In West Bengal’s North 24-Parganas district, at least five students were allegedly beaten up by the local community, for demanding resumption of Saraswati Puja.
The students at Chauhata Adarsha Vidyapith, a government aided school under Haroa police station area in Basirhat, staged a roadblock, demanding that they should be allowed to hold Saraswati Puja, stopped since 2009, a few years after Mamata Banerjee government came to power.
The protesting students, girls and boys from junior section of the school, were allegedly beaten by the locals, supposedly from the Muslim community, and two students were left bleeding after the incident, reported The Hindustan Times.
The crowd entered the school, to look for the teacher, Ganesh Sardar, who was pushing for Saraswati Puja. “Some teachers hid me inside a ladies toilet to save me. Had the district administration not acted on time, the situation could have gone worse. The officer-in-charge of Haroa police station saved me,” said Sardar.
Sardar, who is district president of the teacher’s body affiliated to RSS, alleged that he is being specially targeted by the neighboring Muslim community.
Himangshu Sekhar Mondal, the headmaster of the school since July 2019, said, “The crowds surrounded the school and traffic came to a standstill. The students possibly sustained the injury in a stampede-like situation. I did not see anyone beat them up. I was inside the school throughout the incident. The disturbance was going on outside.”
As per the HT report, 75 percent of the school students are Muslims while majority of the teachers are Hindus.
“This is most unfortunate. I have repeatedly said that this part of the North 24-Parganas is infested with illegal migrants from Bangladesh. Friday’s incident is a proof,” said Bharatiya Janata Party’s state unit general secretary Sayantan Basu criticizing the attack.
It may be mentioned that last year, during a rally in West Bengal, the then BJP chief Amit Shah, said, “If you wish to celebrate Durga Puja or Saraswati Puja in West Bengal, you will be attacked by goons. Should we go to celebrate these festivals in Pakistan?”
In February 2017, local police of the Tehatta locality had severely beaten the school students because they were protesting against the restriction on Saraswati Puja celebration in their school.
Previously the government of West Bengal had decreed that all state libraries will be allocated a budget to celebrate Nabi Divas. There is no historical precedence for celebration of ‘Nabi Divas’ in the state. In fact, before Bangladeshi Muslims swarmed and overwhelmed the state, Nabi Divas, was a minor festival, to the extent that it is even now a restricted holiday in the state government’s calendar.
For years, even under the atheist Communist regime, school children and elders alike prostrated before Goddeess Saraswati and prayed for knowledge and wisdom from her.
So far, politicians have sought to downplay the religious nature of Saraswati Puja, highlighting instead its cultural facets- a self-defeating exercise in itself given that religion and culture in most cases overlap each other, but Saraswati Puja has always been celebrated with fervour. Not any more it seems. Reports emerging out from parts of Bengal indicate that vigorous attempts are being made to suppress Saraswati Puja celebrations, ostensibly in the name of secularism.