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Gandhi look-alike as Asura in 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 after a complaint was lodged. The organisers said the similarities were “just a coincidence”.

PTI Reported By: PTI Kolkata Updated on: October 03, 2022 11:06 IST
Picture for representational purposes only
Image Source : AP Picture for representational purposes only

A Durga idol in Kolkata in which the ‘Mahisasura’ (Buffalo demon) was replaced by a crudely crafted Mahatma Gandhi-look alike has created controversy on Sunday, the birth anniversary of the father of the nation.

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 said the similarities were “just a coincidence”.

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 marquee and asked us to change the face," Akhil Bharatiya Hindu Mahasabha state working President Chandrachur Goswami told PTI.

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.

Goswami said 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 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 castigated 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.

Every year, many 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 else that represents social evil.

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