Bengal Ram Navami Clashes: Dear Netas, Stop Communalising My State

A hateful political discourse got oxygen by exploiting a festival which no one cared about till two years ago!

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  • Swords on the streets
  • Anti-Pakistan songs
  • Three people dead

That’s how Bengal celebrated it’s newest favourite festival – Ram Navami. Of the three people who died, one was killed during clashes in Purulia and and the other two died in clashes in Asansol. The Quint travelled to Asansol, 200 kms from Kolkata, to ascertain the causes of these clashes and also to get a sense of how those who have been affected the most are holding up.


Both incidents were allegedly communal clashes that took place when Ram Navami processions were passing through Muslim-dominated areas in Purulia and Asansol on 25 and 28 March, respectively.

Tension prevailed for days after the clashes. A curfew was imposed and even the Army was called in.

But why itna kuch over Ram Navami, you ask?

Well, it is true that the festival has always been a private, apolitical affair in Bengal. But in 2017 – for the first time ever – West Bengal saw huge crowds take to the streets, with weapons in their hands, to “celebrate” Ram Navami.

The armed rallies, organised by the Bharatiya Janata Party and other Right-wing groups, took Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee by surprise.

What shocked civil society the most, were pictures of children – some even in school uniform – walking with swords in their hands.

Mamata reacted by filing an FIR against the BJP’s Bengal President Dilip Ghosh, who at the time, responding to the incident, said:

Lord Rama carried a bow and arrow. So how can his puja be done with empty hands? When Muharram is observed there is no talk of polarisation. When Eid or Christmas is celebrated, there is no talk of polarisation. But, when Ram Navami is celebrated, they say it will lead to polarisation. If Ram Navami does lead to polarisation, let it be. We will do it.
Dilip Ghosh, BJP Bengal President

Cut to Ram Navami in 2018, and it was an exact repeat of last year. Except this time, the Trinamool Congress had organised its own Ram Navami rallies to match the BJP’s in zeal, scale and religious symbolism. Just minus the swords and other lethal weapons.

Three people died, all Ram ke naam.

Mr Dilip Ghosh, please skip the lame excuse of questioning the celebration of Eid and Christmas. What you have done in Bengal in 2017 and 2018 is now a familiar BJP/Bajrang Dal/Vishwa Hindu Parishad polarising tactic. Using a festival as an excuse to march through Muslim localities brandishing weapons, and shouting provocative slogans– practically instigating violence.

Even after the clashes, the BJP has only aggravated the situation. Babul Supriyo, a Union minister, and the BJP MP from Asansol, where the clashes happened, tweeted this after he visited the affected area:

...dozens of Goons from the Minority community came in matadors & cars, vandalised and burnt down shops, pulled Hindus out from their houses and assaulted/injured them brutally with choppers & swords.

Really, Mr Supriyo? Why didn’t you, a CENTRAL minister, think twice before blatantly blaming “the minority community” and fanning tensions even more? Did you not see how your comments instantly gave these clashes a legitimate, communal colour? Or was that the intention to begin with?

Next on my list is you, Ms Banerjee.

After all the hungama around Ram Navami last year, one would expect you, the government and the Trinamool to diffuse religious tensions, right?


The ruling party seemed to be following the mantra – “Woh mandir banayenge toh hum bhi Ram Navami manayenge”.

And to top that, Trinamool leaders at their rallies insisted that Ram Navami was a “secular” event.

No, TMC, it’s not. It’s a Hindu event and you are pandering to a Hindu vote bank.

Also predictably, instead of taking responsibility for what has been a law and order failure, the Trinamool is only focusing on one-upping the BJP.

TMC spokesperson, Garga Chatterjee, said this about the Asansol incident:

Did you see the clip? Was anybody speaking Bengali? These are all outsider elements.
Garga Chatterjee, TMC Spokesperson to NDTV

So, to sum it up, over the past week our politicians have virtually said:

  1. Lord Ram hates Pakistan.
  2. Lord Ram likes school children walking with swords.
  3. Lord Ram is hated by the “minority community”.
  4. How Hindi-speaking people can’t be from Bengal.

A fresh, hate-riddled political discourse has been given oxygen by exploiting just ONE religious festival, which – just to remind you again – no one even cared about till two years ago!

Dear netas, stop inventing with this never-before fervour for festival. Stop playing divisive politics. Stop communalising my city and my state.

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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