Binapani Devi Thakur, Matua community matriarch who was popularly known as ‘Boro Ma’ (elder mother), died on Tuesday after a prolonged illness. She was 100. Matuas are a religious refugee community from Bangladesh. Binapani suffered a multi-organ failure and breathed her last at 8.52 pm at the SSKM hospital in Kolkata. She had been shifted to the hospital on Sunday due to an acute lung infection and high fever.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi had met Boro Ma this February during his visit to Thakurnagar in North 24 Parganas district where he addressed a rally. Thakurnagar is the headquarters of the Matua Mahasangh, the organisation of the the community.
Extending his condolence, Prime Minister Narendra Modi tweeted: "Boro Ma Binapani Thakur was an icon of our times. A source of great strength and inspiration for several people, Boro Ma’s rich ideals will continue to influence generations. Her emphasis on social justice and harmony will never be forgotten."
Last month, I had the honour of seeking the blessings of Boro Ma Binapani Thakur at Thakurnagar. I will always cherish the interaction I had with her. We stand in solidarity with the Matua community in this hour of sadness. pic.twitter.com/kiD1FC3HWc— Narendra Modi (@narendramodi) March 5, 2019
He added: "Last month, I had the honour of seeking the blessings of Boro Ma Binapani Thakur at Thakurnagar. I will always cherish the interaction I had with her. We stand in solidarity with the Matua community in this hour of sadness."
Besides Modi, West Bengal Governor Keshari Nath Tripathi and Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee condoled the death of the matriarch of the Matuas, a scheduled caste community and significant political force in the state.
"She was in an 'extremely critical' condition, since last night. Her fever turned to pneumonia. Her lungs were infected. We tried our level best. Age was definitely a factor," an offical said.
Banerjee, who shared a very cordial relation with Boro Ma described her demise as "a personal loss". "I have received support from her. It's a big loss to the Matua community. My condolences to her family and my brothers and sisters of the Matua community at this moment of grief," Banerjee told reporters at the SSKM.
"She will be accorded state-funeral with gun salute. We are proud to have conferred the Banga Bibhusan on her. May her soul rest in peace," the chief minister said.
Banga Bibhusan is the highest civilian award of the West Bengal government. Matua votes were considered a major factor in the Trinamool Congress' win in the 2011 and 2016 Assembly polls.
Mamata Bala Thakur, a member of Boro Ma's family, is a Trinamool Congress MP. "
The Matuas originally hail from erstwhile East Pakistan, now Bangladesh, and began migrating to West Bengal at the beginning of the 1950s, mostly due to religious persecution. With an estimated population of 30 lakh in the state, Matuas can influence results in at least five Lok Sabha seats in North and South 24 Parganas districts.
However, many of them are claimed to have still not got Indian citizenship.
In a statement, West Bengal Governor Keshari Nath Tripathi expressed his deep grief at the demise of Boro Ma and extended his heart-felt condolences to her family members and large number of followers.
(With PTI inputs)