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Mainstream, VOL LVIII No 24, New Delhi, May 30, 2020

Deconstructing Telinipara Violence in West Bengal

Saturday 30 May 2020, by Arup Kumar Sen

While the public attention is focused on the spread of the coronavirus, Telinipara, a locality in the Bhadreswar town of Hooghly district in West Bengal, witnessed anti-Muslim communal violence.

Reportedly, a small inter-community squabble broke out on May 10, 2020, in the locality, which was resolved by police intervention. A Ground Report, carried in The Wire stated that “on the afternoon of...May 12, a big mob descended on the locality and large-scale targeted violence followed”. The fact-finding Report observed: “According to the police and locals, the violence which broke out in this part of Hooghly district 40 kms north of Kolkata was a planned, systematically executed attack targeting the neighbourhood’s Muslim residents”. (The Wire, May 16, 2020)

The fact that the Muslims were the targets of violence in this jute-mill town is evident in the field narrative of the visiting reporter, Himadri Ghosh:

“We then walked towards the Gondalpara mill from Dinemardanga junction, and found a series of Muslim-occupied homes with broken doors, melted television cables and burnt , exposed electric wires. Some of the houses’ roofs and walls had fallen as gas cylinders had burst inside these small houses...We were astonished to find Muslim-owned photocopying, grocery and meat shops were scorched, while two Hindu-owned grocery and tailor shops stood intact next to them”. (The Wire, ibid)

While the Muslims were the main victims of the Telinipara violence, a lot of fake news circulated on social media, planting a narrative that Hindus were in danger in Telinipara. A Wikinews page dated May 12, 2020, reportedly bore the title “2020 Telinipara Anti-Hindu Pogrom”. The Ground Report on Telinipara violence carried in The Wire further mentioned that an India Today fact-checking team found that images of unrelated violence in another country were passed off as purported anti-Hindu riots in Telinipara, and widely circulated on social media. ( ibid.)

The above documentation of anti-Muslim violence in Telinipara shows how brutal acts of ‘Hindu’ mobs against the minority community could be combined with the construction of a violent image of the Muslim community in the public mind, through strategic use of modern communication technology.

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