An idol of the demon Mahishasura resembling Mahatma Gandhi in a south Kolkata puja pandal has caused a major controversy during an otherwise peaceful and fun-filled Durga Puja in West Bengal.
The idol in the pandal, organised by the Akhil Bharat Hindu Mahasabha (ABHM), had a bespectacled, bald old man, clad in a dhoti and carrying a walking stick, in the position of the demon king being slain by the goddess Durga. While the ABHM claimed that the resemblance was nothing more than a coincidence, their representation of Mahishasura could not be more different from the traditional one.
Subsequently, on the evening of Gandhi Jayanti, under instructions from the police, the organisers altered the image by removing the glasses and adding a wig and a thick moustache to the image.
All the main political parties, including the ruling Trinamool Congress, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the Left parties, and the Congress, condemned the ABHM over the representation.
But the ABHM’s West Bengal president Chandrachur Goswami reportedly said: “It is coincidental that our asura whom Maa Durga is killing looks like Gandhi. However, it is also true that Gandhi needs to be criticised.”
The Trinamool has taken the opportunity to attack the BJP over the issue, with party spokesperson Kunal Ghosh saying: “This is the real face of the BJP; the rest of what they do is drama.” However, the fact that such a pandal was allowed in a Trinamool stronghold has raised questions in civil society.
An outraged local resident said: “Not a blade of grass is removed from the neighbourhood without Trinamool knowing it. Are we to believe that they did not know about this kind of idol?”
Historian and author Suchetana Chattopadhyay told Frontline: “It has been learnt that the ABHM was an ally of the Trinamool during the Bhawanipore byelection. The neighbourbood where the puja was organised is controlled by the Trinamool. It is clear that there is an underlying alliance between the Hindu right and the regional right in Bengal.”
Biswajit Bhattacharya, a senior political commentator, said that this was nothing more than an attempt by the ABHM to generate a controversy and draw attention to itself.