Basirhat is a Muslim dominated locality and there are allegations that the district and school administration have stopped Saraswati puja due to this.
- Suman Bhattacharyya
Just a week before the Saraswati Puja in Bengal, a few hundred students and their guardians of Adarsha Vidyapith at Chauhata village in the Haroa block of Basirhat subdivision, North 24 Parganas, have come out on the streets. The students and guardians demand the resumption of Saraswati Puja in the school premises. The Puja has been stopped by the school authorities for the last eight years.
The headmaster of the school, who is reportedly new in the job, has pleaded ignorance. He has assured to look into the matter with sincerity and find out from the school authority what had exactly led to stopping the Puja eight years ago. Meanwhile, the Boyalghata-Kolupukur Road was blocked by the agitated students and their guardians for hours on Wednesday. The incident has also created a sensation in the social media.
This demonstration by students, amidst great tension in the area, has revived some memories of 2017 in the public mind. In the Muslim dominated sub-division of Uluberia in Howrah district, adamant Muslim villagers had stalled the preparations of Sarasvati Puja in a local school. The Muslim villagers demanded the introduction of the celebration of Prophet Day (Nabi Divas) in the school first, and with equal pomp and prestige, if the school wished to worship the Goddess of Learning. This was allegedly a precondition set by the Rajarhat Imam Council in Kolkata. A high school in Tehatta (Nadia district) faced similar threats. The school was shut down for twenty-six days following its rejection to celebrate the Nabi Divas.
These analogies are all the more significant as Basirhat is also a Muslim dominated subdivision in the North 24 Parganas and is scheduled to soon make its emergence as a new district in the map of West Bengal. During the last few years, Basirhat has witnessed several incidents of political tension and violation, some of which took a communal turn. In the Rampur village of Sandeshkhali under Basirhat subdivision, twenty six BJP supporters had been injured in an attack by TMC cadres. The atrocities took place on 17 May 2014 for the ‘Crime’ of celebrating BJP’s remarkable success in the Lok Sabha polls. The BJP delegation that visited terror-struck village comprised Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi, SS Ahluwalia, Meenakshi Lekhi, Babul Suprio and Siddharth Nath Singh. Mukhtar Abbas Naqvi had, in 2014, stated, “The situation in Bengal is extremely serious. The law and order situation has completely collapsed.”
There has been no substantial improvement since then. The situation has aggravated over the past few years as Basirhat continues to be plagued by many cross border issues like illegal migration and religious radicalization. Fresh violence had broken out in the Najat village of Sandeshkhali in June 2019 following the last Lok Sabha polls. Sk. Shahjahan, the local TMC President and leader from Basirhat played a major role in fuelling this violence. Sk Shahjahan is also said to have been involved in organizing a free passage for the Rohingyas into India, via the porous Indo-Bangladesh border in the region. Under these circumstances, the stalling Sarasvati Puja in schools is of great significance in West Bengal.