Politics amid the right to practice religion

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This has become pattern in the last few years in West Bengal in which Hindus are being prevented from observing religious days and occasions, especially in areas in which they are a minority.

This year a disturbing pattern was again seen in West Bengal during the Saraswati Puja. The students of Chauhata Adarsha Vidyapith in Basirhat, who were demanding the resumption of the puja, were assaulted by locals. Those who had attacked them in this Muslim-dominated area, were determined to prevent them from observing Saraswati Puja. The teacher, Ganesh Sardar, who had demanded that the puja should also be observed and not only “Nabi Dibas”, the birthday of the Prophet, had to be locked in a toilet to save him from the mob.

This has become pattern in the last few years in West Bengal in which Hindus are being prevented from observing religious days and occasions, especially in areas in which they are a minority. No national media will make this news, since West Bengal is not a BJP-ruled state. Human rights activists, historians such as Ramchandra Guha and filmmakers such as Aparna Sen are silent on this. They will not protest, nor write letters, nor will offer “satyagraha” since doing this will not get them publicity. They oppose CAA, oppose the granting of citizenship to hapless Bengali Hindu refugees who have been persecuted in East Bengal and East Pakistan, but are silent when Hindus of West Bengal demand that their right to practice their religion be protected.

The self-styled poets of West Bengal, the likes of Subodh Sarkar and Joy Goswami, who had loudly opposed CAA by standing beside West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee and had, in rhythm with her, said “Chi-Chi” against the granting of citizenship to Bengali Hindu refugees, have been silent on this. In the past too they had kept quiet and looked the other way when Hindus were being prevented, in many areas in West Bengal, from observing Durga Puja.

Union Home Minister Amit Shah, then BJP national president, used to refer to this peculiar and anti-democratic situation created in the state by the ruling Trinamool Congress and the CM’s appeasement politics, where Durga Pujas and Saraswati Pujas are obstructed, where Ram Navami processions are attacked, and worshippers are either heckled or imprisoned. Puja committees had to repeatedly take recourse to courts to protect their religious rights. Meanwhile, one saw how during the anti-CAA violence in December, stations were set on fire, ordinary people affected and violence unleashed on Hindu villages, especially in districts such as Murshidabad.

It is ironical to note that in a state such as West Bengal, which historically was created so that Bengali Hindus could live in peace with dignity and not be pushed into Pakistan after Partition, a situation has arisen in which the Bengali Hindus, especially in rural West Bengal, feel insecure. The question is, how far will they be pushed because one political party is resorting to blind appeasement politics?

The Communist parties are not far behind. They seem to have arrived at an undeclared understanding with the TMC in perfecting appeasement and vote-bank politics. In an unheard-of development, the Communists and extreme and radical leftists were seen obstructing the distribution of Bhagavad Gita during the just-concluded Kolkata Book Fair and obstructing people from entering the stall run by the Visva Hindu Parishad. They had no problem with people distributing the Koran or the Bible. No champions of secularism have spoken out against this discrimination. The CM was silent because she has now decided to support and supply political oxygen to the Left and between themselves and many intellectuals who speak of safeguarding the spirit of democracy, a stoic silence has been maintained on such blatantly intolerant behaviour. The people of West Bengal will have to decide if this is the Bengal that they want for themselves and their future generations.

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