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India - Violence in 24 Parganas: Competing communalisms

by Shamsul Islam, 11 July 2017

print version of this article print version - 11 July 2017

Whenever Muslim localities and properties were attacked as revenge against some objectionable posts by some Muslims, or Muslims were targeted for allegedly carrying beef, public opinion generally decried such engineered violence.


RSS, the leading flag-bearer of the Hindutva politics and the most significant motivating spirit behind Modi government at the Centre and BJP State governments has been demanding cleansing of minorities like Muslims and Christians for being foreigners. Even after Independence, the most prominent ideologue of the RSS, Guru Golwalkar, declared Muslims and Christians as ‘Internal Threats’ number ONE and TWO respectively (Bunch of Thoughts, p. 177). RSS, its leaders and cadres always propagated the theory that Hindus were at perpetual war with these two minorities specially Muslims. It was reiterated recently by none other than a senior RSS leader and current Governor of Tripura, Tathagata Roy who in a tweet wrote, “The Hindu-Muslim problem won’t b solved without a Civil War”. He claimed that it was from the diary dated January 10, 1946 of the Hindutva icon, Syama Prasad Mookerjee. It may be noted that Mookerjee closely worked with the Muslim League in serving the British rule and was deputy CM in the Muslim League ministry of Bengal in 1942 when Congress was banned. Tathagata’s digging up of the above quote shows that he believes in its relevance today.

The recent brazen unhindered violence at Baduria and adjoining Basirhat in West Bengal’s North 24 Parganas district, perpetrated by the marauding Muslim mobs targeting common Hindus while protesting against an objectionable post denigrating Islam, its Prophet and holy place by a teenager Hindu of the area proves that apart from the protagonists of Hindutva politics there are criminal elements among Muslims who want Tathagata Roy to be proved right.

This violence targeting innocent Hindus not only weakens the democratic-secular narrative against rising Hindutva violence against Muslims, Christians and Dalits but provides RSS another opportunity to pose as defender of the ‘persecuted’ Hindus. This fact cannot be ignored that whenever mobs inspired by Hindutva politics attacked the whole of the Muslim community for any ‘crime’ of a Muslim individual or group like massacre of Muslims in Gujarat in 2002 as revenge for burning of train coaches at Godhra, the same was hugely condemned. Whenever, Muslim localities and properties were attacked as revenge against some objectionable posts by some Muslims or latter targetted for some Muslim carrying ‘beef’, the public opinion generally decried such engineered violence.

This area has no history of violence between Hindus and Muslims, not even in pre-Partition days. The present violence is the outcome of tussle for supremacy between a Muslim ‘strongman’ who is patronized by TMC and a Hindu ‘strongman’ backed by BJP/RSS. Both of them present themselves as saviours of their respective communities. The saddest part was the criminal attitude of the law and order machinery of the area. The controversial FB posting had gone viral three days prior to the attacks on Hindus. Police and higher district officials remained mute spectators to this. It seems as if they were waiting for this kind of flare up so that polarization is complete.

Muslim mobs which roamed freely attacking Hindus and destroying their properties for couple of days claimed that they were doing it for saving the honour of Islam. The honour of Islam seemed to be so shallow and vulnerable that a FB post would destroy it. This is height of hypocrisy. Moreover, this zeal for saving the honour of Islam did not extend beyond the boundaries of an Assembly constituency. Muslims beyond this limited area did not bother about it. Does it mean that only Muslims of this segment were true Muslims? The fact was that it was not a religious issue but a ploy to settle political feuds.

This lawlessness and criminal attacks by a section of Muslims in 24 Parganas also shows how plethora of Islamic organizations/institutions which are found in dozens in every Muslim mohallah, though claiming to be guardians of Muslims and Islam, are least bothered about strategic ends of the community. They waste their time and energy in fighting against rights of Muslim women and enforcing sharia (which one out of hundreds nobody knows) having no appetite for building up an egalitarian and secular community.

It is unfortunate that when the violent attacks of Hindutva organizations on minorities are under serious scrutiny in India and abroad the communal Muslims by indulging is senseless violence against Hindus are providing legitimacy to Hindutva terror.

It is true that during this period of violence against Hindus there many examples when Muslims saved and sheltered their Hindu neighbours. It may be true that those who perpetrated violence against Hindus came from outside. But it does not reduce the degree of culpability of local Muslims. They should have fought these criminal elements and saved their neighbours. This would have strengthened the secular fabric of our country and denied any legitimacy to the politics of polarization. Unfortunately, we are witnessing a sad scenario when Muslim communalists seem to be competing with Hindutva communalists in undoing democratic-secular India.
Shamsul Islam


An edited version of the above article has appeared in The Indian Express of July 11, 2017