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regular-article-logo Thursday, 23 May 2024

Mamata Banerjee: None can erase history 

Religious plurality of India is Bengal’s asset: CM

Devadeep Purohit Calcutta Published 14.04.23, 05:18 AM
Mamata Banerjee and other dignitaries during the inauguration of Dhono Dhanyo auditorium in Calcutta on Thursday

Mamata Banerjee and other dignitaries during the inauguration of Dhono Dhanyo auditorium in Calcutta on Thursday Picture by Sanat Kr Sinha

Mamata Banerjee said on Thursday that “Indian history is our asset” and no one had the power to change it.

The Bengal chief minister's comments come in the backdrop of the Narendra Modi government removing from school textbooks the chapters on Mughal rulers, the 2002 riots in Gujarat and the extremism that led to Mahatma Gandhi’s assassination in 1948.

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“History is history, none of us has the power to change history…. Indian history is our asset. Religious plurality of India is Bengal’s asset,” said Mamata while wrapping up her speech at the inauguration of Dhono Dhanyo, a “state-of-the-art indoor auditorium” built by the state government.

Then, she rolled out the names of some of the tallest icons of Bengal — like Sri Ramakrishna, Swami Vivekananda, Rabindranath Tagore, Kazi Nazrul Islam, Ishwarchandra Vidyasagar and Raja Rammohan Roy — giving them the credit for Bengal’s respect for a pluralistic society.

Sources in the state government said while the National Council of Education Research and Training, a government body that designs schools’ syllabus and textbooks, has revised its programme for various classes for the coming term, the Bengal government was determined to retain the pluralistic theme of academic curriculum in the state.

“We will not suddenly uproot Taj Mahal... We will nor uproot Victoria Memorial,” Mamata said in her address as she tried to highlight the tolerant and inclusive history of Bengal, dotted with Mughal-era and British-era historical monuments.

Although Mamata didn’t elaborate on why she broached the issue of uprooting of Taj Mahal, it was apparent that she was obliquely referring to the recent trend of claims about historic sites, most recently the Taj Mahal, for its alleged origins to an early Hindu rule.

Although the Bengal chief minister is often criticised by the saffron ecosystem for her ‘appeasement politics’ to keep a particular community in good humour, she has firmly stood behind the minority community, especially the Muslims, during incidents of communal strife. Last week, she urged the majority Hindu community to protect the Muslims during the holy month of Ramzan while speaking at a rally in East Midnapore, the plea came at a time there were apprehensions of communal tension during Hanuman Jayanti celebrations in the state.

Besides explaining her resolve to thwart the centre’s attempts to rewrite Indian history, Mamata also said during her address that she did not believe in doctrines like “taking away people’s jobs”. It was clear that she was referring to the centre’s sell-off drives by putting public sector units on the block.

Lack of fund flow from the centre to Bengal -- her pet peeve vis-a-vis Delhi -- also found a mention in her address.

“I have only one wish and that is, people should not misunderstand me... Whatever I do, my aim is to take Bengal ahead. They (the centre) are not giving us money and I have learnt that they won’t give till 2024,” said Mamata.

“What can I do? But I can’t beg to Delhi… With our limited abilities, we will try to do whatever we can,” said the chief minister, throwing open the Rs 440 crore facility spread on four acres.

During her address, she gave a detailed account of how she took personal initiative to set up various facilities -- from Eco Park in New Town to Bhorer Alo, a tourism project in Gajoldoba and a Jagannath temple in Digha (modeled along the temple in Puri) to Mother Wax museum in New Town -- across the state.

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