Mamata Banerjee explains 'Khela Divas' date after BJP equates it with great Calcutta killings
West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee Mamata Banerjee on Thursday said she had chosen the date August 16 to observe Khela Divas or Day of Sport as a mark of respect to sixteen football fans who died in a stampede during a football match on this day in 1980 at Kolkata's Eden Garden stadium.
While addressing the TMC annual Martyrs Day rally, she announced that the state government would observe Khela Divas on August 16 every year.
"Khela Hobe (will play)", she declared, renewing the battle cry she made during the state assembly elections, adding the fight will continue till BJP is ousted from power at the centre.
According to a ndtv report, the explanation on why August 16 was chosen was possibly a response to criticism of her choice of date by Rajya Sabha MP Swapan Dasgupta, known to be close to the BJP.
Taking a dig at Banerjee's announcement, BJP Rajya Sabha MP Swapan Dasgupta said that Muslim League launched its Direct Action Day and began the Great Calcutta Killings in 1946 on August 16.
"Interesting @MamataOfficial has declared August 16 as 'Khela divas'. It is the day the Muslim League launched its Direct Action Day & began the Great Calcutta Killings in 1946.
"In today's West Bengal, Khela Hobe has come to symbolise a wave of terror attacks on opponents." he tweeted.
His tweet reinforced BJP claims of widespread post-poll violence in Bengal. The matter is in fact currently in Calcutta High Court.
Interesting @MamataOfficial has declared August 16 as “Khela hobe divas”. It is the day the Muslim League launched its Direct Action Day & began the Great Calcutta Killings in 1946. In today’s West Bengal, “Khela Hobe” has come to symbolise a wave of terror attacks on opponents.— Swapan Dasgupta (@swapan55) July 21, 2021
"16 August used to be commemorated by many sporting clubs earlier. But that is dying out now. That's why we have chosen to mark Khela Hobe Divas on August 16," Banerjee said, as quoted by ndtv.com.
"In the coming days, Khela Hobe indeed. To protect civilization and culture, sports, the sporting spirit is very important. Those who are misinterpreting don't understand that spirit," Banerjee said, adding, "Khela Hobe has become a theme across India. We are happy about that. So, we have fixed a day to celebrate the spirit."
Footballs made by the handicraft department of the state government will be handed over to various sports clubs poor children on the occasion.
"Khela Divas, which will be marked by the distribution of footballs to needy children," she said.
On 16 August this year, the state's sports and youth department will distribute one lakh footballs to sporting clubs across the state. 283 clubs of the Indian Football Association will get 10 footballs each. The rest will go to clubs in villages.
"50,000 'joyee' footballs have already been made by our mothers and sisters," the chief minister said. "Joyee" is the brand name of footballs being made by an NGO run by former footballers.
August 16 is also a day after Independence Day. "But our freedoms are being threatened today. We need to defend that. We need to fight for freedom of speech," Banerjee added.