‘Expert on Gujarat Gymkhana, not Bengal’: TMC on Amit Shah’s statue flub

A day after Union home minister Amit Shah paid homage to Birsa Munda, leader of the freedom movement carried out by tribal people against the British Raj, at a ceremony in West Bengal’s Bankura district, the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC), on Friday, targeted him for a faux pas local BJP leaders made while identifying a statue of the tribal icon.

TMC leaders alleged that home minister Amit Amit Shah was so ignorant of Bengal’s culture that he garlanded the wrong statue.

Calling Shah a “bohiragato (outsider)” the TMC tweeted, “’Bohiragato’ are at it again! Union Home Minister Amit Shah is so ignorant of Bengal’s culture that he insulted Bhagwan Birsa Munda by garlanding a wrong idol and placed his photo at someone else’s foot. Will he ever respect Bengal?”

Retweeting this, TMC Rajya Sabha member and party spokesperson Derek O’Brien wrote, “You may be an expert on the Gujarat Gymkhana. But not Bengal.”

The TMC also carried out a symbolic purification programme at the site of the statue on Friday afternoon by washing the ground with river water.

Born in 1875, Birsa Munda led a rebellion against the Bengal Presidency, a British administration zone which is now part of Jharkhand and Bengal.

Shah, who was in the state for two days, flew to Bankura from Kolkata in a chopper on Thursday morning and began his tour by paying homage to Birsa Munda. He was driven to a huge statue of a tribal man at Puwabagan, about 10 km away from Bankura town, but he garlanded a framed image of the tribal leader kept at the base of the statue.

“The statue is that of a tribal hunter. It was installed a few years ago as part of a road beautification programme. It is not a statue of Birsa Munda. We brought this to the notice of Bankura district leaders a day before the event. But instead of taking Shah to one of the statues of Birsa Munda, the party went ahead with the ceremony,” said Sangiri Hembram, a leader of the local tribal organization Bharat Jakat Majhi Pargana Mahal.

Vivekananda Patra, president of the BJP’s Bankura district unit, admitted that an error was made while attempting to spot a statue of Birsa Munda not far from Bankura town where Shah held a closed-door meeting with leaders from 13 districts.

“The moment we came to know of the mistake we bought a printed image of the tribal leader. Shah did not garland the statue. He placed flowers before the framed image,” said Patra.

BJP state leader Debjit Sarkar said in Kolkata that being the Union home minister, whose travel routes have to be checked in advance by security personnel, Shah’s convoy could not be taken to another statue of Birsa Shah at the last minute.

Hours after Thursday’s ceremony, Shah went to Chaturdihi village with BJP state president Dilip Ghosh, national general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya, national secretary Arvind Menon, national vice-president Mukul Roy and other leaders to have lunch at the home of Bibhishan Hansda, a member of the local tribal community. Shah sat on the floor with the others and had rice, chapati, dal and curry cooked in earthenware.

The TMC took a jibe at Shah for this as well.

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