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regular-article-logo Tuesday, 21 May 2024

TMC football rally over BJP state unit chief Sukanta Majumdar's Swamiji 'insult'

Trinamul held protests in every block and urban centre across Bengal, with the main event in Calcutta in the form of a football rally from Shyambazar Five-point Crossing to Swami Vivekananda’s residence, which was led by industries minister Shashi Panja and the party’s youth wing chief Sayani Ghosh

Meghdeep Bhattacharyya Calcutta Published 27.12.23, 05:59 AM
State industries minister Shashi Panja and Trinamul youth wing chief Sayani Ghosh lead a football rally in honour of Swami Vivekananda, and in protest against the BJP's alleged insult of the 19th century monk, to Vivekananda's residence in Calcutta on Tuesday.

State industries minister Shashi Panja and Trinamul youth wing chief Sayani Ghosh lead a football rally in honour of Swami Vivekananda, and in protest against the BJP's alleged insult of the 19th century monk, to Vivekananda's residence in Calcutta on Tuesday. The Telegraph

The Trinamul Congress, for the third consecutive day, mounted its offensive on the saffron camp, accusing BJP state unit chief Sukanta Majumdar of having “insulted” Swami Vivekananda, one of the biggest icons of Bengal.

The trigger was a comment made by Majumdar in a critical response to north Bengal development minister and Dinhata MLA Udayan Guha’s attempt at downplaying the saffron ecosystem’s Gita-reading event on Sunday by paraphrasing the philosopher-monk.

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Trinamul held protests in every block and urban centre across Bengal, with the main event in Calcutta in the form of a football rally from Shyambazar Five-point Crossing to Swami Vivekananda’s residence, which was led by industries minister Shashi Panja and the party’s youth wing chief Sayani Ghosh.

“It has been over 48 hours since he made the objectionable remarks but BJP Bengal chief Sukanta Majumdar hasn’t apologised or expressed regret. This shows how arrogant the BJP is. We want to ask the BJP’s central leadership here now if they have even asked Majumdar to apologise,” said minister Panja.

Ghosh added: “If this is the kind of comment they (the BJP leaders) make, let alone their set target of 35 Lok Sabha seats (out of Bengal’s 42), they won’t even get 3.5 seats.”

Sources in the party said chief minister Mamata Banerjee, in her public appearance at North 24-Parganas on Thursday, would issue a scathing statement on the issue.

On Sunday, Guha had, in response to questions from journalists, paraphrased Swami Vivekananda in saying it “would have been better
for the body and the mind” if the participants in the
“Lokkho Konthe Gita Path (reading of the Gita by a lakh voices)” “had played football instead”.

At the Brigade Parade Grounds on Sunday, when asked by journalists to respond to Guha’s remarks, Majumdar had said: “Bengal has, for ages, been a flag-bearer of Sanatan culture. In the middle, somewhere, Bengal was somewhat misled by the Leftists. Can you not see now that limited knowledge is detrimental? Those who are (now) saying football is better than reading the Gita, they are but Leftist products. Now, Bengal will head in the right direction. Today (Sunday) marks the beginning of that journey.”

Trinamul, since then, has chosen to interpret Majumdar’s response as one made to Vivekananda.

According to Trinamul leader Panja, Majumdar’s response was another instance of the BJP’s disregard for Bengal and its icons.

“These bohiragawto (outsiders) are alien to Bengal’s complex, cosmopolitan, pluralist, inclusive, humanist ethos and worldview. What Majumdar said is a humiliation for Bengal and shows the utmost disrespect to Swami Vivekananda,” said Panja.

According to the Ramakrishna Math and Ramakrishna Mission at Belur Math’s website for the media (media.belurmath.org), Swami Vivekananda said: “First of all, our young men must be strong. Religion will come afterwards. Be strong, my young friends; that is my advice to you. You will be nearer to Heaven through football than through the study of the Gita.”

“These are bold words; but I have to say them, for I love you. I know where the shoe pinches. I have gained a little experience,” he added, according to the website.

But it was followed immediately by: “You will understand the Gita better with your biceps, your muscles, a little stronger. You will understand the mighty genius and the mighty strength of Krishna better with a little of strong blood in you....”

The BJP maintained Majumdar was referring to Guha, formerly in the Forward Bloc, as a “Leftist product”.

On Monday, Majumdar underscored Vivekananda’s advice to strengthen the body by playing football to better understand the Gita.

“I repeat, limitedknowledge is detrimental,” he said.

“I specifically talked about those who say these things now... those who are clearly alive. Is Vivekananda alive? Why would my comment refer to him? It is the Leftists who distort history, which is what I was talking about,” he added. “There is no question of issuing an apology to these ill-educated people.”

Sources in Trinamulsaid given the saffron camp’s track record and the “ambiguity” of Majumdar’s comment enabling such an interpretation, the ruling party couldnot be blamed for these protests.

“Ishwarchandra Vidyasagar, Birsa Munda, Rabindranath Tagore, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, Ray Gunakor Bharatchandra, Jibananda Das, Lakshman Sen, Shashanka… and now, Swami Vivekananda,” said a Trinamul MP, making a list of major figures that the BJP committed “public gaffes” over.

“Majumdar’s faux pas, for a change, could have been a case of inadvertent misinterpretation. But the saffron ecosystem, which thrives on misinformation and disinformation, has done enough even otherwise,” the Trinamul leader added.

The Congress’s chief spokesperson for the state, Soumya Aich Roy, said while Majumdar’s remarks exposed the BJP’s “real character” of not knowing Bengal or its icons, it was part of a “wider conspiracy” to help Trinamul by generating debates that diverted attention from real issues that affect the masses.

In a virtual echo of Aich Roy, CPM state secretary Md Salim added: “Vivekananda had famously said ‘No great work ever gets done through slyness’.... They (the BJP and Trinamul) are both trying to misdirect people so that the very many lapses of both camps are not talked about enough.”

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