Bengal: Already Suffering Post-Poll Violence, Many BJP Workers And Supporters Now Find Their Livelihood Taken Away As Well
As if the post-poll violence was not enough, the BJP workers are now facing an 'economic boycott' in Bengal.
The Trinamool Congress has opened a major and lethal front in its offensive against Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in Bengal. Not satisfied with the current attacks on political opponents (primarily BJP workers and supporters), the Trinamool has turned to dealing a blow to them by snatching away their livelihoods.
Trinamool strongmen have forced some owners and managers of industrial units employing BJP workers and supporters to sack them. The self-employed among the latter — masons, auto-rickshaw drivers, small traders, vendors, marginal farmers and even labourers — are being forced to stay away from work and from engaging in any sort of economic activities.
These men have thus been reduced to penury and most have become dependent on the charity of their friends, relatives and neighbours and are faced with an uncertain future. Also, most of them have had to flee their homes that have been ransacked and looted.
Swarajya met a few such young men from South 24 Parganas who have taken shelter at a BJP leader’s house in Kolkata. Here are their accounts:
Swarup Das, 28, resident of Banganagar at Fakta in Diamond Harbour, South 24 Parganas:
“I have been working in the packaging department of Akul Industries for the past eight years. I am a devout Hindu and have been organising religious festivals in my area. Over the past few years, I have organised pujas of Shree Ram and that drew the attention of some Muslim Trinamool leaders like the upapradhan of Banganagar Anchal 2 panchayat, Israfil Chakda.
“About a year and half ago, Trinamool goons picked me up along with some 40 other Hindu youths and took us to Israfil’s office. We were made to sign on blank papers. They took away my phone and got the contacts of all other Hindus who were in the forefront of organising religious festivals.
“They threatened to kill me and my family if I did not dissociate myself from the BJP. I used to drive an auto-rickshaw in my off-duty hours and they threatened to burn my vehicle. They said they would force me out of my job. I told them to do whatever they wanted.
“Before the (assembly) elections, Trinamool goons attacked some of us while we were engaged in party (BJP) work. We chased them away, but they lodged false cases against us. I had to flee from home and returned only last week.
“I went to work at Akul Industries (it makes sanitary pads for Johnson & Johnson) and last Friday (25 June), after work, Trinamool goons led by Sujauddin Sheikh accosted me outside the factory premises and threatened me. They asked me to stop coming to work and warned I would be killed if I dared to defy them.
“I called up the officer-in-charge of the Falta Police Station and told him about this, he said he’ll investigate. The next day (Saturday, 26 June) I could not report for work due to some personal reasons. When I went on Monday, I was told I would not be allowed to join work. The manager then told me I would be suspended for a week for remaining absent from work on Saturday.
“But I doubt if I will be able to join work after a week. Two years ago, 15 BJP supporters who were working with Akul Industries were suspended from work for a week for absenting themselves from work and were never taken back by the management due to pressure from Trinamool strongmen.
“I have a two-and-half year old child and don’t have any money to feed him. I’ve sent my wife and child away to my in-laws and my aged parents are alone at home with no support and money”.
Somnath Mistry, 28, resident of Banganagar No. 2 Anchal gram panchayat:
“I am the vice-president of the BJP mandal unit here. I had been facing many threats from local Trinamool goons over my association with the BJP.
“On 25 March, we were putting up party posters and banners when we were attacked by Trinamool goons. We resisted and managed to chase them away. But the Trinamool lodged a false case against us and the police came looking for me. My house was locked but they broke down the doors and took away many valuables, including my motorcycle.
“I work for a micro-finance company as a sales agent and without my bike, it is impossible for me to work. I have requested the police to return my bike, which they have not shown as ‘seized’, but they brush aside my pleas every time.
“Local Trinamool leaders have told me that only if I give it in writing that I will leave the BJP, I’ll get my motorcycle back. I told them without my bike I cannot work, they told me they couldn’t care less even if I starve to death.
“The EMIs for my bike are piling up and since I am not able to work, I am scared that the bank will seize my bike. That will be disastrous for me,” said Mistry.
Kallol Haldar, 26, resident of Harindanga No. 1 panchayat under Falta Police Station in Diamond Harbour:
“I have been associated with the RSS since my childhood and over the past few years, have been organising a daily ‘shakha’ at the local Panchanan mandir. Local Trinamool leaders, all of them Muslims, have been against this and had even warned me and my father a few times.
