A war of words erupted Saturday between the TMC and BJP over the credit for UNESCO’s intangible cultural heritage (ICH) tag to Durga Puja, Bengal’s biggest festival. Union Minister of State for Education Subhas Sarkar slammed the TMC-led government for trying to “hijack the credit of the Centre’s hard work in ensuring that Durga Puja gets the UNESCO recognition.
“The state government had no role in getting the ICH, but it is now very active in hijacking the credit. The Union government and its ministries played a key role in ensuring that we get this recognition. The TMC dispensation cannot show even one letter it had written to the Centre on getting the tag," Sarkar said.
Reacting to the comments, senior Trinamool Congress leader and Kolkata Mayor Firhad Hakim said the BJP has a bad habit of “hankering for credit for Bengal’s excellent initiatives.
Sarkar, along with Union Minister of State for External Affairs and Culture Meenakshi Lekhi, was speaking to reporters on the sidelines of a programme at the Indian Museum to celebrate the inscription of Durga Puja in the UNESCO list of ICH. Lekhi, without naming anyone, said nobody should try to politicise the festival.
“It is a matter of pride for the entire country. Apart from West Bengal, Durga Puja is celebrated in various parts of India. In 2012, too, a dossier was sent to the UNESCO, but it was rejected. In 2019, another one was sent, she said. It came back for a few clarifications, and many central government officers worked on this. Later, it was accepted by UNESCO in 2021, Lekhi said.
Hakim, however, said the BJP had earlier claimed that TMC doesn’t allow Durga Puja in West Bengal. If that was the case, how come UNESCO has recognised it? The BJP’s lies are now out in the open," he said.
TMC state general secretary Kunal Ghosh added: “The UNESCO recognition is an apt reply to the communal campaign by the saffron camp.
The BJP, ahead of the assembly polls in Bengal, had claimed that the TMC government does not allow Hindus to celebrate Durga Puja and observe its rituals in a proper manner.