New Delhi: The day after the high court cancelled unusual restrictions imposed in West Bengal on Puja processions, the Mamata Banerjee government on Friday decided that people will need to have police permission for immersion of Durga idols on Muharram, the Muslim day of mourning.
"Depending on circumstances and situation, wherever found fit permission will be granted and wherever there are problems permission will not be granted," the state's Home Secretary Atri Bhattacharya announced after a high-level meeting chaired by Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.
Chief Minister Banerjee had earlier controversially banned puja processions for immersion of Durga idols on October 1, reportedly on advice of the police. Under this order, immersions wouldn't be allowed on 30 September after 10 pm and 1t October. The Chief Minister did not want any situation to arise that leads to a communal clash, angering many Hindu groups.
This diktat was, however, was voided by the Calcutta High Court yesterday that appeared to reprimand the government for what the court called "drawing a line between Hindus and Muslims" and "exercising extreme power without any basis".
A defiant Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had declared soon after that she wouldn't back down, irrespective of the court verdict.
"Slit my throat but no one tells me what to do," Ms Banerjee retorted, asserting that she would do "what I can to keep the peace".
Friday's meeting with top bureaucrats came up with the way out.
Since the high court had objected to a blanket ban on immersion of Durga idols on Muharram, top bureaucrats told the Chief Minister that the government would be well within the boundaries of law and the court verdict to take a decision on individual requests for the idol immersion.
Home Secretary Atri Bhattacharya said the court order had clearly provided for the state government to grant permissions for immersion "after the state government assesses the situation".
Kolkata Police Commissioner Rajeev Kumar said they hadn't received any request for immersion of idols on Ekadashi, 1 October. When someone does, he said, "standard procedures will be followed".
Three petitions had challenged the restrictions on the immersion of idols at the end of the five-day Durga Puja, which coincides with Muharram this year. During arguments, the court had said a state "cannot hinder a citizen's right to practice religion assuming that there will be law and order problems".
"I think every resident of West Bengal should cooperate in such a manner that both the communities may celebrate their festivals in their own way peacefully in a cooperative spirit. There is no question of any tension and conflict between the two communities," Governor Keshri Nath Tripathi later told reporters.