Demographic Timebomb In Bengal: Time For Mamata To Wake Up And Smell The Poppy

R Jagannathan

Jan 12, 2016, 11:50 AM | Updated Feb 12, 2016, 05:28 PM IST

Malda is another reminder that West Bengal is slipping towards extremism in the name of secularism

The violence in Malda, where a mob torched a police station in Kaliachak, attacked a block development office, ransacked some Hindu homes and set some 35 vehicles on fire, cannot but be communal. A communal incident does not need two communities to battle on the streets to qualify as one; the mere fact that one community did all the attacking and mayhem, allegedly as revenge for one Kamlesh Tiwari’s unsavoury comments about the Prophet, makes it communal. So Mamata Banerjee is clearly running scared of calling a spade a spade by declaring that the Kaliachak attack was not communal.

However, no matter how you label this kind of unacceptable behaviour by misguided Muslim mobs, the implications for the Indian Union and the state of West Bengal are clear: it is an indirect assertion by a so-called minority group that it now has the numbers to call the shots. It is a recognition of the demography of Malda, which is now a clear Muslim majority district after the 2011 census, with two million Muslims to 1.9 million Hindus. Along with Murshidabad and North Dinajpur (two of which have borders with both Bangaldesh and Bihar), this is the new Muslim hub that connects the Muslim parts of Bihar with Muslim Bangladesh. It is the kind of multi-country ethnic corridor that terrorists dream about.

Malda’s is a demography that cannot be wished away, and it is – not surprisingly – also the new crime hub of the east, with everything from illegal opium cultivation to human trafficking to the distribution of fake currency notes now part of the ecosystem.

The Malda attacks cannot also be brushed under the carpet for it was a clear attempt to overawe the Indian state by Muslim mobs that felt threatened by recent attempts to curb their illegal activities – obviously for economic and anti-national ends. Having attacked a police station and a government office, the thugs will be hoping that they have managed to scare the daylights out of the administration, which will now be wary of taking further action against them.

With elections just a few months away, Kaliachak is a message to Mamata Banerjee, who has left no stone unturned to appease Muslims in her state in order to grab their block vote, that if she uses the law to hinder their activities, their vote may go elsewhere. The mob that gathered in Kaliachak on 3 January was essentially goaded into violence using Tiwari’s comments as bait, but the real objective was to intimidate the government. Sadly, they seem to be succeeding with the Mamata Banerjee government, which owes its overwhelming majority to the Muslim vote.

Given the sorry state of Indian secularism, where the term is more about turning a blind eye to minority communalism and provocations than the state being neutral to religious pulls and pressures, one cannot expect this hypocrisy to be called out in the media. Mail Today seems to be an honourable exception. None of the major English dailies has really tried to probe Malda upto any level of depth.

This attack on the state in Malda should be seen in conjunction with recent efforts by terrorists under the direct control of the Pakistan army to attack the Pathankot air base – with a critical defender of the Indian state being sought to be compromised.

There can be little doubt that jihadi forces are trying to cobble together a new effort to undermine India, whether it is on the western borders or the eastern one. The fact that the entire corridor running from Bangladesh to north Bengal to eastern Bihar is Muslim-dominated is clearly a cause for concern, for terrorism can breed easily in these troubled waters, where grievances can be invested at the drop of a fez. Intelligence must be increased to gather data on anti-national activities, and the two states must stop pretending that it is only the “communal” NDA government that is trying to polarise voters.

Two anonymous quotes, one from a police officer, and another by a Trinamool politician, both published by Mail Today, emphasise the real nature of the Malda violence. The police official said: “The entire violence was carried out to terrorise the local administration which is trying to crack down on the poppy empire, take revenge against the police and destroy crucial evidence at the police station.” The unnamed Trinamool Congress politician had this to add: “The place has become a mini Afghanistan. It is a very sensitive matter and the assembly election is knocking on the door. All I can say is that the situation in Kaliachak is really alarming.”

Assuming these quotes are for real, we have a police officer telling it like it is, and a Trinamool leader essentially admitting that Didi is going to be driven more by electoral considerations than anything else. Poppy is exactly the kind of crop used by terrorists to generate money for nefarious activities in every part of the world, and Malda is no exception. The money will be used against India.

Demography is clearly working against India in these parts.

An article by Janet Levy titled “The Muslim Takeover of West Bengal” makes for stark reading, though we refuse to acknowledge most of it. Levy wrote at the beginning of this year, when Malda was not in sight: “At partitioning, the Muslim population of West Bengal stood at 12 percent and the Hindu population of East Bengal 30 percent. Today, with massive Muslim immigration, Hindu persecution and forced conversions, West Bengal’s Muslim population has increased to 27 percent (up to 63 percent in some districts), as per the 2011 census, and Bangladesh’s Hindu population has decreased to 8 percent. While the situation for Hindus in Bangladesh is certainly dire, life has become increasingly difficult for Hindus in West Bengal, home to a Muslim-appeasing government and a breeding ground and safe haven for terrorists. For several years, West Bengal has suffered under apparent Muslim-planned riots designed to implement shariah, extract government concessions and grab more territory.”

It is interesting to note that Fox News, a Christian channel not know to be friendly to India, has been taking note of the cost Hindus pay for rising Islamism in the country. Titled, Muslim persecution of Hindus in India: The story you won’t see in the western mainstream media‘ the article is a bit off the mark by calling it “persecution of Hindus”, but the Muslim majority districts of north Bengal will surely understand what it is all about.

Time for Mamata Banerjee to wake up and smell the poppy grown in her own backyard.

Jagannathan is Editorial Director, Swarajya. He tweets at @TheJaggi.

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