New Delhi: In April 2018, nearly six months after the annual Pujo was celebrated at the Durga temple attached to the revered Dhakeshwari Mandir in old Dhaka, my heart was gladdened on spotting a string of words written in Bengali on a hoarding which must have been put up during the four-day festivities.
The words said: Dharma jar jar; utsav sabar.
It essentially meant, religion can be different but festivities are for all.
The underlining meaning of the words were: Bengalis – Hindus or Muslims – come together to celebrate Pujo.
And if you happen to be in Bangladesh during the first week of April, you would happily add to the list Poila Boishak too – easily a bigger festival than Eid in that country, where Hindus and Muslims once again come together as Bengalis.
Now, cut to a set of news report that has sprung out of Kolkata, the Bengali heartland in India, on October 6, the day of Maha Ashtami. The reports are around the pujo theme of a pandal in Beliaghata area of the capital city of West Bengal.
These reports said that the pujo samiti played a recording of ‘Azaan’ at the site, leading one local lawyer, Santanu Singha, to lodge a police complaint against 10 people including some organisers “for disturbing peace” and “hit (hitting) the sentiments of the Hindu religion”.
According to the Indian Express, Singha’s complaint to the local police said, “These persons have been categorically involved in disturbing the peace and tranquillity in the State of West Bengal by allowing to run Azaan in the Durga Puja Pandal which has come to my knowledge by the video forwarded to me by Vishwa Hindu Parishad. The said video categorically show(s) that Azaan is being played in the Durga Puja Pandal and as such it has hit the sentiments of the Hindu religion and against the rules of the Society. The said persons have intentionally played AZAAN in the sacred Durga Puja Pandal and therefore with deliberate intent has wounded religious feelings.”
What Parimal Dey, the secretary of the Beliaghata 33 pally club, the organisers of the pujo, highlighted as the theme of this year’s festivities seemed very much in tandem with what I had spotted in old Dhaka. Dey said, following the tradition of having a theme for each pujo festivities in Kolkata, they too picked one. “Our theme is amra ek, eka noye (We are together, not alone)”. In other words, “Dharma jar jar; utsav sabar”.
He said the issue “is being politicised unnecessarily.”
“To demonstrate the theme, we have used models of church, temple and mosque and have used their symbols. Our purpose is to show that humanity is above all religion,” he underlined.
To create a better understanding among people, Dey and group also played a video to depict all the three religions. He told the newspaper, “Some people have conveniently ignored the Hinduism and Christian-related messages and are creating controversy over a message in Urdu. It is not true and completely fake that Azaan is being played during Maa Durga Puja.”
The local police have been quoted in news reports saying that no FIR has yet been lodged in response to the complaint. The forces are also reportedly keeping a close watch on social media uploads and messages on the issue to avoid it from turning into a communal flashpoint.
Having pocketed 18 of the 42 seats of Bengal in the last general elections, the BJP and the supporters of the Sangh parivar forces are understandably on a high in the state. More and more, the political fight between the BJP and the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) seems to be turning into a tussle between Bengal’s communal Partition history and pan Bengali linguistic and cultural identity.
The October 6 incident, however trivial it may be, only highlights it.