Thursday, January 28, 2016

Fwd: Inside Malda: A ground report on West Bengal's toxic cocktail of opium farming and communalism

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From: S G Naravane

Inside Malda: A ground report on West Bengal's toxic coc...
Three days in Kaliachak, Malda a fortnight after the riots revealed that the direction of unlawful rather than purely religious motivation, bore the markings of a c...
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By Sanjay Pandey
Kaliachak, Malda: On 3 January, the Edara-e-Shariyah called for a protest march in Kaliachak, a nondescript, dirty town lodged in the gullet of the Siliguri Corridor – or what is known as the chicken's neck – a sliver of northern West Bengal hemmed in by Nepal and Bhutan in the north and Bangladesh in the south.
The Muslim organisation, hitherto unheard of outside Malda district, within which Kaliachak lies, was angered at what it alleged were defamatory remarks made against Prophet Muhammad. The offensive speech was delivered by the Hindu leader Kamlesh Tiwari in Lucknow on 2 December, 2015, a month before the protest march.
According to district administration estimates, close to 1.5 lakh people attended the Kaliachak rally. As speakers delivered their perorations, a group of protestors broke away. The band rushed towards Kaliachak police station, ostensibly angered at the recklessness with which a Border Security Force vehicle, a Mahindra Bolero, sped through the crowd, endangering lives. This gang of men hurled stones and kerosene bombs at the police station, setting it ablaze. The pack then turned towards Baliadanga, a residential block behind the police station, singling out homeowners for abuse.
Late in the afternoon — police have the time as 3 pm — a special containment unit was dispatched from Malda to Kaliachak. Violence was contained that same day.
Local newspapers and soon the national media began to trace the narrative of that day's violence along a communal arc — fed mostly by statements of young Hindu men in Ghariyalichak, a Muslim neighbourhood in Kaliachak, who said they felt the real targets of mob fury were their temples. The West Bengal chapter of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh was quick to back these claims.
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