The madness of religious fanaticism fueled by ‘secular’ vote-bank politics coupled with demographic imbalance in border areas can open a Pandora’s Box for dreadful Crimes and anti-national activities. This is precisely the story of Malda indicating that a demographic time bomb is ticking, which needs to be defused
December 28, 2015: Around 12pm noon, there were a few explosions at Danga village near Kaliachak, around 15 km from Malda town in Mamata Banerjee-ruled West Bengal. At least two youths died and two others were injured.
January 3, 2016: Around 9.30 am, over a lakh Muslim residents in Kaliachak area gathered to protest the supposed comments from a Hindu Mahasabha leader Kamlesh Tiwari. A local religious group, Edara-e-Sharia circulated some leaflets condemning Kamlesh Tiwari’s supposed remarks with “grief”. The organisation urged Muslims and followers of path shown by Prophet Mohammed to condemn such remarks and demand appropriate action. The mob gradually turned violent and communal – quarreled with a BSF team, stoned Hindu houses in the locality and later set a nicely built Kaliachak police station on fire.
Ironically, Kamlesh Tiwari’s remarks came around December 11-12 and that too in a reaction – after Samajwadi Party leader Azam Khan made controversial remarks on RSS leaders. Technically, West Bengal and more so remote Malda had little to do with either Azam Khan or Kamlesh Tiwari. So it’s all about politics and the close nexus of neta class and crime. Here lies the catch.
For locals – a few rational guys – things were exploited to the hilt in Malda with “crystal clear political motives”. They suspect a pattern in Malda and parts of North Bengal since last few months to spark off political and communal row in the region – obviously keeping hawk’s eye views on ensuing assembly elections. Key players, of course – Trinamool Congress, the state’s ruling outfit of powerful Mamata Banerjee – whose magic has somehow failed in Malda, Siliguri and other parts of North Bengal.
North Bengal has remained a Congress bastion and lately in Siliguri, Left parties did well in civic polls, while in 2014 Lok Sabha polls, the BJP increased vote share in many segments and also won the prestigious Darjeeling parliamentary seat.
Edara-e-Sharia and Malda
Many locals in Malda district probably have not heard of an essentially-Bihar based Muslim organisation called Edara-e-Sharia. This organisation has been generally active in the states of Bihar, Jharkhand and parts of Odisha. However, they are reported to be getting active in some select pockets of West Bengal and Assam in recent times. Generally, the organisation is involved in social works and enforcement of Shariat rules and Islamic order values and norms. “We are a social organisation and has been actively involved in helping common people especially women in terms of getting adequate financial support in the cases of talaq and related issues,” Edara-e-Sharia leader Ghulam Zarquani said. They admit that they were protesting on January 3 against the supposed remarks of the Hindu Mahasabha leader against the Prophet but their organisation has no hand in the violence that erupted later.
On ground zero—the helpless looking voters—certainly most of them are Muslims and sought after group by Mamata Banerjee – make one feel that nothing other than lip-service and ‘minority appeasement’ has taken place in the region. Thanks to decades of neglect in administration in the locality by the erstwhile communist regime and now under Trinamool Congress—Mamata has left a trail of evidence. It pictures how the polity has been reduced to a fieldom of some hooligans. Along the highways are innumerable shanties and small houses covered in a haze of brown dust.
Demography in Transition
It is evident that in Bharat, wherever the demographic balance is tilted towards non-Hindu communities, those places, whether it is the Christian dominated North-eastern states of the country or Muslim dominated Jammu and Kashmir, have turned out to be grave yards of Hindu populace. The state of West Bengal seems to be moving in the same direction. West Bengal recorded the highest growth rate in Muslim population in the last Census 2011 constituting 27.01 per cent of total population of the State. In contrast to the Census report 2001, the state has witnessed an asymmetrical growth in Muslim population which rapidly increased from 2,02,40,543 to 2,46,54,825.
“Last developments in these localities were seen under the late Ghani Khan Chowdhury. Since then we only got good politics,” laments a Hindu resident shy to identify himself. Many Muslims readily agree. A CPI-M sympathiser Mofidul Haque (40) tries to explain the political game better. “Mamata Banerjee has failed in last four and half years. She is nervous about North Bengal as Siliguri has almost returned to Leftists. Congress has been traditionally strong in Malda, Murshidabad, Raiganj and Berhampur segments,” he says.
