Source: News Bharati English15 Jan 2017 11:37:10

by Col (Rtd) Dipangshu Chaudhury

 

The secular and religiously tolerant Constitution Of India with broad religious representation in various aspects of society including the government, the active role played by autonomous bodies such as NHRC and National Commission Of Minorities and the ground-level work being out by Non-governmental organisations, sporadic and sometimes serious acts of religious violence tend to occur as the root causes of religious violence often run deep in history, religious activities, and politics of India.Historical records of religious violence are extensive for medieval India, in the form of corpus written by numerous Muslim historians. Will Durant states that Hindus were historically persecuted during Islamic rule of the Indian Subcontinent. The total number of deaths of this period are usually attributed to the figure by Prof KS Lal, who estimated that between the years 1000 AD and 1500 AD the population of Hindus decreased by 80 million.Religious violence in medieval India began in centuries before the start of Delhi Sultanate, with the raids by Turko-Mongol, Persian and Afghan armies. It intensified during Delhi Sultanate, continued through Mughal Empire, and then in the British colonial period.

We are no better now. The siege continues now with sometimes indirect and sometimes direct support of government like in West Bengal, a border state sharing 2217 km with  Bangladesh and change in the demographic profile slowly with forced systemic plan.

For around 150 residents in areas like Banerjee Para and Munshipara at Dhulagarh in Howrah district, 27 km from Kolkata, this new year was no occasion for celebrations.

It is 20 days since their houses were set afire. It all started on December 13, during a procession on the occasion of Milad-Un-Nabi. While the police are tight-lipped, residents gave two versions. Those who took out the procession say that though it was a peaceful one, stones were pelted on them. They used loudspeakers during the procession. But the volume was increased when they were passing by a nearby temple and a house wherein a son had just lost their father and mourning. Still, they insisted we take a detour. When we tried to reason it out, they started throwing stones at us," Md Ruhul Amin, a local, said. However, as per police records, they were denied permission in that route where they were passing through implies they had plans to provoke and incite violence.Swati Malla, a local from Banerjee Para said "There was an unwritten rule here that people should keep away from other communities' places of worship during religious processions. This was violated on December 13 and that sparked the riot.Properties worth lakhs of rupees belonging to Hindu communities were destroyed. Kankan Mall, a housewife in her fifties, said that she had lost everything after rioters burnt down her two-storey house. She took refuge in one of her relatives' house in the vicinity but keeps on returning to her place. "Nothing. Absolutely nothing had been spared. I was asked to leave the house on that day, and as soon as I left, people doused it with petrol and set it afire. I didn't even have another set of clothes to wear. The house was soon engulfed in a huge ball of fire, and by the time firefighters came and brought it under control, shells of concretes started coming off the ceiling.

Neighbours said that Kankan had lost her mental sanity and roams about the burnt house for hours together, muttering to herself. "Her sister-in-law, at whose place she, her husband and son had taken refuge, takes her back. My husband and son are embroidered and are now out of business. I expect people to return soon, demanding compensation," she said.

More than 128 residential units other than shops have been razed in this area. Those were rented out to people who had come to the district from across the state. Naru Gopal Das from East Midnapore district is one. He works at the vegetable market here and had rented a place which was destroyed in the riot. "The experience was spine-chilling. I was staying there alone at that time and left the place in the nick of time," he said.

In Banerjee Para, many have taken shelter in temples and are living on donations from the neighborhood. "We have helped them with woolen clothes and blankets and have pooled money to provide for food for those who have lost homes and have been forced to live in temples," said a 50-plus resident here.

Most shops in the adjacent market are still shut. "I don't know if I should open my shop. I have set it up with a lot of hard work and now I don't want it to be a target of any such violence," said one shop owner.

Among those whose property were burnt is Asim Khanra, a member of the Dhulagari Gram Panchayat. "My house was robbed and burnt and my losses are about Rs 8 lakh," he told me when I had visited them on 18 Jan 2017 The state government has announced a meager compensation package of Rs 35,000 to each family. "Since I am a Gram Panchayat member, I cannot even question the government," he said. Mostly the Hindu sufferers are all from the ruling TMC party and the perpetrators were also from the same party.They were of the view that during this carnage their religion held precedence over the party colour and it was probably a pre-decided plan of ethnic cleansing to force them out from these place to forcibly occupy the property as done in East Pakistan prior to 1971. The losses are huge and complete houses were burnt and property looted by the Muslims. Not a single house including pukka houses was left untouched. There were approx about 600/700 bloodthirsty Muslims entering each Hindu houses raising war cry “Pakistan Zindabad” and “Jihad” and hurling petrol bombs after allowing the residents to flee. Petrol bombs were bought in two ambulances which were following the mob.The police including the SP and DSP stood as spectators as mob outnumbered them. The DSP was even hurt when a bomb was hurled at him.

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, as usual, today denied any incident of rioting at Dhulagarh in Howrah district and alleged that “wrong information” was being given on social media. “In the last 15 days, social media is running wrong information on an incident which did not take place at all,” CM said at a programme in an apparent reference to the reports of violence in Dhulagarh, which is barely 14 km from the state secretariat.

The present environment in West Bengal is claustrophobic and the role of the State Government is draconian and difficult for any normal activity in the State. There is a complete political and social intolerance in the State and it's sad to witness the complete bureaucracy and law and order machinery are just mute spectators and lawlessness and crime perpetrates against the Hindus.

COL D CHAUDHURY(Retd) IS FOUNDER CHAIRMAN OF SWADHIKAR BANGLA FOUNDATION