Kolkata: The famous slogan “Khela Hobe (Game On)”, coined by West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee to rally the Trinamool Congress cadre ahead of the assembly polls earlier this year, is now being used to promote sports in the state.
But the controversy around the slogan continues, with the BJP criticising the Banerjee-led state government for announcing 16 August as the ‘Khela Hobe Divas’ since thousands of people in Kolkata were killed on the same day during riots in 1946.
In July, the West Bengal government had announced that 16 August will be observed as ‘Khela Hobe Divas’ in a bid to honour those killed during a stampede in Kolkata’s Eden Garden in 1980.
A violent clash had erupted between the supporters of the East Bengal Football Club and Mohun Bagan Athletic Club on 16 August 1980, where over a dozen spectators were killed.
To commemorate the day, Manoj Tiwary, the Minister of State for Sports in West Bengal, said the government has planned a programme to promote football and other sports and will also felicitate sporting icons.
“The government has also organised a friendly football match between the Indian Football Team and the Bengal Football team,” Tiwary, a former India cricketer, told ThePrint.
The decision, however, has irked BJP leaders in the state who says 16 August was the day declared as ‘Direct Action Day’ in 1946 by the Muslim League led by Muhammad Ali Jinnah and was followed by communal riots.
Suvendu Adhikari, BJP MLA and the leader of the Opposition in West Bengal, also led a delegation of Sanatan Dharma monks to the Raj Bhavan Monday seeking redressal from Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar on the matter.
According to Adhikari, the delegation requested Dhankhar to persuade the state government to change the date of the ‘Khela Hobe Divas’.
In a tweet Monday, he said that “any celebration on this day would only make the Bengalis relive the pain of the gory past”.
Accompanied by revered monks, pleaded the Honourable Governor Shri @jdhankhar1 ji to persuade the WB Govt to change the day of the proposed Khela Hobe divas, as any celebration on this day would only make the Bengalis relive the pain of the gory past. pic.twitter.com/ymmGlA4x0l
— Suvendu Adhikari • শুভেন্দু অধিকারী (@SuvenduWB) August 10, 2021
Tiwari, however, said the government will proceed with their programme as scheduled despite the opposition.
Great Calcutta Killings of 1946
The primary contention of the BJP leaders is that the ‘Khela Hobe Divas’ coincides with the anniversary of the ‘Direct Action Day’ in 1946.
On this day, a massive communal riot broke out in then Calcutta and the rampage went on till 20 August. Thousands of people were killed over the four days, in what has been termed as the Great Calcutta Killings of 1946.
“Mamata Banerjee wants to bring back the culture of Direct Action Day. We have seen the extent of political violence and how members of Opposition parties were killed. This symbolises direct action. With Khela Hobe Divas, they are now going to celebrate this, “ Dilip Ghosh, MP and president of the BJP’s West Bengal unit, told ThePrint.
However, Tiwary said the BJP was just thriving on negativity. “There is a section in the Opposition parties who cannot see or appreciate good things. They always want to thrive on negativity. We have two ears — one to listen and another to let go. We are doing that now,” he said.
“The government has dedicated the day to football lovers, it is in memory of their enthusiasm for sports. The day is meant to promote sports among the younger generation and build a bond of love and affection through that. It has no place for any negativity,” he added.
(Edited by Rachel John)