“Before the 2018 panchayat polls, they told my father that I will be killed if I continue to organise Hindu religious festivals and work for the RSS and the BJP. They even filed a false case against me, but I was acquitted by the court.
“On 3 May (the day after declaration of results), Trinamool gangsters under the direction of Najibul Sheikh, a close associate of Jahangir Khan (who is suspected of organising the attack on BJP president J P Nadda’s convoy in Diamond Harbour in December last year), attacked my house. They looted everything — ornaments belonging to my mother, my motorcycle, computer and printer and other valuables — and destroyed what they couldn’t take away. They destroyed a fish pond by pouring poison into it and hacked off fruit trees in my garden.
“My father worked as an assistant to a seresta (deed writer and clerk) in the Block Land & Land Records Office (BL&LRO). After the results, the seresta told him his services were no longer required. My mother used to work as an ASHA (accredited social health activist) worker, but she has also been told by panchayat workers (belonging to the Trinamool) that she need not work any longer.
“I also used to work as a helper of a seresta at the BL&LRO, and I have been told that if I am seen at that office, I will not return home alive.
“We have lost all valuables and have no source of income. We are surviving on the charity of some neighbours and relatives, but the Trinamool gangsters have now warned our neighbours against giving us food. I don’t know how my aged parents will survive.
“After the attack on my house, I have been staying at a safe shelter. If I return home I’ll be killed. And our means of livelihood is gone, we are ruined.”
Bilas Sardar, 30, resident of Sujapur in Falta Police Station:
“I had been working at a welding factory making iron grills and have been associated with the BJP since the 2019 Lok Sabha elections. I was beaten up after the elections that year and had faced many threats after that. A false case was also filed against me and I spent a few days in custody.
“I had been warned many times in the past that I will be out of work if I continue to work for the BJP. I disregarded those threats.
“But since 2 May, I haven’t been able to return home. The owner of the factory I used to work in told me that he won’t be able to employ me anymore since Trinamool leaders have told him that they would close down the factory if he employs me.
“My family has also been targeted and two of my three brothers who used to do odd jobs faced an ‘economic boycott’. They have recently gone away to another state in search of work. I have two daughters — one is seven years old and the other is a five-month-old infant. I have no money and have asked them to stay at my in-laws’ place. I am staring at a bleak future with no work”.
Dinabandhu Mandal, 33, resident of Chaluary under Falta Police Station:
“I am a yoga teacher and physiotherapist and my family — wife and two daughters aged 13 years and 10 months — are solely dependent on my earnings. I have been with the BJP since 2013.
“I have been receiving threats from Trinamool goons since 2018. The Trinamool goons used to come to my house and threaten me. Based on a false complaint lodged by them, I was arrested more than a year ago and was behind bars for 35 days more.
“Local Trinamool leaders Arun Majumder and Subrata Das (who are elected members of the local panchayat and panchayat samiti respectively) warned me that I will not be able to get any work if I continue to be associated with the BJP. I did not pay any heed, but over the last two months since the declaration of results, I have had no work.
“My family is on the verge of starvation and I don’t even have money to buy baby food for my infant daughter”.
Pannalal Haldar, resident of Basuldanga in Diamond Harbour community development block 1, is a daily labourer. So is Subhas Maity, a resident of Banganagar. Like countless other BJP workers and supporters, they have not been able to find work over the past two months.
Many of these BJP supporters and activists whose means of livelihood have been snatched away are being sheltered and given financial help by party leader and SinghaBahini president Devdutta Maji
Swarajya spoke to many more such people, but so great was the fear of the Trinamool and its goons that most of them did not want their names to be revealed. Of the few who were willing to come on record, just two agreed to come on camera. The rest said their families would be harmed if their videos are posted.
“We have received many reports of BJP workers and supporters being sacked from their jobs and not getting any work from many parts of the state, especially South Bengal. Many families of our workers and supporters are facing a Trinamool-imposed economic boycott. This amounts to a gross violation of human rights,” said leader of opposition Suvendu Adhikari.
“This snatching away of the livelihoods of our workers and supporters by Trinamool is deliberate and brutal,” he added.
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