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'Mamata has no clue what is happening'

July 07, 2017 20:39 IST

'There are many able, good, police officers in Bengal who are capable of handling this situation, but without Mamata Banerjee nothing moves.'
'Mamata Banerjee allowed the window for three days to create and help hate-mongers who pursue divisive politics.'

IMAGE: A burnt vehicle stands witness to the communal riot at Baduria in West Bengal's North 24 Pargana district. Photograph: PTI Photo

Basirhat has been on the edge for the past six days after communal violence erupted in the area close to the India-Bangladesh border.

A teenager allegedly uploaded an inflammatory post on his Facebook page which went viral, leading to unprecedented communal violence.

On Friday, July 7, Communist Party of India-Marxist MP Mohammad Salim tried to visit the violence-hit town, but was turned away by the Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress government.

Salim spoke to Rediff.com's Syed Firdaus Ashraf about the communal tensions and the state government's failure to rein it in.

How is the situation in Basirhat?

This is the sixth day of tension and violence.

This is the failure of the state government. It (the violence) could have been checked on the first day.

Violence erupted because of a social media post of a boy.

We have cyber laws and all other things and in times of political tension the government should have acted.

Knowingly or unknowingly, the Mamata Banerjee-led government allowed this window so that this erupts -- mob protests and gathering of crowds.

This has become the hallmark of the Trinamool Congress.

When a communal build-up takes place, they will benefit on the basis of divisive politics.

Other organisations like the Hindu Sanghati and the Bharatiya Janata Party too have jumped in.

There are many able, good, police officers in Bengal who are capable of handling this situation, but without Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee nothing moves.

The Trinamool blames the BJP for the riots...

Yes, that is correct, but what is the Mamata Banerjee government administration doing?

They cannot say they were caught unaware.

Today (July 7) is the sixth day and Mamata Banerjee must accept that the government has no clue what is happening.

I am, therefore, saying that Mamata Banerjee allowed the window for three days to create and help hate-mongers who pursue divisive politics.

They were allowed to gather, preach hatred through social media and no action was taken action on the ground.

When Mamata Banerjee met the media we felt she would appeal for peace and ask the administration to take action.

Instead, you see that Mamata picked up a fight with the governor of West Bengal.

This was a deliberate attempt because in the media the news came out that there is a big quarrel between the governor and chief minister.

Now, you tell me when the situation is fast deteriorating on the ground, is it the time for tu-tu-main-main between the governor and chief minister?

She (said she) felt personally insulted when the state is being insulted and communalists are wreaking havoc.

You, as chief minister, picked up a personal egotistic issue with the governor, which within 24 hours the Trinamool Congress claims has improved.

That means deliberately this binary is being created by both -- the parties at the Centre and in the state.

That let it be only between the BJP-Trinamool Congress party, CM-governor, let it be Hindu-Muslim. That is the script.

This script is by the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and Mamata Banerjee.

Instead of taking it by the horns it is complementing and supplementing through politics and administration. This has been proved.

When the situation is fast deteriorating, is it the time for tu-tu-main-main between the governor and chief minister?

During the Left government's rule, there were no riots in Bengal.
What has gone wrong for Bengal in the last two, three years?

It is not the last two years, but yes, this picked up momentum when (Narendra) Modi came to power in 2014.

In the last eight years, even in our last days of power in government, this communal, religious motives, religious symbols, religious leaders got a space in politics.

An anti-Left movement spearheaded by Mamata Banerjee, was ably supported by communal Hindu and Muslim forces as well as other extremist forces.

They thought that the Left is a hindrance for their government game plan.

You (the media) thought that Mamata is a big fighter and you reported that way, but at the ground level communal space was created.

Hatred was generated. Communal symbols and motives were utilised by both communities.

Mamata Banerjee utilised these communal forces area wise, wherever that particular community was in the majority.

After the advent of Modi and particularly with the BJP win in the Uttar Pradesh elections, the BJP thought that the ground is prepared and they can go the whole hog.

Earlier they thought it would take six years, but courtesy Mamata Banerjee's politics they think they can jump in now.

Even now they cannot do it entirely because the Left is still there in Bengal.

Basirhat is an area where Mamata helped the communalists gain ground.

In the Basirhat by-election of 2014, the BJP won with the shifting of Trinamool Congress votes.

In the 2016 assembly election in Basirhat, Mamata Banerjee won the election.

It means whose vote was it? It was not a communal vote.

In Basirhat, the Congress used to be a winner and the Left was the challenger.

Now finally the place has become divided between Mamata and the BJP. That is the game plan.

IMAGE: CPI-MP Mohammad Salim alleges that the anti-Left movement spearheaded by Mamata Banerjee -- when the Left Front government was in power -- was supported by communal Hindu and Muslim forces.
Photograph: Rupak De Chowdhuri/Reuters

The impression is that Mamata Banerjee is appeasing Muslims.

That impression is the creation of the RSS campaign managers.

The media is manufacturing news of illegal immigrants (from Bangladesh) and other such issues.

This is a slur against the minorities.

Apart from some tokenism or giving space to some religious leaders, converting Muslims, religious things to political things, no scheme or action has been taken by her to give results.

The BJP is trying to show that Mamata has empowered Muslims and created Bangalistan for Muslims.

That is why there is anger against these middle-class Bengali Muslims.

They are trying to buy some shop and some land.

They were brought to modern education and way of life slowly, step by step in the last 30 years (by the Left Front government).

They are being targeted. The hardcore Muslim religious leaders are not being targeted.

Those who can lead the community, who can secularise the community, they are being pushed to a wall so that they can go back to their cells. That will help them (the BJP).

Is there a game plan between the BJP and Mamata to finish off the Congress party and Left Front in Bengal?

(This theory) is difficult to hard sell because people across the country, the media and social media feel that it is Mamata who is taking on the BJP in Bengal.

The ground reality is that it is a joint venture with two different approaches showing they are at loggerheads.

Ultimately, they want to create this binary so that the Left Front is finished.

Even after so many attacks on Left leaders in Bengal, the Left has not been wiped out from the state.

I feel all is not lost. I am just coming from Basirhat because culture is developed over decades and not in years.

I have hopes. Mamata's hoax being played on the minorities -- that bluff -- has been caught.

Do you feel Mamata Banerjee's appeasement of Muslims will backfire?

That has given rise to rightist Hindutva forces.

In our regime, it was said why we were not doing much for the minorities.

We knew the culture, the economy and the Bengali psyche, particularly after post-Partition.

The scar was very deep and unity was very fragile.

The Hindu Mahasabha was created in Bengal and the Jan Sangh was created by Syama Prasad Mukherjee.

One crore Hindu refugees came from East Pakistan (now Bangladesh).

It is a very sensitive state.

We had to secularise society and whatever we did, we did in the name of the downtrodden, the poor, the backwards and the minorities.

We never played that SC or ST card too, therefore the Bahujan Samaj Party could never gain ground in Bengal.

Tribals also did not fell prey to the Maoists.

Mamata, on the other hand, played the card of caste, creed, language and religion.

All these divisive cards she played gave rise to these divisive forces.

Syed Firdaus Ashraf / Rediff.com