Gandhi look-alike as Asura at Kolkata puja pandal stokes controversy
Following pressures and criticism, the organisers finally brought some changes in the external look of the Mahishasura idol
A Durga idol in Kolkata in which the 'Mahisasura' was replaced by a crudely-crafted Mahatma Gandhi-look alike created controversy on the birth anniversary of the father of the nation.
The police contacted the organisers, Akhil Bharatiya Hindu Mahasabha, and asked them to take some initiative so the sentiments of Gandhian followers are not hurt. Initially, the organisers were disinclined to bring any changes. However, following increasing pressures, the organisers finally brought some changes in the external look of the Mahishasura idol. The spectacle was removed and a wig was put on the head of the idol to give it a normal Mahishasura look.
However, the Puja organisers have stuck to their stand claiming they did nothing wrong by placing a Mahishasura idol resembling that of Mahatma Gandhi.
The organisers said the similarities were "just a coincidence".
According to mythology, Goddess Durga slew Mahusasur in an epic battle to end his evil reign.
"The Durga idol that was worshipped here initially had a Mahisasur whose face looked similar to that of Mahatma Gandhi. The similarities are just a coincidence. After photos of it went viral, a police team visited the pandal and asked us to change the face," Akhil Bharatiya Hindu Mahasabha state working President Chandrachur Goswami told PTI on Sunday.
A journalist had earlier in the day tweeted a photograph of the Durga idol, tagging the Kolkata Police. He deleted the post later, claiming that the police asked him to do so as it might create tension during the festival.
"I have been requested by @KolkataPolice cyber cell @DCCyberKP to delete my tweet on a particular puja in Kolkata as they think it might create tension amid the festivities. As a responsible citizen I abide by their request," Alt News Senior Editor Indradeep Bhattacharyya said in a fresh post.
Goswami said the organisation didn't mean to hurt anybody's sentiments.
"The police asked us to change it, and we obliged. We put a moustache and hair on Mahishasur's idol," he said.
The move drew condemnation from various quarters.
"We don't support what Akhil Bharatiya Hindu Mahasabha did. We condemn it. We too had differences with Gandhi ji's views, but this is not a way to protest against it," said Sandip Mukherjee, president, Bangiya Parishad Hindu Mahasabha.
Political parties such as the Trinamool Congress and the BJP also slammed the alleged depiction of Gandhi as 'Mahisasura'.
The ruling Trinamool Congress state spokesperson Kunal Ghosh said if this was really done, it was nothing but sacrilege.
"It is an insult to the father of the nation. It is an insult to every citizen of the country. What would the BJP say about such an insult? We know the assassin of Gandhiji belonged to which ideological camp," Ghosh added.
The state BJP too criticised such a representation.
"If such a move had been made, it is unfortunate. We condemn it. This is in poor taste," BJP state president Sukanta Majumdar told reporters.
Every year, puja organisers choose a theme, mainly social issues, and use their pandals, idols and lighting arrangements to depict it. Many a time, the traditional Mahisasura was replaced by something that represents social evil.
One of the principal puja organisers, Sundargiri Maharaj, who claims himself to be a state president of Akhil Bharatiya Hindu Mahasabha, said that they did not make any mistake since time has come to speak the truth publicly. "I think it is the duty of every Hindu to speak the truth now," he said, without taking a direct reference to the entire development regarding the Mahishasura idol.
Another Puja organiser, Chandrachur Goswami said, "We received threatening calls. The police administration threatened us to close down the Puja unless we made some changes in the look of the Mahishasura idol. Finally, we had to bring some changes to avoid further tension."
“A person with a bald head and wearing spectacles need not be Gandhi. See the asura is also holding a dhal (shield). Gandhi never held a dhal. It is coincidental that our asura whom Maa Durga is killing, looks like Gandhi. Many people said it looks like Gandhi. However, it is also true that Gandhi needs to be criticised, " Goswami told Indian Express.
Meanwhile, the Congress and CPI-M leadership in the state have criticized the state administration for acting so late in the matter. The CPI-M politburo member and the party's state secretary in West Bengal, Md Salim said that Mahatma Gandhi, whose contribution in the Indian freedom movement was unquestionable, was killed by a Hindutva fanatic. "Now, every day there is an attempt to slaughter the Gandhian philosophy. This was a deliberate attempt to hurt the sentiment of the huge number of people involved in a universal festival," Salim said.
The state Congress president in West Bengal and veteran party MP. Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury said that Mahatma Gandhi has been insulted in the same Kolkata, the city where he conducted fasting agitations during the time of Independence movement to stop communal violence. "It is unfortunate that the state administration acted so late," he said.
Till the report was filed there was no report of any administrative action being taken against the Puja organisers.