Bengal civil society walks for communal amity

Kolkata, (IANS): “Religious belief is personal, but nation is for all” – proclaimed placards and posters as a large section of West Bengal’s civil society hit the streets alongside thousands of common people on Sunday decrying recent group clashes in the state and calling for preserving the age-old tradition of communal amity.

Poets, educationists, film and theatre personalities, painters and eminent persons from other walks of life were the vanguard in the huge rally from the city hub Dharamtala to the cultural epicentre Rabindra Sadan complex.

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With the number of rallyists swirling every minute, it took the participants around two hours to cover the around 4.5 kilometer distance amid recitation of poems, singing of songs, and performance of plays.

They condemned the recent violence witnessed in places like Raniganj, Asansol and Arsha over Ram Navami rallies which left three dead and five police personnel injured.

“We are seeing religious excesses, and use of religion in politics on an unprecedented scale in Bengal. This is terrible. This is not our tradition. Our tradition is co-existence. We have taken out the rally to make people aware of this,” said theatre director-actor Meghna Bhattacharya.

Noted Bengali film director Tarun Majumdar said he felt it was a must to take part in the rally. “There is a need for a strong protest after whatever is happening all around. We don’t come out on to the streets very often. But at times situations so develop that we have to take to the streets.”

The cynosure of all eyes was Jnanpith winner and two time Sahitya Akademi awardee litterateur Shankha Ghosh. The infirm 86-year-old displayed strong determination as he walked in the rally latching on to the shoulders of other participants.

The organisers repeatedly requested him to board a car, but the Padma Bhushan awardee refused politely and firmly every time.

“We should raise our voice for communal amity, considering the turn of events all around. Initially I thought because fo my health condition I would support it from a distance. But I could not help walking in the rally once I reached here,” said Ghosh.

Leaders of seventeen Left parties joined the rally sans the flags of their respective outfits.

Left Front chairman Biman Bose, state CPI-M secretary Surjya Kanta Mishra, leader of the LF legislature party Sujon Chakraborty, and RSP leader Sourin Bhattacharya walked the full distance.

“When dacoits raid your locality, then everybody, save members of the dacoit gang, come out on to the streets to resist the miscreants. This is why we are here. This is not a political rally. There is not a single flag of any political party. The civil society is in the vanguard. We are taking part in the rally, as we think it is our duty,” said veteran CPI-M leader Shaymal Chakraborty.

Film director Anik Dutta, film actor Paran Bandopadhyay, thespian Rudra Prasad Sengupta, theatre personality Chandan Sen, academician Pabitra Sarkar and Subhankar Chakraborty were among the participants. Thespian Soumitra Chatterjee could not join the rally, but sent in a message announcing his support.