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Mainstream, VOL LV No 30 New Delhi July 15, 2017

New Turn in Bengal Politics

Sunday 16 July 2017, by Arup Kumar Sen

Explosive exchange of words took place between the West Bengal Governor, Keshari Nath Tripathi, and State Chief Minister, Mamata Banerjee, over the recent communal flare-up in Baduria and adjacent areas, including Basirhat, Swarupnagar and Deganga, in the North 24 Parganas district. Mamata alleged: “The Governor telephoned me and said certain objectionable things. He spoke like a block President of the BJP.” In his response, the Governor said that the “allegations of the Chief Minister amount to insulting and humiliating the Governor and his Office”.

What actually sparked the communal flare-up was a facebook post showing “objectionable images” linked to the Prophet and Kaaba Sharif in Mecca. It was allegedly posted by a 17-year-old boy of Magurkhali village of Baduria. A friend of the accused told the media: “It was a well-edited graphic. I doubt that he created it on his own. He might have circulated it without the intention of sparking violence.”

In fact, the village of the accused does not have a tradition of communal violence. Reports from the field of violence tell us that Hindus and Muslims lived in the village peacefully for hundreds of years. Muslim ajan calls and Hindu kirtans are organic parts of the composite culture of the village. Remarkably, the Hindu kirtan groups sing their songs both in the Hindu and Muslim houses. People of both the communities participate in each other’s festivals. To put it in the words of Suman Sen, a resident of the village: “We have always lived peacefully with our Muslim friends here. We have never faced such a situation. Outsiders with a political agenda have come to create trouble...at the time of the incident, I was hiding in my Muslim neighbour’s home.” Suman’s elderly neighbour, Abdul Barik Mondal, also corroborated the cosmopolitan culture of the village.

Reportedly, the local people of some of the affected areas are trying on their own to restore peace. Whatever may be the opinions and desires of the ordinary people, the politicians have their own agendas. The BJP General Secretary, Kailash Vijayvargiya, reportedly alleged that “information that Hindu sisters and daughters were being raped have also been received”, and he urged Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh to intervene. The State BJP President, Dilip Ghosh, has demanded imposition of President’s Rule in West Bengal. This reminds us that Ghosh was found among those holding swords in Kharagpur on the Ram Navami day this year. He also asserted on the occasion: “If Ram Navami does lead to polarisation, let it be. We will do it.”

The above facts distinctly show that politics in West Bengal will take new meaning in the coming days.

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