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Mainstream, VOL 61 No 27 , July 1, 2023

Decoding ‘Paschimbanga Dibas’ | Arup Kumar Sen

Saturday 1 July 2023, by Arup Kumar Sen


Very recently, a controversy has cropped up in the public sphere in West Bengal in the light of the decision of the West Bengal governor, C. V. Ananda Bose, to celebrate ‘Paschimbanga Dibas’ (‘West Bengal Day’) on June 20, 2023, as the State’s foundation day. The governor did so, honoring the advisory for the commemoration of Foundation Day of States, communicated by the Government of India on May 11, 2023. It should be mentioned in this connection that the Chief Minister of West Bengal, Mamata Banerjee, wrote a letter to the governor on June 19, questioning the unilateral decision of the governor to celebrate ‘Paschimbanga Dibas’. She argued: “The state was not founded on any particular day, least of all on June 20. Contrarily, the state was formed through the infamous Radcliffe Award, which was given legitimacy by the departing colonial/imperial government.” Recalling the trauma of Partition days, she described June 20 as a “painful” episode in the state’s history, and said that it would “rekindle bitter memories of crores of people…and re-incite undesirable forces”. (See The Indian Express, June 21, 2023)

In fact, celebrating June 20 has its political background. To put it in the words of The Hindu reporter (June 21, 2023): “On June 20, 1947 the Bengal Legislative Assembly held a meeting to decide if the Bengal Presidency would stay with India or Pakistan, or be divided, having the Hindu-majority districts staying with India as West Bengal and the Muslim-majority areas forming East Pakistan. After hour of debate, the Bengal Legislative Council and the Bengal Legislative Assembly voted for the Partition of Bengal along religious lines into two separate entities, and the Hindu-majority districts became part of West Bengal and Muslim-majority districts became part of East Pakistan.”

What was the immediate outcome of the Partition of Bengal? “In the post-Partition violence that followed, nearly 2.5 million people were displaced, properties worth crores of rupees burnt down, and hundreds killed.” (The Indian Express, June 21, 2023)

It should be mentioned in this context that the Hindu Mahasabha leader Syama Prasad Mookerjee championed the Partition of Bengal and opposed the United Bengal plan floated by the eminent Congress leader in Bengal, Sarat Bose.

This is the first time that ‘Paschimbanga Dibas’ has been celebrated under the leadership of the governor of West Bengal. However, the State unit of the BJP has been observing the Day for the past few years, paying homage to Syama Prasad Mookerjee (The Hindu, June 21, 2023). Celebration of ‘Paschimbanga Dibas’ by the BJP has a clear pollical message. It is evident in the caption of reporting such celebration on June 20 in 2019 in a Hindutva platform (www. ‘Paschimbanga Dibas celebrated commemorating the creation of West Bengal for Bengali Hindus’

Whatever may be the intentions of the governor of West Bengal in celebrating ‘Paschimbanga Dibas’, it may be interpreted by the Muslim communities of the State as an assertion of majoritarian Hinduism.

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