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Kerala, TN & Bengal's R-Day Tableaux Rejected: How Centre & States Have Reacted

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh has written to Tamil Nadu CM MK Stalin and West Bengal CM Banerjee amid the row.

Updated
India
5 min read
Kerala, TN & Bengal's R-Day Tableaux Rejected: How Centre & States Have Reacted
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Days after the central government rejected the tableaux proposed by Kerala and West Bengal for the upcoming Republic Day parade, the Defence Ministry on Monday, 17 January, refused to include Tamil Nadu's tableau in the celebrations.

An expert committee comprising eminent persons from various disciplines of art shortlists the tableaux for the parade. While there is a well-established system for the selection of the tableaux, the process becomes a flashpoint for the play of regional politics nearly every year.

The Centre's rejection of their tableaux has irked the three states, with the leaders of the respective state governments condemning the process, and seeking Prime Minister Narendra Modi's intervention.

Meanwhile, Defence Minister Rajnath Singh has written to Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin and West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee amid the row, asserting that the selection of the tableaux for the Republic Day parade is done as per detailed guidelines.

Earlier on Tuesday, Union Finance Minister Nirmala Sitharaman took to Twitter to explain the procedure behind the selection of tableaux as well.

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What concerns have the states raised? What has the central government said? Here's what we know.

'Expert Committee Ignored All 7 Designs': Tamil Nadu CM Stalin Writes to PM Modi

Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin, on Monday, wrote to Prime Minister Narendra Modi to question the exclusion of the state's tableau from the Republic Day parade.

"The rejection of Tamil Nadu's tableau, that included freedom fighters VOC, Mahakavi Bharathiyar, Rani Velu Nachiyar, and Maruthu Brothers, from the Republic Day Parade is disappointing. I ask that the respected Prime Minister intervene immediately and ensure that Tamil Nadu's contribution to the freedom struggle is given a place [in the parade]," Stalin said.

"The representatives of the State appeared before the Expert Committee for selection for Tableaux thrice. In the first meeting, the Expert Committee expressed satisfaction about Tamil Nadu's theme 'Tamil Nadu in the Freedom Struggle'," he stated in the letter.

"That the expert committee chooses to ignore and reject all the seven designs shown to it as per the modifications suggested by its members is unacceptable," the chief minister said, alleging that Tamil Nadu was not called for the fourth round of meeting.

On Tuesday, the CM went on to express his "shock" and "sadness" over the rejection, which he deemed as "without any reason."

"State tableaux rejected for Republic day parade in Delhi by Central committee will be part of Republic Day parade in Chennai; will be taken across Tamil Nadu," ANI quoted the CM as saying.

'Tableau Rejected Without Reason, Justification': Mamata Banerjee to PM Modi

"I am profoundly shocked and hurt by the decision of the Government of India to abruptly exclude the proposed tableau of the Government of West Bengal from the ensuing Republic Day Parade. It is even more baffling for us that the tableau was rejected without assigning any reasons or justifications," West Bengal Chief Mamata Banerjee had written in a letter to PM Modi on Sunday.

The proposed tableau was designed to commemorate Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose on his 125th birth anniversary, Banerjee had said in the letter. The tableau had proposed to carry portraits of Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar, Rabindranath Tagore, Vivekananda, Chittaranjan Das, Sri Aurobindo, Matangini Hazra, Birsa Munda, and Nazrul Islam.

"I may like to inform you that all the people of West Bengal are deeply pained by this attitude of the central government. It is shocking to find that the contribution of its valiant freedom fighters finds no place in the nation's ceremony to celebrate the occasion of Republic Day on the 75th year of our Independence," Banerjee's letter had stated.

The tableaux of West Bengal and Kerala had been rejected by the central government in 2020 as well.

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Kerala Hits Back After Centre Rejects Tableau Depicting Anti-Caste Leader

The Defence Ministry's rejection of Kerala's proposal to depict anti-caste social reformer, Narayana Guru, and tourism centre, Jatayu Park, has been met with retaliation. The central government had reportedly suggested that the tableau carry a statue of Adi Shankara instead, which was not acceptable to the Kerala government.

Responding to the Centre's decision, the Sivagiri Mutt, founded by Guru, was quoted as saying the following by news agency PTI:

"Sree Narayana Gurudevan is universally accepted and respected by all sections of society, including political parties like the Congress, the BJP and the Communist Party. Although Adi Shankara was a great man, he was accepted only by a section of people in Kerala. Gurudev, on the other hand, is revered by people all across the world, regardless of caste or religion."

"The central govt’s decision to deny permission to Kerala's Republic Day tableau, which contained anti-caste crusader Narayana Guru’s figure, is extremely condemnable. The Kerala BJP must state whether they agree with this insulting attitude towards Kerala's Guru [sic]," state Minister V Sivankutty tweeted.

What Have Ministers Rajnath Singh and Nirmala Sitharaman Said?

Defence Minister Rajnath Singh wrote in his letters that selection of tableaux for the 26 January parade is done as per set guidelines and sought the states' participation in the event.

In his letter to Banerjee, Singh stated that the PM Modi-led government respects Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose in high regard and observes his birth anniversary, 23 January, as ‘Parakram Diwas.’ He also said that from now on, Republic Day celebrations will begin with his birth anniversary and conclude on 30 January.

"West Bengal's tableau has been selected for participation in R-Day during 2016, 2017, 2019, and 2021," Singh pointed out, further adding that this year's tableau by the Central Public Works Department also pays respects to Bose on his 125th birth anniversary.

Meanwhile, in his letter to CM Stalin, Singh wrote that Tamil Nadu's tableau could not make it to the final list of 12 tableaux selected for the Republic Day Parade despite having cleared the first three rounds, but pointed out that the state's tableau had been selected for participation during 2017, 2019, 2020 and 2021.

Singh also stressed in his letter to Stalin that the selection is done as per the laid-out guidelines.

Singh added for this year's parade, 12 design proposals have been selected out of entries by 29 states and Union territories.

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This was backed up by Sitharaman's tweet earlier in the day, wherein she wrote that the Government of India had received 56 proposals from states, ministries and public sector unites (PSUs), out of which 21 had been selected.

She also stressed that existing criteria and proposals for selection were "scrupulously followed" and asked people to stop "seeing bad politics in a display that celebrates India."

What Have Government Sources Said?

Meanwhile, government sources, speaking to NDTV, maintained that the process of selection, even as it was an objective one, turned into a platform for the play of regional politics every year.

"This is a wrong precedent, adopted by chief ministers of states to portray an outcome of an objective process as a flashpoint between the Centre and the states. This goes a long way in harming the country's federal structure," the government sources told NDTV.

The tableaux proposals are evaluated in a series of meetings held by the expert committee. It is this committee that makes its recommendations after assessing the states' proposal, government sources told The Hindu.

Further, ANI quoted Senior Defence Ministry officials as saying: "The requests from West Bengal and Tamil Nadu to reconsider the inclusion of their tableaux in the Republic Day parade cannot be revisited. They have been informed about the reasons (of their non-inclusion)."

(With inputs from PTI, NDTV, The Hindu, ANI.)

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