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Drawing Parallels: Post-poll Violence – 2021 West Bengal and 2001 Bangladesh


By Deep Biswas

What Bengal thinks today, Bangladesh has thought 20 years ago! (Or 70 times that many years!)
Yes, very infuriating for the proud Bengali, that someone begins by distorting Gopal Krishna Gokhale’s quote. We Bengalis pretty much wear this quote as a badge of honour everywhere. But what Gokhale said (“what Bengal thinks today, India thinks tomorrow”) held true till the 1970s. Even a little bit in the 80s maybe. But since then Bengal has culturally, politically, socially and economically turned in to a cesspool.
The political scenario of Bengal is almost completely dominated by Muslims, who constitute 30% of the total population and the leftists, many of whom harness radical ambitions; hence, election violence has been inseparably related to Bengal politics for quite a while now. Since the British rule, Bengal has been familiar with political violence. But post-independence this violence has not been directed to drive out a foreign occupant, but rather to cause internal political instability, which has only benefitted radical forces like the Naxalites, the Maoists and the Islamists. Among them the most powerful and unchastened group is of the Islamists, who with their sly yet aggressive politics, coy yet persistent approach have managed to control Bengal politics from within and out. They simply promise an en bloc support, which is irresistibly tempting for any leader or party with rulership ambitions.
Muslim appeasement is nothing new in Indian politics, but during the congress and CPIM era, they seemed to have somewhat control over them. Their numbers were not enough to make momentous political changes back then, but they have grown significantly in the last 20-30 years. This growth is due to three major reasons, a) the open border policy, b) the economical asymmetry in Bangladesh leading to mass immigration(illegal), and for the last 10 years, c) mindless Muslim propitiation by Mamata Banerjee against Sheikh Hasina’s communally neutral policies.
Muslim radicals from the other Bengal(or as we say in Bengali, “opar Bangla”), have not only grown in numbers, they have taken advantage of the amateurish organizational lacks of the AITC/TMC and the tolerant, overmodest nature of the Bengali-Hindu to unleash pure anarchy. Not only is TMC lacking organizationally, Banerjee and her ministers seem inadequate to run a state government. The repeated failure of law and order has raised the demand for a presidential rule many times since she became the CM of WB.
This demand took a virulent form after the first week of May, 2021 when violence broke out across the state following the election results and TMC was directly responsible for it. Mamata Banerjee and others refused to condemn it or own up to it.
On the 2nd of May, the BJP men were ready with their saffron ‘abir’ to celebrate their victory in the 2021 West Bengal Assembly. But as the day progressed, their faces started drooping. By the end of the day their jaws dropped completely and that is when TMC landed the knockout punch! Like literally! Almost as soon as the results were pretty much decided for, the massive post-poll violence began all across West Bengal. Everything was burning! From BJP offices to houses of BJP supporters, heck, not even the CPIM houses and offices were spared. Women were raped, molested, harassed while the men and boys were beaten, severely wounded and murdered or lynched. Radical scums from bordering areas (illegal Muslim immigrants from Bangladesh) went on a rampage. At one point people realized that they weren’t really attacking the opposition party supporters, they were simply attacking Hindus! (In some rare instances they even attacked Muslim BJP supporters.)
This is not much unlike to what happens in Bangladesh after the elections, no matter who wins. Hindus are killed as an celebratory act when BNP-Jamaat wins or out of spite when they lose. (The Hindu persecution in Bangladesh is a never-ending saga of barbarism and human rights violation, but one article is not suffice to tell the tale of the biggest and most brutal, ongoing genocide in the world, the Bengali-Hindu genocide. There is a section in Wikipedia documenting this genocide with sufficient standard and neutral references, interested people may check them out.)
Let us take the 2001 general election in Bangladesh for example.
According to UCA News, “The worst violence followed the 2001 election, which BNP and their Jamaat alliance won. Their supporters unleashed a months-long reign of terror, which included killings, rapes and destruction of homes.”[1]
After defeating the Sheikh Hasina led Awami League in 2001, the BNP-Jamaat coalition led by Khaleda Zia unleashed hell on the Hindus and other minorities[2][3] (but mostly Hindus, as they’re the largest minority group) of Bangladesh. It initially seemed like a political warfare between two contending parties who participated in the 2001 elections. But soon the Hindus realized that the BNP-Jamaat, backed by the Bangladesh police were in reality attacking them, as they supposedly vote en masse for Sheikh Hasina, who tries her best to save the Hindus and empower them. So, yes, there is someone who the Hindus in Bangladesh supposedly vote en masse for and she does try to secure their interests to an extent, however, unlike West Bengal, the rights of the majority are in no way violated by a violent and radicalized minority group.
