Paramilitary forces had to be called in to quell a riotous situation in the eastern border state of West Bengal. Mob fury saw shops being burnt and locals, particularly Hindus, targeted as outrage over an innocuous Facebook post metamorphosed into an uncontrollable situation, replete with even a demand for lynching a school student whose post it was.
Only this time, the marauding mob comprised mostly Muslim denizens of 24 North Parganas, specifically in the Baduria region of Bashirhat.
After a spate of cow vigilantism-linked violence perpetrated mostly by Hindutva groups or Hindu mob on Dalits and Muslims in various states of the country, chiefly Rajasthan, Jharkhand, Madhya Pradesh, etc, we now have a reverse but equally vicious situation, and communal politics appears to have been inverted.
Several shops have been burnt down, while valuables taken away as the rampaging mob demanded to lynch the school student, according to reports. Not only is this the worst form of communal bigotry, but this is also a terrifying example of religious polarisation affecting all and sundry.
A mob allegedly set shops and houses on fire and burnt police vehicles to protest against the 'objectionable' FB post. (Photo: ANI)
Internet services have been shut down in the region to avoid spread of communal hatred and fake news over social media, but this bigotry-induced violence and disruption of normal life is becoming an increasingly routine occurrence in the Mamata Banerjee-ruled state. While as she hobnobs with the worst kind of Islamist ideologues, she's often dismissive of the real grievances of the denizens of West Bengal, who are witnessing communal politics like they had never before.
Banerjee is defensive when accused of not handling law and order well, and in fact, reports suggest that cops allegedly allowed the mob to unleash fury on the locals, the reason why the paramilitary had to be called in at all. Moreover, she's busy playing victim after an acrimonious exchange with the West Bengal governor, Keshari Nath Tripathi, saying he was behaving like a "block BJP president".
Unfortunately, it is Mamata's open appeasement of the gatekeepers of the Islamist orthodoxy that has prompted many to see the rise of the BJP/RSS as an inevitable and formidable opposition within the state. However, the grisly sight of Bajrang Dal activists asking little girls to hold weapons, swords and the blade called "ramda" in their rallies and training camps is equally shocking.
West Bengal is falling between the twin stools of Hindutva and Islamist fundamentalism, and CM Banerjee, instead of firmly curbing every communal tendency within both the TMC and the BJP/RSS, is busy playing the old game of one-upmanship. Though she's herself one of the most steadfastly secular chief ministers and political leaders in the country, she's overseeing the turning of West Bengal into a communal tinderbox.
This has been rightly condemned by those on social media, and Twitter, Facebook are awash with horrified disgust at the manner freedom of expression has been trampled and hate been allowed to spill over.
Hindu Muslim eye for an eye will make us blind. Isolate the fanatics be it cow lynchers or rioters: https://t.co/8gWsMvpF9i— Rajdeep Sardesai (@sardesairajdeep) July 5, 2017
Violence of all stripes-Hindutva, Islamist-must be roundly condemned. But wonder who gains the most from communal strife in WB? ????— Sagarika Ghose (@sagarikaghose) July 5, 2017
Delhi-based Bengali activist and artist Shuddhabrata Sengupta had said this on Facebook:
"Islamist mobs on a rampage in Baduria and Basirhat in West Bengal who are demanding the right to stone a teenager to death for what they consider to be an offensive Facebook post are no different from the Gau Rakshaks who prey on vulnerable Muslims. Once again #NotinMyName. I hope that people in Bengal will give a robust answer to this madness. It does not matter whether the people intent on lynching are Hindu or Muslim. This madness must stop."
He's absolutely correct. These communal riots, whether perpetrated by Hindu or Muslim mobs, are Not In Our Name. Time to hit the streets again and demand an end to this kind of violence.