West Bengal > CAUGHT into the vortex of competitive communalism, West Bengal witnessed bloody clashes, attacks and violence during Ram Navami celebrations. Though celebrated in parts of Bengal, this religious programme was not so widespread traditionally in the state. Last year, the entire environment changed rapidly as RSS-BJP-VHP and their related organisations organised Ram Navami processions with clear political overtones. Arms were profusely exhibited in those processions and communal slogans were raised.
This year, the TMC jumped into the bandwagon. The ruling party in the state organised Hanuman puja months ago and in the last week of March got fully involved in organising Ram Navami processions. Shedding all qualms, TMC leaders and activists organised grand shows with saffron flags and head bands. Same saffron flags, banners, photos, slogans were used in both RSS-BJP and TMC programmes. The processions, in many cases, carried arms like swords, knives, sticks and as was revealed later, even fire arms. In some processions, children were seen carrying those arms. Provocative and non-religious slogans were raised. In some places, TMC and BJP leaders walked in the same procession.
Violence erupted in Kakinara in North 24 Parganas from a procession initially led by local TMC MLA and a strongman, Arjun Singh. Resulting clashes led to death of a street hawker, burning of houses and shops. Miscreants vandalised the statue of Maulana Abul Kalam Azad. The violence led to closure of two jute mills. In Purulia, clashes broke out and a person was killed. In Raniganj in West Burdwan district, violence erupted and bombs and bullets were used. Police officers were injured , one of them critically.
Many shops and vehicles were burnt. The house of local CPI(M) MLA Runu Dutta was attacked. Despite large scale violence, the state administration allowed VHP processions next day at adjoining Asansol. There were clashes in various parts of the city. Police officers, local ruling party leaders were chased away by the crowd. CPI(M) leaders and activists rushed to the affected areas and tried to restore peace, facing dangers. In an atmosphere of fear and tension, CPI(M) has come out sharply against communal polarisation.
CPI(M) state secretary Surjyakanta Misra, expressed concern and said that West Bengal has never seen such a communal polarisation after partition days. This ominous situation has been created by the competitive communal game by both the ruling parties of the centre and state. They are the perpetrators of the crime and communal violence. Misra appealed the people to come out in the streets to resist the conspiracy which is against the tradition and culture of Bengal. CPI(M) organised rallies even before this violence started. In Rampurhat in Birbhum, a vulnerable area with strong RSS presence, a huge rally marched through the streets. Biman Basu participated in the rally. Just after the clashes in Raniganj, rallies were organised in adjoining Jamuria, Durgapur, Salanpur and other areas in the coal belt. Rallies with red flags were organised in all corners of the state.