So either Bengal, the Musalman is never a victim, but always the Hindu.
The 2001 post-poll violence mostly took place in South-west Bangladesh which had large Hindu communities like Bagerhat, Barisal, Brahmanbaria, Chittagong, Jessore, Khulna, Tangail[4] etc. The attacks were visibly pre-planned and therefore systematic with a clear motive to destroy or takeover the belongings and economic resources of the Hindus. It included rapes, murders, destruction of temples and property, forcible land grabbing and eviction, destruction of businesses and wide scale loot and arson to force the Hindu community to flee from Bangladesh. This went on for over a month till finally due to media and international pressure Khaleda asked her men to tone it down a bit.
In October in Bhola District, the BNP attacked Hindus and Awami League supporters. They looted Hindu houses and houses of Muslims who provided shelter to Hindus. Women and children were raped by the attackers. The attackers looted everything from the houses and destroyed their economic resources[5] e.g. killed their cows, cut off the trees in their gardens etc.
Now let’s compare this to what happened in West Bengal on and after May 2nd, 2021.
By the 4th of May, 11 opposition party workers(mostly BJP) were killed.[6] The CM of Assam made a statement claiming 300-400 BJP karyakartas and family members have crossed over to Dhubri in Assam fearing persecution & violence.[7] The CPI (M) and Congress alleged their workers had also been attacked by the TMC.
Now let’s get to the names of the victims, from which the reader can decide which community sustained the most damages.
In Jagaddal, North 24 Parganas, the mother of a young BJP booth worker named Sova Rani Mondal was killed mercilessly as she tried to protect her son. In Ranaghat, Nadia, a 48 year old named Uttam Ghosh was killed. A young BJP worker named Abhijit Sarkar was brutally murdered in Beleghata, Kolkata along with the pregnant stray dogs he used to feed and shelter. He made a harrowing final video predicting his imminent death. Among the other killed BJP workers were Haran Adhikari from South 24 Parganas, Gourab Sarkar from Birbhum, Mintu Barman and a 19 year old from Cooch Behar and a BJP leader’s mother, Kakali Kshetrapal in East Bardhaman.[8]
All of these victims belong to the Hindu community. Now, if we’re neutral about it and care to mention the victims from TMC, we’ll see that 2 out those 3 victims were Hindu as well, Bibhash Bag(dead) and Ganesh Mallik(injured).[9]

Rapes of Hindu women
Bangladesh:
On the 16th of November 2001, the Daily Star reported that over 200 Hindu women were gang raped by the BNP-Jamaat men, their ages ranging from 8 to 70![10] Hundreds of Hindu families were forced to leave their homes and no effort was made for their rehabilitation. One can only imagine their fate as refugees in WB or Assam…
In 2009, on order of the Bangladesh High Court, a judicial investigation was made into the post election violence. The commission submitted its report in 2011 which said accused of premeditated violence targeting the Hindu community which involved a total of at least 25 thousand Muslims out of which 25 were Ministers and Members of Parliaments of the BNP-Jamaat-e-Islami coalition.
The report also mentioned mass rapes exceeding 18 thousand[11] in numbers. It also notes incidents of violence, arson, looting, and torture against the Hindu community of Bangladesh. In 2011, a court in Sirajganj District sentenced 11 individuals to life time imprisonment for the Rape of Purnima Rani Shil[12], a 12 year old child, who was gang raped by 11 men belonging to the BNP-Jamaat coalition, as her helpless mother screamed, “please don’t go all at once, my daughter is too young, you’ll kill her, take her one at a time!”
This draws parallel with the rape of a 20 year old college student in WB’s Pingla(Medinipur). But whereas Purnima Shil was taken to Dhaka for treatment, received financial aid from Hasina and later became a full timer for Awami League; the young lady from WB did not live to tell her tale. She was brutally murdered and 3 poor labors(including a female) were framed in whole incident while the real culprits are probably roaming free, as thanks to the police and media this incident has been tagged as ‘non-political’! As per some news agencies, the victim’s family has stated that this is not a political incident. But that really shouldn’t be a deciding factor in a case like this. The family could’ve well been silenced by fearmongering, as it happens with so many victims and families across the nation. These news agencies probably have no idea how crooked the police in Bengal can be and how they can force a confession. I don’t want to point fingers, but a lot of people are seeing foul play in this. She not being a BJP worker or supporter might as well be true, but that doesn’t prove that her rape and murder wasn’t connected to the post-poll violence. Justice is what her family will never get and a fair trial is something the three labourers won’t.
