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Bengal turns communal tinderbox, thanks to CM Mamata Banerjee

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>West Bengal is slowly, but steadily, heading back to its gory past when Hindus and Muslims were at daggers drawn and communal clashes and riots were frequent.Trinamool Congress supremo Mamata Banerjee’s blatant minority appeasement is not only causing acute heartburn among Hindus, but has also emboldened attacks against them at many places. These have been mostly unprovoked with the motive of driving away Hindus from their hearth and homes.Her administration has been playing the role of a passive onlooker and the state police have been venturing into riot-torn areas only after the damage is done.In the latest such riot that broke out in a village at Howrah’s Dhulagarh area last week, according to reports, a procession complete with loudspeakers blaring Hindi film music was taken out on 13 December to celebrate Eid-e-Milad (the birthday of Prophet Mohammed), which fell on 12 December, a public holiday. On 13 December, Hindus at Dhulagarh village were observing Margashirsha Purnima.Hindus requested that the volume be lowered since the music was interfering with some rituals. This incensed a section of those in the procession and they started attacking Hindu homes and shops. According to local people, the attackers were non-locals. Hindu houses and shops were looted and then set ablaze while, as the Zee News report says, police who reached the village were attacked by bombs and prevented from stopping the rioters.Locals and leaders of Hindu Samhati (a Hindu social organisation) claim the attack on Hindus at Dhulagarh, like many others are increasing with regularity all over Bengal and were pre-planned. “Why would people participating in a procession to celebrate the birthday of the Prophet carry sticks, choppers and other lethal weapons as well as bottles filled with acid (which they hurled at shops), kerosene and diesel (which were used to set Hindu houses and shops ablaze after they were looted) and country-made bombs (that were hurled at the police)? Why was the procession taken out a day after Eid-e-Milad? And why were non-locals in the procession?” asked Hindu Samhati leader Prashanta Sen.In October this year, communal riots broke out in 12 places all over the state over Durga Puja immersions and Muharram tazia processions. The seed was sown by Banerjee when she banned immersion of idols of Goddess Durga on Dashami on the ground that the immersion processions would coincide with Muharram processions. She wanted immersions to take place before 4 pm on the day of Dashami or two days after that.The Calcutta High Court came down heavily on this and said: “There has been a clear endeavour on the part of the state government to pamper and appease the minority section of the public at the cost of the majority section without there being any plausible justification… the state government has been irresponsibly brazen in its conduct of being partial to one community, thereby infringing on the fundamental rights of people worshipping Ma Durga.” The High Court also warned the state that it would be dangerous to mix politics with religion.But by the time the Calcutta High Court delivered its stinging criticism, the damage had already been done. The state government’s restrictions ignited anger among the Hindus of the state and triggered tension between the two communities. This ignited into full-scale riots when those in the Muharram processions attacked the Durga immersion processions.“At all the places, the immersion processions or Durga Puja mandaps were attacked by those taking part in the Muharram processions. And there seemed to be a clear intention to create trouble. Some mischief makers burst a firecracker in the midst of a Muharram procession at Malda and shouted that the procession had been attacked with bombs. In no time, swords, daggers, choppers and lathis came out and Hindu homes, shops and temples were attacked. It was pre-planned,” a state home department officer who did not want to be named said.Hindus were angry because of unreasonable restrictions on Durga Puja immersions, and also over other such anti-Hindu and pro-minority actions of the government. For four years, her government has been denying permission to 300 Hindu families of a village in the state’s Birbhum district to organise a Durga Puja because 25 families would be offended.In 2012, she started giving monthly stipends of Rs 2,500 and Rs 1,000 to imams and muezzins of the 32,000-odd mosques in the state. This is perceived as blatant minority appeasement. She has also allowed hardline Muslim organisations a free hand. The hanging of 1971 war criminals in Bangladesh triggered massive protests in Kolkata and rallies calling for Bangladesh premier Sheikh Hasina’s death.Last month, a massive rally that brought Kolkata to a halt demanded a steep hike in the stipends to the imams and muezzins to Rs 20,000 and Rs 10,000 per month respectively. A few months ago, another massive protest rally against preacher Zakir Naik brought the city to its knees. Another against the Uniform Civil Code (the biggest such in the country till date) was held last month in Kolkata. Kolkata is emerging as the hub of hardline Muslim activism.West Bengal has also become a safe haven for Islamists hounded out of Bangladesh. “Hundreds of Jamaat-e-Islami leaders and activists accused of heinous crimes like killings of secularists and bloggers have taken shelter in West Bengal. The Mamata Banerjee administration has turned a blind eye to their presence. The Khagragarh blast was an eye-opener. Many such Bangladeshi criminals and terrorists sheltered in West Bengal have been planning attacks on targets in Bangladesh,” said a Central Intelligence Officer.The fallout is steady Hindu-Muslim polarisation. “This polarisation has been triggered by what Hindus perceive is the blatant appeasement of minorities… anger has reached tipping point,” warns sociologist Dibyajyoti Goswami.West Bengal is no stranger to communal riots: more than 5,000 were killed and tens of thousands displaced in the Calcutta riots of 1946. The 1964 riots were a reaction to the pogrom against Hindus in erstwhile East Pakistan, the 1992 riots, the 2013 riots in Canning, and many more.Whatever be the failing of the erstwhile Left Front government, the lid was kept firmly on communal tensions.This article is reprinted with permission from Swarajya magazine.

