A day before the third phase in Malda South seat, Kaliachak was bustling with activities. This community development block under Mothabari Assembly constituency was the centre of violence on January 3, 2016 when a protest rally attended by thousands of Muslims turned violent, resulting in the destruction of local police station, block development office and public property. The people of Kaliachak, however, have made peace with the past and moved on.
A fruit seller named Sheikh Enayet in the busy Chowringhee area of Kaliachak said things have normalised over the years and there has been no problems between the Hindus and the Muslims. “The incident took place in the heat of the moment. People have now realised that such kind of violence serves no purpose to anyone. People have become very aware of what is being said and spread and are not jumping to conclusion. Have you heard of any such incident here in the last three years?” said Enayet.
His shop is barely 100 metres from Kaliachak Police Station which was destroyed by the mob on that day. A protest rally by a Muslim organisation taken out against Akhil Bharat Hindu Mahasabha leader Kamlesh Tiwari over his alleged derogatory remarks against Prophet Mohammed had turned violent, leading to arson and gunfire. The protesters set on fire about two dozen vehicles and attacked the police station. Several private and government vehicles were torched. The violence had spread to nearby Baliadanga area where shops and houses were vandalised.
Mohammad Jamal, a resident of Kaliachak, who claimed to have witnessed the violence three years back, said he will participate in Tuesday’s election without fear. “There has been no violence here in the run-up to the polls. We are not scared anymore to go out and cast our vote. In 2016 Assembly polls, some members of our community had reservations regarding elections. But this time we will vote,” said the 26-year-old.
Inspector-in-charge of Kaliachak Police Station, Asis Das, refused to talk to the newspaper.
However, senior police officer of the district said elaborate arrangements have been made to combat poll violence. “There is no scope for any lapses. Adequate security arrangement has been made to prevent any untoward incident,” he told the newspaper.
A place near India-Bangladesh border, Kaliachak has been in news for various criminal activities.
“Anti-socials patronised by TMC have been terrorising the area. Hindus are targeted most of the time. Through our organisational presence there, we have been able to counter the anti-socials and maintain peace. The TMC must take the blame for creating a safe haven for such anti-socials. Now the area is under control, but, if instigated, things might take an ugly turn,” said BJP’s Malda district president Sanjit Mishra.
The Congress, too, said things have mellowed down in Kaliachak, but admitted that illegal activities are still rampant there. “We have reached out to our supporters and urged them not to respond to rumours. So far, the situation has not gone out of control,” said Congress leader from Malda district Rabiul Islam.
The TMC, on the other hand, blamed the BJP and Hindu outfits of fueling tension in the area leading to violence. “We do not support communal fights and do not instigate people. The BJP and other extremist Hindu outfits provoke members of the other community though the internet. We have seen this happening in Basirhat and Baduria area in North 24 Parganas district in 2017. We no longer want to see a repeat of that anywhere in West Bengal,” said a senior TMC leader.