Gandhi look-alike as Asura at Kolkata puja pandal stokes controversy

Akhil Bharatiya Hindu Mahasabha, organisers of the puja near Ruby Crossing in southwest Kolkata, changed the appearance of the idol that looked like Gandhi following instructions from the police.

Kolkata: A Durga idol in Kolkata in which the ‘Mahisasura’ was replaced by a crudely-crafted Mahatma Gandhi-look alike created controversy on the birth anniversary of the father of the nation.

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Akhil Bharatiya Hindu Mahasabha, organisers of the puja near Ruby Crossing in southwest Kolkata, changed the appearance of the idol that looked like Gandhi following instructions from the police after a complaint was lodged.

The organisers, Hindu Mahasabha, however, claimed that it was a “coincidence”.

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According to mythology, Goddess Durga slew Mahusasur in an epic battle to end his evil reign.

“The Durga idol that was worshipped here initially had a Mahisasur whose face looked similar to that of Mahatma Gandhi. The similarities are just a coincidence. After photos of it went viral, a police team visited the pandal and asked us to change the face,” Akhil Bharatiya Hindu Mahasabha state working President Chandrachur Goswami told PTI on Sunday.

A journalist had earlier in the day tweeted a photograph of the Durga idol, tagging the Kolkata Police. He deleted the post later, claiming that the police asked him to do so as it might create tension during the festival.

“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,” Alt News Senior Editor Indradeep Bhattacharyya said in a fresh post.

Goswami claimed that 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 Mahishasur’s idol,” he said.

The move drew condemnation from various quarters.

“We don’t support what Akhil Bharatiya Hindu Mahasabha did. We condemn it. We too had differences with Gandhi ji’s views, but this is not a way to protest against it,” said Sandip Mukherjee, president, Bangiya Parishad Hindu Mahasabha.

Political parties such as the Trinamool Congress and the BJP also slammed the alleged depiction of Gandhi as ‘Mahisasura’.

The ruling Trinamool Congress state spokesperson Kunal Ghosh said if this was really done, it was nothing but sacrilege.

“It is an insult to the father of the nation. It is an insult to every citizen of the country. What would the BJP say about such an insult? We know the assassin of Gandhiji belonged to which ideological camp,” Ghosh added.

The state BJP too criticised such a representation.

“If such a move had been made, it is unfortunate. We condemn it. This is in poor taste,” BJP state president Sukanta Majumdar told reporters.

Priyanka Chaturvedi of Shiv Sena alleged that this was a “deliberate attempt” to demonise freedom fighters.

“Nope, this isn’t coincidence. This is a deliberate attempt to change the narrative to suit the current narrative of demonising our freedom movement heroes. We have truly lost our moral compass as a nation,” Chaturvedi tweeted.

Every year, puja organisers choose a theme, mainly social issues, and use their pandals, idols and lighting arrangements to depict it. Many a time, the traditional Mahisasura was replaced by something that represents social evil.

Outrage on social media:

Outrage broke out on Twitter over the installation of the Mahishasur idol that resembled Mahatma Gandhi, where people on social media sought the immediate arrest of Hindu Mahasabha leaders who organised the Durga puja.

“Immediately arrest the officials of Hindu Mahasabha for depicting Mahatma Gandhi as asura in a Durga Puja at Kolkata,” tweeted one Atanu Chakravarty, tagging Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.

One Partha Pratim Bhattacharya on Facebook urged the police to take action against the organisers of the Durga Puja as the idol “has hurt the religious sentiments of many Hindus like me”.

“I don’t have an inkling as to what steps the law enforcement people are taking to curb this nuisance. It’s a shame for us, Indians and Bengalis is particular,” Kumar Mukherjee posted on Facebook.

“It’s such a disgrace to my city!” posted Dwaipayan Banerjee.

(The story has been edited with inputs from the Press Trust of India.)

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