Mamata Banerjee of “triggering riots” and “burning trains” to stop the law. Hate speech by a section of senior BJP leaders and ministers was seen as a key reason for the violence in Delhi that flared up earlier this week. It started as clashes between supporters and opponents of the law meant to expedite citizenship to non-Muslim refugees from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh who had to flee due to religious persecution. But soon, the violence flew. For more than four days, goons armed with iron rods, stones and hockey sticks took to the streets thrashing, burning and looting. By the end of it, 46 people were dead and more than 250 were injured.he reverberations of the Delhi violence that were fuelled by hate speeches is still continuing. The hate spewing ‘Goli Maro’ slogan was heard near a rally in Kolkata. The rally was addressed by Amit Shah who spoke in favour of the contentious citizenship law and accused Chief Minister
In Kolkata, the circumstances reflect the same pattern. For weeks, the city has been witnessing several Shaheen Bagh-inspired sit-in protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act. The Chief Minister who has been one of the vocal opponents of the law held several marches against it in the city and its outskirts. The suggestion of the use of bullets against “traitors” and “terrorists” used to describe protesters against the CAA and NRC came from a huge section of senior BJP leaders and ministers in the run-up to the Delhi assembly election held last month. But after the Arvind Kejriwal government returned to power with another overwhelming majority, Amit Shah had admitted the possibility that the hate speeches had contributed to the BJP’s dismal performance.
The cycle of political violence in West Bengal portends to persist long after the 2019 general elections are over. It may actually turn worse even if the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) manages to make a perceptible dent in the vote bank of the Trinamool Congress (TMC) for contradictions give birth to confrontation and there are no dearth of contradictions in West Bengal’s politics which has been centred around the TMC till now. The factors that lead to violence are all intact and both the parties, it seems, are ready to fight it out both politically and physically on the streets.
As a matter of fact, the TMC is now not too sure of the support of the huge chunk of Muslim voters that it has enjoyed so far. The composition of the Muslim vote bank in West Bengal is a little curious. The most aggressive of them are those who came in from Bangladesh and are heavily influenced by the Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islam and the Urdu speaking Muslims of Kolkata and its adjacent industrial areas. Many of the latter group comprises those who had shifted to East Pakistan as Muhajirs after Independence, but had to come back to West Bengal after the birth of Bangladesh. BJP making dent in TMCs vote bank may exacerbate the situation.
The TMC, through various religious leaders and opinion-makers, has managed to keep them on its side, while the rest of the Muslim population comprising ‘indigenous’ Bengali Muslims, mostly small and landless farmers have been led by their brethren. But the situation is changing fast particularly because indigenous Bengali Muslims are afraid of a Hindu backlash. They are now coming out into the open pleading for peaceful co-existence. Now with the BJP getting stronger in the state, the TMC is trying to strike a fine balance between the two communities. But public memory is not as short as it is believed to be. While there are possibilities of a communal rift and clashes, the TMC is likely to lose its lead role as the arbiter. The Muslims may seek other power centres for protection.
What’s more, a divide between the Muslims of West Bengal and the aggressive infiltrators and Urdu-speakers may make the situation easier for BJP while TMC will never be able to recover from the loss of its oldest ally in the state. The ‘indigenous’ Muslims shifted their allegiance from the CPM to the TMC during the Nandigram uprising in 2006-07. Nandigram is a Muslim-dominated area. Two, the TMC has triggered a dangerous game of brinkmanship. It did so by changing the political narrative just before the last phase of polling. Since the ‘bhadralok’ would rather prefer democracy, a goon-free system and clean and impartial governance which the TMC cannot provide at short notice, Banerjee changed the tone and tenor of her tirades against Modi and BJP president Amit Shah. As the Lok Sabha polls draw to a close, the perception that the TMC only has time till the 2021 Assembly elections is growing strong. So, the factions, who are not in a position to control the syndicates and other avenues of making money are getting increasingly fidgety.
Political observers across party lines are sure that even if the BJP becomes a force to reckon with in the state, as long as the TMC has the power to hand out state doles, it will have ample supplies of musclemen and hangers-on who depend solely on ‘state funding’. And since the BJP has proved this time that it’s not going to retreat in the face of violence, the clashes are going to be bloodier in the not-so-distant future. It seems both the TMC and the BJP have created a political demon that feeds on the never-ending cycle of violence in the state. In the 2014 Lok Sabha elections, 16 political workers were killed across India in poll-related violence; seven of them were in West Bengal. Between 1999 and 2016, violence in West Bengal saw 365 politically motivated murders. Every phase has had its own share of headlines for violence that was unleashed on and around the polling day. Murders, clashes, stone pelting, lathi charge, firing were then the call of the day.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), Trinamool Congress and the Left parties have been accusing each other of attacking and murdering their workers and supporters. This cycle of accusations and counter-accusations did not come up all of a sudden. But in the immediate context, it started in the run-up to the Panchayat elections that were held in West Bengal last year.
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