Mamata Banerjee on Friday placed the blame of communally-stained tension in pockets of Howrah since Thursday on the saffron ecosystem’s shoulder, accusing it of deliberate, pre-planned riot-mongering to reap political dividends through its hackneyed weapon of choice — polarisation.
The Bengal chief minister, in her statements issued to the media on Friday, sounded ready to deal with the provocateurs with an iron fist, while appearing to emerge as a messiah-esque figure for minorities, both as an administrator and a politician.
“This is the BJP’s formula of riot-mongering. This is what has finished them across the nation. They will be wiped out in the future, nationally,” said Mamata on Friday.
“This was not done by Hindus, but by the BJP’s Bajrang Dal, Hindu Samhati, Hindu Mahasabha, or whatever else they have,” she added, in a telephone conversation with ABP Ananda.
The sequence of events — unfortunate and condemnable in equal measure — could not have been better-timed, perhaps, for the Trinamul Congress chief, amid some recent doubts over whether the support of minorities (crucial, as they comprise roughly a third of the Bengal electorate) had begun dwindling.
“Using that familiar stratagem, this was the BJP’s plan. The BJP has the Bajrang Dal, the Hindu Samhati – whatever other matha-mundu (nonsensical elements) they have – all of them had this plan, to trigger a riot by any means necessary. Yesterday (Thursday), the BJP caused riots like this in a hundred places across the country,” she said.
“We think this planning was made by the BJP from a month ago. We have had that information. That planning caused riots,” added the chief minister. “Then, nationally they will control the media and claim – like they did yesterday – that Muslims attacked first, spinning a yarn of that narrative. But they (Muslims) did not do anything yesterday (in Howrah). Yesterday, it was unilateral.”
Mamata – whose resignation as the state home minister was sought by the BJP, on a propaganda overdrive since Thursday evening – admitted to failure of the police administration at Howrah, although it was able to avert untoward incidents elsewhere in the state.
“I had said repeatedly that no procession should enter that route. Despite that, criminals – nothing to do with any religion – took out guns, petrol-bombs, knives, bulldozers, and many other things, they went in deliberately to a place where minorities live,” she said.
“They mounted an attack there, ransacked shops, disrupted peace during Ramazan among those fasting peacefully. They had tried something similar in Panchla as well, in several other places (of the state), which we were able to stop…. This was the place where there was failure on the part of the police administration, which I admit. Whatever action needs be taken, I will take,” added Mamata.
Asked if police had issued permission, the home minister said according to the information she was given, they never did.
“When a lot of people entered, if the police opened fire then, people could have gotten killed or grievously injured. So the police, perhaps, had to digest getting beaten up,” she said.
Mamata said police protection was ensured in the area, that nobody got hurt.
“At least there was no loss of life, which is a great blessing for me,” she said.
“There certainly was some laxity in policing, some definitely got scared. Some are intimidated by them (the BJP) with threats of the ED and the CBI,” added the chief minister. “There is a section everywhere who strike an understanding. We will not tolerate them, as none should tolerate me if I do wrong.”
She assured the victims of Howrah of stern measures by her government against the perpetrators, including use of the recently amended West Bengal Maintenance of Public Order Act, which empowers the administration to get court orders for the attachment and auction of the assets of people who damage public and private property “during agitation”, in order to pay compensation to victims.
“Whoever damaged property, their property we will attach and take. We have passed that legislation. I have instructed the chief-secretary (H.K. Dwivedi),” said Mamata.