The widespread attack on Hindus in Muslim-majority areas of Mominpur and Ekbalpore in southwest Kolkata on Sunday (9 October) was not an isolated incident.
Hindus who bore the brunt of the attacks by Muslim mobs fear that the larger objective was to scare them and ultimately drive them away from the Muslim-majority areas.
That is why, they say, their homes and business establishments were attacked and torched.
The larger game plan, they fear, is to drive fear into them and also make life difficult for them so that they are ultimately forced to leave the area and migrate to safer places.
The ‘Blasphemy’ Bogey
The attacks were triggered by rumours about some flags put up on the occasion of Milad-un-Nabi (the birth anniversary of Prophet Mohammed) along Mayurbhanj Road (in Mominpur) being uprooted by Hindus.
Hindus — both Bengali- and Hindi-speaking — of the area dispute that.
Some say that one Islamic flag was taken down by the Muslims themselves while others say that objections were raised by Hindus after Muslims tried to supplant Islamic flags over some saffron flags bearing images of the trishul and Om.
While the ongoing probe by the Kolkata Police will reveal the actual sequence of events, there is no doubt that the rumour that Hindus had desecrated the Islamic flag was spread.
Ramakant Shaw, a local resident, told Swarajya that no Hindu would dare to uproot and damage an Islamic flag, and that too in a Muslim-majority area.
“As it is, we lead quite uncomfortable lives in Mominpur. There is always some fear in us about being subjected to attacks and ill-treatment by a section of Muslims who have become quite aggressive over the past few years. Given that, it is very unlikely that a Hindu will muster the courage to take down an Islamic flag,” he said.
All Because Of A Durga Puja Pandal?
Some say that trouble erupted because of refusal by Hindus to remove a Durga Puja pandal near Jnan Chandra Ghosh Polytechnic College. The puja is organised by Dalits of the area under the banner of the Harijan Durgotsav Committee.
Muslims had asked the committee to dismantle the pandal after Durga Puja was over last week. But the organisers of the puja had refused to do so since in Bengal Durga Puja pandals are dismantled only after Lakshmi Puja is conducted at the same spot where Devi Durga is worshipped.
The Hindus reportedly told the Muslims that the pandal would be dismantled only after Lakshmi Puja on Sunday (9 October). But Sunday was also Milad-un-Nabi and the Muslims did not want the pandal in their neighbourhood.
Idol worship is considered shirk — an unforgivable sin punishable by death — in Islam.
“To even set one’s eyes on an idol or anything associated with idol-worship (like a Durga Puja pandal), especially on an auspicious occasion (like Milad-un-Nabi) is considered undesirable and a sin by conservative Muslims or Islamists,” explained a scholar of Islamic studies who did not want to be named.
That is why, said the scholar, some Islamists would have asked organisers of the Durga Puja to dismantle the pandal. That would also have ensured that Lakshmi Puja is not held at the pandal.
This version gains credence from the fact that Islamists targeted the Durga Puja pandal and ransacked it on Sunday (watch visuals of Islamists destroying the pandal in this tweet). The immediate target, thus, was the Durga Puja pandal.
But the Islamists did not stop there. They lodged false complaints against the organisers of the Durga Puja — all of them Dalits — and blamed the organisers for creating communal tension. The objective here was very sinister: to ensure that this particular Durga Puja is not held in future.
That’s because the police generally refuse to grant permission to organise Durga Pujas that have run into trouble.
“Next year (2023), some Muslims of the area may tell the police that since this particular Durga Puja sparked communal clashes in 2022, permission to hold it should not be granted,” said a local BJP leader who also did not wish to be named.
The attacks on Hindus thus seems to be part of a strategy. It conforms to the script that’s followed in such cases.
The step-by-step procedures intrinsic to such plans are:
Drive fear among Hindus and make them live in constant fear.
Make their lives difficult by targeting them constantly by various means like petty thefts, harassment, eve-teasing and molestation of womenfolk, throwing garbage at their doorsteps etc.
Weaponise false charges of blasphemy (like desecration of Quran or insult to Islam) to carry out attacks on Hindus.
Target Hindu shops and business establishments to deny them means of livelihood.
Target places of worship of Hindus.
Force Hindus directly or indirectly to restrict pujas and rituals.
Make observance of Hindu festivals difficult.
All these will ultimately force Hindus to consider moving out of the Muslim-majority areas.
The trauma of the Hindus does not end there: when they (Hindus) ultimately make up their minds about moving out in order to save their honour and lives, they are forced to sell off their properties and businesses at dirt cheap rates to Muslims.
The successful implementation of such well-planned ethnic cleansing has been witnessed in Bangladesh and Pakistan where the population of Hindus has decreased very starkly since 1947.
This has also been witnessed in some parts of India, most notably in Kashmir. And also Muslim-majority areas in other states, including the areas along the India-Bangladesh border in Bengal as well as in Assam.
BJP leaders and Hindu residents of the areas that witnessed communal violence thus seem justified in rejecting the contention of the Bengal government and that the attacks on Hindus were isolated incidents. Their fear that the attacks were part of a larger sinister plan against Hindus may well be true.
Jaideep Mazumdar is an associate editor at Swarajya.
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