TMC, BJP spar over ‘Khela Hobe Dibas’ on August 16

Oppn recalls riots linked to Direct Action Day in 1946

The ruling Trinamool Congress and Opposition BJP are locked in a war of words over observing ‘Khela Hobe Dibas’ on August 16, with the later saying that the day is associated with communal violence on Direct-Action Day of 1946.

Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had announced in July that August 16, will be observed as “Khela Hobe Dibas” and about one lakh footballs will be distributed across the State and prominent sports personality of the State will be felicitated.

Khela Hobe (Game will be played)” was one of the most important slogans of the Trinamool Congress ahead of the Assembly polls in West Bengal earlier this year, which saw the party register an emphatic victory over the BJP.

Khela Hobe slogan has become very popular. We have to make it a permanent slogan. Khela Hobe was raised in Parliament. It will reverberate in every State and the entire country,” Ms. Banerjee had said at an event at the Netaji Indoor Stadium on August 2.

While the State government has large plans of observing August 16 as “Khela Hobe Dibas”, all senior BJP leaders have said that August 16 is linked to the memory of communal violence on Direct Action Day of 1946. The call of Direct Action Day by the Muslim League in Bengal, to speed up the process of forming Pakistan, had resulted in violent communal riots and the death of several people.

“August 16 is a blot on Bengal’s history. The day is horrifically remembered as Direct Action Day or Great Calcutta Killings which led to the brutal killings of thousands of Bengalis,” BJP leader in State Assembly Suvendu Adhikari said on social media earlier this month

Another BJP leader Sayantan Basu accused the Trinamool Congress of rubbing salt on the wounds of communal strife. The BJP organised sports competition on August 13 to point that “ Khela Hobe Dibas” can be held on any other day except August 16.

Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar has also raised the issue.

“Peace and harmony are vital to flourishing of democracy. All steps that have potential to generate divisiveness in society must be contained. Expect @MamataOfficial to rise over partisan stance and take urgent call as regards date #KhelaHobe with public interest in mind,” Mr. Dhankhar had tweeted on August 11.

Football riot

The Trinamool Congress leadership, however, said August 16 has been chosen because of another incident on that day associated with a game that West Bengal is passionate about — football.

A violent clash had erupted between the supporters of the two major clubs in the State — East Bengal Football Club and Mohun Bagan Athletic Club — on August 16, 1980 and over a dozen spectators were killed.

The TMC leadership including Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee insist that the day has been chosen to honour the memory of sports enthusiasts who died.

Despite the appeals from the Opposition, the State government is going ahead with observing “Khela Hobe Dibas” on August 16.

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