After Ram Navami, TMC-BJP tension brewing in Bengal over Janmashtami

Tension between the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) in West Bengal has started simmering again, this time over celebrations of Janmashtami festival by right-wing organisations in the state on September 2.

Recently, BJP national secretary Rahul Sinha announced that thousands of party workers will celebrate Janmashtami in Bengal on September 2. He added that party supporters will also celebrate Rath Yatra on July 14.

In addition, the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP)’s Bengal unit issued a statement saying it will organise over 500 rallies throughout the state on the occasion of Janmasthami.

Following these announcements, chief minister Mamata Banerjee issued a note of caution for the police to be alert and resist any attempt to spread communal violence over these two festivals.

“Some people have some plans over Rath Yatra and Janmashtami festivals. They might try to implement their plans. But everyone has to be careful. The administration should be specially careful. None should be allowed to create communal tension that might lead to riots,” she said at an administrative review meeting in Cooch Behar on Wednesday.

The state chief secretary, home secretary and police chief were present at the meeting.

The development assumes significance because the two camps have had prolonged confrontations over Ram Navami celebrations in 2017 and 2018.

In 2017, saffron camp followers took out processions displaying arms in different parts of Bengal, including Bhawanipore, the chief minister’s home turf, in Kolkata for the first time. In 2018, riots broke out in Asansol and Ranigunj areas in West Burdwan district over Ram Navami rallies on March 25 and the days following it. Five people — three in Asansol, one in Ranigunj and one in Purulia — were killed in the clashes.

On Thursday, BJP leaders alleged that the chief minister is politicising the issue. “Both Ratha Yatra and Janmashtami have been celebrated in Bengal for years. What is the problem if BJP supporters participate in these? The chief minister is unnecessarily making provocative statements,” remarked Sinha.

BJP state president Dilip Ghosh said the party will utilise the two occasions to connect with the people. “There is no need to identify political intentions in such festivals,” he said.

State food and supplies minister Jyotipriyo Mullick alleged, “BJP knows they can’t earn public sympathy in the state. Therefore, their plan is to further their political agenda using religious festivals.”

Leader of Left Parties in the Bengal assembly, Sujan Chakrabarty, however, described the war of words as a mock- fight. “Actually the BJP and Trinamool are hand-in-glove with each other. These are attempts to hoodwink the people,” he said.

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