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Maa Durga In ‘Hijab’: Kolkata Artist Says It Was Meant As Headcover Amid Covid, Deletes Sketch On Getting ‘Threat Calls’

The controversial drawing was sketched using charcoal dry pastel and was captioned ‘Maa aschen’.

File photograph of people at a Durga Pandal in West Bengal (Photo Credit: PTI)

Kolkata: With Durga Puja just 26 days away Maa Durga has once again been pulled into a controversy.

A Kolkata-based renowned artist Sanatan Dinda on September 2, had posted a picture of a woman, clad in a head covering (hijab) and a face veil (niqab), on Facebook. The controversial sketch, made using charcoal dry pastel and captioned ‘Maa aschen’, was taken down by the artist following the backlash.

‘Ma aschen’ is a Bengali phrase used for the homecoming of Goddess Durga to her maternal home. It is used to describe the joy of the upcoming festival for which all wait eagerly. However, it took an ugly turn for Dinda.

After deleting the post, the artist issued a statement on Facebook: “The way and the language in which I am being attacked and getting threat calls I am unable to handle it all. Those who have been hurt by my picture I am sorry.”

The picture, posted by visual artist Sanatan Dinda, drew the ire of several netizens for its portrayal of the Goddess in Hijab. BJP Mahila Morcha Vice-President Keya Ghosh posted , “Maa Durga in hijab… by artist Sanatan Dinda.”

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She further added, “He knows he can get away with it because many intellectuals Bengalis are going gaga over it.”

According to sources, the BJP leader had sought the help of the Hindu IT Cell, ex-Shiv Sena leader Rajput Ramesh and architect Vikas Pandey.

India Ahead spoke exclusively to Sanatan Dinda, the artist who has been at the center of the controversy, “I have never wanted to hurt the sentiments of anyone or any community with the pictures I have drawn. If any section of the society is hurt I am sorry for that it was completely unintentional. I just wanted my paintings to speak for the condition in which women are in today not only in India but in the entire world.”

The artist categorically states, “It is not a hijab or a niqab, hijab is generally black in color but I have just put a headcover and the face is covered with a mask as it is Covid time, which has smudged the lipstick.”

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Undeterred by all the hateful comments Dinda said, “is only Hindu women “MA” for me women of all caste creed and religion all over the world is “MA” and through my painting, I am trying to depict their plight. The women have to cover their heads in order to protect themselves from their surroundings. Look at what is happening in this world today so many atrocities against women. Many have put many hateful messages but I am used to it”.

For Dinda, all those doing politics over this have nothing better to do. Earlier this month controversy had erupted over the organisers of a Durga puja deciding to put up an idol of chief minister Mamata Banerjee at their marquee alongside Goddess Durga’s, provoking angry reactions from the opposition BJP which called the move “nauseating” and one that hurt the sensibilities of Hindus of the state.

The ten hands of the deity, instead of holding weapons, will have a depiction of projects like Kanyashree, Swastha Sathi, Rupashree, Sabujsathi, and Lakshmi Bhandar among others. According to the organisers, they want to tell people about the various universally acclaimed development projects launched by her government.

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In October 2019, a video of azaan (the Muslim call to prayer) being played at a Durga Puja pandal in Kolkata’s Beliaghata 33 Pally area sparked outrage on social media.

Users lashed out at the organisers calling it “appeasement” and slamming their “desperation to show secularism”. Following this, a local lawyer filed a complaint and named ten people, including the club secretary of the puja pandal and local TMC leader Paresh Paul.

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