Kolkata: A Durga idol in Kolkata Sunday created controversy after a journalist tweeted a photograph of the ‘Mahishasura’ (the buffalo demon) bearing a resemblance to a crudely-crafted Mahatma Gandhi. And this on a day that also happened to be the birth anniversary of the father of the nation.
The Akhil Bharatiya Hindu Mahasabha — organisers of the puja near Ruby Crossing in southwest Kolkata — argued the similarities were “just a coincidence”, but following outrage on social media and a police complaint, they were forced to change the appearance of the idol.
The Mahishasura now sports a wig and moustache.
According to Hindu mythology, Goddess Durga slew Mahishasura in an epic battle to end his evil reign.
Speaking to ThePrint, Chandrachur Goswami, president of the Akhil Bharatiya Hindu Mahasabha, said: “The similarity to Gandhi was a coincidence. The police asked us to change the face and we complied. We don’t comply with Gandhi’s ideology; he isn’t the father of the nation for us.”
Nathuram Godse, the man who shot Gandhi, was a member of the Akhil Bharatiya Hindu Mahasabha.
“For us, Netaji [Subhas Chandra Bose] and Bhagat Singh are heroes,” he added. This is the organisation’s maiden Durga Puja in Kolkata.
Alt News Senior Editor Indradeep Bhattacharyya had, earlier in the day, tweeted a photograph of the Durga idol tagging Kolkata Police. He deleted the post later claiming the police had asked him to do so as “it might create tension amid the festivities”.
I have been requested by @KolkataPolice cyber cell @DCCyberKP to delete my tweet on a particular puja in Kolkata as they think it might create tension amid the festivities. As a responsible citizen I abide by their request. SI Abhijit Datta told me they were looking into it.
— Indradeep Bhattacharyya (@Indra_Calcutta) October 2, 2022
The Congress filed an FIR against the Akhil Bharatiya Hindu Mahasabha and the pandal saw social media outrage as the photographs went viral on Gandhi Jayanti. Kolkata Police Cyber Cell even traced individuals and asked them to take down the posts to avoid any communal outburst.
Goswami said the organisation didn’t mean to hurt anybody’s sentiments.
“The police asked us to change it, and we obliged. We put a moustache and hair on Mahishasura’s idol,” he said.
The idol had drawn condemnation from various quarters.
Sandip Mukherjee, president, Bangiya Parishad Hindu Mahasabha, said: “We don’t support what Akhil Bharatiya Hindu Mahasabha did. We condemn it. We, too, had differences with Gandhiji‘s views, but this is not the way to protest against it.”
Political parties such as the Trinamool Congress (TMC) and the BJP also slammed the alleged depiction of Mahishasura as Gandhi.
“We know who killed Gandhi and what ideology [Nathuram] Godse followed. It is an insult to the father of the nation. What does the BJP have to say about this sacrilege?” said TMC spokesperson Kunal Ghosh to ThePrint.
BJP state president Sukanta Majumdar, too, condemned the depiction and told ThePrint, “Replacing the demon with Gandhiji only shows poor taste. It’s very unfortunate, we condemn this strongly.”
CPI(M) West Bengal Secretary Mohd Salim sought police intervention. “Our father of the nation was shown as an asura in a pandal in Kolkata. Urging Kolkata Police and Mamata Banerjee to take serious cognizance of this matter and penalize the miscreants”, tweeted Salim.
Every year, many puja organisers choose a theme — usually some social issue or another — and use their pandals, idols and lighting arrangements to depict the same. Often the traditional Mahishasura is replaced by something else that represents a social evil.
With PTI inputs