Observing festivals peacefully

The Calcutta High Court has ended the controversy about holding the Durga idol immersion ceremony and Muharram on the same day. The High Court has ruled that both can take place on the same day but the processions should go through different routes. The police have been directed to fix the routes and ensure peaceful passage of the processions. What prompted the Chief Minister, Mamata Banerjee, to give the controversial order was her apprehension that some forces may take advantage of the coincidence of the two festivals and arouse communal passion. That fear is well-founded. Even after the court order the people and the police will have to remain vigilant so that potential trouble-makers do not succeed in vitiating the festive atmosphere.
Bengal has been known for maintaining amity and fraternal relations between different sections of people, not just Hindus and Muslims. People from other States have also settled in Kolkata and different other parts of West Bengal and they have been living harmoniously with all others. They mix freely with others, take part in one another’s festivals, children enjoy themselves thoroughly in every festival, irrespective of communities. It is only recently that discordant voices are being heard. Festive occasions should be observed with due solemnity, reverence and goodwill. The Calcutta High Court order should not be taken as the victory of some or the defeat of some others. The High Court has rightly observed that when the Chief Minister herself has said that West Bengal is an exemplar of communal unity, why anyone should fear trouble because two religious festivals are being held simultaneously.
Compared to some States in north and west India, West Bengal has been remarkably free from intolerance, irrationality and communal passion. To a great extent, it is also remarkably free from caste prejudice. Here the caste of a candidate in an election is not a factor; it is his or her political inclination and identity that matters. This cosmopolitanism is a legacy left by the long years of our freedom movement, a legacy that we cherish and hold dear. Now the Pujas have become more an occasion of social festivity and displaying the rich cultural diversity of ours rather than going through purely religious rituals in a mechanical way. The festive atmosphere should not be allowed to be polluted by anyone. Vigilance in this regard has to be observed as much by the keepers of law and order as by the people themselves.

Friday, 22 September, 2017