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PM Modi draws criticism in Bengal for error in Red Fort address

The Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) Bengal unit president Dilip Ghosh said the error in PM Modi’s Independence Day speech was “small” and people should not make an issue out of it.


Prime Minister Narendra Modi addresses the nation on the occasion of the 75th Independence Day celebrations at Red Fort in New Delhi.

Political parties in West Bengal on Sunday targeted Prime Minister Narendra Modi for saying in his Independence Day address from Red Fort that freedom fighter Matangini Hazra was from Assam.

Modi, while talking of women who left a mark on India’s freedom movement, mentioned Queen Lakshmi Bai of Jhansi, Queen Chennamma of Kittur and Rani Gaidinliu of Nagaland. In the same breath, he said, “Assam’s Matangini Hazra.”

Hazra (1869-1942), an ardent follower of Mahatma Gandhi, was a resident of Tamluk, now in East Midnapore district in West Bengal. She died when the police opened fire on a procession she was leading as part of the Quit India movement. In Kolkata, there are many statues of Hazra and a road is also named after her. In 2002, the government of India paid tribute to Hazra by issuing a postage stamp.

The ruling Trinamool Congress said the error amounted to an “insult” of Bengal.

“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 TMC tweeted.

The party’s state general secretary Kunal Ghosh said, “Blunders like these are bound to happen when someone depends on written speech for dramatic effect. The Prime Minister must apologise right now.”

In a bid to defend the Prime Minister, the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) Bengal unit president Dilip Ghosh said, “He made a small mistake. There are thousands of great people who laid their lives for India’s freedom. People should not make an issue out of this.”

Ghosh’s statement triggered stronger reactions with the Congress and the Left sharpening their attack.

“The Prime Minister should depend less on the teachings of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) and people in his secretariat should educate themselves before preparing his speech,” said Left Front chairman Biman Bose, a veteran Communist Party of India (Marxist) leader.

Congress Rajya Sabha member Pradip Bhattacharya said, “This is very unfortunate. Matangini Hazra is an icon.”

Many academicians, writers and supporters of political parties took to social media and targeted Modi. Some of them said the faux pas showed why BJP national leaders were called ‘bahiragato’ (outsiders) by the TMC during the recent assembly polls.

The incident happened a day after the Bengal BJP’s women’s front, the Mahila Morcha, paid tribute to Hazra.

“Remembering Bharat Mata’s valiant daughter Matangini Hazra from West Bengal on the 75th Year of Indian Independence,” the Mahila Morcha tweeted on Saturday with images of Hazra, Modi and BJP national president J P Nadda.

Incidentally, BJP legislator Suvendu Adhikari, the leader of the opposition in the Bengal assembly, also hails from East Midnapore district and mentions Hazra in most of his political speeches.

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