Bombay High Court wants minors protected during Muharram

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>The Bombay High Court on Thursday asked the state government whether it can implement the circular, issued in 2014, by Mumbai police, ensuring minors are prevented from taking part in Muharram procession and inflict injuries on themselves, across the state.The 2014, circular issued by Deputy Commissioner of Police (Operations) had stated that the police will be taking all preventive measures to ensure that no follower of the Shia sect, inflict injuries on themselves. Meetings between organisers were held before the procession wherein senior members were appealed to ensure that injuries would not be inflicted. The police also kept first aid boxes and ambulances ready to meet with any unforeseen situation and video recorded the entire procession, which took place in South Mumbai.A division bench of Justice Abhay Oka and Justice Anuja Prabhudesai while hearing a suo-moto public interest litigation asked the government whether it would extend the scope of the police circular to entire state and if not then provide reasons for not doing so, before the court by January 9.In 2014, the court while hearing the petition had said, “Our concern is only about injuries caused to children, we don’t want to interfere in religious rites, but at the same time we don’t want the children to be injured.” The petition had taken objection to the injuries inflicted on children during the Muharram procession. It had also sought a ban on the procession as children were being injured by sharp weapons.Further, the ‘matam’ it claimed was prohibited under the newly enacted legislation — Maharashtra Prevention and Eradication of Human Sacrifices and Other Inhuman Evil and Aghori Practices and Black Magic Act.

A nation of believers: Nilanjan Ray captures several facets of faith in Indian society

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Three years after he picked up his camera and set off across India to capture ‘Faith’ in all its dimensions, award winning photographer Nilanjan Ray took a break to exhibit his work in Delhi. The black-and-white photographs he has shot are confirmation that India, for all its modernity, remains fundamentally a society anchored firmly to faith.Ray travelled through his native West Bengal, Assam, Odisha, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar to bring to life a telling narrative of people and communities held together in body and soul by their faith in beliefs that may even border on superstition.In Hajipur in Bihar, Ray came across a group of men brutally beating a woman. “I stopped by to wonder what was happening. The kind of assault she was subjected to would have killed me. I was scared but I went closer. This was their way of dealing with a ‘possessed’ woman. When she lost consciousness, a priest came forward, put his feet on her head, and commanded the evil spirit to leave the woman’s body. Then she was dragged to a nearby river and given a bath. The men went home believing the spirit had fled the woman’s body,” says Ray. “Even more incredible was the fact that none of them were aware of my presence or me photographing them. They were all so engrossed in exorcising the so called possessed woman.” The photograph of the priest commanding the spirit to leave accompanied by the beating of drums has made it to the exhibition currently on at the India International Centre in Delhi.But not all the photographs evoke fear like this one. There are also poignant frames of men and women involved in the intensely personal and communal aspect of prayer. Ray’s keen eye for detail and contrast also reveals the vast social and cultural mosaic that India is. From Agra, with the Taj Mahal as the backdrop, a woman shrouded in a white cloth is about to immerse herself in the waters of the Yamuna on Chhath Puja.In an adjacent frame, three women, all with their heads covered in immaculate white, are about to immerse themselves in the holy, but polluted, waters of the Ganga at Varanasi. The visual effect of the darkness of the water into which the women will momentarily immerse themselves and the white covering their bodies is evocative of the river’s present pitiable state and the fervor of the devotee who cannot be deterred by such considerations.One of the most intriguing moments captured by Ray is one of two babies laid on a wet stone floor with a leg moving over them. For an instant it would evoke horror but like many of Ray’s photographs it essentially captures the idiosyncratic practices that mark faith in India.“It is from a temple in Kolkata on the banks of the Ganga. A woman who has taken a dip in the river is treated as a devi. The belief is that if the devi stretches over an infant, the child will be blessed,” says Ray. During Muharram, Ray came across two men flogging themselves in the back with sharp knives tied at the end of a rope. “The lacerations were deep and I was also splattered with their blood while getting close to them,” Ray says. After the exhibition closes on December 6, Ray will travel to Punjab and then Kerala to take forward his photographic project.

Mamata refutes ‘communal clashes’ allegation during festival season

Wed, 2 Nov 2016-06:15pm , Jhargram (WB) , PTI
<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Wednesday alleged that a particular political party was trying to depict the clashes during Durga Puja and Muharram as “communal clashes” and insisted that they were the result of “personal rivalries”.She emphasised that the festive season in Bengal had passed off “very peacefully”. “There were one or two small incidents of clashes, but they were not communal in nature. They were triggered by personal enmities. Only a political party tried to paint them as communal clashes. This is false,” she said addressing a programme.”Bengal has been a pilgrimage of communal harmony and it will remain so,” she added. The BJP and the RSS have accused the ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC) in West Bengal of “provoking and supporting communal riots” in order to “appease a particular community”. “India will remain forever united. Rabindranath Tagore, who wrote the national anthem of the country, has clearly depicted how the country stood united from Punjab to Bengal,” the chief minister said.

