Kolkata: When the RSS-backed Hindu religious groups planning a militant showdown across the state during Ram Navami on April 5, another group — Nababarsha Udjapan Parishad — has chosen to tread a different path on Poila Boisakh (April 15).
Far from brandishing tridents and swords, members of this organisation will celebrate the day flaunting motifs of birds, fish and animals — known to be Bengal’s own for ages. The Parishad has planned a Mangal Shobha Yatra, a colourful procession, with motifs and masks that represent Bengali culture across boundaries. The procession will also have participants from Bangladesh.
“Bengal has been witness to the worst of religious strifes. This procession calls for amity beyond religion, caste and creed,” says convenor Siddhartha Datta.
From drawing alpana on S C Mullick Road throughout the night on the eve of Poila Boisakh to students performing street drama at Ganguly Bagan or Jadavpur, all will form part of this endeavour. Potuas from Kalighat and men on stilts will add colour to the event.
Students of Dhaka University had conceived this programme to spread the message of Bengali nationality above religion, creed or clan. The procession at Dhaka symbolises unity, peace and the driving away of evil to allow progress. It is considered an expression of the secular identity of the Bangladeshi people.
“A group from Bangladesh will be presenting the masks while we will be using several other motifs, like the typical horse from Bishpur, as part of sharing our culture,” Datta said.
A host of liberal luminaries — from dramatist Bibhas Chakrabarty to actor Paran Bandopadhyay, from linguist Pabitra Sarkar to singer Pratul Mukhopadhyay — have lent their support to this first ever initiative in Kolkata.
“We are passing through bad times when religious passion is being fanned to bring about a division in the society. This is the right time to uphold our culture that doesn’t endorse such polarisation. Most worrying is the fact that such a procession has come under threat from fundamentalists in Bangladesh,” said Datta.