New Delhi: The Calcutta high court today cancelled the West Bengal government’s decision to restrict Durga puja idol immersions, saying, “You are exercising extreme power without any basis. Just because you are the state, can you pass arbitrary order?” reported NDTV.
Acting chief justice Rakesh Tiwary said the state administration cannot interfere with the faith of the people and should treat them with equality. “People have the right to practice their religious activities, whichever community they may be of, and the state cannot put restrictions, unless it has a concrete ground to believe that two communities cannot live together.”
Tiwary said that the government must provide “concrete grounds” for its decisions. “If you dream that something will go wrong, you cannot impose restrictions.”
Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s government had said that the restrictions were a preventive measure to rule out any law and order problems.
The court suggested that the administration regulate the routes for immersion processions and for Muharram’s Tajia processions, adding that while it didn’t dispute the state’s right to regulate, the administration cannot pose restrictions on the religious rights of citizens.
“If you say there is complete harmony, are you (the state) not creating a line of division between the two communities by your action?” asked the court, according to the NDTV report.
Banerjee’s government restricted Durga puja idol immersion to 10 pm on September 30 – the day of Vijaya Dashami – and banned any immersions the next day, because Muharram is on the same day, and celebration processions might have been on the same routes.
This was viewed by many as an infringement of the fundamental right to practice religion, and three petitions were made in the high court challenging the decision. On Wednesday the high court told the state government that it could not restrict a citizen’s constitutional right to practice religion on the assumption that there could be law and order problems.
“Let them (Hindus and Muslims) live in harmony, do not create a line between them,” Tiwary had said on Wednesday, according to a Times of India report.
Hours before the Calcutta high court’s verdict today, Banerjee defiantly rubbished charges of minority appeasement.
Speaking at a puja pandal in South Kolkata’s Palm Avenue, Banerjee asked why she is only accused of appeasement when she participates in Eid prayers and not when she inaugurates Hindu festivals like Ganesh or Durga puja, reported the Hindustan Times.
“If this is appeasement, I shall continue to do so as long as I am alive. I will do it even if a gun is held to my head. I don’t discriminate. That’s the culture of Bengal, that’s my culture.”
While inaugurating another puja in South Kolkata’s Haridevpur on Wednesday, Banerjee had said, “Tolerance is the hallmark of Bengali culture. I don’t like those who are intolerant. They are ignorant of Bengal’s traditions,” reported the Hindustan Times.
Rahul Sinha, BJP’s national secretary and the state’s former party president, had said that Banerjee’s logic was “baseless” and a “deliberate attempt to create communal divide”, according to the Hindustan Times.