No Chief Minister or even Muslim leader of West Bengal has played the communal card so unabashedly as Mamata Banerjee, who thinks that she can stay in power as long as the bulk of the State's 29 per cent Muslims supports her Government. This is a recipe for disaster
In a bid to create a Muslim vote-bank in Malda and other Muslim-majority areas in West Bengal before the upcoming Assembly election in the State, Trinamool Congress supremo Mamata Banerjee has refused to arrest the perpetrators of communal violence in Malda's Kaliachak town on January 3. Her decision has endangered not only communal harmony but also the law and order situation in this sensitive district bordering Bangladesh.
For almost 10 hours, Kaliachak was witness to unprecedented terror, violence and lawlessness which West Bengal had never seen before. The mood of over a lakh-strong mob, armed with guns, swords, machetes and canisters of kerosene, was so violent that it burnt down the main kotwali thana with its records, torched 15 vehicles (four of which were laden with food), attacked and looted Hindu households whose members were shot at, and vandalised and desecrated temples. The movement of vehicular traffic on the arterial National Highway 34, which runs through Kaliachak and links Kolkata with north Bengal and the North-East, came to a complete halt for almost half a day. The officer in charge of Kaliachak thana and his force were so thoroughly terror-struck that they fled the town in panic.
The district administration, which had prior knowledge of this pre-planned and well coordinated attack, did nothing to stop the ring leaders in their tracks. Reason: Edara-e Sharia, a fundamentalist outfit, which had called the 'Muslim Rally' to protest against the objectionable remark made against the Prophet by a little-known Hindu fringe activist, is patronised by a politically powerful lobby, controlled by a TMC Rajya Sabha MP, and also by a JD(U) Rajya Sabha MP from Bihar.
Political observers in Malda see no reason why Ms Banerjee should allow a rabidly communal organisation like the Edara-e-Sharia to stage a protest rally of all places in Kaliachak, if not to consolidate a particular community's vote bank for her party in Malda. Interestingly, she allowed the rally to be staged 34 days after the highly objectionable comment on Prophet Mohammed was made in far-off Lucknow by a Hindu activist who has no personal or political link with West Bengal whatsoever. His remark had not been reported by Kolkata's mainstream media either.