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Bihar model: Joint forum of Muslims, dalits and tribals mooted in Bengal to counter BJP

The apolitical organisations want to raise awareness among the political parties to close ranks to thwart BJP in Bengal.

kolkata Updated: Dec 07, 2017 13:18 IST
Sumanta Ray Chaudhuri
Sumanta Ray Chaudhuri
Hindustan Times
Bengal,Bihar,Mamata Banerjee
File photo of dalits shouting slogans during a protest march from Ahmedabad to Una where four from the community were brutally beaten by alleged vigilantes for skinning a dead cow in Ahmedabad, in August 2016.(HT Photo)

Taking a leaf out of the Mahagathbandhan (grand alliance) in Bihar before the 2015 Assembly polls, two prominent Muslim organisations of Bengal have decided to initiate a joint forum of Muslim, dalits and tribals to take on BJP in the state. Though the organisations are apolitical, they want to raise awareness among the political parties to close ranks to thwart saffron designs.

Bengal is heading for rural polls in the summer of 2018. It is supposed to be a rehearsal for the 2019 Lok Sabha polls for which BJP has identified Bengal as a focus state.

Read: Mahisasur has become the rallying point of dalits and tribals in Bengal

The two organisations taking the lead in the initiative are All Bengal Minorities Youth Federation (ABMYF) and All India Sunnat al Jamayat (AISAJ). Between them, the two claim a combined membership of more than 10 lakh. In a public meeting on Wednesday in Kolkata, the leaders said the forum in apolitical so far.

The arithmetic driving the initiative is Muslims comprise 31% population of Bengal, while 29% is formed by scheduled castes, scheduled tribes and tribals. The proposed forum would be named as Shanti, Sanhati, Sampriti Mancha (Forum for peace, unity and harmony). (Though the 2011 census revealed Muslims comprise 27% of the state’s population, chief minister Mamata Banerjee said in a public meeting on Tuesday that the share is 31%.)

Before the 2015 Assembly elections, Congress, Rashtriya Janata Dal (RJD) and Janata Dal (United) came together to form a grand alliance. The idea was to polarise Muslim and Yadav votes against the saffron camp.

Read: Nitish Kumar resigns in blow to Mahagathbandhan, will return as Bihar CM with BJP support

“We will explain to the people that BJP and the government at the Centre are not only against Muslims, but also against the dalits and tribals. They are humiliated and tortured every day,” said Abdul Matin, AISAJ general secretary.

“Our target if to unite the three sections on one platform,” said Sukriti Ranjan Biswas, president of Samya, Shanti and Sompriti Mancha, a dalit rights activist who was present in the public meeting on Wednesday.

“Our target is to create the forum at the earliest and give it shape before the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. We are not really bothered about the rural polls,” said Mohammad Kamruzzaman, general secretary of All India Minorities Youth Federation.

Read: Adivasis are more discriminated against than Dalits and Muslims: Ramachandra Guha

CPI(M) leaders welcomed the idea. “It is a good idea. But whether it will be successful unless they push it in the political arena remains doubtful,” said CPI(M) politburo member and Lok Sabha MP Md Salim.

Bengal BJP leaders scoffed at the idea. “It is actually a joint conspiracy of CPI(M), Congress and Trinamool against BJP since these parties are scared of the growing popularity of our party,” BJP national secretary Rahul Sinha told HT.

“The forum will highlight how the Union government is neglecting development of the Muslim, dailt and tribal communities by not releasing the funds for projects specific to development of these three sections,” said Mohammad Kamruzzaman, general secretary, ABMYF.

Trinamool Congress secretary general Partha Chatterjee said he is not yet aware of the initiative. “There can always be a forum. But I have to speak to my party leaders before forming an opinion,” Chatterjee said.

Incidentally, at a programme of state minority affairs department on Tuesday, chief minister Mamata Banerjee lashed out at the Centre for neglecting Muslims, dalits and tribals.

First Published: Dec 07, 2017 13:18 IST