West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s fulminations against Governor Kesrinath Tripathi for performing his constitutional duty and inquiring about the law and order situation in Basirhat town, has drawn national attention to the pathetic state of the Hindu community under her regime.
Local people claim that the mobs were incited by radical Islamist clerics and that Basirhat, which lays on the border with Bangladesh, has seen massive demographic change on account of illegal migration.
Trouble began on Monday, July 3, when a mob, allegedly outraged over a Facebook post by a school-going teenager, attacked a Kali Mandir in Paikpara village in Basirhat town. Though reputed to be a Hindu majority town (78 percent of the population), the rampaging minority community burnt temples, buildings, looted and burnt shops and private homes of Hindus, set police vehicles on fire, blocked roads and assaulted villagers with impunity. They proved so intimidating that the police had to take shelter in the police station, rather than control the mobs.
The violence soon spread to Baduria town where the impugned teenager lived in village Rudrapur. Most of eastern North 24 Parganas district, close to the Bangladesh border, was quickly embroiled in the violent attacks, which encompassed Baduria, Tentulia, Golabari, Bagjora, Keosa, Basirhat, Mogra, Ramchandrapur, Gopalpur and other places.
Trinamool Congress MPs Idris Ali and Imran Khan (founder of the banned Students Islamic Movement of India, SIMI) reportedly went to Basirhat, to placate the crowds, who refused to listen. Local people claim that the mobs were incited by radical Islamist clerics and that Basirhat, which lays on the border with Bangladesh, has seen massive demographic change on account of illegal migration.
The Chief Minister, however, did not say one word about the riots, the victims, or the perpetrators, but singled out Governor Tripathi and Hindu Samhati leader Tapan Ghosh for criticism. Ghosh is a well-known human rights crusader who has struggled for years on a shoe-string budget (contributed by admirers of modest means) to provide succor to the besieged Hindu community under the oppressive regimes of the CPM-dominated Left Front and now Trinamool Congress.
In the imbroglio, the last rites of a Hindu could not be performed as the funeral procession at Ramchandrapur was reputedly attacked and the chanting of ‘Hari Naam’ forcibly stopped by violent crowds.
By Tuesday, July 4, according to eyewitness accounts, the police and even the Rapid Action Force became helpless before the organized rampage. In some places, the police were targetted, such as at Baduria Police Station, and many police vehicles were gutted. The overtly communal clashes continued at Tertulia bazar, Gopalpur, Mogra and other places. The Jagannath Rath at Basirhat Kalibari Para was desecrated and two accompanying police personnel injured. There was large scale destruction of Hindu property as Hindus tried to resist the attacks in some places.
Internet services to the entire North 24 Parganas district were suspended on Tuesday to curb further incitement of crowds via WhatsApp and other services. Panicked citizens called the Raj Bhavan and Union Home Ministry for help, but the State Government initially refused to deploy the Central Reserve Police Force, until compelled by an unmanageable situation. It was only the deployment of paramilitary forces in substantial numbers that finally brought the situation under control, and caused the rampaging mobs to begin retreating.
Seven persons have died in the violence so far. In the imbroglio, the last rites of a Hindu could not be performed as the funeral procession at Ramchandrapur was reputedly attacked and the chanting of ‘Hari Naam’ forcibly stopped by violent crowds. The hearse carrying the body was damaged and the bereaved family forced to carry the body on their shoulders. Ambulances ferrying patients to hospitals were stopped and the sick persons forced to get down. It was complete anarchy for nearly two days.
Each mobster was fully aware that even the most permissive regime would not permit such a thing, but the demand was a demonstration of muscular politics.
Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh has since spoken to both the West Bengal Governor and Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and urged them to bring the situation under control.
It may be mentioned that the authorities were quick to arrest the boy who allegedly posted the offensive message on Facebook (said to be a cartoon disparaging a shrine, which the boy subsequently deleted), but the enraged Islamists demanded that the offender be handed over to them to stone to death as per the Sharia.
Each mobster was fully aware that even the most permissive regime would not permit such a thing, but the demand was a demonstration of muscular politics. According to some reports, the boy’s house was ransacked and torched and his parents, siblings, cousins and relatives assaulted.
It is shocking that in such a situation of complete failure of authority, the Chief Minister considered it politically prudent to launch a verbal attack on the State Governor at a press conference, complaining that she felt so insulted that she thought of even resigning. This kind of attack on a constitutional functionary is truly astonishing.
Worse, given her consistent failure to protect the Hindu community in incident after incident since the time she assumed office, and her blatant and brazen appeasement of one community to protect her vote-bank, it does not lay in her mouth to attack the office of the Governor when he is trying to provide succour to the besieged citizens of the State.
Banerjee’s attack on Governor Tripathi is reminiscent of the all-India secular brigade’s attack on Jammu and Kashmir Governor Jagmohan when he tried desperately to protect the small Hindu minority which was attacked, assaulted, and terrorized to quit the state en masse, one of the largest exoduses in history, in a non-war situation. The situation of Bengali Hindus today is no less grim. Perhaps it would have been best if Mamata Banerjee had given in to her hurt feelings and resigned. The nation cannot afford to have her in office much longer.