The Bengal BJP has seized upon the clashes over Durga Puja in Bangladesh, sniffing the odour of a polarising plank ahead of the by-elections in four Assembly seats on October 30.
The attempt to fish in troubled waters flies in the face of an appeal by Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina that India should also be vigilant to ensure that religion is not used to divide people and an acknowledgement by the Narendra Modi government that Dhaka has taken prompt action to control the situation. The Trinamul Congress too had appealed for peace in Bangladesh.
Last week during Durga Puja, five people were killed and some places of worship vandalised over alleged blasphemy. Reports from Bangladesh on Sunday suggested that the situation was largely under control although nerves remained taut in areas that had witnessed the clashes.
Several prominent Hindu leaders in Bangladesh had praised the Hasina government for initiating quick action — Bangladesh Border Guard troops were deployed in 22 districts to provide security to pandals and temples, and 43 people were arrested — after the attacks in Comilla and other places in the Chittagong range.
But the Bengal BJP, still licking the wounds of the crushing Assembly election defeat, has emitted loud signals that the clashes in the neighbouring country will be used here to gain votes.
The party’s chief spokesperson, Samik Bhattacharya, told a news conference on Sunday: “What happened in Bangladesh is not an isolated incident. This is the legacy of the ethnic cleansing that the country has witnessed…. Illegal immigration from Bangladesh has disturbed the demography of our state as well. The Union government and the people of Bengal will have to be aware of this now.”
Bengal leader of Opposition and Nandigram MLA Suvendu Adhikari raised the issue while addressing party workers in the Santipur Assembly segment on Sunday.
Later, Adhikari told journalists: “Jagannath (Sarkar) babu won from Santipur with a margin of around 16,000 votes. The people of Santipur are with the BJP. They’ve seen what has happened in Bangladesh and will give a fitting reply here. The BJP will win with a margin three times bigger this time.”
Ahead of the Assembly polls in the summer, scores of BJP leaders had accused Trinamul Congress chief Mamata Banerjee of turning West Bengal into “West Bangladesh”.
Santipur, one of the four constituencies going to the polls on October 30, has a substantial population of Matuas, a Hindu refugee sect from Bangladesh. The BJP believes the narrative it intends to spin around the recent incidents beyond the border will appeal to this group.
According to party sources, the same narrative is likely to help the BJP in Dinhata as well as it covers a locality adjacent to India’s international border with Bangladesh. Sources said the BJP intended to rekindle this issue in the civic and panchayat polls, due next year.
Earlier in the day, Adhikari and former state BJP chief Dilip Ghosh had posted videos to suggest some pandals in Bengal too had come under threat.
The BJP also organised rallies at several parts of the state on Sunday in protest against the clashes in Bangladesh. On Monday, similar protests will be organised at every mandal, the BJP’s smallest organisational units.
Rana Dasgupta, the general secretary of the Hindu-Buddhist-Christian Unity Association of Bangladesh, has demanded immediate arrest of the perpetrators of the attacks there and exemplary punishment for them.