Consolidating votes in the name of Ram Navmi?


BJP Supporter in Kolkata: AP Photo

Festivals have never been just about religion and spirituality. However, of late they have started displaying stark political hues and become more about a pompous display of power. In the times of rising Hindutva and a regime openly headed toward totalitarianism, a festival like Ram Navami, that isn’t even celebrated in all parts of the country, has become a vulgar display of ‘competing communalism’. While other festivals too have been hijacked by loudspeakers blaring Hindi movie songs dripping misogyny, Ram Navmi is headed for something much worse and more sinister.

TV 18 Reports on BJP Supporters Resorting to Violence After Ram Navmi, March 26

The Curious Case of Bengal
This year Poschim Bongo, a state that traditionally celebrates Ram Navami by offering prayers to artfully crafted figurines of goddess Durga in imaginatively designed pandals or tents, saw multiple street rallies of sword and trident wielding men in saffron clothes chanting jingoistic slogans like:
Jay Shree Ram!
Pakistan, tu kaan khol ke sun le,
Doodh mangoge toh kheer denge,
Kashmir mangoge toh cheer denge.

(Pakistan, you better listen carefully.
If you ask for milk, we give you pudding,
But ask for Kashmir, and we rip you apart.)
Rampurhat, a small dusty town in Bengal’s Birbhum district, witnessed more than a dozen rallies this year where toxic lyrics were mixed with catchy tunes to further a hyper-nationalistic agenda. Reportedly, both, the Trinamool Congress (TMC) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) were involved in the organising these rallies in an act described as ‘competitive communalism’ by CPI(M) West Bengal secretary Surya Kanta Mishr.

Armed Mob Attacks Police Station at Kandi, Murshidabad during Ram Navmi Procession on March 26 -PTI

The purported objective is to pitch Ram as an ‘Indian icon’ rather than just a ‘Hindu icon’ in a duplicitous bid to equate being Indian with being Hindu. In fact, banners from “Ayodhya Ram Mandir” committee were also spotted on celebration grounds and prayers were started with an elaborate display of traditional weapons at many ‘puja’ venues.
BJP leaders confirmed that the festival is being used as a political tool to gain electoral mileage saying, “Just two months to go for panchayat elections and one year to go for general elections, we will show how much powerful the BJP has become in Bengal.”
The so-called Ram Navami ‘wave’ initiated by the BJP was aimed at triggering its rival, the TMC which outwardly took a stand against armed rallies. Hindu Samhati leader, Tapan Ghosh warned TMC against preventing their rallies saying, “West Bengal government would have to go through huge troubles if they try to prevent ‘Hindus from celebrating Ram Navami.” Many such rallies were held across Birbhum, Midnapore and Nadia.
Growing Participation of Children
A particularly disturbing and outrageous phenomenon observed this year was participation of children weilding arms in these rallies. The West Bengal Commission for Protection of Child Rights (WBCPCR) asked two Bajrang Dal members to appear before it on April 12 in the matter of involvement of children in armed rallied during Ram Navami.
Reportedly, around 10 children were spotted carrying weapons in rallies in Purulia. “The commission has summoned them on the basis of preliminary information given by the district magistrate of Purulia. We are waiting for the status report from other district administrations and will act accordingly,” said Ananya Chatterjee Chakraborty, Chairperson, WBCPCR. Suraj Sharma, Purulia district co-ordinator and Gourab Singh, Purulia additional district coordinator were asked to appear in person.
Meanwhile, one person was killed and six policemen were injured in a clash between two groups Purulia. Similar clashes have been reported from other parts of the state such as Kankinara in 24 Parganas and Raniganj in Bardhaman district.
The violence spreads
However, it was not only Bengal that experienced such hideous displays of ‘celebration’ and violence . In Aurangabad district of Bihar, prohibitory orders were clamped following a clash between members of two communities. Section 144 was imposed at several places. It was reported that some areas saw heavy stone pelting and arson at several places along the path of a Ramnavami procession.



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