New Delhi: The Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) has some grand plans for Maha Shivratri in Bengal this year. Top sources in the VHP have confirmed that 10-point instructions are being given to the VHP Bengal to ensure each and every village must celebrate this ritual. Also, instructions have gone to link it with the construction of Ram temple in Ayodhya. This move by the VHP may spell further trouble for the Mamata Banerjee ruled Bengal that has seen sharp polarisation for the past one year.

The Ram mandir connection

The massive exercise that is planned to take place in almost all the villages of Bengal, is named 'Jalabhishek'. In fact, it has a slogan as well, "Ek lota pani Ram ke naam" (One glass of water in the name of Lord Ram).

Also read: How and why Maha Shivratri is celebrated across India, overseas

When MyNation contacted the VHP leadership for this unique slogan where Lord Ram takes centre stage than Lord Shiva, Sourish Mukherjee of Bengal VHP said, "Shiva was the husband of Durga and Lord Ram worshipped Durga. Hence, it's natural for us to say, when you pour a glass of water on Shiva, actually you are also taking part in the exercise of demanding a grand Ram temple in Ayodhya". He reasons, and quite openly, that this will create a pro-Ram temple atmosphere on the ground.

VHP's elaborate celebration plan

MyNation has exclusively learned that the VHP activists are instructed to plan the celebration in block and zone wise. In fact, they are advised to create a citizens group in each block for this purpose, wherever possible. The instruction also says, if any village doesn't have a Shiv temple, then the VHP should make sure the celebration takes place in the next village where such a Shiv temple exists.

VHP's Shivratri celebration poster

Flags bearing the phrase "Om Namah Shivaya" should adorn residential complexes and public places, says the VHP mandate that MyNation is in possession of. It further reads, "Make sure that the prasad for the believers doesn't fall short. It should be arranged as much as possible".

Volunteers form the backbone of any VHP, Bajrang Dal or such groups. No wonder then the 10-point directive asks separate volunteer groups for men and women that are to be organised in each zones for this purpose. These volunteers will further get divided into villages that fall under that zone.

The big picture

But these were the basics, but what's the big picture. Point No 6 very clearly states that "After the celebrations are over, permanent committees need to be formed in each village. This has to be done with the help of volunteers." A VHP leader confirms this committee will then be used for what they call 'creating social awareness'. It doesn't take a minute to decipher, the 'social awareness' is for consolidation on the basis of religion that may serve a political purpose, in the upcoming 2019 general elections.

VHP activists seen spreading the word

Even the VHP understands the need for marketing. Hence it states, photos of such celebrations need to be forwarded to the zonal and district leadership of the VHP, through WhatsApp. But, points 9 and 10 summarise the exercise. It very explicitly says it should create a 'religious awareness'. In fact, it goes on to talk about 'Hindu consolidation' from the 'victimisation' of the Hindus. How to do it? VHP has an answer, "Get saints and respected personalities from the society to talk about it". This will give credibility to the narrative, believes the VHP.

Bengal has been a communal tinderbox that is well exploited by the ultra-right organisations. Incidents like Mamata Banerjee government not allowing Saraswati Puja is some schools while allowing Nabi Dibas (birthday of Prophet Muhammad) is few schools in the minority-dominated areas created a lot of furore in the last two to three years. But what was never challenged, was challenged for the first time with the backing of organisations like the VHP or Bajrang Dal in Bengal that led to communal flare-ups. The sense of Hindu victimhood was well cultivated by these organisations to the extent that a state that never knew of Ram Navami now celebrates it with much fanfare.

In 2017, when there was a ban on Durga Visarjan on Dashami, it created a national outrage. Needless to say, this Maha Shivratri in Bengal, micromanaged by the VHP, also is in clear direction to a Hindu consolidation. And sources within the Bengal government say, even they are not willing to intervene, as the BJP will be quick to blame it on Mamata government. As a VHP functionary laughs when asked about the situation, "It is a win-win situation for us. If TMC opposes us, we do what we want. If they oppose us, TMC will lose more Hindu votes".