Rabindranath Tagore's Rakhi and why we need more of him in Bengal this Rakhsha Bandhan

For the people of West Bengal, the festival of Raksha Bandhan surpasses the tradition of brother-sister relationship and holds a special place for Hindu-Muslim unity.

Published: 26th August 2018 03:08 PM  |   Last Updated: 17th December 2018 03:57 PM   |  A+A-

Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore. (File photo|EPS)

Online Desk

Crippled with violence, West Bengal, today stands divided on communal grounds and religious intolerance, overturning everything that once Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore fought for.

And on this day of Raksha Bandhan, it’s imperative to take a look back at history and how the thread of rakhi was once used to keep the erstwhile state of undivided Bengal, united.

Traditionally celebrated across the country as a symbol of the brother-sister relationship, Raksha Bandhan still finds a different meaning into the hearts of Bengalis, especially those, who had to bear the brunt of India’s partition.

READ| This Raksha Bandhan, Varanasi muslim women are making rakhis for PM Narendra Modi

A century back in June of 1905, at the peak of India’s nationalist movement, Lord Curzon decided to divide united Bengal( which consisted province of Assam, Odisha, and Bangladesh) on a religious majority.  The plan was to divide the Hindu majority regions of West Bengal, Bihar and Odisha from Muslim-dominated areas of Assam and Sylhet(now in Bangladesh).

Curzon pronounced October 16, as the day of partition.

Rabindranath Tagore declared the presumed partition day to be national mourning day and decided to strengthen the bond between two religious communities through a single thread of rakhi.

Tagore gave the call to bind Hindus and Muslims in unity for centuries to come and people obliged. Thousands of people from Bengal, Assam and Dhaka showed up on the banks of Ganges, tying rakhi to each other. Tagore started a Raksha Bandhan rally after taking a dip in the holy Ganges, followed by the ardent leader taking the rally to a mosque and tying rakhis to the clerics (which none had objected to).

Tagore wrote two of his most famous songs, “amar sonar Bangla”, “Banglar mati Banglar jol” during that period and sang them out loud throughout the procession.

That day, Bengal stood united against all odds, forcing the East India Company to call off the partition until 1912 when Bihar, Assam, and Odisha were ripped off from Bengal on linguistic grounds.

However, the period of Hindu- Muslim brotherhood ended after a brief period of 35 years with the carnage of Direct Action Day in 1946,  which left over 40 thousand people dead in 24 hours.

Following partition, West Bengal, although witnessed several bouts of violence, the Left-government throughout its 34-years of rule kept religious polarization at bay. The state has seen a spike of communal violence over the past three years, which the present Trinamool government could be counted liable for.

As per the Home Ministry record, the state recorded 27 incidents of communal violence in 2015 where five people were killed, the numbers of incidents almost doubled in 2017 with 58 incidents of violence being recorded.

The riots in Kaliachak, Malda in January 2016, Naihati-Barrackpore in North 24 Parganas in October that year and the ferocious, Dhulagrah and Howrah are the biggest dent in West Bengal’s communal harmony in the recent past.

Although students and residents of Tagore’s Santiniketan still follow the tradition of tying Rakhi to neighbours and the textbooks echo tales of Tagore’s endeavour to bring harmony, West Bengal has a long task ahead to bind people again with the thread of unity.

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