Vol. XLI No. 28 July 09, 2017

Mounting Communal Violence in West Bengal

SINCE the start of July, communal conflagration and tensions mounted in large parts of North 24 Parganas district. The district, along with Howrah, Birbhum and Maldaha, has witnessed communal clashes in recent months. Major areas of disturbances this time are in Basirhat, Bangaon, Barasat sub division. Apparently it started with a derogatory Facebook post attacking Islam and its holy places. The identified culprit is a teenager, but whether he acted on his own or had any RSS links, is not clear. This post created tensions which were picked up by various groups and local people, mainly belonging to Muslims. First centre of disturbances was Baduria of North 24 Parganas district. Roads and rails were blocked, shops and markets were closed. The accused who posted in Facebook was arrested and taken to Baduria police station. A large number of people gathered in front of the police station and police had to use mild force to disperse the mob. Later the accused was taken into police custody. But that did not diffuse the situation. Arson, mainly of cars was reported. It continued for the next three days. In most of the areas, police remained a silent spectator as fundamentalist forces created havoc. The ‘Ulto Rath” (return journey of Jagganath) festival was there. It was partially disturbed but no major incident of bloodshed occurred. It was reported that a good number of Hindu people left areas dominated by the Muslims. In some areas, Hindu mob was also organised, mainly by Sangh-affiliated groups. They also participated in arson and blockades.  When police finally moved to control the situation, their cars were attacked and burnt. Even the SP of North 24 Parganas suffered injuries. It is reported that in the clash, one person was killed. Finally, para military forces were sent on July 4th evening. But the tension continued. Even on July 6, Bashirhat bound trains did not ply.  Rumours also continued in some localities of different districts, particularly in the area of mixed population.

According to reports, most of the initiators of the disturbances are close to the TMC in local areas. TMC has continuously encouraged and received reciprocated support from fundamentalist forces. This has resulted into uncontrolled anarchy. On the other hand, RSS-BJP is very active in that area. They have spread rumours to aggravate the situation. BJP is trying to extract mileage to polarise the people on religious lines.

The developments took a bizarre turn with spat between governor and the chief minister. Governor Keshrinath Tripathi, an RSS man, communicated his concern to the chief minister over telephone July 4. In angry outburst Mamata Banerjee publicly criticised Tripathi and alleged that he has threatened her. She leveled the charge that the governor has behaved like a ‘BJP block president’. Retractions followed from Raj Bhavan. The governor also alleged that the state government must be more careful about maintaining law and order. It can be said that the chief minister wanted to divert the attention of the people to cover-up the instant failure of the administration.

CPI(M) state secretary Surjyakanta Misra appealed for peace and alleged that the police has failed miserably to control the situation. The state administration should control the situation with stern measures and army should be deployed. The urgent necessity is to call all party meetings at the district level. Misra called upon the people of West Bengal to defend the legacy of communal harmony in the state, to defeat the forces of communal polarisation. Left Front Committee, West Bengal also appealed to the people to work for peace, unity and communal harmony in the state.

For quite some time now, communal tensions are being created in various parts of the state. Dhulagarh in Howrah, Hazinagar in North 24 Parganas witnessed major flare-ups. These are being used for political polarisation between the TMC and the BJP.

CPI(M) has called upon all units to organise peace rallies throughout the state.