Mamata's Muslim outreach has turned into cynical appeasement

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Bengal is on the brink of a communal conflagration. The communal clashes in Baduria which has led to a war of words between the Chief Minister and Governor was triggered by a posting on Facebook.

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee

There were comments on the social media about the Great Calcutta Killing of 1946. In the incident thousands were killed and the incident was triggered by Muslim League leader MA Jinnah's call to observe August 16 that year as "Direct Action Day" for attaining Pakistan.

Read | Prohibitory orders continue in Baduria, West Bengal amidst communal flare up

Comments on this incident are circulating in the social media which leads to the question whether they are being intentionally done. West Bengal especially the southern part have witnessed communal clashes. A communal clash has been reported almost every fortnight especially from the Howrah, Hooghly and 24 Parganas. In 2013 alone there have been 103 instances of communal clashes.

These districts are close to the Bangladesh border and these incidents indicate a pattern of systematic rioting. Is it a pattern aimed at pushing out the 8 per cent Hindu population from Bangladesh? The population of Hindus in Bangladesh has already fallen from 37 to 8 per cent since independence.

This brings us to the question whether the mighty appeasement policy of Mamata Banerjee has led to such rioting. The rioting has been brazen in nature. A communal riot can trigger off at the slightest of provocation.

Mamata's Muslim outreach:

Let us revisit the Malda incident where 2.5 lakh people under the banner of the Idara-Shariya blocked the National Highway 34 to protest against remarks made about Prophet Mohammad. The mob set several buses and police ablaze. The media had reported that in the clash several police officers were injured and one RSS activist was shot. What was ironic was that there was no spill out following the Muzzafarnagar riots of 2013. However the Malda riots were a result of a comment that was made in January 2017. The rioting took place a month later.

Read | Don't cover up your lapses, WB Governor tells Mamata Banerjee

Many have accused Mamata of appeasing the Muslim community which constitutes 30 per cent of the vote bank. She understood the importance of Muslim support during the Nandigram agitation of 2007. There was police firing during the protest and the CPI(M) recaptured the area. In all this the Muslim support for Mamata swayed in her favour.

Mamata also did took full advantage of the suspicious death of Rizwanur Rehman in 2009. It was alleged that he committed suicide after being tortured by the police in Bengal which was then ruled by the CPI(M). Rehman was turned into a hero.

She then went on to name Rizwanur's brother and Feroza Bibi, the mother of a person killed in the Nandigram violence as candidates in the 2011 poll. Both went on to win the elections.

In 2012, Mamata announced an allowance of Rs 2,500 each for each imam. She also extended a stipend of Rs 1,500 to the thousands of muezzins who give the call to prayers at Mosques. While the Calcutta High Court struck her decision down saying it was discriminatory in nature, she found her way around it. It was then decided that the money would be given through the Wakf Boards.

Cynical appeasement:

The West Bengal government was quick to ban the telecast of a drama that was scripted by Bangladeshi author Taslima Nasreen. The ban was in place after some Muslim fundamentalists raised objections. She also barred the entry of Salman Rushide into Kolkata after protests were staged. Further she went on to make Urdu the second official language in districts where Muslims comprise more than 10 per cent of the population.

When Mamata stood up for the cause of Muslims during the Nandigram riots and death of Rizwannur, she was seen as a champion of the cause. She did raise some valid issues and this even yielded in votes which ultimately helped her crush the CPI(M) in the state.

However there was a price to pay and this championing of the cause turned into complete cynical appeasement. She fell trap to the Muslim leaders who never let anyone take them for granted. They can assure her of a 30 per cent vote bank as they hold sway over the masses.

Advantage taken:

Some would say that Mamata has fallen trap to her own policy of appeasement. She has practically lost control over the big-wigs in the Muslim community. Muslim dominated areas in Kolkata such as Metiaburz, Pak Circus, Rajabazar and Khiddepore have been witnessing an increasing number of illegal constructions.

Allegations of land grab have been reported several times. Government land too has been acquired illegally while the state administration watched like mute spectators.

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