Kolkata: Seventy-five-year-old Chandramohan Chatterjee, a retired school teacher was among the thousands who assembled at Kolkata’s iconic Lenin Statue in Dharmatalla area, with a simple agenda – send out a message of peace and brotherhood. As he trudged along with other participants, which included the likes of former justice Ashok Kumar Ganguly, actor Debdut Ghosh, veteran politician from the Left Front Bikash Ranjan Bhattacharya, Sankha Ghosh, and many others, slogans like Amader lodai shompradaiktaar biruddhey cholchey cholbey (Our fight against communalism is on and shall continue) and Shanti michil ki hoye shob aajkey dekhey nei (Let everyone witness what a peace rally is like) kept the momentum going.
In a not-so-hot April Sunday afternoon, the participants were seen singing, beating drums and talking with the common man, spreading the message of love. A college educator, in her mid-forties, after singing songs of unity near the Lenin statue was seen holding on to a passerby’s hand. She said, “Bhai, bhoyer kono dorkar nei. Amader Ved aar Puraan sompreetir kotha koi. Amader Islam o shompreeti palon kortey boley. Amra ek gacher dui phool (Brother, there is no need to fear each other. Our Ved and Puran talks of universal brotherhood and so does Islam).” However, the lady was reluctant to reveal her identity, said, “We, the common people of Bengal are here to give a simple message – the people of Bengal will not be divided on the lines of religion. We were united and we stand united. I would also like to state that the commoners that you are seeing here don’t belong to a single political ideology, we are here as we want peace.”
However, just a few steps away from her, eNewsroom spotted, veteran left front politician Shyamal Chakraborty, who said, “But the present situation is such that both – BJP led Central government and TMC led state government is trying to cash on polarization of the society. Never in Bengal had we witnessed a Ram Navami procession. But this time both BJP and TMC were trying to weigh each other down and exhibit power of weapon. Ultimately, we know what happened – communal riots broke out in Bengal. Hence, we are here to make a statement – We Bengalis want peace.”
Watch former Justice Ashok Ganguly and actor Debdut Ghosh’s statements after the march:
As the participants marched toward Rabindra Sadan, from Dharamtalla—a three kilometers stretch, singing peace songs, reciting poems while beating drums, the indomitable spirit of Bengal was very much evident. Stopping at selected stops, the participants were seen taking a small break, at the same time giving the media persons to interact with them.
Leading the procession were former Justice Ashok Kumar Ganguly and actor Debdut Ghosh. Speaking to eNewsroom, Ganguly said, “I am here to protest against communalism. The idea is to give out a simple message that we want peace and jobs and not communal unrest.”
Adding to that, Ghosh pointed out, “Bengal is a symbol of culture and unity in diversity. We Bengalis have grown up in a cross-cultural environment and have learned to be tolerant towards various communities. We are peace loving community, but off-late the political conditioning of Bengal is changing. Hence, we are seeing some triggered political violence. But we won’t allow communal hatred to become a norm here. Hence, we are here to give out a simple message – Bengal was united and is united. We want peace and prosperity; we won’t tolerate communalism in our state.” On being asked if they would so something beyond the Peace March, he said, “We are soon to have a second meeting, where will decide on what needs to be done next, to bridge the difference created between the communities.”
Around 5000 strong crowd had participated in the march, and no politician or leader was seen giving a speech. “We are here to protest against the increasing communal violence in Bengal and not to gain political mileage, hence none of us will be giving a speech,” said former mayor of Kolkata Bikas Ranjan Bhattacharya, while concluding the march.