Sunday, December 02, 2007

Marxists pander to Muslim fundamentalists

CPM engineered Muslim rage
Taslima thrown out to get Nandigram off the radar

Kanchan Gupta
Jamiat-i-Ulama Hind leader Sidiqullah Chowdhury at a protest rally in Kolkata
Was the recent violence witnessed in some parts of central Kolkata, leading to dissident Bangladeshi writer Taslima Nasreen's forced eviction from the city, genuine Muslim anger or manufactured rage? Did the CPI(M) have a hand in organising the rioting? Who has gained the most after mobs took to the streets?
For possible answers, we need to step back and take a look at the sequence of events beginning with the CPI(M)'s smash-and-grab of Nandigram.
When the Marxists let loose a reign of terror in the villages of Nandigram in end-October, ratcheting it up in the first week of November, to recapture territory they had lost to the Bhoomi Uchchhed Pratirodh Committee protesting acquisition of farmland for an Indonesian SEZ, they had not bargained for extensive and sustained negative publicity in media.
The CPI(M)'s Nandigram takeover strategy was based on the doctrine of shock and awe, that is, rapid dominance through the use of overwhelming force. Marxist cadre were deployed to block entry to Nandigram and newspersons were chased away. It was hoped that this would prevent media from putting out details.
In the event, the media coverage of Nandigram was beyond anything the CPI(M) could have imagined and hugely damaging for the party. Newspapers and channels across the country picked up the story, as did foreign agencies. The fact that most of the victims of the Marxist mayhem were Muslims painted the CPI(M) in lurid colours.
With Muslim organisations, till now favourably disposed towards the CPI(M), beginning to voice their protest -- Jamiat Ulama-I-Hind said "Muslims in West Bengal are worse off than in Gujarat" - Marxist leaders, yet to recover from being pilloried over police harassment of Rizwanur Rehman and his death in mysterious circumstances, found themselves scampering for cover.
Seeking to capitalise on Nandigram, Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind called a three-hour shutdown in central Kolkata on November 15. There was moderate response to the call, disrupting Kolkata's usually chaotic traffic, but there was no violence.
The next day, Pashchim Banga Milli Ittehad Parishad, comprising 12 Muslim organisations, including Jamiat Ulama-i-Hind, Milli Council, Indian National League, Jamiat-e-Islami Hind and All-India Minority Forum, called a four-hour shutdown. Once again, apart from fiery speeches, the protest was unremarkable. Traffic was stalled at Esplanade, Park Circus, AJC Bose Road and Kidderpore. Not that traffic moves smoothly in these areas otherwise.
Suddenly, the All-India Minority Forum, led by Idris Ali, former head of the local Congress minority cell and a serial 'public interest' litigant in Kolkata High Court, called a three-hour shutdown on November 21 to protest against "Marxist atrocities on Muslims in Nandigram" and demand the "expulsion of Taslima Nasreen from Kolkata".
On the day of the shutdown, mobs emerged from Muslim-dominated areas, many of them in CPI(M) leader and West Bengal Assembly Speaker Hashim Abdul Halim's constituency, Entally, and went berserk, torching vehicles and attacking policemen. Within no time, news channels across the country were broadcasting live footage of the violence.
The footage showed mobs on the rampage and Kolkata Police personnel on the retreat. In one particular shot, a policeman was seen loading a teargas shell and then not firing it as a mob, waving swords and chanting slogans, advanced menacingly.
At none of the places that witnessed violence was the mob larger than 100 hooligans. If the police had wanted to, they could have chased away the mobs. But they didn't. It was almost as if they had been instructed not to act.
Surprisingly, the State Government, which later claimed to have been taken by surprise, promptly called in the Army and imposed curfew. This, too, made headlines as the Army's help had not been sought in West Bengal for the past 15 years although there had been worse incidents of violence.
In sharp contrast to the prompt deployment of the Army in Kolkata, the Left Front Government had refused to deploy CRPF personnel in Nandigram. When CRPF personnel were finally allowed in days after the Marxists had taken over Nandigram, they were not given the power to enforce law and order.
It took less than an hour for the Army to clear out the violence-hit streets and restore order. By early evening, calm had returned and life in Kolkata was back to normal, barring the dusk-to-dawn curfew in a few areas. Briefing newspersons on the violence, CPI(M) politburo member and State party secretary Biman Bose said if Nasreen "should leave Kolkata if her stay disturbs the peace".
What he did not explain was the ease with which mobs had been mobilised by an unheard of organisation and the listless behaviour of the State police. Neither Idris Ali nor his All-India Minority Forum could have organised the crowds. The Forum had already participated in the protest organised by Pashchim Banga Milli Ittehad Parishad and there was no reason for Ali to call a separate shutdown.
Those who track the CPI(M)'s dirty tricks department believe that Ali may have been "encouraged" to call a shutdown and highlight the "Muslim demand" for Nasreen's expulsion from Kolkata. He may have been the proverbial cat's paw. Apart from him, four men may have played a crucial role in securing for the CPI(M) an escape route from the Nandigram mess: Aslam alias Pappu, Ruhul Amin, Sultan Ahmed and Iqbal Ahmed. Aslam, a resident of Alimuddin Street, where the CPI(M)'s State headquarters are located, is a "property dealer" known for his links with the CPI(M). Amin lives in Topsia, has CPI(M) links and a dubious profile. Sultan, a resident of Ripon Street who has switched loyalties from the Congress to the Trinamool, is "open to persuasion if the price is right". His brother Ibal has done a reverse switch though his services are "not strictly restricted to the Congress". On November 21, mob fury was seen in the Ripon Street and Topsia areas, apart from Park Circus.
By the morning of November 22, media focus had shifted from Nandigram to the rioting. That day Nasreen was put on a flight to Jaipur and since then, newspapers and 24x7 channels, especially in West Bengal, have front-paged and prime-timed stories about the CPI(M) "giving in to Muslim demands". Nobody is talking about the CPI(M)'s "atrocities on Muslims in Nandigram" anymore.
Yesterday's 'persecutor' has become today's 'appeaser'.

December 2, 2007

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