Rediff.com
Print this article

'Mamata is clearly talking of appeasement'

Last updated on: June 24, 2019 14:56 IST

'I don't think the state administration has shown the resolve to enter Muslim neighbourhoods and arrest offenders in the last decade.'

In the wake of the attack on doctors and harassment of model Ushoshi Sengupta by some members of their community, a group of prominent Muslims from West Bengal wrote a letter to Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee asking for stringent action against the culprits, to dispel the 'perception' that they are being "shielded or appeased".

They also requested the state government to 'engage or encourage engagements with Muslim youth and their families across Kolkata in gender-sensitisation, civic consciousness and law-compliance, etc'.

Mudar Patherya -- once one of India's best known cricket writers before he turned to commenting on the stockmarket -- drafted the letter to Banerjee. Mudar believes the Trinamool Congress government in bengal should shun vote-bank politics and address the issue considering the betterment of the next generation.

"We emerged from our inertia when 200 people from our community went into a hospital, beat doctors on duty and only five were eventually arrested -- two per cent arrested and 98 per cent getting away scot-free," Mudar Patherya tells Rediff.com's Syed Firdaus Ashraf.

 

For all of us who read your articles on cricket and personal finance, it came as a surprise to learn that you drafted a letter to Mamata Banerjee, asking her to take strict action against the culprits in the doctors assault case as well as the model's harassment case. Why did you write to the West Bengal CM?

You carry your Muslim identity with you as one of the many identities that you carry.

Sadly, this Muslim identity is getting progressively embarrassed.

I won't say I am feeling cornered, but definitely embarrassed.

When we signatories saw that the seven assaulters were all Muslims, we felt another setback in our pride.

When eventually these assaulters got away, the general perception was because of the police having been instructed by the state administration to go soft on them.

This validated the 'open secret' in Kolkata that Muslim offenders of crimes can generally get away scot-free or with moderated punishment.

For us Muslims, this allegation did not sound good when one heard this.

The irony is this that we also happen to be victims of the same reality.

It is not that the bikers who tease women in Kolkata are not going to look upon our daughters or sisters and not tease them because they are Muslims.

They will go for anyone.

The sad reality is that over the last decade, this aspect of the character of Kolkata has evolved, and not for the better.

Within the Muslim community, there is an interesting segregation of who comes from where or who belongs to which economic strata as one of the leads of suspect and vulnerable neighbourhoods.

I don't think the state administration has shown the resolve to enter these Muslim neighbourhoods and arrest offenders in the last decade, which partly explains why these neighbourhoods have turned deeper into lawless ghettoes.

Don't you think this could be a class problem and not a religion problem, as one can argue they are poor and happen to be Muslims by birth?

You can argue it whichever way you want to.

It is actually a Muslim problem where they also happen to be from a lower income (group).

It depends on which way you want to argue.

I can argue whichever way I want.

Whatever be the case, the reality is that just as we feel embarrassed as a nation if any one of our sportsmen or public performer or prominent celebrities does something humiliating in public, we feel the same way when an individual who shares our religion is apprehended as an offender and allowed to get away scot-free.

We feel embarrassed and this is because we see that person's identity as an extension of our own personality.

There is a linkage somewhere.

We all carry multiple identities and this Muslim identity is one of the multiple identities that I carry.

When people say that this kind of person has done something wrong, then it affects my sense of pride.

The irony is he is being let off because of his identity -- which I also carry.

That is what has hurt all of us.

When gau-rakshaks lynch Muslims, do common Hindus feel the same way about their community?
If not, then why should you as a Muslim feel embarrassed for the wrongdoing of some miscreants who are Muslims?

Your counter-question is an interesting question that needs to be directed at Hindus who may feel a similar sense of uneasiness.

As Muslims, we felt that sense of uneasiness because it happened on our turf.

We were also affected because of a non-Muslim bias building against Muslims in Bengal because of these elements.

There is a growing feeling among non-Muslims that 'you guys can get away with anything'.

Ironically, (as a Muslim) we cannot get away when we over-speed our car and jump the signal. No policeman will let me get away because I am a Muslim.

But the same rule does not apply to our community members coming from ghettoes.

So there is an inverted 'class difference'.

Ironically, Muslims, who are well educated, well-bred, law abiding, are precisely the kind of citizens getting affected.

Secondly, there is also another backflow in terms of respect that we enjoy in the external community as we keep hearing 'you guys can get away with anything' or that 'you guys generally keep quiet when there is a blatant infringement going unpunished'.

We emerged from our inertia when 200 people from our community went into a hospital, beat doctors on duty and only five were eventually arrested -- two per cent arrested and 98 per cent getting away scot-free.

Whatever they did did not represent a local transgression, but affected the medical fraternity all across the country. It became a state problem and then a national problem.

Who did it?

Evidently, I would say 200 hooligans did it.

