Kolkata: As leaders of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP)’s continued to chant slogans like ‘Jai Sri Ram’, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has said she would opt for ‘Jai Hind’ and ‘Vande Mataram’.
In almost all her recent public meetings/rallies in Jangalmahal and adjoining areas, Banerjee has said that she would prefer to die than utter the saffron party’s slogans as they conveyed a message of divisive politics and not brotherhood.
“Let them chant ‘Jai Sri Ram’, we will raise ‘Jai Hind’ and ‘Vande Mataram’ slogans. Let’s join hands against the BJP’s bad intention to divide the country. They are doing divisive politics in the name of religion, but we will never support that,” Banerjee said at a gathering in Hura, Purulia.
“Religion and politics cannot be mixed up. You will pray to ‘Mayanguru’ (local deity) and not to Hanuman because that is your culture. This cannot be imposed upon you. The Centre has not done anything for Purulia. And the prime minister now comes here to ask for votes. The BJP has no shame. Nobody in the country believes the prime minister any longer. He is running the country in the name of ‘gau rakshaks’ (cow protectors). They want to grab power through riots and fights. The BJP only believes in instigating fights between peoples of different regions. But our motto is ‘unity in diversity’,” she said.
Invoking ‘Ram’ and controversies around him is not new in Bengal.
In 2007, former Left Front chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee had landed in a controversy when he had quoted lines from Rabindranath Tagore's ‘Bhasha O Chhanda’, which reads ‘Kobi tabo monobhumi Ramer janmasthan, Ayodhar cheye satya jeno’ (The poets’ mind is the birthplace of Ram, which is more real than Ayodhya).
He quickly issued a statement claiming he was misquoted.
In January 2017, in an attempt to ‘secularise’ the word ‘Ramdhenu’ that literally means Lord Ram’s bow, but is used as the Bengali word for rainbow, the West Bengal Council for Higher Education has replaced the word with ‘Rongdhenu’ (bow of colours).
Later, in April that year, Bengal BJP president Dilip Ghosh triggered a another controversy by describing Ram Navami celebrations as a fight between ‘Ramzada’ (one born of Lord Ram) and ‘haramzada’ (illegitimate children).
Speaking to News18, renowned Indologist and an expert in Indian epics and mythologies Nrisingha Prasad Bhaduri said, “Ram was never a controversial figure. It’s the BJP who is making it a controversial issue. The BJP’s definition of Ram is completely different from Valmiki’s Ramayana, ‘Ramacharitamanasa’ of Tulsidas or ‘Krittivasi Ramayan’ written by poet Krittibas.”