Durga Puja, one of the most inclusive festivals of Bengal, saw a tiny kerbside pandal attempting to introduce an incongruous note this year. The city was shocked to find that a figure resembling Mahatma Gandhi had replaced the demon Mahisasura in the image of the goddess. The puja was organised by a right-wing group that idolises Nathuram Godse, who assassinated Mahatma Gandhi.Political parties across the board, including the BJP, vociferously condemned the depiction and changes had to be made in the idol after a visit from the police.
The organisers now say the idol only resembled Gandhi, suggesting it was not him, while continuing anti-Gandhi propaganda.
"Definitely it resembles Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi. That is a fact. But a bald-headed man, wearing a chashma or spectacles -- is he Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi? You cannot find his name written or anything. So, it is a created controversy," insisted Chandrachud Goswami, working president of the Akhil Bharat Hindu Mahasabha, West Bengal.
The far-right organisation has been criticised for promoting Godse and their strong anti-Gandhi views. A huge placard of the organisation placed on the top of the pandal displays photos of Bengal icons like Rabindranath Tagore and Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose next to that of Nathuram Godse.
Pandal hoppers found the image offensive.
"Rabindranath and Swami Vivekananda embody the spirit of nationalism in our freedom movement and not Godse. Godse is known to be a killer. This is absolutely lamentable and pathetic. There is no conditional justification to this," said one of the visitors.
"It is an insult to the father of the nation," said Kumal Ghosh, spokesperson of the ruling Trinamool Congress. "It is an insult to every citizen of the country. What would the BJP say about such an insult? We know the assassin of Gandhi ji belonged to which ideological camp," Mr Ghosh was quoted as saying by news agency Press Trust of India.
The state BJP distanced itself from the matter. "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.