(Eds: With fresh inputs, political reax) Kolkata, Sep 29 (PTI) Two organisations promoting Bengali sub-nationalism in West Bengal on Tuesday urged Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath to allow the celebration of Durga Puja festival in the northern state, adhering to COVID-19 safety protocols.
Adityanath had directed officials during a review meeting on Monday to 'apply all precautions during the upcoming festive season' given the COVID-19 situation, an official statement of the Uttar Pradesh government said.
Some media reports, however, claimed Adityanath had said no Durga Puja or Diwali celebrations would be allowed in Uttar Pradesh this year to avoid mass gathering, while Ramlila will be permitted with strict adherence to the COVID-19 protocol.
An official of the BJP government in Uttar Pradesh, however, told PTI in Lucknow on Monday that no such advisory has been issued with regard to Durga Puja in the northern state.
'Public programmes, where there is a possibility of crowding, will not be permitted. There will be Puja,' he said without elaborating, but added that an advisory on 'dos and don'ts' will be issued.
The development triggered a war of words between the TMC and the BJP in West Bengal, with the ruling party urging the Uttar Pradesh administration to allow the Durga Puja with all precautions in place.
Referring to the media reports, Bengali outfit Bangla Pokkho, said, 'The Constitution of India guarantees every citizen to celebrate his/her own culture, tradition, and religious sentiment. We demand that the public celebration of Durga Puja be allowed adhering to all COVID-19 safety protocols.' 'We have nothing against any decision to limit the number of people gathering in a place. But we request the UP administration not to prevent Durga Puja celebrations altogether,' the organisation said in a statement.
Siddhabrata Das, spokesperson of another such outfit, Jatiya Bangla Sammelan, posted on social media, 'Is Bengali's Durga Puja banned in Uttar Pradesh as we are on the way to become a Hindu Rashtra?' 'Who will Shri Ramchandra worship during Navaratri if there is no Durga Puja?' Das said adding that there should be equal yardstick for both Durga Puja and Ramlila.
The TMC asked the saffron party's West Bengal unit to clear its stand on this issue.
'The BJP had earlier tried to spread rumours that there will be no Durga Puja in Bengal. But we have seen that our Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has not only allowed the celebration but also helped the Puja committees,' senior TMC leader and spokesperson Saugata Ray said.
The West Bengal government on Monday notified that Rs 50,OOO financial assistance would be provided to every puja committee while electricity would be available for the marquees at 50 per cent discount, as announced by the chief minister earlier.
'We want the Bengal BJP unit to come out clean on this issue. Durga Puja is the biggest festival of Bengalis. It should be allowed, but with all safety precautions,' Ray said.
The Bengal BJP seems to be a divided house on the issue. State president Dilip Ghosh supported the Uttar Pradesh government while Swapan Dasgupta, MP and a noted member of the party's intellectual cell, termed the alleged order as 'absurd and unfair'.
'The UP government never said it will not allow Durga Puja. They said Puja would take place will all safety precautions. There is nothing wrong with it. In Bengal also, Puja will take place with all safety precautions,' Ghosh told PTI.
Dasgupta urged Uttar Pradesh Chief Minister Yogi Adityanath to review the order.
'UP Govt's order that Durga Puja should be done at home is unfair & even absurd. Like the allowances for Ram Lila, Durga Puja should be permitted with harsh but sensible restrictions. Otherwise, it is discriminatory. Bengali Hindus in UP appeal to @myogiadityanath to review order,' he tweeted.
Senior Congress leader and in-charge of Bengal, Jitin Prasada, took a dig at the BJP on the issue.
'Massive political rallies can be allowed in Madhya Pradesh, but the same BJP govt in UP will not allow the Bengali community to celebrate Durga Puja with restrictions.
Only shows for the BJP faith is a matter of convenience while the only thing that matters to them is politics,' Prasada tweeted.
The Durga Puja festival begins on October 23. PTI SUS PNT NN NN