Ahead of the Durga Puja celebrations that are scheduled to commence next month, the political and religious propaganda surrounding the annual festival has already begun.
On 2 September, renowned Bengali artist Sanatan Dinda posted a picture of a woman clad in a head covering (hijab) and a face veil (niqab) on Facebook. The contentious drawing was sketched using charcoal dry pastel and was accompanied by the caption “Maa aschhen”.
The phrase “Maa aschhen” is a Bengali reference to the homecoming of Goddess Durga to her maternal home, as the speech community sees the autumnal invocation of the eternal mother by Sri Rama before He slew Ravana. Bengalis use the phrase to express the joy that is felt in anticipation of the Hindu festival.
The picture, posted by visual artist Sanatan Dinda, drew the ire of many Hindus for its portrayal of the goddess as a Muslim woman. BJP Mahila Morcha Vice-President Keya Ghosh wrote, “Maa Durga in hijab… by artist Sanatan Dinda.”
She pointed out, “He knows he can get away with it because many intellectuals Bengalis are going gaga over it.” The BJP leader had sought the help of the Hindu IT Cell, ex-Shiv Sena leader Rajput Ramesh and architect Vikas Pandey.
Netizens slam Islamic portrayal of Durga
A disgusted Twitter user (@vighosh) pointed out the irony in the name of the artist. “And his name is Sanatan,” he wrote.
Another Twitter user, wrote, “He has drawn the future of West Bengal. Nothing else.” He suggested that women of all religions will eventually be forced to wear hijab.
“What the hell is this now”, wrote another user in disbelief.
“He has drawn the future of the state. The tears in the eyes of the woman in the sketch have given us insight into what the future beholds,” another user lamented.
Azan played in pandal during Durga Puja in 2019
In October 2019, a video of an azan (Muslim call to prayer) was played at a Durga Puja pandal in Kolkata’s Beliaghata 33 Pally area. It outraged social media users. They slammed the organisers calling it “appeasement” and slamming their “desperation to show secularism”.
Following this, a local lawyer filed a complaint and named ten people, including the club secretary of the puja pandal and local Trinamool Congress (AITC) leader Paresh Paul. Reportedly, Pal was the primary organiser of this community Puja.
The community Durga Puja at Beleghata’s 33 Pally (in south-central Kolkata) was playing a recording of azan since the festivities commenced on Maha Panchami. The complaint alleged that 10 people, including local AITC leader Paresh Paul, intentionally tried to “disturb the peace and tranquillity in the state” by playing a video of the azan during the puja. Many viewed playing azan from the venue of the puja as ridiculous and felt it was a deliberate and mischievous act to hurt the religious sentiments of Hindus.