‘Khela Hobe Divas’ and its ‘Jinnah’ connection: Why Mamata’s August 16 event took a communal turn

By: |
August 12, 2021 12:43 PM

While political analysts are divided on whether the event will be seen as a link to 'Direct Action Day' or 'Football Lovers' Day', it's more about individual opinion of 'Khela Hobe' being perceived as a sports slogan or a political war cry.

Khela Hobe Divas West Bengal August 16BJP Rajya Sabha MP Swapan Dasgupta said that the day marks the launch of 'Direct Action Day' and 'Great Calcutta Killings'.

Taking her national ambition a step further, Mamata Banerjee has decided that August 16 will be celebrated at ‘Khela Hobe Divas’. Banerjee gave the ‘Khela Hobe’ slogan during the high-voltage poll campaign against the BJP during the state assembly polls held early this year. Banerjee had said that footballs made by the handicraft department of the state government will be distributed to poor children on the occasion.

Banerjee has chosen the date to ‘honour’ the football lovers who were killed during a stampede in 1980. On August 16, 1980, the Eden Gardens in Kolkata had witnessed a clash between the supporters of East Bengal Football Club and Mohun Bagan Athletic Club. The clash led to a stampede resulting in the death of 16 football lovers. The West Bengal chapter of the Indian Football Association (IFA) organises blood donation camps on this day every year.

However, the Bengal government’s decision has not gone down well with the BJP and some right-wing outfits. The saffron party, which has been raising its voice against post-poll violence in the state, is observing ‘Save Bengal Divas’ between August 9 and 16 to counter the ‘Khela Hobe Divas’. The BJP also said that Mamata’s decision to hold a Khela Divas on August 16 was a reflection of the wave of terror that has been unleashed in the state post-elections.

BJP Rajya Sabha MP Swapan Dasgupta said that the day marks the launch of ‘Direct Action Day’ and ‘Great Calcutta Killings’.

“Interesting, Mamata Banerjee has declared August 16 as ‘Khela Hobe Divas’. It is the day the Muslim League launched its Direct Action Day & began the Great Calcutta Killings in 1946. In today’s West Bengal, ‘Khela Hobe’ has come to symbolise a wave of terror attacks on opponents,” said Swapan Dasgupta.

The BJP’s Darjeeling MP Raju Bista also criticised the move. “On 16th Aug, 1946, Mohammad Ali Jinnah announced Direct Action Day that lead to the massacre of Hindus in the streets of Kolkata. TMC call for the so called “Khela Hobe Diwas” on the same day originates from the same philosophy – bloodshed,” he said.

Not only the BJP but various representatives of Sanatan institutions met West Bengal Governor Jagdeep Dhankhar demanding a change in date of ‘Khela Divas’. “Representatives of Sanatan organisations called on Governor WB today to seek change in the date of “Khela Hobe Divas” as it reminds the horrendous memories of Direct Action Day and ‘the week of long knives’ in 1946 that led to killings of thousands. Their only objection was to the date of “Khela Hobe Divas” and sought intervention to convey their feelings to the government. Governor assured them that their feelings would be conveyed to the government,” said Dhankhar while sharing a video on Twitter.

The governor also said that he expects the Banerjee government to take a righteous call. “Expect righteous call by Mamata Banerjee over date of “Khela Hobe Diwas”. Sanatan Sages apprehend that Aug 16’ also known as “1946 Calcutta Killings” as ‘Khela Hobe Diwas” would be grim reminder of worst communal killings of thousands on Jinnah call of ‘Direct Action Day’”, he said. Dhankhar said that peace and harmony are vital to the flourishing of democracy and all steps that have the potential to generate divisiveness in society must be contained.

While political analysts are divided on whether the event will be seen as a link to ‘Direct Action Day’ or ‘Football Lovers’ Day’, it’s more about individual opinion of ‘Khela Hobe’ being perceived as a sports slogan or a political war cry as it originated during the election campaign.

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