Violence in Bangladesh part of ethnic cleansing, alleges BJP; demands CAA, NRC in Bengal
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on Sunday alleged that the communal violence during Durga Puja in Bangladesh is part of a systematic attack on religious minority groups and the situation calls for implementation of the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) and National Register of Citizens (NRC) in West Bengal.
Amid protests in Kolkata and district towns, the BJP’s chief state spokesperson Samik Bhattacharya said, “What we are witnessing in Bangladesh is part of a systematic ethnic cleansing that started decades ago. Instead of acknowledging the rights of these Hindus, West Bengal’s erstwhile Left Front government offered ration cards and voting rights to infiltrators from Bangladesh. The Trinamool Congress (TMC) carried this forward, resulting in a radical change in demography in certain parts of the state and pressure on local economy.”
“To evade responsibility, the CPI (M) and TMC are claiming that the recent incidents were stray in nature. They are wrong. Millions of Hindus fled Bangladesh after its birth in 1971 and in the subsequent years to escape religious persecution. BJP is the only party that differentiates between refugees and infiltrators and wants to enforce the CAA and NRC,” said Bhattacharya, referring to the killings and alleged rapes in different parts of Bangladesh.
CAA offers citizenship to non-Muslims who entered India from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh before 2015. Its critics, among whom chief minister Mamata Banerjee is a prominent face, insist that it is discriminatory as it leaves out Muslims and links citizenship to faith in a secular country.
The BJP made CAA an issue during the March-April assembly polls. Union home minister Amit Shah said during campaign that if BJP came to power the new government would give a green signal to the implementation of CAA and the Centre would decide when and how to enforce the new law. However, in Assam, where state polls were held around the same time, the BJP made no such announcement although a chunk of the state’s population comprise refugees from Bangladesh. The BJP won in Assam but bagged only 77 of Bengal’s 294 seats.
The TMC countered the BJP, saying only the Centre should deal with the situation in Bangladesh.
TMC state general secretary Kunal Ghosh said, “The BJP should not indulge in politics and create communal tension. Minority communities in both countries need protection. Let Prime Minister Narendra Modi deal with this and interact with the Sheikh Hasina government.”
Protests were held by the BJP and several religious groups in Kolkata and the districts on Sunday. The party’s state president Sukanta Majumdar will lead a rally in Kolkata on Tuesday, the party announced.
A senior state police official said on condition of anonymity that all police stations in Bengal have been put on alert in view of the violence in Bangladesh since Eid Milad un Nabi, which marks the birthday of Prophet Muhammad, will be celebrated on Monday and Tuesday.
Radharaman Das, vice-president of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON) unit in Kolkata, led a protest outside the Bangladesh deputy high commission’s office in Kolkata on Sunday evening. Citizens also took part in it.
“The violence is continuing for nine days but the international community is not saying a word. Two hundred miscreants stormed into our temple in Noakhali on Friday and vandalized all the idols. Two of our monks were killed. Why are international human rights groups and United Nations silent? We will organise protests across the globe” Das said.
BJP’s former national secretary Rahul Sinha demanded the arrest of Indian Secular Front leader and cleric Abbasuddin Siddiqui after a video went viral on social media. In the video, Siddiqui, with whom the CPI (M) forged an alliance in the March-April polls, was purportedly heard referring to the Bangladesh violence and saying that he will kill anyone who insults his faith.
The ISF attempted to play down the controversy by issuing a statement that called for communal harmony and demanded punishment for the perpetrators of the violence in the neighbouring country. The ISF also wrote to Sheikh Hasina.
The incidents in Bangladesh triggered rumours of communal tension and vandalism in Bengal.
One such incident took place at Durgapur in West Burdwan district where some local youths clashed on Saturday night over share of money for drinking alcohol. They damaged three vehicles. Since some of these youths were Muslims, the incident was given a communal colour on social media.
Abhishek Gupta, deputy commissioner (east) of Asansol-Durgapur police district said, “Some social media posts are showing fabricated reports that some puja pandal has been damaged in Durgapur. This is totally false. Action will be taken against rumour mongers.”