TMC & BJP ready stalls at fair
Pous Mela, the famed winter event on the Visva-Bharati campus in Santiniketan, is set to turn into a “political battleground” between the Trinamul Congress and the BJP over the Citizenship (Amendment) Act and the proposed National Register of Citizens this year.
The CPM, Congress and the RSP, besides Trinamul and the BJP, will put up stalls at the fair that will be held from December 24 to 27.
Sources said the CPM had become the first party in 1971 to open a stall at the annual four-day fair that was started in 1894 by Debendranath Tagore to promote rural arts and crafts.
“But this year, a particular issue will be the focus of all parties at the stalls for the first time,” said an organiser. “They usually display their party literature at stalls, but this year, all of it will be about the CAA.”
Roughly 1,500 stalls will come up at the fair this year.
“Trinamul had set up its first tent here (fair) in 2007. The BJP opened its stall after the general election in 2014,” said the organiser.
According to the organisers, Pous Mela’s status as a major event in the Bengali calendar made it an obvious choice for political parties to voice their opinions.
“The timing of the CAA and the protests in Bengal make the Pous Mela an ideal venue for parties to campaign,” said a Visva-Bharati student.
Varsity sources said the fair saw an average footfall of 1 lakh people a day and a steady stream of national and international visitors over the past few decades.
Birbhum district Trinamul leaders said they had been instructed by the party headquarters in Calcutta to turn the stall into an “explicitly” anti-CAA statement, with posters, leaflets and banners.
“Our party workers will distribute leaflets intimating people about the BJP’s divisive politics. We have already ordered posters and flexes saying ‘NO-CAA, NO-NRC’,” said Abhijit Sinha, the Birbhum district vice-president of Trinamul.
Trinamul sources said at least 1 lakh pamphlets had been ordered for distribution at all corners of the sprawling fairground.
BJP leaders said they wouldn’t let an arena and opportunity like the Pous Mela go to waste. “We will receive posters, banners and pamphlets on the CAA from the Calcutta headquarters soon,” said a source in the BJP’s Birbhum unit.
“Trinamul is trying to mislead people about the CAA. So, we are protesting against it. Pous Mela is a place where lakhs of people gather over four days. The Bengal leadership of our party has directed us to campaign on the CAA at Pous Mela,” said Bikash Mishra, BJP’s Bolpur town president.
Shyamapada Mondal, the district president of the BJP, said the party would try to make people aware that the CAA was not “discriminatory against any religion.”
CPM leaders said they would combine an anti-CAA message with political renditions of Rabinranath Tagore’s works.
“We have planned cultural programmes, lectures and street-plays of Tagore highlighting his message of communal harmony and brotherhood. We hope it will help people understand why we are opposing the CAA,” said Gautam Ghosh, a CPM state committee member from Bolpur.
Visva-Bharati students have decided to hold a rally against the CAA on the campus on December 23, the day before the fair would begin.
Sources said several anti-CAA and anti-BJP slogans were already visible on campus walls.