Mamata takes on BJP, says ‘genocide’ in Delhi
KOLKATA: A day after Union home minister Amit Shah launched the Bharatiya Janata Party’s (BJP) campaign for next year’s assembly elections in the state, West Bengal chief minister, Mamata Banerjee of the Trinamool Congress, finally reacted to last week’s communal clash in the national capital, blaming the BJP for it and terming it “planned genocide”.
She also criticised BJP workers for raising the controversial “shoot the traitors” slogan in Kolkata on Sunday, even as Bengal BJP leaders said they stood in support of those whom the police booked for raising the slogan.
“I have been told by many persons that it’s a planned genocide later shown as a riot. Delhi Police are under the Centre. And BJP is so shameless that they have not even sought an apology,” she said while addressing a gathering of party workers at Netaji Indoor Stadium in Kolkata on Monday.
Targeting Shah who, during his rally in Kolkata on Sunday, called for the toppling of the Trinamool Congress (TMC) government, Banerjee said: “They are shamelessly seeking to capture Bengal. Just look at what they have done to the states under their control. All seven Delhi MPs belong to the BJP. It got riots. Assam got NRC [National Register of Citizens], chaos and terror. In Uttar Pradesh, no one gets to lodge FIRs [First Information Reports] at police stations.”
The chief minister also lashed out at BJP supporters, who raised the “Desh Ke Gaddaro Ko, Goli Maaro Saalo Ko (shoot the traitors)” slogans in Kolkata on Sunday during the BJP rally.
“Those who talk about Bengal’s law and order (should) tell me why BJP leaders who created the provocations [before the Delhi clashes] with the slogan have not been booked and arrested. They did it here yesterday and we have picked them up today. It’s Kolkata, not Delhi. If we spare a single person, others will be encouraged,” the chief minister said.
Dozens of BJP supporters raised the slogan while marching to the venue of Shah’s rally on Sunday. Union minister of state for finance, Anurag Thakur, in January, led a group of BJP supporters in the chant during an election meeting in Delhi, although he himself did not utter the controversial second part of the slogan. Banerjee’s reference is also to other BJP leaders who have been accused of hate speech in Delhi.
Officers at New Market police station on Sunday registered a suo motu case under sections 153A (promoting enmity between different groups), 505 (statements conducing public mischief), (punishment for criminal intimidation) and 34 (acts done by several persons in furtherance of common intention) of the Indian Penal Code. On Monday, three BJP supporters, Prem Narayan Tewari, Surendra Kumar Tewari and Dhruba Basu, were arrested.
Bengal BJP unit president, Dilip Ghosh, said Banerjee’s “planned genocide” remark was “irresponsible for a chief minister”. “In Bengal, people who shout Pakistan Zindabaad are not penalised and ‘Bharat tere tukde honge’ (India will be split) are not penalised and but those who call for shooting the country’s traitors are arrested. What’s wrong with the ‘goli maaro’ slogan? Should anti-nationals be worshipped? I myself called for shooting anti-national elements,” said Ghosh, a Lok Sabha member.
BJP state unit general secretary, Sayantan Basu, said the party would move the Calcutta high court against the police for arresting the three BJP supporters for raising the slogan.
Bengal governor, Jagdeep Dhankhar, weighed in on the ‘goli maaro’ controversy on Monday when he said that the media was “highlighting a minor incident in a major rally” and advised it to refrain from playing a partisan role.
TMC secretary-general, Partha Chatterjee, and CPI-M legislator, Sujan Chakraborty, said the governor was compromising the honour of his chair by commenting like a political leader.
At the party workers’ gathering, which was also attended by TMC’s political advisor, Prashant Kishor, Banerjee launched a mega public outreach campaign, “Banglar Garbo Mamata (Bengal’s Pride, Mamata)”.
“Mamata is our pride because of three reasons: a) as a fierce protector of the values enshrined in the Indian Constitution; b) the true custodian of Bengal’s culture, dignity and pride; and c) weaving Bengal’s turnaround story,” said Abhishek Banerjee, the chief minister’s nephew, and the TMC’s youth wing chief.
Shah, on Sunday launched the BJP’s Bengal campaign, named “Aar Noy Annay” (no more injustices), seeking to topple the TMC government by winning two-thirds of the state’s assembly seats in next year. Last May, the BJP won 18 of the state’s 42 Lok Sabha seats; while the TMC won 22.
“What happened over Sunday and Monday in Kolkata will not only intensify political polarisation, but social polarisation as well,” said Amal Mukhopadhyay, a former principal of Presidency College, Kolkata.