25th March was an auspicious occasion for the entire Indian peninsula, when the parv (festival) of Ramanavami, celebrated on the occasion of the birth of India’s beloved deity Shri Ram, was celebrated with great gusto throughout the country. Saffron was in the air as large processions, bathed in saffron, carried out huge rallies in support of their deity and strengthened their resolve of building the Ram Janmbhoomi Mandir in Ayodhya.
Even West Bengal, which is currently infested by hooliganism, corruption and excessive minority appeasement, witnessed a huge saffron surge on this occasion, with various right wing groups carrying out large processions in the honor of Shri Ram. Needless to say, this didn’t go down too well with the incumbent government and the criminals, who hit back with full force for defying the diktat of not celebrating Ramnavami. Their response, as explained below, was brutal.
The Ram Navami procession was in full swing. The procession was taken out under full police protection from the Beldi village. Having completed its desired trajectory, the procession was returning through the minority-dominated village of Bhursa, and this was where all hell broke loose. Unidentified goons started pelting stones and hurling petrol bombs at the procession. Not the ones to take such insults lying down now, the people participating in the procession retaliated leading to communal clashes. This left one man dead, as per the official records, and five police officials seriously injured, including Deputy SP (Headquarters) of the district Subrata Pal. Ignoring the pleas of people carrying out the procession, the RAF personnel lathicharged the protesters instead of the actual criminals, injuring more than ten protesters as per the official records.
Raniganj riots turned out to be more murky and horrifying than the previous one. In this case, the procession was taken out by members of Bajrang Dal, VHP and other right wing outfits. As soon as it reached the Muslim-dominated district of Bardhaman, the processions suffered a concerted attack of stones, petrol bombs, swords etc. Many shops and homes were set on fire, and the goons pulled out Hindus from their homes and flogged them severely. They also set the Ram Navami pandal ablaze, injuring four people in the chaos.
Unlike the previous case, the police courageously resisted the onslaught. However, this came at a heavy price. While one civilian died, four policemen were injured, including the IPS Officer and Deputy Commissioner Arindam Dutta Chaudhary. His right hand was almost severed by a crude bomb thrown on him, leaving only some flesh intact. Chaudhary was heading the combat forces when the fugitives hurled the bomb at him.
To quote an officer present, on the condition of anonymity, “Asansol-Durgapur Deputy Commissioner of Police Arindam Dutta Chowdhury was injured in the incident. He lost a hand when the agitators hurled a bomb at him. He has been admitted to a private hospital.”
Under attack for being insensitive to the issue, chief minister Mamata Banerjee shot back, saying, ‘Have you ever seen Lord Ram with a sword? Does Lord Ram instruct his supporters to carry weapons?’ Such brazen insensitivity on the account of the West Bengal chief minister evokes disdain rather than empathy or support. People seem to have noticed her silence over the rise of incessant terror attacks and the illegal immigration of Bangladeshis, especially the Rohingya community, in large, unaccounted numbers.
At a time, when the CM should’ve shown some spirit and made an attempt to restore law and order, her insensitive comments only add fuel to the fire, further denting her image in the run-up to the 2019 Lok Sabha elections.
However, Mamata’s defense is just the tip of the iceberg. The West Bengal Police is also hand in glove with the West Bengal government, accusing the victims themselves of foul play. Having been accused of lathi-charging the victims instead of the perpetrators when they protested, the cops shot back, accusing the procession bearers of disturbing peace by intentionally passing through minority dominated areas. They even accused the procession bearers of flashing swords and pistols during the procession, and initiated proceedings against the BJP state women’s wing head Locket Chatterjee for brandishing a ‘trishul’ at a Birbhum rally.
Even if one agrees with Mamata’s accusations, are armed rallies not a part of festivals like Muharram and Id-e-Milad? Why be biased only towards Hindu festivals?
But we tend to forget that this is the same West Bengal government which has unsuccessfully tried to hide the treachery and foul play of incidents such as the Dhulagarh riots, the Basirhat riots etc. We can now add the Raniganj riots to the list.
All in all, the Raniganj riots are a testimony to the complete failure of the government machinery. The way people are being ridiculed and tortured for celebrating Hindu festivals is not what describes the ethos of a multicultural West Bengal. Mamata Banerjee should understand this and act hard on the perpetrators, failing which she might fall prey to the very Frankensteins she has created to sustain her rule.