A Call for Protest
“Vishwa Muslim Durbar”
Likes of Mofidul enunciate the political game-plan if at all effectively. One Mafizul is alleged to be involved in crude bomb business along with a godown owner Liton. “Mafizul was with local CPI-M once and quite powerful. He joined Trinamool a few months ago and what followed next is known to all,” say locals.
That Mafizul carries political clout is understandable from the fact that he has been made president of Trinamool in neighbouring Sujapur block. Saharul Biswas, the former Trinamool president of Surajpur area, obviously does not share good relations with him. “Violence and political clashes have become common since Mafizul joined TMC,” Biswas alleges.
Police officials would not like to talk much about individuals. After December 28 explosions, they simply went on look out for Liton even as making crude bombs is considered “regular and good business” by history sheeters and political elements in the district.
Will Didi contest from North Bengal?
Why Mamata did not act?
Malda district Trinamool chief Moazzem Hossain has, however, denied the involvement of his party in these violent incidents including the mob rampage at Kaliachak police station. “There is mischievous campaign against our party and Chief Minister. From day one, we have said police should investigate the cases properly and take appropriate action. Didi has made it clear every time she came this side, we can never endorse any such illegal acts,” he waxes eloquently.
But the argument from Trinamool leaders has to be taken with a pinch of salt. The CPI-M supporters and those owing allegiance to BJP and Congress do not agree that TMC has a clean slate. “We all see these build up to state assembly elections. Mamata Banerjee wants to encash in Malda belt by playing minority card to the hilt. That’s why a desperate attempt to protect the Muslim law-breakers,” says BJP leader Shamik Bhattacharya. On January 6, Bhattacharya was detained in English Bazar police station in Malda after he and other local BJP leaders wanted to visit Kaliachak area.
SP, Prasun Banerjee later, said Kaliachak area was under prohibitory orders under section 144 and thus the BJP delegation was barred from visiting the locality. Incidentally, there was no improvement in situation even five days later when on January 11, the three-member BJP central team comprising SS Ahluwalia, Bhupender Yadav and Ram Bilas Vedanti—all deputed by BJP President Amit Shah—were prevented at Malda railway station and put on Shatabdi Express for return to Kolkata.
BJP sensed political motives in all these. So did the CPI(M). While Prakash Karat and Sitaram Yechury have targeted Mamata Banerjee for overall failure in administration, Raiganj MP Mohammed Salim visited Chanchal area, second largest town in Malda district, on January 11 and slammed Mamata for “minority appeasement”.
BJP MLA Shamik Bhattacharya has alleged district SP Prasun Banerjee of working as a Trinamool stooge. “He has been working as a district secretary of Trinamool and should be removed from his post,” he said. Another BJP leader from Malda district Srirupa Mitra Choudhury has urged the union Home Minister Rajnath Singh to visit Malda and Kaliachak soon.
On January 12, 2016, a BJP delegation led by Kailash Vijayvargiya met Rajnath Singh and urged him to take cognizance of the situation in Malda. The Home Ministry later decided to depute an official team to visit the violence-hit district.
In meeting with the Home Minister Rajnath, Vijayvargiya also alleged that “pro-Pakistan” slogans were raised by the mob. In a memorandum submitted to the Home Minister, the delegation demanded among other things that the Trinamool government in the state should be directed “to take positive steps to restore people’s sense of security and confidence”.
“BJP demands that keeping in mind the region’s sensitivity, the Chief Minister’s allegation against a paramilitary force and infiltration and trade of narcotics and fake currency through it, an impartial action should be taken”.
Trinamool Congress is on the defensive. But a shrewd in the art of politics – she and her party is building up a case trying to win friends like Nitish Kumar and Lalu Prasad in her battle against the BJP.
TMC MP, Derek O'Brien, also has gone on record to laud police role saying they have handled the situation “tactfully” – adding no one was hurt and 10 persons were arrested. But he agreed the issue in the border area
“BJP leaders are now stating this was opium and fake currency issue. This is what we have been saying all along. This is a sensitive issue in
a border town and not a
communal issue”. Welcome to Didi’s ‘parivartan-land’.
Nirendra Dev (The wrtier is Special Representative of The Statesman and recently visited the border areas of West Bengal)