Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Thursday hailed Bengal's long tradition of religious tolerance and said that this will bring down the hatred and violence that are now being spread in the name of religion. Addressing a gathering in the afternoon held in connection with Lord Buddha's birth anniversary, Banerjee said, "It is only Bengal because of our long tradition of religious tolerance and universal love… this can bring down the hatred and violence that are being spread in the name of religion."
"It is Bengal that can play the leading role in awakening conscience. It is the land of Sri Ramakrishna, Swami Vivekananda, Rabindranath and Nazrul and Bengal has always spread religious harmony and peace from time immemorial," the Chief Minister observed.
Without naming the BJP, she made a scathing attack on the party and criticised it for "trying to dictate to people about dos and don'ts…. We politicians have no right to dictate to people what they should eat and how they should be dressed.
"In the guise of religion, they are trying to oppress people. A farmer carrying two cows was tortured. Unfortunately, this is happening in a country that has always preached universal love and brotherhood."
Banerjee said that Bengal would not tolerate any kind of attack on the people in the name of religion and is ready to face any consequence. "I know Maharashta cannot protest and so also Bihar and Odisha… but we will protest if attempts are made to divide people in the name of religion. I am a Hindu and what is the harm if I take part in the festivals of people belonging to other religions?"
Posing the question "What does religion teach you," the Chief Minister replied that "it teaches you brotherhood, love, cooperation and does not teach you hatred , does not teach you to divide people."
Without naming the BJP, she criticized the party for carrying out weapons in a Ram Navami procession. "Carrying weapons at a religious procession to scare people is not Hinduism. This is an aberration."
Calling Lord Buddha a philosopher, she said that for thousands of years his message has inspired people and directed them to lead a good life. Being the son of a king, he felt deeply for the people who had been suffering and showed them the right path. "He never spoke of violence, never spoke of intolerance and inspired people to follow the path of universal love. This teaching is the need of the hour," she pointed out.
She said that from early childhood, she was raised in an environment of religious tolerance and used to visit a the Buddhist temple in Chetla. She assured the organisers of the programme that she would look into their demand for the setting up of a university and a guest house near the airport.