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Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury threatens legal action

Durga Puja: Mahatma Gandhi-like Mahishasura at Calcutta venue

Idol at Ruby Crossing shows goddess conquering the demon that is portrayed as a bald man in dhoti with spectacles and a walking stick

Arkamoy Datta Majumdar Calcutta Published 03.10.22, 12:46 AM
The idol at the puja organised by the Akhil Bharat Hindu Mahasabha in Calcutta shows Goddess Durga slaying  not Mahishasura the demon but a bald bespectacled man with a stick whose resemblance to Mahatma Gandhi,  the organisation said, was coincidental

The idol at the puja organised by the Akhil Bharat Hindu Mahasabha in Calcutta shows Goddess Durga slaying not Mahishasura the demon but a bald bespectacled man with a stick whose resemblance to Mahatma Gandhi, the organisation said, was coincidental Sourced by The Telegraph

The Mahishasura resembles Mahatma Gandhi at a Durga puja organised in Calcutta by an outfit that describes itself as the Akhil Bharat Hindu Mahasabha, the news spreading on a day Prime Minister Narendra Modi led India in celebrating the birth anniversary of the Father of the Nation and Bengal basked in the glory of one of the world’s biggest inclusive festivals.

The idol at Ruby Crossing, not more than 10km from the heart of Calcutta, shows Durga conquering the demon that is portrayed as a bald man in dhoti with spectacles and a walking stick.

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“It is true that we don’t comply with Gandhi’s ideology and do not believe that he is the nation’s father. However, any resemblance of the asura with Gandhi is purely coincidental,” said Chandrachur Goswami, the working president of the state unit of the organisation. The Mahatma’s assassin, Nathuram Godse, was affiliated to an organisation with a similar name.

The Mahasabha leaders often criticise the BJP in public — the puja venue has some posters against Modi and Suvendu Adhikari, leader of the Opposition in Bengal.

On Sunday, too, the BJP criticised the depiction of the asura — just as the party and Modi had condemned their Bhopal MP and terror accused, Pragya Singh Thakur, when she called Godse a “patriot”. She later apologised but other than being dropped from a parliamentary panel, the BJP is not known to have taken any disciplinary action against her.

This is a leaf straight from the Hindutva playbook. When controversies turn untenable, the wider and amorphous parivar seeks to take the high moral ground by distancing itself from the so-called fringe elements that execute the less palatable components of the cause and let the “mainstream” facade retain deniability. Some academics feel that Thakur became the symbol of the 2019 election, in which nebulous fringe elements became mainstream.

Both the BJP and the Hindu Mahasabha idolise Vinayak Damodar Savarkar, and it is undeniable that the Mahasabha has expanded its organisation after the change of guard at the Centre in 2014.

That the outfit is asserting its presence has become clear from the puja itself. It has broken from the tradition of organising Durga puja in private spaces and is now holding the first public edition of its puja near Ruby Crossing.

Sources in the Mahasabha said in private that they were happy with the controversy over the demon’s perceived similarities with Bapu. In fact, the puja probably would draw more footfall, living off the marketing mantra “there is no such thing as bad publicity”.

An alternative narrative does exist about Mahishasura — sections of marginalised populations worship him as a symbol of justice who was deceived and defeated. But none of the organisers at the Ruby Crossing puja mentioned any alternative narrative.

Congress MP and Bengal unit president Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury demanded strictest action against the organisers and threatened legal action.

“These (the organisers) are the same lot who are ruling our country today. The act is anti-national. They must be booked under serious laws,” Chowdhury said.

He criticised the Trinamul-led state government for allowing this puja to continue. “The biggest expansion of the RSS in Bengal has happened under Mamata Banerjee’s rule. Why is her police not taking action against this puja?” he asked.

CPM state secretary Md Salim said he was shocked. “Gandhi’s role in the freedom struggle is undeniable. He was murdered by the Hindutva brigade and now his thoughts are murdered every day.… Their motive is to create strife and destroy the social amity and the sentiments of a vast section of the people during the Puja,” Salim said.

According to him, if the authorities do not take necessary action against the perpetrators, he would ask his party’s lawyers to take the matter to court.

The chief spokesperson of the BJP’s state unit, Samik Bhattacharya, condemned the idol and criticised the Mahasabha.

The police said they had not received any specific complaint against any idol till Sunday evening.

“But there are provisions under law wherein if the sentiment of a community is hurt on different grounds, including cultural and religious, specific cases can be drawn up,” said an IPS officer.

Late on Sunday evening Congress leader Koustav Bagchi, under instructions from Chowdhury, lodged an FIR against the Akhil Bharat Hindu Mahasabha and Goswami at Titagarh police station.

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