There were several other accusations of rapes and attempts to rape Hindu women in WB, who were either BJP supporters, or in some way related to a male BJP supporter.
A National Commission for Women’s team visiting West Bengal for investigating the post-poll violence found that many women had received rape threats. It was further discovered that the police were not taking any steps, forcing these women and their daughters to leave the state for protection. They were unready to raise their voice fearing backlash.
“The team received information about many stranded victims, who left their homes because of violence, are currently forced to stay in a shelter home. The team was informed by the victims that they were physically assaulted and their homes were vandalised and set ablaze by TMC goons,” the NCW statement said.[13]
Back to Bangladesh.
In 2014, The New Humanitarian reported that the Hindu community in Bangladesh was also targeted in 2008 and 2014.
The local media said that as many as 200 people were murdered and thousands were critically injured since 25th November, 2013, the day the poll was announced.
In January 2014, while the elections were on, armed radicals attacked the minority communities, in districts like Jessore, Satkhira, Thakurgaon, Chittagong, Nilphamari,, Lalmonirhat, Dinajpur etc., which affected as many 5000 minority families(90%+ Hindus) including indigenous Garo families (Jamalpur district) according to International aid agencies.
On 5 January, as the country voted in parliamentary elections, radical forces from the Muslim community attacked a fishermen’s village named Malopara(Jessore), home to 80 families. It is an all Hindu village (maybe the village name has do with the word Malo = Malu, short for Malaun, a religious slur against Hindus) which was burnt down and most of the villagers had to flee to other nearby villages.
Among the villagers was a certain Shyamal Kumar Biswas, who sustained severe injuries and was hospitalized for 10 days. He returned home after the PM Hasina ramped up the security in the village but Biswas was not reassured. “These security forces will not remain for long, and who will save us in the future?” he asked. His thoughts echoed with everyone in the village who were afraid of being attacked again..
Political turmoil and an underlying animosity of the Muslims for the minorities, especially Hindus, are not a recent development in Bangladesh. In election related violence, it is always the Hindus who are first and the most affected. The radical Muslims cause civil disturbances which help them to pursue their communal agenda of ethnic cleansing under the guise of political violence.
According to Rana Dasgupta, the general secretary of the Bangladesh Hindu Buddhist Christian Unity Council, “Attackers find the political crisis the best time [to lash out at Hindus], as people [are focused] on the crisis.”
“One of the major reasons for the attacks is occupying land and assets. If repeated attacks take place, Hindus will migrate and this will help local [lawbreakers] to occupy the lands.”[14]
The looting of Hindu shops and burning of Hindu businesses in West Bengal following the 2021 Legislative Assembly election yet again draws parallel to the pattern of election violence in Bangladesh. By the 4th of May, a few hundred BJP party offices and Hindu houses or houses of BJP workers were ransacked across the state. The BJP Party workers shared self captured videos of alleged arson at BJP offices.[15]
Industrialist and BJP leader Shishir Bajoria told Reuters that their party workers were being hounded out in the rural belts and their houses have been set ablaze.[16]
TMC supporters were also accused of vandalising the homes and shops of BJP workers in various parts of East Bardhaman like Galsi, Ramgopalpur. Several people were physically attacked and according to the locals no action was taken by the police.[17]
The pattern of attacking Hindus, their homes and livelihood, is pretty much the same with Bangladesh. It is always the Hindu who is at the receiving end. In case of WB, the perpetrators were a mixed group of Hindu TMC supporters and Muslims. But their party adheres to political Islamic ideology. The foolish Hindu supporters of TMC keep thinking this is a political game, while the Muslims of Bengal are focused on their original agenda of a Muslim Bengal consisting of Bangladesh, WB, Assam and Tripura. It is not long when from Muslim majority parts of West Bengal cries are heard for separate or independent statehood… “Azadi!”

