Joblessness leads to hunger. Hunger drives people mad. This madness can open a Pandora’s Box for dreadful Crimes. This is precisely the story from Malda in Didiland.
December 28, 2015: Around 12pm noon there were a few explosions at Danga village near Kaliachak, around 15 KM from Malda town in Mamata Banerjee-ruled West Bengal. At least two youths died and two others were injured.
January 3, 2016: Around 9.30 am, over a lakh Muslim residents in Kaliachak area gathered to protest the supposed comments from a Hindu Mahasabha leader Kamlesh Tiwari. A local religious group, Edara-e-Sharaia circulated some leaflets condemning Kamlesh Tiwari’s supposed remarks with “grief”. The organization urged Muslims and followers of path shown by Prophet Mohammed condemn such remarks and demand appropriate actions.
The mob gradually turned violent and communal – quarreled with a BSF team, stoned Hindu houses in the locality and later set a nicely built Kaliachak police station on fire.
Ironically Kamlesh Tiwari’s remarks came around December 11-12 and that too in a reaction – after Samajwadi Party leader Azam Khan made controversial remarks on RSS leaders. Technically, West Bengal and more so remote Malda had little to do with either Azam Khan or Kamlesh Tiwari.
What is the political significance in all these?
Why Mamata did not act?
It is presumed that no Chief Minister would like to take the blame that her/his government did not act against wrong doers. Come what may – the Malda episode as a whole would certainly leave Mamata Banerjee embarrassed. She is desperately trying to walk confidently towards ensuing assembly elections and also wrest the political initiatives for her party Trinamool Congress. Traditionally Congress has had an upper hand in the region. Didi’s keenness is understandable as a prominent Forward Block leader recently joined her party.
Clearly Mamata has many sympathizers even in Malda these days or for that matter in Malda-Siliguri-Jalpaiguri stretch in north Bengal. But what were her compulsions?
In this part of the state, there’s a reading that Didi might contest from one of the “safe seats” to turn the wave in her party’s favour. “Politics is all about learning and implementing it effectively.
Just as Narendra Modi changed the wave in UP during Lok Sabha polls by contesting from Varanasi, Mamata will try take a page out of Prime Minister’s book,” says Ajay Banerjee, a teacher. Many others in the region are also impressed with this political ‘gupshup’ and say left to her Didi would push Muslim theocracy to hilt.
So it’s all about politics and the close nexus of neta class and crime.
For locals – a few rational guys – things were exploited to the hilt in Malda with “crystal clear political motives”. They suspect a pattern in Malda and parts of North Bengal since last few months to spark off political and communal row in the region – obviously keeping hawk’s eye views on ensuing assembly elections. Key players of course – Trinamool Congress, the state’s ruling outfit of powerful Mamata Banerjee – whose magic has somehow failed in Malda, Siliguri and other parts of North Bengal.
North Bengal has remained a Congress bastion and lately in Siliguri, Left parties did well in civic polls while in 2014 Lok Sabha polls, BJP increased vote share in many segments and also won the prestigious Darjeeling parliamentary seat.
On ground zero - the helpless looking voters – certainly most of them are Muslims and sought after group by Mamata Banerjee – make one feel that nothing other than lip-service and ‘minority appeasement’ have taken place in the region. Thanks to decades of neglect in administration in the locality by the erstwhile communist regime and now under Trinamool Congress – Mamata has left a trail of evidence.
It pictures how the polity has been reduced to a fiefdom of some hooligans. Along the highways are innumerable shanties and small houses covered in a haze of brown dust.
“Last developments in these localities were seen under Late Ghani Khan Chowdhury. Since then we only got good politics,” laments a Hindu resident shy to identify himself. Many Muslims readily agree. A CPI-M sympathizer Mofidul Haque (40) tries to explain the political game better.
“Mamata Banerjee has failed in last four and half years and therefore now craze for politics. She is nervous about North Bengal as Siliguri has almost returned to Leftists. Congress has been traditionally strong in Malda, Murshidabad, Raiganj and Berhampur segments,” he says.
“One Mafizul was with a local CPI-M once and quite powerful. He joined Trinamool a few months ago and what followed next is known to all,” say locals.
That Mafizul carries political clout is understandable from the fact that he has been made the president of Trinamool in neighbouring Sujapur block. Saharul Biswas, the former Trinamool president of Surajpur area, obviously does not share good relations with him. “Violence and political clashes have become common since Mafizul joined TMC,” Biswas alleges.
Police officials would not like to talk much about individuals. After December 28 explosions, they simply went on look out for Liton even as making crude bombs is considered “regular and good business” by history sheeters and political elements in the district.
Malda district Trinamool chief Moazzem Hossain has, however, denied the involvement of his party in these violence incidents including the mob rampage at Kaliachak police station.
“There is mischievous campaign against our party and Chief Minister. From day one, we have said police should investigate the cases properly and take appropriate actions. Didi has made it clear every time he came this side, we can never endorse any such illegal acts,” he waxes eloquently.
But the argument from Trinamool leaders has to be taken with a pinch of salt.
The CPI-M supporters and those owing allegiance to BJP and Congress do not agree that TMC has a clean slate. “We all see these build up to state assembly elections. Mamata Banerjee wants to encash in Malda belt by playing minority card to the hilt. That’s why a desperate attempt to protect the Muslim law-breakers,” says BJP leader Shamik Bhattacharya. On January 6, Bhattacharya was detained in English Bazar police station in Malda after he and other local BJP leaders wanted to visit Kaliachak area.
SP, Prasun Banerjee later said Kaliachak area was under prohibitory orders under section 144 and thus the BJP delegation was barred from visiting the locality. Incidentally there was no improvement in situation even five days later when on January 11, the three-member BJP central team comprising S S Ahluwalia, Bhupender Yadav and Ram Bilas Vedanti - all deputed by Amit Shah – were prevented at Malda railway station and put on Shatabdi Express for return to Kolkata.
BJP sensed political motives in all these. So did the CPI(M). While Prakash Karat and Sitaram Yechury have targeted Mamata Banerjee for overall failure in administration, Raiganj MP Mohammed Salim visited Chanchal area, second largest town in Malda district, on January 11and slammed Mamata for “minority appeasement”.
BJP MLA Shamik Bhattacharya has alleged district SP Prasun Banerjee of working as a Trinamool stooge. “He has been working as a district secretary of Trinamool and should be removed from his post,” he said. Another BJP leader from Malda district Srirupa Mitra Choudhury has urged the union Home Minister Rajnath Singh to visit Malda and Kaliachak soon.
On January 12, 2016, a BJP delegation led by Kailash Vijayvargiya met Rajnath Singh and urged him to take cognizance of the situation in Malda. The Home Ministry later decided to depute an official team to visit the violence-hit district.
In meeting with the Home Minister Rajnath, Vijayvargiya also alleged that “pro-Pakistan” slogans were raised by the mob. In a memorandum submitted to the Home Minister, the delegation demanded among other things that the Trinamool government in the state should be directed “to take positive steps to restore people’s sense of security and confidence”.
Trinamool Congress is on the defensive. But a shrewd in the art of politics – she and her party is building up a case trying to win friends like Nitish Kumar and Lalu Prasad in her battle against the BJP.
TMC MP, Derek O'Brien, also has gone on record to laud police role saying they have handled the situation “tactfully” – adding no one was hurt and 10 persons were arrested. But he agreed the issue in the border area is sensitive.
“BJP leaders are now stating this was opium and fake currency issue. This is what we have been saying all along. This is a sensitive issue in a border town and not a communal issue". Welcome to Didi’s ‘parivartan-land’.