Ruling Trinamul leaders in Bankura on Wednesday gave the statue of freedom fighter Birsa Munda, which was last year inaugurated virtually by chief minister Mamata Banerjee, a miss as the tribal icon’s birth anniversary was observed across Bengal on Wednesday.
A group of tribal people, who paid respect to the statue on Wednesday, criticised the role of Trinamul leaders and the state government for “forgetting the statue” within a year of its inauguration.
“We paid tribute to our Bhagawan Birsa Munda amid much fanfare but it surprised us that no one from the ruling party or state government came to garland it. The statue was inaugurated by chief minister Mamata Banerjee last year,” said Sangiri Hembram, a tribal leader who came to pay tribute to the Birsa Munda statue.
This statue was installed last year at Bankura’s Powabagan, 200 metres away from the statue of an anonymous tribal hunter that Union home minister Amit Shah had erroneously garlanded in 2020, assuming it to be that of the 19th-century tribal hero.
The ruling establishment giving the statue a miss became significant in 2023 at a time when the state government organised programmes across 17 districts to celebrate Birsa Munda’s birth anniversary with an eye on the tribal vote bank in the run-up to the 2024 polls.
The state-level programme to celebrate the tribal hero’s birth anniversary was organised in Jhargram. Since 2020, Birsa Munda’s birth anniversary has been declared a state government holiday.
BJP leaders did not spare attacking Trinamul for not paying tribute to Birsa Munda’s statue at Powabagan.
“Only one year ago, chief minister Mamata Banerjee inaugurated the (Powabagan) statue and now her leaders and officials have completely forgotten about it. It proves that Trinamul’s love for tribal people is nothing but show-off,” said Sunil Rudra Mondal, the BJP’s Bankura district president.
Trinamul leaders, however, claimed they did not visit the statue in Powabagan only because the anniversary programme for Bankura district was held at Ranibandh on Wednesday.
“It’s not that we have forgotten about the Powabagan statue. Last year we organised the district-level programme in front of that statue. This year we organised the event at Ranibandh. So, the BJP’s allegations do not stand,” said Trinamul’s Bankura president Arup Chakrabarty.