Today, Ramnavami, marks the celebration of Lord Ram’s birthday in India. The festival will be celebrated in about five lakh villages of India. In West Bengal, processions, religious gatherings and various cultural events are being organised at around 2,000 places. This was announced in a statement by the media in-charge of Vishwa Hindu Parishad (West Bengal) Sourish Mukherjee.
According to the statement, Vishwa Hindu Parishad will hold celebrations from March 30th to Hanuman Jayanti on April the 6th. It said, “Ram’s birthday would be celebrated on a grand scale this year, keeping in mind the construction of Ram temple in Ayodhya, Uttar Pradesh next year.”
Ramnavami has been celebrated with much fanfare in West Bengal over the past few years. It was however not such a major festival before the BJP came to power in 2014l
In this context, Nobel laureate economist Amartya Sen had said in 2019 that the slogan ‘Jai Sri Ram’ , recently popularised in West Bengal was being used to beat people up. In various parts of India, including West Bengal, many people are asked to chant Jai Shri Ram during Ram Navami and they are beaten up if they do not.
Last Sunday, Imam Zakir Syed Khawaja of Anoa village of Jalna district of Central Maharashtra was allegedly attacked by three goons who barged inside the mosque and ordered him to chant ‘Jai Sriram’ . On refusing to do so, he was beaten up and his beard was cut-off. He had to be hospitalised after the incident. This news was widely reported in the media and condemned by the civil society.
In the last decade, West Bengal has seen multiple attacks on minorities and mosques in the month of March-April. Often mosques were surrounded, loud music was played and ordinary muslims were threatened. Since these incidents have happened in full public glare, the ruling TMC has found it difficult to issue denials. Complaints have been registered with the police at many places.
This is why Ram Navami is of particular concern to the West Bengal administration. Because, during the festival, Ram devotees bring out rallies with sharp weapons, including swords, at several places. Another organisation called Hindu Jagran Manch, along with Vishwa Hindu Parishad often leads such rallies.
An inspector general of the state administration talked to us about the fact that they have strengthened security in the entire state. Police security has been increased in the mosque and adjoining areas. The chief minister’s office is keeping a regular check on this matter.
The Vishwa Hindu Parishad, however, has said that there has been no call for carrying weapons at these rallies. Sachindranath Singh, All-India co-editor of the Parishad, told reporters, “We never talk about marching with weapons. If people organise weapon parades on their own in their own local areas, we have no say in the matter.”