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'Is This Their Independence Day?': Mamata Banerjee Takes Potshots at Ram Temple Event

The TMC chief claimed her's was the only party to hit the streets against NRC and also against the Ram Temple inauguration.
Mamata Banerjee at the unity rally on January 22. Photo: X/AITCOfficial

Kolkata: Bengal’s ruling party, Mamata Banerjee’s Trinamool Congress (TMC), took out a massive solidarity march in Kolkata on January 22, a few hours after Prime Minister Narendra Modi helmed the Ram temple consecration ceremony in Ayodhya. Banerjee pledged to fight against the ‘divisive politics’ of the Hindutva camp.

Similar rallies were also taken out at the district level.

Banerjee had earlier turned down the invitation to attend the inauguration, calling it an “election gimmick”.

On Monday, while taking potshots at the BJP and Hindutva camp’s celebration of the Ram Temple inauguration event, she said, “Today is supposedly their independence day. Is this their political independence? As far as I know, they had no contribution to our freedom struggle.”

She said that the only message she wanted to send out from the rally was that a fight has begun, the fight will continue, and she will fight it out. She highlighted that Ram worshipped goddess Durga to be able to kill Ravan and called Durga “the highest deity” of Bengali Hindus.

Over the past few days, the TMC has come to take a stance on the Ram Temple inauguration. On January 9 – a day before the Congress announced its top leaders would skip the inauguration – Banerjee said she did not believe in festivals that divided people. “Religion is personal but festivals belong to all,” she had said.

On Sunday, Abhishek Banerjee took a strong stand against the Ram Temple inauguration. “My RELIGION has not taught me to accept and embrace a place of worship, whether it be a MANDIR, MASJID, CHURCH or GURUDWARA, which has been built over HATRED, VIOLENCE and the dead bodies of innocents. Period!” he wrote in a social media post.

Several TMC leaders highlighted that no other party had used such strong words against the Ayodhya ceremony. “At last, someone stopped playing safe and said it,” TMC spokesperson Debangshu Bhattacharya wrote on social media, while sharing Abhishek’s X post.

On Monday, the party chief endorsed his statement. “Yesterday, Abhishek said that it was impossible to show respect to my religion standing on a pile of corpses. He felt obliged to pay respect to those who died. We declare them martyrs,” she said.

A senior TMC leader later clarified that she was referring the the victims of riots following Babri masjid’s demolition, and not kar sevaks (Hindu nationalist volunteers) who died while attempting to pull down the mosque.

‘Maa Sita’s name’ and the media

She said she was not against Ram but respected both Ram and Sita and opposed the saffron camp’s rising of slogans only for Ram. “Why don’t you ever raise Maa Sita’s name? Does it mean that you are anti-women? Ram is incomplete without Sita and Ram would not have been born without Kaushalya Devi. Sita spent 14 years in forests with Ram and then she had to give the Agni Pariksha,” said Banerjee.

The chief minister started her Monday evening rally by paying visits to the Kali temple at Kalighat near her residence, and then a mosque, a gurdwara and a church. Representatives from different regions walked with her in the rally and were also on the dais. She named over a dozen Hindu pilgrimage sites and temples that her government has renovated and highlighted how she attends all religious festivals.

She also targeted the media, especially TV channels, for creating hype around the Ram Temple inauguration event.

“What the media owners and managers have been doing since the morning makes one wonder if the battle for independence was going on. You should be ashamed. Channels belonging to Adanis and Ambanis, only in their business interest, are selling people off,” she said and even urged the people to boycott TV news channels. “I am not against reporters but I am ashamed of the media owners.”

The chief minister even brought up the issue of the saffron camp’s promotion of vegetarianism through BJP-run governments. “They are prohibiting the consumption of fish, meat, and eggs. I eat eggs. But they don’t want pregnant women to have eggs. They are deciding what people will eat or wear. I love vegetarian dishes, too. It’s everyone’s choice. Food is a personal and religious choice. We all eat fish, meat, and eggs. What’s the problem with it?” she said.

She ended the rally raising slogans of ‘Jai Hind’, ‘Vande Mataram’ and ‘Joy Bangla’ – the last one more times than the others, indicating a possibility of her highlighting the Bengali ethnic plank during the coming Lok Sabha election campaign.

An activists’ rally in Kolkata on January 22. Photo: Pariplab Chakraborty

She also dropped hints of leaving the INDIA block – or at least fighting the Lok Sabha election on its own – when she accused the CPI(M) of controlling the proceedings at the INDIA meets and the Congress of not heeding her proposal of letting regional parties take on the BJP at their strongholds.

Jadavpur University

In a separate incident, a scuffle broke out at the Jadavpur University campus in the afternoon when supporters of the Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad (ABVP), the student wing of the BJP’s parent body, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), tried to livestream the temple consecration event on the campus.

A rally of students associated with leftist organisations allegedly heckled them and disallowed the event, ABVP organisers alleged. The Leftist students had called for a separate procession on the campus condemning the temple inauguration event.

Another rally protesting the Ram Temple inauguration event was taken out in the afternoon in Kolkata by various activists and organisations not associated with the TMC.

The CPI(M) and other Left parties, too, took out protest rallies in different districts at the time the Ram temple inauguration was taking place. They have a scheduled rally in Kolkata on Tuesday on the occasion of ‘Netaji’ Subhas Chandra Basu’s birth anniversary. Left parties are also scheduled to hold events on January 26 in which the preamble of the Indian Constitution will be read out.

Meanwhile, RSS helmsman Mohan Bhagwat is scheduled to address a rally in Barasat, a town about 30 km north of Kolkata. The event is to pay tribute to Bose but RSS organisers in the state expect Bhagwat to raise the issue of the Ram Temple and criticise people who opposed it.

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