West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has ordered the stalling of the immersion of Durga idols in the rivers and other water bodies of the state after 6 pm on Vijaya Dashami (September 30). The festival is celebrated on the 10th day of the Ashvin month as per the Hindu calendar. The temporary ban on idol immersion will remain in effect until the following day. The state government says that the decision has been taken in the view of Muharram falling on the same day.
The West Bengal Chief Minister said:
“No idol immersion after 6 pm on Dashami (Sept 30) till Oct 1 due to Muharram processions, immersion will resume from Oct 2.”
The most popular festival in West Bengal, Durga Puja is celebrated across the state with much pomp and piety. The entire state, especially the capital city Kolkata, decks up with innumerable pandals lighting up its every nook and corner. Although the tithi starts from the first day of the Ashvin month, it is only from the sixth day, or the shasthi, when the main celebration begins. Now, according to Hindu norms, all idols of the deities have to be immersed in the holy water on Vijaya Dashami. This year, it falls on September 30, but the Chief Minister has essentially ordered stalling of religious celebrations after 6 pm until next day (October 1). The state government is of the view that idol immersion can interfere with Muharram processions carried out by Muslims.
Interestingly, Muharram processions are generally carried out in the morning while the Durga idol immersion takes place by the evening.
For a long time now, Hindu and Muslim communities in the state have been celebrating various functions and rituals together; on occasions, Muharram would clash with Durga Puja or Eid would clash with another Hindu festival – but a democratically elected state government pandering to a section of its core vote bank by imposing a selective ban on religious practice of a particular community in the state will not be easily forgotten.
Mamata Banerjee government’s decision is likely to be challenged in the court.