as the Mariners will be merged with Indian Super League franchise ATK from next season.
The next Kolkata derby of the I-League, the last one between the two sides, will be played at the Vivekananda Yuba Bharati Krirangan on March 15.