‘Communal harmony’ is the favourite bashing word to counter PM Narendra Modi and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) by so-called secular parties of secular India from decades. However, today in India, minority appeasement becomes a day-to-day norm for these pseudo-secular parties, which generally easily turns into ‘communal violence’.
Hindu people of Dhulagarh, a town 25 kilometres west of Kolkata, are the latest victims of communal clashes. Their houses, shops are being targeted and set ablaze, and the place is simmering with tension from last fortnight. But in a cruel twist of fate, West Bengal Chief Minister, Mamata Banerjee has repudiated the incidents of communal clashes at Dhulagarh in order to secure minority votes. When one reporter asked about the violence in Dhulagarh, Mamata Banerjee replied, “Nothing has happened there, you should be ashamed of yourselves.” Mamata Banerjee government failed to control communal clashes in the state from Dhulagarh to the Kaliachak incident in Malda, earlier in 2016.
The tension in Dhulagarh erupted on December 12, 2016, when two groups clashed as a procession was brought out in the area last week. After the groups were not allowed to carry out the procession, and bombs were hurled, and the angry mob also looted and torched people’s homes.
The next day, on 13 December, on the occasion of Milad-ul-Nabi, there were further clashes in the area. Local residents claim that they had to flee with their children and elderly as soon as the mob hurled country-made bombs at their houses. Later, the mob allegedly looted the houses and fled with the money and jewellery, later also setting it on fire.
However, despite the heavy presence of police and armed forces in the area, things didn’t return to normalcy. A Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) delegation — comprising party leaders Jagdambika Pal, Satpal Singh, state president Dilip Ghosh and national secretary Rahul Sinha, and several volunteers — was stopped at Ekabbarapur Road, about one kilometre away from the spot where the clashes had taken place a few days ago, reported The Quint.
Angered by this, the BJP delegation, along with thousand-odd supporters, blocked the road in protest. Alleging that there is no law and order in the state, Pal said the government was following “appeasement politics towards a particular community”. Ghosh alleged Radical Muslim outfits and SIMI activists have entered the area and were creating trouble. He also said BJP was not given any prior information about prohibitory orders being imposed in Dhulagarh. “We are surprised that police did not allow us to approach the people in the area to know about their plight of sufferings,” Ghosh said.
However, perhaps in an attempt to prove that they weren’t targeting one specific political party, the police also stopped a CPM delegation from entering the violence-scarred area. The CPM team comprised party general secretary Sitaram Yechury, Lok Sabha MP Mohammad Salim and MLA Sujan Chakraborty, among others, said another report in The Indian Express.
Having addressed a public rally at Dhulagarh Chaurasta and appealed for peace, the CPM leaders tried marching to the locality where arson and clashes had occurred, but the police stopped them. “If we are not being allowed to enter even now, and there is Section 144 of CrPC imposed, it means the situation still hasn’t been brought under control,” Salim said. “Our demand is for the state government to bring normalcy immediately, and paying monetary compensation for those affected by violence.”
Under fire from various quarters, the state government imposed restrictions on the media regarding coverage of the Dhulagarh violence. According to The New Indian Express, the state government even went a step ahead and slapped a non-bailable offence against three employees of the TV channel Zee News, including editor Sudhir Chaudhary, West Bengal correspondent Pooja Mehta and cameraperson Tanmay Mukherjee under Section 153A (promoting enmity) of the Indian Penal Code. However, the Sankrail police didn’t confirm registering an FIR. “We register over 30 FIRs on a daily basis. We can’t distinguish which are related to Dhulagarh,” said a police officer at the Sankrail police station.
Sudhir Chaudhary took to social networking site Facebook to call the action taken against his channel an example of the West Bengal government’s “intolerance”. “It’s another low point in our democracy to see a democratically elected govt using police force to curb media in an effort to suppress uncomfortable facts and reality. When you can’t manage media,use the state machinery to conquer the media only to conceal the failures of your administration. It shows the intolerance of a chief minister who is using the state machinery as her personal fiefdom and acting like a feudal lord,” he wrote. Most of the Bengal-based media is ignoring Dhulagarh riots, it seems cautious and it may be due to Bengal government’s role in curbing the freedom of expression of media. Prominent media houses like The Telegraph, The Statesman, Anand Bazar Patrika etc. did not even write a single word about the riot so far. It is a grave concern for the people of Bengal as well as the country.
Minhaz Merchant wrote in a blog that “Kolkata was then a pleasant city. The Communists had not yet inflicted their cruel depredations on the state. But In her sixth year as CM of West Bengal, Banerjee has tightened her grip over the state. She polarizes the society in communal line and tries secure 27 per cent of muslim’s vote although muslims are remain desperately poor and backward, but they vote en masse for her because her generous sops for muslims — ranging from job quotas to hard cash for madarsas. Few outside Bengal had heard of Dhulagarh till two weeks ago. This small industrial and business hub in Howrah district has acquired infamy after Muslim mobs attacked Hindus and burnt their homes.”
A residant of Kolkota, Arnab Ghose talked to Uday India and raised concern about appeasement politics instead of empowering society in Bengal. NGOs and human rights activists, so quick to condemn communal violence elsewhere in India have remained largely silent on Dhulagarh. Bengal deserves their attention. Above all, Bengal deserves a secular chief minister.
by Sanjay k bissoyi