There was a time when people marching on the streets with swords and tridents was not exactly a common sight. In fact, the police would probably not allow it.
Not any longer, if the myriad processions across the towns of West Bengal on the occasion of Ramnavami on Wednesday were anything to go by.
“Lord Rama carried a bow and arrow,” said West Bengal BJP president and senior RSS functionary Dilip Ghosh. “So how can his puja be done with empty hands? When Muharram is observed there is no talk of polarisation. When Eid or Christmas is celebrated, there is no talk of polarisation. But, when Ram Navami is celebrated, they say it will lead to polarisation. If Ram Navami does lead to polarisation, let it be. We will do it.”
Ghosh carried a sword while participating a Ram Navami procession in West Bengal’s West Midnapore district and this was his convoluted explanation for why close to 150 rallies took place across the state, in which RSS supporters of all ages took to the streets with chants of “Jai Shri Ram” and “Jai Bajrangbali”, posters pledging the construction of the Ram Mandir in Ayodhya, armed with swords and tridents. The video above is a compilation of these rallies.
Ghosh had signalled his intent at a talk at Jadavpur University on April 1, bristling at the idea of requiring police permission to carry weapons. “Who are the police to issue permission?” he said. “In Ram Rajya, people worshipped Ram for centuries. Do we have to take permission for that? It is ludicrous. People in Bengal will worship Ram and this time they will do it with arms. If we are few, only then will the law be used against us.”
While the video shows that the rallies were not exactly calm, according to a report in The Telegraph, the RSS claimed that close to six lakh people participated in “peaceful processions”.
While the Trinamool Congress also observed the occasion in different parts of the state, according to a Hindustan Times report, the Left and Congress stayed away. “One party had hijacked the Durga Puja celebrations and now another has hijacked the celebration of Ram Navami,” said Sujan Chakraborty, the leader of CPI(M)’s legislative party. “The latter kicked off the trend of taking out processions carrying weapons. This is not going to do Bengal any good.”