Ram Navami celebrations have once again kicked up a row between the ruling Trinamul Congress and the saffron brigade here, as both the camps have decided to take out processions from the same campus within a gap of a few hours.
Police have said they are prepared to tackle the situation as the two groups march from the Sri Guru Bidyamandir at Champasari in Siliguri on Sunday.
Trinamul Congress leaders, however, said the party was against politics on religious grounds. “Unlike the RSS and the BJP, we will spread the message of peace, harmony and integration, whereas they are trying to use the occasion to spread religious fundamentalism.
We don’t have religious motifs,” said the leader of the Opposition at the Siliguri Municipal Corporation and senior Trinamul Congress leader, Ranjan Sarkar.
Siliguri Town Trinamul Congress president Bedabrata Dutta said the rally would start at 11 am. “There will be a big procession on the occasion of Ram Navami. We have appealed to people to join the march,” Mr Dutta said.
State tourism minister and Darjeeling district party president Gautam Deb is scheduled to lead the procession, Trinamul leaders said. On the other hand, Hindu organisations like the Rastriya Swayansevak Sangh (RSS), the BJP and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) are also set to organise the march under the banner of Sri Ram Navami Mahotsav Samiti.
On 5 April last year, the Samiti had organised a huge rally on the same occasion, while the Trinamul took out two rallies appealing for peace and harmony.
Holding rallies on the occasion of Ram Navami was not regular feature in the state until such marches were organised last year. “It is good that other organizations, especially the ruling party, will hold rallies on the occasion. We are expecting a huge turnout in our programme,” said the secretary of the North Bengal unit of the RSS, Tarun Pandit.
Siliguri Organisational District BJP president Praveen Agarwal said a large number of party activists would take part in the programme.
A BJP leader said the decision of the Trinamul Congress to celebrate the occasion proves that the ruling party was afraid of the BJP. “We have been organising Ram Navami celebrations since 1991. Keeping the tradition alive, we will be organizing a mega shobayatra and we are expecting 50,000 devotees. From the Sri Guru Vidya Mandir school ground, we will hit Hill Cart Road via Nivedita Hospital. We will go round the town and assemble at the Railway maidan, Airview, via Bidhan Road,” the General Secretary of the Shri Ram Navami Mahotsav Samiti, Ratan Kumar Bakshi, said.
“However, no weapons will be carried by the devotees during the yatra,” he added. Political analysts said that the Trinamul decided to hold the rally as a show of strength. “The ruling party does not want to hurt Hindu sentiments, especially ahead of the rural polls,” the analyst said.
Police said proper security arrangements would be made. “We have taken steps and police will be posted on strategic points. Police have asked organisers not to use loudspeakers. We will not allow anybody to carry arms,” said Siliguri Police chief Sunil Kumar Choudhary.