Despite the Calcutta High Court quashing West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee’s diktat restricting Durga idol immersion on October 1 due to Muharram processions that day, not a single Durga Puja committee in Kolkata sought permission for immersion Sunday. Part of this obviously has to do with the fact that most of the committees are supported by the ruling Trinamool Congress.
Perhaps another reason is that by postponing the immersion, most committees would get an extra day or two of festivity, which also translates into more revenue from donations and sales at these pujas. When the state government announced these restrictions in August, a PIL was filed in the Calcutta High Court complaining that the Mamata government was trying to divide people on the basis of religion and casting aspersions on the ability of the two communities to exist peacefully.
In a scathing verdict September 21, the judge ruled that Durga idol immersion could continue till 12 am on all days, including Muharram, and accused the Mamata government of “exercising extreme power without any basis.” It also instructed the police to make separate routes for both Durga idol immersion and Muharram processions.
But if the BJP and other assorted hardliners were hoping to make political capital from this ruling, they were disappointed. Because Mamata, while reluctantly accepting the court order, insisted that anyone who wanted to take out an immersion procession on Muharram would need prior police permission. According to the police, no one did.
Outfits like the VHP and RSS had to console themselves with the ‘shastra’ or weapons puja on the day. Though these were mostly indoors as per a Calcutta High Court order that barred such pujas outside places of worship, some armed processions were taken out in Burdwan, Birbhum and West Midnapore by various akharas linked to saffron outfits. Sunday’s developments prove that Mamata’s grip on Bengal will be tough to break.