World

Wig and mustache for Gandhi 'demon’ statue after India outrage

Row over Hindu Mahasabha’s Durga puja pandal

October 04, 2022
(L-R) The structure showed Hindu Goddess Durga aiming her trident at a bald, bespectacled man holding a walking stick
(L-R) The structure showed Hindu Goddess Durga aiming her trident at a bald, bespectacled man holding a walking stick

NEW DELHI — Police in India's Kolkata city have opened an investigation into allegations that independence leader Mahatma Gandhi was depicted as a demon at the ongoing Durga Puja festival.

A festival structure that showed Hindu goddess Durga aiming her trident at a bald, bespectacled man holding a walking stick sparked controversy.

A wig and mustache were added to the figure after it led to outrage.

Mahatma Gandhi, called the 'father of the nation', is revered in India.

But in recent years, several Hindu hardliners have openly criticized him, accusing him of being too pro-Muslim and soft on Pakistan.

The structure was put up during celebrations of Durga Puja, an annual Hindu festival that reveres Durga.

It is the biggest festival in the eastern state of West Bengal — of which Kolkata is the capital — and elaborate stage decorations, known as "pandals", draw huge crowds.

The organizers of the controversial pandal belonged to the All India Hindu Mahasabha, a right-wing group.

Local media reported that visitors to the pandal had noticed the resemblance of the figurine to Gandhi.

Police officials then visited the site on Sunday night and asked the organizers to add a wig and moustache to the model.

A leader of the All India Hindu Mahasabha told The Hindu newspaper that they reluctantly made the changes because the police "forced us to do so".

"Our freedom of expression has been curtailed," Chandrachur Goswami said.

He acknowledged that the demon figure had "physical similarities with Gandhi" and added that they did not consider him to be the 'father of the nation'.

Political parties in the state have strongly condemned the incident — news agency ANI reported that a Congress leader has filed a police complaint.

"If such a move had been made, it is unfortunate. We condemn it," the Bharatiya Janata Party's state president told reporters. — BBC


October 04, 2022
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