Party leadership underestimated rise of BJP-RSS in Bengal: TMC MP

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>A senior Trinamool Congress MP on Wednesday said the party leadership had underestimated the rise of BJP-RSS in West Bengal.”As the CPI-M and the Congress have been politically wiped out from Bengal, a political vacuum in opposition space has been created and the BJP-RSS is fast filling up that vacuum,” the MP told PTI on the condition of anonymity. The TMC top brass had “underestimated the rise” of BJP and RSS in Bengal. They had thought it was not a big threat. But they were wrong, the MP said.”The recent communal clashes in various parts of Bengal have proved that we were wrong in gauging the growth of BJP and RSS. Never before such large-scale communal violence had taken place,” he said. The situation is so grim that at certain places, TMC party workers in the areas of violence are getting identified by their religion rather than political party, the leader says.The senior TMC MP’s remarks were in reference to clashes during the just-concluded Durga Puja festival and Muharram which the state government has described as “stray incidents” occasioned by “personal rivalry”.The RSS’ Bengal unit has recently decided to write to the Home Ministry about the rise of fundamentalism and communal incidents in the state. “We need to organize workshops in order to prepare our grass root level leaders politically to fight against these communal designs. The people of Bengal are peace loving and they are against any kind of communal riots,” the TMC MP said.

Maharashtra: Situation tense in Bhiwandi after communal clash; 3 injured

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Situation in powerloom town of Bhiwandi in Thane district was tense but peaceful as security was beefed up hours after members of two communities clashed during a Muharram procession, police said.A meeting was convened late last night by senior police officials with the local peace committee soon after the situation was brought under control. It was also attended by local MP Kapil Patil, who urged the people to maintain calm, an official at Thane City Police Control Room said.The incident occurred when some of arches put up for just-concluded Navratri festival got damaged during the Muharram procession in the evening. This led to tensions between the members from both community. They later hurled stones at each other.Later, a sub-inspector, a police naik and one more person received injuries when a two-wheeler of a police official was set on fire. Those injured were sub-inspector Sanjay Rathod, police naik Santosh Mali and a photographer, the officer said, adding that all of them are undergoing treatment at National Burns Hospital in Airoli, Navi Mumbai.

Former PoK PM to lead march to LoC on Nov 24

<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –> Former prime minister of Pakistan occupied Kashmir (PoK) Sardar Attique Ahmed Khan has announced plans to march towards the Line of Control (LoC) on November 24.Addressing a meet the Press event today, Khan said the participants would attempt to enter the Indian side of Kashmir by breaking ceasefire at three points in Poonch and Mirpur. Dunya News quoted Khan as saying that he would also take other Kashmiri political parties into confidence over the proposed rally. The former prime minister has urged youth to gather at the LoC and move towards Kashmir in order to inform the international community about the unrest in the Kashmir. Khan said that the Awami Tehreek has made the Kashmir issue a flash point. A public contact campaign would be launched on the 11th Muharram, he added.

Lt Governor Najeeb Jung directs Delhi police to deploy more personnel at crowded places

New Delhi: Ahead of the festive season, Lieutenant Governor Najeeb Jung on Thursday held a meeting with top Delhi Police officers and directed the force to keep a close tab on the city’s crowded places by deploying sufficient security personnel and ensuring that CCTV cameras installed at these places are functional.

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and Lt Governor Najeeb Jung. PTI

Delhi Chief Minister Arvind Kejriwal and Lt Governor Najeeb Jung. PTI

In the wake of the Uri attack and intelligence inputs of a terror threat to the capital, Delhi Police has ramped up security at places that see high footfall. The meeting was attended by Delhi Police Commissioner Alok Verma, Special Commissioners (Law & Order) and Joint Commissioners of Police (all ranges). The Lt Governor issued instructions to Delhi Police for strict compliance with these directions.

Jung asked the police personnel to be particularly vigilant and keep a close watch on major markets in the national capital with increased footfall during festive season. He also asked all police officers that ahead of the festive season, all CCTVs cameras installed in markets, malls and crowded places should be made fully functional. These CCTVs cameras will help the police keep an eye and help prevent any untoward incident.

In the meeting, Jung expressed concern at inadequate training of security personnel of private agencies manning malls, cinema, halls, etc. He directed Delhi Police to be extra careful in all such places.

The Lt Governor instructed that sufficient numbers of police personnel should be deployed for the safety of the citizens during Ramleela, Navratra and Muharram and other festivals and wherever there is large congregation of people. He also instructed that police personnel to ensure safety and security of sensitive installations in the capital.

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