It was interesting, to say the least, to see the extreme reaction of West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee at the chanting of ‘Jai Shri Ram’ at an official function organised to mark the 125th birth anniversary of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose in Kolkata.
To see a sitting Chief Minister flying off the handle at the chanting of ‘Jai Shri Ram’ in the presence of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the West Bengal Governor was shocking.
To be fair, the sloganeering was quite unbecoming at that moment in that event. It was an official event and those, who raised the slogans of ‘Jai Shri Ram’ the moment Mamata Banerjee was invited to speak, were actually political ruffians who wanted to provoke the Chief Minister.
However, the Chief Minister did what they wanted. She was indeed provoked in the expected manner as she reacted angrily and interpreted the slogans as an attempt to ‘show disrespect to her’.
It is really interesting to see a Chief Minister object to ‘Jai Shri Ram’ slogan in a ‘Sonar Bangla’ where Krittibas Ojha’s Ramayan is chanted in every house. Okay, maybe it is not chanted in every house any more, but there is no denying the fact that Ram’s name indeed is deeply enshrined in the values and cultural fabric of entire Bengal.
‘Jai Shri Ram’ slogan has taken a political colour in West Bengal. Mainly, because the Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee interprets it and presents it in a political way and associates it with support for BJP. There is a reason for BJP’s rise in West Bengal. Her government’s blatantly partial and one-sided policies and stands on different issues has alienated a large number of Hindus. It is true that BJP has been clever in encashing the opportunity too. However, she is herself to blame for politicising a simple greeting in the name of Bhagwan Ram and making it appear like a ‘war cry’.
It is unimaginable that in a land that chants stanzas of Krittibas Ojha’s Ramayana, chanting of ‘Jai Shri Ram’ would be interpreted as an alien ‘political statement’.
And it is also unimaginable that in the original land of comrade-brand politics, making ‘creative political statements’ would be interpreted as being offensive and regressive.
What would be left of Che Guevara’s and Mao’s Bengal, if we take out ‘creative wall writing’ and ‘creative sloganeering’ from of it?
To see the Chief Minister of the ‘most forward-thinking’ state getting rattled at the mention of the phrase ‘Jai Shri Ram’ is really unsettling.
One can only let it go as an one-off instance, leave everything to Janata Janardan and sign off with a non-political, or neo-political, greeting, whichever way you see it, with a sigh – Jai Shri Ram!