But it also comes down to the fact that somewhere, the community sense of upbringing, community sense of social values, community sense of family value, community sense of engagement, community sense of etiquette -- or the absence of these -- contributed to this.

If somebody does not treat my grandfather well in hospital, I will not go and tell the lady on duty and threaten to violate her dignity.

That is simply not acceptable, irrespective of whichever community the offender came from.

The Mamata Banerjee government arrested only five people when 200 people attacked the hospital -- only around two per cent!

This evidently sent out a message that she continued to soft-pedal, did not possess the resolve or intent to arrest those people from their neighbourhoods and sought to continue appeasing Muslims.

Mamata Banerjee did mention that the doctors are not treating those poor patients well because they were Muslims. That was a very surprising statement.

This is an interesting comment and one does not see it that way.

Doctors are a professional community are religion-agnostic and decent human beings.

In Bengal, the reality is that doctors work under phenomenal pressure, address the needs of a number of patients, and are generally under-staffed.

What they manage to achieve with their operating circumstances is creditable and commendable.

Obviously something can go wrong because you have not provided them with the right operating environment in which to succeed.

So when something indeed goes 'wrong',the doctor is assaulted -- not the first time it happened in Kolkata -- and just when you need the police for protection, it withdraws its support.

If these doctors felt defenceless, it was because one community -- I am not necessarily referring to a religious community but a social community -- felt absolutely legit to go and assault them.

Could this not be an incident of sudden anger as your loved one has died?

Sudden anger can come to five people.

You must have time to go, get 200 people out and beat up the doctors on duty.

That is not anger, but a planned (move).

West Bengal was looking whether the assailants were arrested or not, but only five were arrested.

It did not even make it to the front page news.

Was this the case during Left Front rule in West Bengal or has it only started in Mamata's tenure?

I don't think that this was so evident earlier, but is more visible now -- to the point that she told the media that she will continue to appease Muslims.

She also made a statement on Muslims like, 'If a cow gives milk, then one has to be prepared for its kicks also'.

Mamata is calling Muslims cows and clearly talking of appeasement.

We found these instances embarrassing as Muslims and should have objected to them, but we missed it.

That brings one to the next argument: What are Muslims getting out of this appeasement?

All you need to do is walk through the Muslim ghettos in Kolkata.

They are getting worse.

Education is wanting and a number are marked by lawlessness.

The drabness of the environment is perceptible.

Urdu medium schools do not have adequate teachers.

I know for a fact that in one class there are 900 students, and you call this appeasement?

The irony is that Mamata comes during Eid namaaz and puts a dupatta on her head and prays in the hope of appeasing people, whereas the irony is that people do recognise that this is a photo opportunity and a sham -- she would not be able to say two lines of (Islamic) prayers.

This is a game of illusion and from the whisper that one picks up, there is a growing feeling that the Muslim community is no longer impressed.

Is this the reason the Bharatiya Janata Party did so well in the Lok Sabha election?

I do not speak on behalf of the signatories, here but on behalf of myself.

There could be various reasons for why the BJP did remarkably well.

The BJP is a professional, multi-layered, well-funded political machine.

(The issue of instant) triple talaq, I am told, is playing an interesting role among Muslim women and men whose sisters have suffered because of it.

They could be shifting towards the BJP.

Once upon a time it was felt that Bengal was immune to the Hindu-Muslim binary, but it doesn't seem so anymore. What has changed?

This is what is disturbing from an overarching perspective because Bengal does indeed enjoy an environment of syncretism.

Bengal has been an interesting and contrarian environment for long where the people of this state consider themselves to be Bengali first and Hindu/Muslim thereafter.

It is very unlike what one sees in most parts of the country.

I just hope the transition that happens in the next couple of years is political and not communal.

The BJP talks about the National Register of Citizens, threatening to throw out Muslims etc. So what are the options for Muslims other than Mamata?

Here too one would like to speak from a personal perspective and not on behalf of the signatories. The reality of the state is that there are indeed individuals who hopped in from the other side of the fence.

It would not be a bad idea to identify this surplus and ask them to return.

I don't think that would be unfair.

When I can accept this reality with other countries where Indians cannot enter without a valid visa or stay longer than their visa permits, I should not hypothetically have a problem with the implementation of that rule in West Bengal?

The BJP's target is only Bangladeshi Muslims, not Bangladeshi Hindus. Don't you think that is a problem? That it is a communal card the BJP is playing.

This then is a more tricky fine print and one will need to figure this fine print out as one goes ahead.

If they (BJP) come completely clean about the rules, governance, equality, fairness and integrity, then we could be in for interesting times in Bengal.

But if they start distinguishing between Hindus and Muslim intruders from across the border, then we could have a real problem on our hands in a state where nearly 30 per cent of the state is Muslim.

SYED FIRDAUS ASHRAF