Since Sunday, parts of North 24 Parganas, a district in West Bengal bordering Bangladesh, has been roiled by communal violence. One person has died after a mob took to the streets after a Class XI student posted derogatory religious imagery on his Facebook page. Curfew has been imposed in the region and para-military forces deployed to restore law and order. However, the Trinamool Congress, the party in office in Kolkata, and the BJP, the ruling party at the Centre, have started a blame game over the violence. At a time when the two parties must work together to calm tempers and stanch tensions, their leaderships seem focused on attacking each other. This does not augur well for the state.
An incident that ought to have been settled quickly at the local thana has hit the headlines after state governor, Keshari Nath Tripathi, decided to speak with Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee after a meeting with a team of BJP and RSS representatives. The details of the conversation are not public, but the transaction is unlikely to have been pleasant since an enraged CM called a press meet soon after, where she accused the governor of insulting her. She said Tripathi, once a senior functionary of the BJP in UP, spoke to her like a “BJP block president”. The Trinamool has since demanded that the governor be recalled while the BJP wants President’s Rule imposed in the state. The BJP has also announced that a party delegation will visit the violence-hit area and present a report to party chief, Amit Shah. Clearly, the parties seem eager to make political capital out of the incident.
This is a departure from the trajectory political parties in West Bengal have followed, by and large, over the years, to mobilise cadres. Even when the trauma of the Calcutta killings and the Partition was fresh, the Congress and Communist leaderships were sensible in not exploiting communal faultines, though both parties did use violence as a strategy to target political rivals. Instead of building on the legacy of communal peace in West Bengal, the Trinamool and the BJP have sought to use religious affiliations to mobilise cadres. The numerous communal clashes reported from the state in recent times point to this disturbing trend. It threatens West Bengal’s social fabric and communal peace.