Two very significant events in the last two days are hinting that West Bengal is heading towards a political turmoil of epic proportions, which could be dominated by radical Islamists.
While Malda erupted in a wave of violence over a communal remark made by a Hindu Mahasabha leader in Uttar Pradesh a month ago, a progressive-minded madrassa teacher was threatened and barred from teaching because he wanted students to sing the National Anthem.
On Sunday a violent mob torched a police station and two dozen vehicles – one of them belonging to the BSF – forcing the police to resort to firing.
The mob was carrying out a rally protesting the comments against Prophet Mohammed made by Kamlesh Tiwari.
Tiwari made the comments on December 2 last year. He was arrested and, according to a report, is currently lodged in Lucknow district jail. He is facing charges under the National Security Act.
Reports state that the rally comprised about 2.5 lakh people. They beat up the police at Kaliachak Block 1 in south Malda before the latter fired at them. Two persons were injured in the firing.
Houses in and around the area were ransacked by the frenzied mob. No one knows exactly who called the rally, not even the police. National Highway 34 was blocked and train services were disrupted for a couple of hours.
Surprisingly, the police is yet to make arrests despite the egregious nature of the violence.
At the same time, reports of a Muslim teacher, Kazi Masum Akhtar, being beaten up by fundamentalists at the Talpukur Aara High Madrasa is doing the rounds. His crime? Teaching the students to sing the National Anthem.
The radicals who beat Kazi Masum Akhtar had in March last year warned him to dress in skull cap and grow a beard if he wanted to teach in the madrassa.
He had approached police help following the incident but the authorities did not provide him with protection.
At the time, the police commissioner had written this in his report to West Bengal Minorities’ Commission:
“It appears local Muslims of the area have become adamant not to allow Kaji Masum Akhtar to enter the area as well as the madrasa. Hence, there is every possibility of breach of peace and law and order problem in and around the school and assault on him if the teacher returns to the school even with escort.”
The statement did not eschew a clear case of helplessness by the Kolkata police even as Akhtar went from pillar to post for protection.
Akhtar’s wife had then stated that her husband was being targeted for his progressive views; he had called for the demolition of all madrasas that harboured terrorists in one of his columns in a Bengali daily.
Early last year, a cleric in Malda – the same district where violence broke out yesterday – had issued a fatwa against girls playing football. The fatwa practically ended a tradition as well as an event that would have gone a long way towards women empowerment.
And it was a blast in a two-storey house in Bardhaman in October 2014 that drew the attention of national security experts to the rise of Islamic extremism in Bengal.
Thanks to a porous border with Bangladesh, a very high number of illegal immigrants keep entering the states around it. That there are a high number of illegal immigrants in Bengal has been brilliantly proved via a calculation of population growth by Anish Gupta.
Mamata Banerjee, the Bengal Chief Minister, is yet to make a comment on the Malda incident. In this light it should be noted that when an RPF constable was killed by hawkers in Malda during an eviction drive, she had blamed the Centre for the incident.