KOLKATA: Chief minister Mamata Banerjee on Thursday dismissed attempts to “find other meanings” in the August 16 ‘Khela Hobe Diwas’ by reminding that on that day in 1980, as all football lovers in Bengal painfully remember, a tragedy unfolded in Eden Gardens during a derby in which 16 lives were lost.
Banerjee said ‘Khela Hobe Diwas’ will be a celebration of sports and sportsmanship, and a “tribute to all sports lovers”.
BJP had alleged that the August 16 celebrations had parallels to the Direct Action Day call of August 16, 1946.
On August 16, 1980, 16 people who had come to watch the East Bengal-Mohun Bagan derby in Eden Gardens had lost their lives in a stampede. On the Maidan, and elsewhere, it is observed as football lovers’ day.
On Wednesday, during her July 21 Martyrs’ Day speech, CM Banerjee announced August 16 as ‘Khela Hobe Diwas’, drawing immediate barbs from BJP on her choice of date. “August 14 is Kanyashree Diwas, August 15 is Independence Day, August 16 will be Khela Hobe Diwas,” the CM said.
“On that day, 1 lakh footballs would be distributed. Joyee balls would be distributed to all clubs across the state, including 283 clubs associated with IFA,” Banerjee said and added that IFA clubs would get 10 footballs each.
As many as 50,000 of these footballs would be of Joyee brand, handmade by women self-help groups and Bengal prisoners under the state’s Refugee Handicrafts (RH) units. These footballs had been named by CM Banerjee.