A year after a bust of 19th-century educationist and social reformer Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar was vandalised in Kolkata during a poll rally led by Amit Shah, the Trinamool Congress (TMC) on Wednesday raised the issue to target the Union home minister after he paid homage to Vidyasagar on his death anniversary.
“I bow to Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar ji on his punyatithi. A distinguished social reformer and one of the pillars of Bengal Renaissance, who played a major role towards women empowerment. His relentless efforts eradicated many social evils and made Widows’ Remarriage Act possible,” Shah tweeted on Wednesday.
Chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s nephew and Lok Sabha member Abhishek Banerjee took on Shah on Twitter.
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Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar was a great social reformer who still stands tall as an inspiration for secular, free-thinking society. Ironic how @AmitShah ji had scant regard for Vidyasagar’s values when his men vandalised the latter’s bust. Please drop this facade of petty tokenism! https://t.co/9hDynW6i9y
— Abhishek Banerjee (@abhishekaitc) July 29, 2020
“Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar was a great social reformer who still stands tall as an inspiration for secular, free-thinking society. Ironic how @AmitShah ji had scant regard for Vidyasagar’s values when his men vandalised the latter’s bust. Please drop this facade of petty tokenism!” tweeted Banerjee who heads the TMC’s youth wing. He also quoted Shah’s tweet.
The TMC too targeted Shah in a tweet written in Bengali. CM Mamata Banerjee, however, did not join the war. “Tribute to Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar, social reformer and educationist, on his death anniversary. He is one of the tallest figures of the Bengal Renaissance. His contribution in women’s education and legalising widow-remarriage is undeniable,” she tweeted.
Vidyasagar’s bust was vandalised inside Vidyasagar College in central Kolkata during a Lok Sabha campaign rally led by Shah in May 2019. The TMC alleged that Bharatiya Janata Party workers stormed into the college and damaged the bust. The opposition party alleged that TMC workers damaged the bust and attacked the rally by pelting stones from the college and adjacent buildings.
This became a raging issue in the Lok Sabha polls but the BJP managed to win 18 of the state’s 42 seats, marking its best-ever performance in Bengal. Though police started an investigation, the real culprits are yet to be named by the government.
“It is the state’s responsibility to probe the incident. The government has failed there. Mamata Banerjee never showed respect to the great sons of Bengal. She only used their names for political gain,” Bengal BJP president Dilip Ghosh told the media on Wednesday afternoon.
This is the second time the vandalism issue has been raised by the TMC in less than a month.
In the second week of July, a BJP worker was arrested in Purulia district in connection with the breaking of a statue of Kanhu Murmu, one of the four leaders of the 1855 Santhal rebellion against the British and local landlords.
The incident triggered political tension. The alleged vandalism on July 7 took place at the village of Sandhya Rani Tudu, a TMC tribal leader and minister of state for backward classes welfare. The village is located in the Manbazar assembly constituency that Tudu represents.
“@BJP4Bengal has sworn to attack and destroy every grain of Bengal’s cultural heritage. First, they vandalized Vidyasagar’s statue and now they have vandalized the statue of revered tribal hero Kanho Murmu in Purulia. We strongly condemn such acts of iconoclasm,” TMC tweeted after the incident.
The BJP has alleged that the vandalism in Purulia is a conspiracy to malign it as TMC is fast losing ground in the state’s tribal belts before the 2021 assembly polls.
The BJP won the Lok Sabha seats of Purulia, Bishnupur and Midnapore where tribals constitute a sizeable section of the vote bank because local people have lost faith in the TMC, said Khagen Murmu, BJP Lok Sabha member from the Malda North seat and president of the party’s scheduled tribe front in Bengal.