Rampurhat: An ubiquitous song (set to catchy EDM beats) was what Rampurhat, a dusty but bustling town in Bengal’s Birbhum district, woke up to on Ram Navami. More than a dozen Ram Navami rallies were being held in the town on the occasion of the festival.
“Jay Shree Ram.
Pakistan tu kaan khol ke sun le,
Doodh mangoge toh kheer denge,
Kashmir mangoge toh cheer denge.”
(“Jay Shree Ram.
Pakistan, you better listen carefully
If you ask for milk, we give you pudding,
But ask for Kashmir, and we rip you apart.)
According to The Quint this song was heard at one of the many BJP rallies in Rampurhat, which were on their way to converge at one of the town’s largest grounds.
Bengal really, has never cared for Ram Navami until 2017, when pictures of rallies organised by the BJP and right wing groups showed hundreds of people, kids included, walking the streets with swords and trishuls.In 2018, therefore, the Mamata government and Trinamool did two things – 1) Ban armed marches unless prior permission was taken. 2) Celebrate Ram Navami with as much fervour as the BJP. “We don’t need to learn about Ram from them”, many leaders of the TMC have said.
Various rallies of mostly youngsters resonated similar sentiments as those expressed by their party members. Ram Navami was an assertion of Hindu identity. Ram is an “Indian” icon.
It was a starkly “Hindu” affair. So much so, that there was even a banner from a “Ayodhya Ram Mandir Committee” seen at the congregation ground.
On this day in some places Trinamool rally was also seen, in Suri TMC rally was equally loud, but the message they wanted to put out was clear, the “cultural” TMC rally was along with the common DJ, there were ‘dhaaks’ and women dressed in ‘laal-paar’ sarees dancing to their tunes.
All the attendees were briefed about it being a “secular” affair. One which saw participation from Hindus, Muslims and other religions alike.
Those who looked on at the celebrations, however, said that they understood it was political, but this was a moment of pride for the Hindu community. The sentiment of deprivation amongst the Hindus in Birbhum was palpable. And that is probably why both parties tried so hard to best each other in their appropriation of the festival.
The district seemed to be prepared for the grand rallies too, with all the shops shut down on Ram Navami for the first time ever, and the streets being largely empty. While the party cadre were called into action in different villages and towns, the common folk maintained a distance, enjoying a Sunday.