Hooghly Violence: Why The ‘Taunt Theory’ Floated by Bengal Police To Justify Attack On Hindus Does Not Hold Water

Swarajya Staff

May 14, 2020, 02:58 PM | Updated 06:41 PM IST

The area after the mob attack.
The area after the mob attack.
  • Even if this theory is to be believed, it provides a good insight into the prevailing situation in Bengal, where even a taunt can lead Muslims to attack Hindus and loot and torch properties belonging to Hindus.
  • If the Bengal government is to be believed, it was a taunt (read this) that led to the horrific attacks by armed Muslim mobs on houses and business establishments belonging to Hindus at Telinipara and Chandannagar on late Sunday evening and again on early Tuesday afternoon.

    Chandannagar Police Commissioner Humayun Kabir, an IPS officer considered to be close to Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, was the first to come up with this. He told the media that some Hindus subjected a small group of Muslim men to ‘corona’ taunt.

    That angered the Muslims, who then attacked the Hindus with socket bombs, gas cylinders fitted with detonators, swords and other lethal weapons, and iron rods and bricks.

    Kabir was removed as Murshidabad district police chief by the Election Commission before the 2014 Lok Sabha polls on charges of favouring the ruling Trinamool Congress. He said that some Hindu men hurled the taunt after a few Muslims from the Urdi Bazar in Chandannagar had recently tested positive for Covid-19.

    As per the Bengal government’s implausible ‘taunt theory’, the insulted and enraged Muslims returned to their locality and informed others of the community about the taunt. A few hotheads then carried out a retaliatory attack on Hindus, but police intervened promptly and peace was restored.

    Even if this theory is to be believed, it provides a good insight into the prevailing situation in Bengal, where even a taunt can lead Muslims to attack Hindus and loot and torch properties belonging to Hindus.

    Kabir also said that after taunting the group of Muslim men, Hindus blocked access to a public toilet that is used by Muslims. The latter objected and the verbal clash that ensued snowballed into a communal clash.

    That, however, is nearer to the truth, say local people. Hooghly Lok Sabha Member of Parliament Locket Chatterjee and others say that after some Muslims who returned from a pilgrimage to Ajmer very recently tested positive for Covid-19, people of Chandannagar became alert and tried to restrict entry of outsiders into their localities.

    “Muslims were roaming around wantonly and Hindus got alarmed. The Hindus of Chandannagar felt the Muslims were deliberately roaming around all over the place to spread the deadly virus and ensure a lot of people got infected. So Hindus erected barricades to protect themselves. Muslims broke through the barricades and attacked Hindus on late Sunday evening for erecting the barricades,” said Chatterjee.

    Chatterjee explained that police inaction on Sunday evening emboldened the Muslims and they launched a fresh wave of attack on late Tuesday morning. Tuesday’s attack involved bombs and was more ferocious. Chatterjee said Tuesday’s attack was premeditated and well-planned.

    Police Commissioner Kabir said on Wednesday that a huge quantity of explosives has been seized. “Our bomb squads are there. As of now, we have recovered petrol bombs and socket bombs. They have also used cylinders as explosives.”

    “The recovery of explosives points to the fact that one particular community stockpiles weapons and explosives. Why is that so? This is a grave failure on the part of the police. How can explosives be stockpiled under the nose of the police, and that too during the ongoing lockdown” asked BJP national secretary Rahul Sinha.

    The police’s actions after the deadly attacks also smack of bias and subterfuge, and a desperate attempt to conceal the truth and give out a false version of the unfortunate happenings at Chandannagar, charged Lok Sabha MP Chatterjee.

    “The state government imposed an Internet ban only in order to ensure that the truth does not come out. People all over the country got to know about the horrifying attacks on Hindus on Tuesday and how properties belonging to Hindus were attacked and set ablaze. The state government wants to prevent a repeat of that. We do not know what is happening at Telinipara and Chandannagar,” said Chatterjee.

    She claimed that an uneasy calm prevails in the affected areas, and Hindus are living in fear of more attacks. She also alleged that Hindus who had erected barricades to prevent entry of outsiders into their localities were being arrested.

    “The indiscriminate and one-sided arrests have spread fear and led people to believe that the police are biased. This bias, they apprehend, will embolden Sunday night’s and Tuesday afternoon’s attackers to launch another wave of attacks,” the MP said.

    The gagging of the local media (see this tweet) by the Hooghly district administration (Chandannagar is in Hooghly district) has also raised doubts about the state’s intentions. The gag order issued by the district magistrate also includes visuals of violence and statements about it by politicians.

    “This is a blatant attempt to browbeat the local media and stop it from presenting the truth,” said Lok Sabha MP Chatterjee.

    Incidentally, the same ‘objectionable remark’ theory was floated by the police in Malda district also. Harishchandrapur in that district witnessed fierce violence on Sunday night. According to earlier newspaper reports like this, the violence there occurred after Hindus of a village named Chandipur sealed their area with barricades.

    The barricades were erected after 12 Muslim residents of nearby Manikbari who had returned from Ajmer recently tested Covid-19 positive. But the people of Manikbari were reportedly flouting the lockdown imposed by the local administration and were frequenting Chandipur in large numbers.

    In order to protect themselves, the residents of Chandipur erected barricades to prevent entry of outsiders into their village. Muslim residents of Manikbari, who reportedly depend on a market in Chandipur for essentials, objected and that led to an attack on Chandipur. Several houses and shops belonging to Hindus were looted.

    But the Malda police floated a ‘communal remark’ theory (see this tweet) that was quite similar to the one floated by the Chandannagar police commissioner. The Bengal Police’s desperate attempts to push this theory is evident from this tweet from the state police’s official handle terming two posts by BJP national general secretary Kailash Vijayvarghiya and BJP IT cell in-charge Amit Malviya as ‘fake’.

    While many wondered if it was the job of Bengal police to respond to and refute social media posts of politicians, others pointed out that the justification for attacks on Hindus laid out by the state authorities reveals a darker side to the situation prevailing in the state.

    “If the police version is to be believed, it points to a dangerous situation in Bengal where Muslims attack Hindus over ‘remarks’. Remarks, manufactured and untrue, are used by Muslims in Pakistan to attack minority Hindus there. The situation in Bengal is thus akin to what prevails in Pakistan,” pointed out a senior BJP leader.

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