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Daily Mail Report | Online Global Edition | Kolkata | Feb 5, 2017:: The irony was stark. In mid-January, West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee tweeted her opposition to the date of the Union Budget, citing Saraswati Puja.
But when the puja actually happened, several schools across Bengal, including a few situated just a stone’s throw away from her administration in Kolkata, were forced to cancel the festivities fearing reprisals from Islamist groups.
The reason: they reportedly wanted Prophet Muhammad’s birthday to be celebrated first.
This was allegedly a precondition set by the Rajarhat Imam Council. Rajarhat is a newly built township, which is less than 10 km from Kolkata.
Schools that opposed the Rajarhat diktat saw posters on school walls asking to celebrate, complete with the date and time of the event. Welcome to the new Bengal, were hallowed secular institutions, including schools, are facing increasing interference from the Islamist radicals, even as the state’s ruling party shamelessly passes the buck or opts for outright denial.
‘This (Islamic interference) is not only limited to Rajarhat,’ says Sourish Mukherjee, media in-charge of Vishwa Hindu Parishad’s Bengal unit. ‘This has been happening in Tehatta where schools are not allowed to open for weeks due to refusal to celebrate Nabi Dibas (Prophet’s birthday),’ he says.
‘The situation is graver in border districts where religious fanaticism is allowed to play havoc more easily. Can you imagine us demanding Saraswati Puja in a madrassa? It’s exactly like that,’ says Mukherjee.
Similar threats were faced by a high school in Tehatta in Nadia district. Only this time, both the sides are rigid. After the school authority firmly refused to allow Nabi Dibas celebration, the school was shut down for 26 days in a row.
Though district school observers ordered the school to be reopened, a local Muslim leader, Qasim Siddiqui upped the ante with his followers and refused the re-opening. A video available with Mail Today, whose authenticity could not immediately be verified, shows Siddiqui telling a large gathering that he would not negotiate.
Meanwhile, the school president wrote a letter to the local police, a copy of which is in possession of Mail Today, in which he has urged the law enforcement agencies to take corrective actions to prevent a possible communal flare up.
Following this, the school was opened briefly, but was closed again to avoid clashes over Saraswati Puja celebrations. A protest march led by students and residents of the area, carrying a 3-ft tall idol of Goddess Saraswati, meanwhile, turned violent and the police had to resort to lathi-charge to disperse the crowd.
The school currently remains shut, and Rapid Action Force (RAF) personnel deployed in nearby areas. The school principal has tendered his resignation and it’s not just about Rajarhat or Tehatta. Schools in Jangipara area of Hooghly district also face similar problems, as the local residents claim that the schools have not been allowed to celebrate Sarawati Puja for some years now, mainly due to opposition from the fundamentalist forces.
A school that refused to celebrate Nabi Dibas has allegedly received threats, which was followed by verbal spat between two groups. The school was forced to remain closed for a day to avoid communal tension. Talking to Mail Today, senior sources in West Bengal police confirmed the security threat which these schools are facing from fringe elements.
But how can fundamentalist outfits hold entire school administrations to ransom? The Trinamool Congress (TMC) leaders Mail Today approached were either terse in their response or feigned complete ignorance of any such radicalisation efforts.
‘No, I haven’t heard of any such thing. I am not aware,’ says Sougata Roy, TMC spokesperson. TMC MP Sukhendu Sekhar Roy also responded in a similar fashion. ‘I dont know. Ask the state politicians for such issues.’ So we contacted Shishir Adhikari who is lately spending more time in the state. He put the ball back in the court of central leadership.
Interestingly, these statements of ignorance are akin to how Banerjee herself described the infamous Park Street rape as ‘shajano ghotona’ (cooked up story) or more recently, the Dhulagarh Riots as ‘wrong information’.
It may be noted that a charge sheet was filed against the main accused in the Park Street rape case, last year, while this year, the Calcutta High Court asked Mamata Banerjee government to file an affidavit on actions taken on the Dhulagarh Riot.
However, CM Mamata continues to be dismissive and claims that both the cases never took place.
Sidhharth Nath Singh, BJP leader, calls it a ‘worrisome situation’ in West Bengal. Locket Chatterjee, a Bengali TV actress who recently joined BJP explains what the ‘worry factor’ is. ‘The appeasement policy of TMC is to be blamed for this. The ground reality in West Bengal is very serious,’ says Chatterjee.
‘We could never imagine that students could be beaten black and blue, only for asking for Saraswati Puja celebrations. Needless to say, the situation in border districts where Jamat-e-Islami Hind has taken over are worse,’ she says.
Jamat-e-Islami Hind, an outfit that has been previously banned by the Central government, has been distributing theological books on Islam and Prophet Muhammed in government schools.
When contacted, its Bengal president Mohammad Nooruddin confirmed the book distribution and added that it was a part of its campaign from December 9 to December 23. ‘Yes we have been distributing books on Prophet Muhammad. We distributed the books in almost all schools, be it government or otherwise,’ says Nooruddin.
The phenomenon is even more open and brazen along the Indo-Bangla border districts such as Murshidabad, Nadia, Malda and Birbhum, where a lot of Jamat-e- Islami leaders from Bangladesh side have a strong presence.
‘What is alarming is the systematic Islamic intrusion in all the secular institutions and curriculum,’ says Babul Supriyo, Minister of State for Heavy Industries and Public Enterprises and the face of Bengal BJP. ‘What happened at Kaliachak, Dhulagarh and Tehatta are dangerous, but what’s more worrying is the governments’ action or inaction is based on selective acknowledgement of the incidents,’ adds Supriyo.
Courtesy: Daily Mail.
__Some pics are not contents of Daily Mail.