West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Sunday said the Bharatiya Janata Party was mixing religion with politics using the “Jai Shri Ram” slogan. She added that deliberate attempts are being made to promote the ideology of hatred through “vandalism and violence”, and this must be opposed.
Her remarks came a day after the police carried out a baton charge to disperse a group of alleged BJP workers who were shouting “Jai Shri Ram” during a demonstration at Kanchrapara in West Bengal’s North 24 Parganas district.
The demonstration was held outside the house of Trinamool Congress leader and state minister Sujit Bose’s home in Kanchrapara. Several other leaders such as Jyotipriya Mallick, Madan Mitra, Vidyapar Taposh Roy and Nirmal Ghosh were meeting at Bose’s home.
“We wish to inform the people that some BJP supporters are trying to spread hatred ideology through one section of media: so so called BJP media and so so called fake video, fake news, misinformation and disinformation to create confusion and to suppress truth and reality,” Banerjee said in a Facebook post. “From Ram Mohan Roy to Vidyasagar to other great social reformers, Bengal has been a seat of harmony, progress and forward thinking. But now, the misconceived strategy of BJP is targeting Bengal in a very negative manner.”
The chief minister said that different parties and groups have their own slogans, but the BJP is “using religious slogan Jai Sri Ram as their party slogan in a misconceived manner by way of mixing religion with politics”. “We do not respect this forcible enforcement of political slogans on others in the name of so called RSS which Bengal never accepted,” she said.
Banerjee said it is high time political workers are stopped from creating unrest and violence in the name of religion. “If all other political parties start resorting to these sort of divisive and disruptive activities, then the entire environment would become highly vitiated and counterproductive,” she added. “We have to and would oppose such moves of BJP very strongly in order to keep secular character of the country as enshrined in our Constitution.”
The turmoil so far
Last month, Banerjee reportedly lost her cool at least twice while some men shouted “Jai Shri Ram” around her. On Thursday, some people reportedly chanted the slogan when her motorcade passed through Bhatpara area, after which she got off her car and reprimanded them. The slogans, however, resumed soon after. The police arrested ten people for several petty crimes the next day, but the BJP claimed that the two incidents are connected.
On May 4, a video of Banerjee went viral showing her reprimanding a group of people who were chanting “Jai Shri Ram” as her convoy passed them. Soon after the incident, reports said that three people were taken into custody.
Earlier in the day, West Bengal BJP MP Arjun Singh claimed that his party will send 10 lakh postcards with “Jai Shri Ram” written on them to Banerjee, and dared her to arrest 10 lakh people, ANI reported.
“If tomorrow some Muslim says ‘Allah hu Akbar’ or some Sikh says ‘Sat Sri Akal’, will she also get them arrested?” he asked. “Where in the Constitution and the law is it written that someone who raises a religious slogan will be arrested? Is Mamata Banerjee an administrator or dictator?”