A series of peace meetings were held in West Bengal’s violence-hit Basirhat as the town limped back to normalcy on Saturday. Ashit Majumdar, who took over as ruling Trinamool Congress (TMC)’s Basirhat in-charge in the aftermath of the violence, organised a peace meeting between police and members of Hindu and Muslim communities.
Government employee Sudeep Biswas accused the police of inaction at the meeting . “When a Muslim mob came and surrounded our homes and members of a huge procession broke shops, no policeman was present,’’ he said. “Even when there was police presence later, they simply watched…’’
In response, SDPO Shyamal Samanth admitted that they had goofed up. “…during the first 12 hours of violence, we were unable to deploy forces. But this is because we did not have adequate equipment or manpower at that point of time. But the police were deployed soon.’’
Additional SP Abhijeet Bandopadhyay said that he had never seen communal tension in the area. “This is the first time I have ever had to hold any peace meeting, and to talk about communal harmony,’’ he said. “You do not need to listen to lectures from me on communal harmony. Both communities have lived together in peace for generations — let us restore that.’’
But Biswas remained unconvinced. “While there was a communal flare-up initially, what happened over the last couple of days was political. The BJP and RSS took advantage of the situation and instigated people. The TMC used it to sort out its own factional rivalries…this is not acceptable.’’
Outside the meeting venue, shopowner Niladri Biswas, who had just resumed his business, said that they were not going to sit and watch when their homes, shops and temple were attacked. “So we attacked their shops as well,’’ he said. He added that their Muslim neighbours asked if they should leave. “We told them they do not need to; it is okay, they can stay.’’
In Baduria, grocer Feroz Mandal, 27, said that he was in Digha when they got to know about the Facebook post that triggered the violence. “I saw the post on Facebook on Monday morning… I took part in the processions. We wanted the boy (who had allegedly written the post) arrested.’’
Afridi Mandal, 21, who works in Dubai, said that he was roughed up and his bike torched for allegedly eating beef. “We have never had this problem before… We just want peace now.’’ A banner put up for a Muslim festivity in Swarupnagar echoed him: “No violence, only peace.’’