‘Beef’ thrown in temple: Bengal govt worried as communal clashes spread
Alampur, a locality on the western edge of Kolkata’s Metiabruz area, continues to be tense since January 23 after some chunks of alleged beef were thrown into a temple. No arrests have been made so far.
Authorities have imposed prohibitory orders disallowing assembly of four or more people in the area that has a mix of slums and high rises. The prohibitory orders also banned workshops after Hindus groups blocked traffic following the alleged desecration of the two temples. Muslims are in majority in the area which also houses a government undertaking - Garden Reach Ship Builders and Engineers.
But, what makes Alampur incident alarming is that it is not a stray incident. There has been a pattern. Ten districts of West Bengal have seen similar such communal incidents since October 2016 which is proving to be a major challenge for the state government.
“I will not allow anarchy in Bengal,” said chief minister Mamata Banerjee on Friday.
“Police is dealing with such things with a strong hand. We will soon bring a strong legislation against arson, where anyone setting fire to government or private party will be have to pay. One political party is trying to fan violence,” she said, without naming the BJP.
For its part, the BJP had submitted a representation to Governor Keshari Nath Tripathi on October 21 demanding Central intervention on ground that the government has failed to control law and order.
“Attacks on Hindus are going on in different parts of the state. Metiabruz is the latest in the series and the administration has failed to control them,” said Sayantan Basu, state BJP secretary.
The Congress and the Left have also claimed that the situation was “getting dangerous” in Bengal. “Trinamool Congress brought in communal politics in Bengal by appeasing communities for political gains. Now things are going out of control,” said Abdul Mannan, Congress MLA and leader of the opposition in the Assembly.
Over the past few months incidents of communal clashes have been reported in over ten districts of Bengal.
The clashes have eerie similarity with such incidents in Bihar and Uttar Pradesh last year. For instance last October, Bihariganj town in Madhepura district of Bihar and Bijnore in Uttar Pradesh saw such low scale communal clashes.
“Here is an urgent need for political will and wisdom. They should not show oversensitivity for a particular community who are its loyal vote bank. The ruling party must ensure fair dealings while handling the culprits. On one hand there is a rise of radical Islam and on the other there is an attempt from the opposite section to flare up things. This is an unprecedented atmosphere in Bengal,” said Shibaji Pratim Basu, political analyst.
Since October, pockets and villages in Kaliachak, Chanchol (Malda district), Jalangi (Murshidabad), Chandannagar (Hooghly), Bhagabanpur (East Midnapore), Kharagpore (West Midnapore), Hajinagar, Kanchrapara (North 24 Parganas), Sankrail, Dhulagarh (Howrah), Katwa, Jamuria and Kaksha (Burdwan) have witnessed clashes.
On October 11 and 12 last year, a series of small clashes took place in different parts of Bengal over Durga Puja immersions and Muharram processions which coincided on the same day.
On December 12 and 13, clashes in Dhulagarh (26 km from Kolkata) began after Muslims took out a religious procession through the main market road in Banerjeepara neighbourhood. Hindus objected, but the procession was allowed by the police.
Houses and shops were set ablaze which left hundreds from both communities homeless after the clash. Police arrested 65 people but the clashes continued for the next few days.
The Dhulagarh incident, unlike others before it, got political attention with BJP, Congress and CPI(M) dispatching leaders to the spot. General secretary Sitaram Yechury was a part of the CPI(M) team. In other areas political parties were prevented by police to enter after the clash.
“One hand the government is giving stipends to Imams, but creates pressure and stops a seminar on Kashmir and Balochistan in Kolkata citing that it will create communal problem. Miscreants and radicals are taking advantage of this situation,” said Amal Kumar Mukhopadhyay, political science expert and former principal of Presidency college.
Although communal clashes have so far been of small intensity, the potential of large scale damage continues to increase with every new skirmish.