A week after violence broke out in West Bengal's Basirhat, the ruling Trinamool Congress and the BJP are blaming each other for the communal riots and the unrest. Firstpost's Ajit Sahi spoke to TMC MLA from Basirhat Deependu Biswas and former BJP MLA Samik Bhattacharya to get their side of the story.
Interview with Deependu Biswas, MLA (TMC), Basirhat
The BJP blames the Muslims for the violence in Basirhat and claims they are destroying communal amity. What is your view?
There is no Hindu-Muslim animosity in Basirhat. This is not about the Hindus or the Muslims. This is about the BJP trying to regain a foothold here. I defeated their sitting MLA at last year’s Assembly elections. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had come all the way to Basirhat to campaign for BJP MLA Samik Bhattacharya. Yet, I won by a margin of 25,000 votes. Naturally, the RSS-BJP are bent on destroying the peace here.
Your home and office have been vandalised. Who were behind the violence?
That is a very good question and I have been asking it since my office and home were attacked. Just a year ago, I won a massive election here. Who will dare to attack the home and office of the MLA who won with the support of both the Hindus and the Muslims? My office is the TMC’s party office. Who would attack it and why? I have CCTV footage of the mob attack and in it the mob is found shouting “Jai Shri Ram” as they attack my office.
The BJP has accused you of working against the Hindus here since the trouble began.
Their lies can be proved very easily. I was in Frankfurt when the trouble began on 2 July. I flew back to Kolkata via Doha (Qatar) and reached Basirhat only on 6 July. How could I have been involved in anything? They have accused me of getting Hindus arrested, which is nonsense. I challenge them to prove it.
But isn’t it true that the relations between Hindus and Muslims are very fraught in this region?
On the contrary. I am a footballer of national renown. I am Hindu. But I am also the vice-president of the Mohammaden Sporting Club, for which I have played for more than six years. How would that be possible if Hindus and Muslims did not get along well here? I could not have won the election without the support of both the communities.
Interview with Samik Bhattacharya, former BJP MLA from Basirhat
Who is behind the violence in Basirhat?
Since the early 2000s, the entire demographic design of this particular district has changed. It was done during the CPM regime. All kinds of criminals, including traffickers, were allowed to settle here. The politics of minority appeasement has worsened the situation. Despite that, this violence has not been between the two communities (Hindus and Muslims). There are some extra-territorial entities involved in this violence.
What do you mean by extra-territorial entities?
Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has been trying to expel separatists and terrorists from her country. Our borders are porous. They are infiltrating into our side. Only the BJP is fighting tooth and nail against illegal Bangladeshi infiltration. But they are being given ration cards, I-cards, etc. The border with Bangladesh is sitting on a volcano. In Basirhat, Hindus are surrounded by Muslims. There have been a lot of hate speeches by Muslims in the region over the last three years.
How did the violence begin and how did it spread?
Muslim mobs went on a rampage and then ransacked a police station in Baduria. They were very angry. They also blocked various places in the region. On 3 July, Jagannath rath yatra was to be taken out in Basirhat. At that time, the Muslims vandalised Hindu shops. That is how it flared up. About 2,000-3,000 Hindus came on the roads as the Muslims pelted stones at the police.
The Muslims who I have spoken with alleged that Hindus also attacked.
The Hindus were forced to defend themselves. They blocked roads for their own protection. But there was no violence by the Hindus.
What have you witnessed?
The police have refused entry to me in the region. I am forced to remain in Kolkata, where I live. But I have been connected with the people on the ground over the phone.
Updated Date: Jul 12, 2017 14:59 PM