The Trinamool Congress on Sunday alleged that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has scant knowledge of history and demanded an apology from him for incorrectly saying that freedom fighter from West Bengal, Matangini Hazra, hailed from Assam.
The BJP said that the TMC was unnecessarily creating a controversy over the gaffe made during the Prime Minister’s Independence Day speech, and claimed that West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had also made many faux pas in her speeches in the past. West Bengal TMC general secretary Kunal Ghosh said that the Prime Minister has scant knowledge of history and merely read out a written text in a “dramatic style”.
The TMC spokesperson tweeted, “@BJP4India Matangini Hazra from Assam? R u mad? U don’t know history. U have no feelings. You just read a written speech (that also by others) with drama.”
“This is insult to Bengal. You must beg apology. Hope Your LOP from East Midnapore will also condemn such a mistake,” Ghosh added, while attaching a purported clipping of the speech.
The TMC leader sought a response from Leader of Opposition in West Bengal Assembly and Nandigram’s BJP MLA Suvendu Adhikari, who had often referred to the contribution of Medinipur, from where Matangini Hazra hailed, to the freedom struggle.
The TMC tweeted on its official handle, “Matangini Hazra is a freedom fighter from Bengal, Mr. @narendramodi!” “With such scant regard for our glorious history, you have insulted all of #Bengal once again. Is @BJP4India committed to erasing our history? Mocking it as they please? SHAME,” the party said, attaching a purported video with the post. Reacting to the controversy, Suvendu Adhikari tweeted “TMC is no one to teach history or geography to anyone”.
Speaking on the issue, state BJP chief Dilip Ghosh said, “It was a minor mistake on the Prime Minister’s part and the TMC is deliberately highlighting it while trying to overlook other parts of his speech where he spoke about many projects initiated by the Centre.”
BJP state vice-president Jay Prakash Majumdar said, “It was a slip of tongue. What about the series of gaffes made by the chief minister on our freedom fighters and history? Did she ever apologise for those blunders?” Senior Congress leader Pradip Bhattacharya said, “It was a serious mistake by the PM showing his ignorance about Bengal’s history and its contribution to the freedom struggle.”
State Left Front chairman Biman Bose said, “Things like these happen if someone who has grown up with RSS teachings does not care to read or find out on his own and depends on the text prepared by his office without even checking.”
Hazra (1869-1942), who lived in Tamluk in present-day Purba Medinipur district, was shot dead by the British Indian Police while she was leading a procession as part of the Quit India movement launched across the country by Mahatma Gandhi in 1942.
Her death triggered widespread condemnation and steeled Indians’ resolve against the British colonialists, giving more impetus to the freedom struggle. Hazra is a familiar figure across West Bengal and there is a statue of her in Maidan area in the heart of Kolkata.
She is remembered while paying tributes to freedom fighters and both the TMC and the BJP had invoked her during the high-voltage campaign in Purba and Paschim Medinipur districts during the assembly elections this year.