By Karan Anand
Dilip Ghosh, president of the West Bengal unit of the BJP, has sent out clear instructions to his party members. They are to beat up policemen since the All India Trinamool Congress(TMC) supporters got away with doing the same. This was not the first time for such an aggressive display. Previously, Ghosh has also talked about grabbing Mamata Banerjee’s hair. Ghosh is not the only BJP leader issuing violent threats either. With Bengal’s Baduria and Basirhat district under turmoil due to communal violence, BJP’s MLA H Raja Singh motivated members of the Hindu community to react in the “same way” as the Hindus in Gujarat did in 2002. As the leaders of the party recklessly keep on pushing their Hindutva agenda, they need to ask themselves whether this strategy will work in a relatively liberal and traditionally cosmopolitan Bengal.
The bulldozer approach
The BJP has been relatively violent in its approach in Bengal. This year, on Ram Navami, BJP’s parent body RSS organised the celebrations on an unprecedented level. Hindus took to the road in large numbers, armed with swords and knives, rallying their support behind the BJP. The participants, including youth and children, endorsed dangerous weapons including swords and tridents.
The celebrations were a medium for the BJP to show its strength and Hindu consolidation, disturbing an already volatile situation. In July this year, a 65-year old man was allegedly stabbed to death by a Muslim mob, following a Facebook post. Since then, there have been communal clashes in the Basirhat region. Even in the midst of violence, the BJP state president irresponsibly played out unverified videos of Muslims beating Hindus in Basirhat while the general secretary Vijay Vargiya spread rumours of a Hindu woman being raped.
After making in-roads in the north-east, BJP is looking to continue in the same stride in Bengal. Whether its strategy will prove effective or not remains to be seen.
How the TMC played its part
If the BJP was responsible for stoking communal violence, TMC was responsible for not being able to stop the violence. Post the violent clashes, Mamata Banerjee made a statement that she could not have ordered firing at a violent mob of Muslims. This reflects her complacency in dealing with the Muslim mobs.
A controversial Muslim cleric, Abdul Barkati, Imam of the Tipu Sultan mosque in Kolkata, threatened to disobey the laws by refusing to dismantle the red beacon on his vehicle. He claimed that he had been permitted use of the privilege by the West Bengal government.
Mamata Banerjee has also been accused of promoting communalism on multiple times occasions. AfterSince becoming the CM, the Bengal high court has rebuked the TMC government thrice for Muslim appeasement and, in turn, disturbing the social fabric. Since her ascension to power, radical Muslim displays have been on the rise, with the Basirhat riot serving as an example.
Circumstances lining up for the BJP
BJP’s own communal brand of politics and TMC’s continuous Muslim appeasement seem to be working for the BJP. The Hindus of Bengal are starting to consolidate behind the BJP in response to both these factors. In 2011 state elections, BJP’s share of votes was a negligible 4%. The share increased to 10.2% during the 2016 elections.
In a by-poll held earlier this year, BJP came second, however, their share of votes was surprising. The party boasted an increase of about 22% as their share crossed 30%. This gives a clear indication of where the state’s politics is headed.
Even in the civic body elections held earlier this year, BJP along with its ally Gorkha Janmukti Morcha (GJM) won 3 out of the total 7 civic bodies. It also managed to secure the second position by itself in Pujali.
Bengal’s communal harmony disturbed
Bengal has maintained its communal harmony despite having a substantial Muslim population. As former chief justice Markandey Katju tweeted, “By continuous & shameless appeasement of Muslims, Mamata Bannerji is ensuring that all Hindus in West Bengal will unite behind BJP”. Moreover, BJP’s violent manoeuvres have further escalated the tensions between the two religions. TMC’s engagement with the Imam, combined with the reluctance of the police to take actions against Muslims has prompted the radicals. These policies were responsible for the riots in Basirhat in July and earlier, in Malda. Now is the time to pull Bengal out of this communal tussle and transform it into a cosmopolitan society.
Featured Image Source: Visual Hunt