The Calcutta High Court order revoking the ban on immersion of Durga idols on October 1 on which the holy idol immersion coincides with the Muslim festival of Muharram is a major setback for West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee who had made it a prestige issue. The State government ban was being seen by people at large as a means to appease the minority community whom the chief minister eyes as a major vote bank for her party. The court’s action is a shot in the arm for the BJP and the Sangh Parivar which had strongly opposed forbidding Durga immersion on October 1 which, under the Hindu calendar was one of the three days on which the ritual was ordained.
The issue marked a concerted attempt to polarise the majority community voter in favour of the BJP which is poorly represented in the Assembly but is growing in strength having already overtaken the Left and the Congress as challengers to the Trinamool Congress in terms of vote share in the State. The court asked the state government to chalk out designated routes for immersion and ‘Tazia’ processions. It said that immersion of Durga idols would be held on all days from Vijayadashami on September 30 according to the Hindu almanac, including on Muharram on October 1.
The bench also directed the state government to put out advertisements giving information about the routes and also to ensure that there was amity and harmony between the communities. It declined a plea of the Trinamool Congress government for a stay on the order. In remarks that were scathing the court said “just because you are running the state, it does not mean that you can pass arbitrary orders. You are exercising extreme power without any concrete logic.” The bench headed by acting Chief Justice Rakesh Tiwary said, “You (government) cannot act on the mere assumption that the law-and-order situation might deteriorate owing to Vijaya Dashami and Muharram falling one after the other.” It said it was unfair to interfere in people’s religious freedom.