‘The governor is a sainik of the Modi Bahini’, thus said Rahul Sinha, the national general secretary of the BJP. This is exactly what Mamata Banerji had said two days back when she blamed the governor Keshrinath Tripathi for behaving like a BJP block president. He had called her in the wake of the sectarian violence in Bashirhat of the 24 Parganas and later issued a statement using extraordinarily harsh language asking the state government to work in an unbiased manner , implying that it was partisan to a particular community, in this case Muslims.
Mamata has to understand that this is not the time for cynical politics. It is only she who has to show that she is capable of statesmanship. We say this because it is futile to ask the BJP not to further its political agenda by pushing the state of Bengal into the fire of communal violence. The party has made it very clear by its actions in the last four days that it does want to let this opportunity of cornering the Mamata government go out of its hands. Its state president was criminally irresponsible when in the midst of violence he played out unverified video to show that Muslims were attacking Hindus in Bashirhat and its national general secretary Kailash Vijayvargiya claimed that he had news of Hindu women being raped.
The way BJP members tried to enter the hospital where the dead body of Kartik Chandra Ghosh, 65, was lying who was fatally attacked by rampaging Muslims can only be called criminal. They declared that the man was their ward president. Son of the deceased immediately repudiated them saying that his father did not have any political affiliation. This episode betrays the thuggish manner in which the BJP is functioning. It has announced a four member high level fact finding team, which intends to visit the violence hit area of Bashirhat and Bhaduria. It declared that it wanted to stand by the Hindu victims.
The BJP does not even want to hide its glee over the god sent opportunity in the form of the violence in Bashirhat and Bhaduria. It only supports its claim that Muslims are violent in nature. It helps them mobilise Hindu fear and hatred against Muslims in Bengal and other parts of India.
The CPM is busy issuing statements. A party which ruled the state for thirty seven years and literally lorded over it, has neither resources nor inclination to intervene in the situation to bring sanity and peace in the area.
Mamta Banerji did not act like a chief minister. She hesitated and when things started going out of hand, thundered, threatened both Muslims and Hindus asking them to behave but it was too late. Her statement that she could not have ordered firing at the violent mob of Muslims as it could have caused large number of casualties only shows that she was not interested to use the coercive power of the state to stop violence. To say that since people are involved in violence and hence they have to be tolerated is dangerous logic. This is an old argument we have heard repeatedly, In Bhagalpur, in Ayodhya, in Delhi, in Gujarat, in Muzaffarnagar and other places and now in the innumerable incidents of lynching where the police stand by as onlookers.
It was shameful for the Muslims of Bashirhat to have reacted the way they did after a Facebook post deemed insulting to their religious place and prophet surfaced and was traced to a young teenager. Instead of reporting it to the police they went on a rampage, burning houses and shops and later attacking people. They would have to take the blame for death of a man in the violence unleashed by them.
That no Islamic organisation thought it fit to condemn this violence is equally disturbing. It shows two things, either they support it or they are afraid of losing support if they distance themselves from those they claim to be their followers.
What was initially a sectarian violence later developed into communal riot. The burning of the offices of the ruling Trinamul Party shows that it is even more than that.
The Mamata Banerji government cannot treat the violence as an act of errant children of the state. She knows that the communal temperature in the state is rising. She also knows that there are elements in the Muslim community who are busy promoting a violent ideology. Muslims in Bengal are quite visible unlike other states of India. One has also to remember that the history of the state makes it quite susceptible to communal ideology. There is an undercurrent of communalism in the outwardly liberal and progressive Bengali society which is not usually talked about. But the way the BJP has surged in the recent times is a proof that if time comes and other factors help, it would swallow Bengal like it did in the forties of the last century.
The CPM led Left Front did not think that it was an issue at all. It thought that it was the natural patron of the Muslims as it never allowed violence against them which was the lot of the Muslims in other parts of India. Barring this, it did not care about them as the Sachar Committee report revealed. Muslims were on the lowest ladder in all fields of life.
Muslims despite their abject poverty are politically and socially active in Bengal. They don’t hesitate to express themselves politically. Their participation in the anti-land acquisition movement in Singur and Nandigram drew the ire of the CPM. They voted to unseat the Left Front government. You could hear the left leaders blaming Muslims for their debacle as if they were ungrateful kids not to remember the sagacity of the CPM for having kept them alive.
The Trinamul Congress adopted the same attitude towards the Muslims. It has been pampering the most reactionary elements in them. It also presents itself as the patron and guardian of the Muslims and treats them as juveniles.
It is important for the Muslims in Bengal to understand that they are part of an India where an aggressive Hindu majoritarian politics is in ascendence. Its fountainhead is the RSS and the BJP but other political parties lack courage to be seen opposing it. This politics has fed Hindus the fear of innately violent Muslims. Muslims have been portrayed as irrational and a highly emotional lot who react to small things.
Bengal is now sitting on a tinder box. A false move on behalf of the government and the secular parties would push it in an irreversible slide. Mamata Banerji and other parties would need to join hands and Muslims would need to show maturity by resisting attempts to lure them into violence.
- Wire, July, 2017