References:
1. Rozario, Rock Ronald, “Why Bangladeshi elections are a time for violence against minorities”, UCA News, October 2, 2017. Retrieved May 22, 2021. From: https://www.ucanews.com/news/why-bangladeshi-elections-are-a-time-for-violence-against-minorities/80288#
2. “Minorities targeted in Bangladesh political violence”, The New Humanitarian, January 31, 2014. Retrieved May 22, 2021. From: https://www.thenewhumanitarian.org/analysis/2014/01/31/minorities-targeted-bangladesh-political-violence
3. “Post-Election Violence in Bangladesh Kills 3”, The New York Times, October 4, 2001. Retrieved May 22, 2021. From: https://www.nytimes.com/2001/10/04/international/asia/postelection-violence-in-bangladesh-kills-3.html
4. Fazal, Tanweer(2013). Minority nationalisms in South Asia, Routledge, p.133.
5. Ibid.
6. “11 killed in Bengal post-poll violence, Centre seeks report”, The Times of India, May 4, 2021. Retrieved May 23, 2021. From: https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/11-killed-in-bengal-post-poll-violence-centre-seeks-report/articleshow/82378005.cms?from=mdr
7. “West Bengal violence live: Cong, Left slam post-poll violence ‘unleashed by TMC’”, The Times of India, May 5, 2021. Retrieved May 23, 2021. From: https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/west-bengal-violence-news-live-updates-j-p-nadda-on-two-day-visit-to-west-bengal/liveblog/82381095.cms
8. Monideepa Banerjie, “Mamata Banerjee Appeals For Calm After 12 Killed In Post-Poll Violence”, NDTV, May 4, 2021. Retrieved May 22, 2021. From: https://www.ndtv.com/india-news/bengal-election-results-2021-centre-seeks-report-from-bengal-after-at-least-a-dozen-killed-in-post-poll-violence-2427599
9. “Three TMC workers, one BJP supporter killed in post-poll clashes in Bengal’s Purba Bardhaman”, New Indian Express, May 3, 2021. Retrieved May 23, 2021. From: https://www.newindianexpress.com/nation/2021/may/03/three-tmc-workers-one-bjp-supporter-killed-in-post-poll-clashes-in-bengals-purba-bardhaman-2298019.amp
10. Badrul Ahsan, Mohammad (16 November 2001). “The night of the lost nose-pins”. www.hvk.org. The Daily Star. Retrieved May 23, 2021.
11. Prodip Choudhury, “2001 violence on HindusCaretakers, BNP, Jamaat blamed”, BDNews24, April 24, 2011. Retrieved May 23, 2021. From: https://bdnews24.com/bangladesh/2011/04/24/2001-violence-on-hinduscaretakers-bnp-jamaat-blamed
12. “Eleven sentenced to life for Bangladesh gang rape”, BBC News, May 4, 2011. Retrieved May 22, 2021. From: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-south-asia-13277465
13. “West Bengal violence: NCW says women receiving rape threats, want daughters to leave state”, The New Indian Express, May 7, 2021. Retrieved May 24, 2021. From: https://www.newindianexpress.com/nation/2021/may/07/west-bengal-violence-ncw-says-women-receiving-rape-threats-want-daughters-to-leave-state-2299727.amp
14. “Minorities targeted in Bangladesh political violence”, The New Humanitarian, January 31, 2014. Retrieved May 22, 2021. From: https://www.thenewhumanitarian.org/analysis/2014/01/31/minorities-targeted-bangladesh-political-violence
15. “WEST BENGAL ASSEMBLY ELECTION: Row after several killed in violence post Bengal polls”, Hindustan Times, May 4, 2021. Retrieved May 24, 2021. From: https://www.hindustantimes.com/elections/west-bengal-assembly-election/bengal-governor-summons-dgp-as-violence-erupts-in-parts-of-state-101620040745644-amp.html
16. “Post-election violence kills six in eastern India”, Reuters, May 5, 2021. Retrieved May 23, 2021. From: https://www.reuters.com/world/india/post-election-violence-kills-six-eastern-india-2021-05-05
17. “Three TMC workers, one BJP supporter killed in post-poll clashes in Bengal’s Purba Bardhaman”, The New Indian Express, May 3, 2021. Retrieved May 24, 2021. From: https://www.newindianexpress.com/nation/2021/may/03/three-tmc-workers-one-bjp-supporter-killed-in-post-poll-clashes-in-bengals-purba-bardhaman-2298019.amp

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