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Don't Play With Fire, Says Mamata Banerjee After Group Plans Weapon Rally

Kolkata:  A day after the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) announced plans to organise events to “worship” weapons on the final day of the Durga Puja festival in West Bengal later this month, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee asked right-wing outfits not to “play with fire”.

Any rally with weapons will not be permitted, she said, adding that violations “will be dealt with strongly”. The West Bengal Police chief, present at the news conference where the chief minister made this announcement, also repeated the warning.

“Some people of RSS, Bajrang Dal and VHP-brand… if they think they can snatch away peace and hurt Bengal’s culture, then let me tell them clearly that don’t play with fire. You be good and celebrate the Puja well,” Ms Banerjee said at the state secretariat, Nabanna.

On Friday, the VHP had said that it will organise “sashtra pujan” (weapon worship) during Vijaya Dashami – the last day of Durga Puja. The announcement by the outfit came despite Ms Banerjee’s directive to the police to prevent any such programme.

But there was also a concession from the Chief Minister to the growing controversy over the ban on immersion of Durga idols on the day of Muharram – October 1 – which seemingly triggered the VHP plan for weapons worship during the Pujas.

Last month, Ms Banerjee has announced that immersion of Durga idols on Dashami, which is on September 30, would have to end by 6 pm as Muharram processions would start. Ms Banerjee today extended the deadline for immersion of idols from 6 pm to 10 pm.

The change came in response to a case in the High Court against the restrictions on immersion.

“What we had said is on the day of Ekadashi, on October 1 there will be no immersions. Muharram, which is an occasion of mourning by the Muslim community, falls on the same date. Immersion will resume as usual from October 2 to 4,” Ms Banerjee said today.

She added, “Women will put sindoor on each other and Vijaya Dashami rituals will be observed as usual. Those having no inkling about Durga Puja and Kali Puja celebrations in Bengal are spreading all sorts of rumours.”

The chief minister also said the police had recently foiled an attempt by the BJP to spur communal problems at a place in the state and arrested two of its members. Ms Banerjee said the “BJP should not do politics using CBI, ED and foment riots”.

Massive rallies were organised by RSS and right-wing outfits like Hindu Jagran Manch across the state on April 5 to celebrate Ram Navami which saw thousands of Hindu activists, including school children, walking on the road brandishing sticks and sharp weapons.

(With Inputs From IANS and PTI)