Governor's ‘Hatey Khori’ becomes Bengal's latest political flashpoint
As a class V girl hand-held Dr C.V. Ananda Bose into writing "Aw" and "Aa" on an electronic slate with the Governor obediently following his nine-year-old “teacher” and pronouncing the first two letters of the Bengali alphabet, many in the audience at the Raj Bhavan East Lawns wondered what exactly this "Hatey Khori", or initiation ceremony, was all about.
The unprecedented programme at the Raj Bhavan took place on Thursday when the nation’s Republic Day coincided with Bengal’s Saraswati Puja celebrations during which such a ceremonial initiation of formal education is customarily held for children before the Mother Goddess.
At Raj Bhavan, the "teacher" was Diyashini Roy, a class V student of St. Joseph’s Convent School, Chandannagar. And her "pupil" was the Bengal Governor, a Kerala native, who succeeded Jagdeep Dhankar months ago.
The programme, however, was politically snubbed by the BJP and the state’s Leader of Opposition, Suvendu Adhikari, turned down the invitation on grounds that it was “engineered” to “execute the hidden political agenda of the Chief Minister”.
The official invite of the programme, sent out by Nandini Chakravorty, principal secretary to the Governor, read: “HE Dr CV Ananda Bose, Governor, West Bengal, is deeply influenced and inspired by Bengal. Be it the mellifluous language or the rich culture, the state has had a lasting impression on him. In his pursuit to understand it better, he wishes to embark on a new journey. I request your presence at the Raj Bhavan, Kolkata for a very special event, Hatey Khori, his first step towards learning the language from a ‘Sishu Guru’ on the auspicious occasion of Saraswati Puja… Do grace the ‘New Beginning’ with your company”.
Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee, who gifted the new learner a copy of Iswarchandra Vidyasagar’s two-volume Barna Parichay to allow him to set his course for an eventual mastery over the Bengali language, was the chief guest for the occasion.
“Ami Bangla shikhbo. Bangla shundor bhasha. Ami Bangla ke bhalobashi. Ami Banglar manush ke bhalobashi. Netaji Subhas Bose maha nayak, amar nayak. Jai Hind, Jai Bangla (I want to learn Bengali. Bengali is a beautiful language. I love Bengal. I love the people of Bengal. Netaji Subhas Bose is a great hero, an immortal hero. Jai Hind. Jai Bangla)”, Governor Ananda Bose said in his speech.
Reciprocating the gesture, Mamata Banerjee spoke from a prepared speech in Malayali.
“Bengali is our mother tongue. We are privileged that the Governor has decided to learn our language. I congratulate him on this decision and for taking a special interest in Bengal and in our mother tongue. All the very best to him for this new endeavour and may Goddess Saraswati bless him in this journey,” Banerjee said in Malyali while bringing a broad smile to Ananda Bose’s face.
“I also want to learn Malyali,” she declared.
Political responses to the events came thick and fast, even before the programme officially began at the Raj Bhavan. Suvendu Adhikari put out a tweet justifying his stand to boycott the event.
Lauding the Governor’s effort in striving for an immersive experience of the state’s rich culture, Adhikary wrote in a statement: “However his wish has been exploited by the State Government as an opportunity for political posturing. Ms Nandini Chakravorty (IAS), Principal Secretary to Governor, acting as a ‘special’ emissary of the State Government latched on this chance to execute the hidden political agenda of the Chief Minister by artfully using the office of the Hon’ble Governor.”
“At a time when the image of the Education Department of West Bengal has been tarnished due to the gigantic “Cash for Job” Teacher Recruitment Scam and the Former Education Minister along with most of the important office bearers are languishing in prison, the state government has cunningly orchestrated this event to wash off the stain,” the statement added.
“It seems that the event has been planned and engineered by the discredited State Government to act as a glossy book cover on an obscene book. Thus, in my view, today’s event… doesn’t elevate the height of the Chair of the Hon’ble Governor and doesn’t glorify the dignity of the Raj Bhavan,” Adhikari wrote.
“Hatey Khori is a ritual to signify the formal introduction of education. I apprehend that the Guest in Chief may not be able to refrain herself from introducing the knowledge of impropriety to the aspirant who is willing to take the first step in learning the mellifluous Bengali language in her presence,” Adhikari wrote while taking a potshot at Banerjee and calling her the “queen-pin of corruption”.
Responding to Adhikari’s comments, TMC MP Shantanu Sen referred to the earlier tenure of Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar, now Vice President, but stopped short of naming him.
“There was a time when the BJP used the Governor as a party spokesperson and the Raj Bhavan as party headquarters. Since the term of La Ganesan and Dr Ananda Bose, those attempts have failed and the new Governor is trying to bring the relationship between the two offices on the proper track for effective state administration. That has been the cause of intense jealousy of Suvendu Adhikary. I would want to send him a tube of Burnol ointment and wish he gets well soon.”
Calling the Hatey Khori event a “tamasha”, BJP leader Swapan Dasgupta said, “At a time when corruption in the state education sector has skyrocketed, I ask the Governor whether such gestures are in the right spirit. The governor will receive many opportunities to express his proximity to the state government, but he shouldn’t have made fun of the occasion of the Saraswati Puja.”
Former state president of the party Dilip Ghosh welcomed Governor’s intention to learn Bengali and gain insights into the state’s culture and literature.
“But he has chosen the wrong teacher. He should choose the right teacher who would guide him towards the real treasures of the state’s language and culture,” he hastened to add.
Although the state BJP stayed away from the programme, the party’s senior leader and perceived ‘rebel’, Tathagata Roy, was spotted among the audience. CPM veteran Biman Bose, who was present at the ceremonial Republic Day high tea at Raj Bhavan lawns preceding the Hatey Khori event, had left before the second part of the day’s event at the premises began.