There was a time, not that many decades ago, when Hindu grief in one part of the country would not go unnoticed in its other parts. And so it was that Hindus across north and central India, as it existed before the demise of British colonial rule a year later, observed a ‘black’ Diwali in the autumn of 1946 to commiserate with their co-religionists of Noakhali in Bengal. The infamous Noakhali riots, which erupted on October 10 even before the last corpse had been removed from the bustees of Calcutta which had burned for days following Mohammed Ali Jinnah’s call for ‘Direct Action’ on August 16, witnessed what Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was to later describe as a call to Hindus to leave or perish in the “flames of fanaticism”. If Direct Action Day led to the ‘Great Calcutta Killing’, the “organised fury of the Muslim mob” — as an enraged member of the Bengal Legislative Assembly rudely but pithily put it — was unsparing in Noakhali. Hindu homes were set on fire, Hindu women were raped and girls abducted, Hindu men were murdered. It was this unrestrained butchery and the Hindu grief in its wake that moved a million Hindu hearts in central and north India and the diyas remained unlit that Diwali.
Six-and-a-half decades later, Hindus, it would seem, are no longer moved by the plight of Hindus. The pseudo-secularism aggressively peddled by political parties of all shades — even the BJP has begun to subscribe to the bunkum made fashionable by the Left-liberal intelligentsia in the hope of ridding itself of its ‘communal’ (read Hindu) tag — and the divisive politics of caste identity have made Hindus inure to the plight and sorrow of fellow Hindus. Nothing else explains the indifference of Hindus towards their hapless co-religionists in Deganga who, after suffering the “organised fury of the Muslim mob”, led by Trinamool Congress MP Haji Nurul Islam, have been virtually abandoned by both community and state to their fate. Starting September 6, Haji Nurul Islam and his thugs, who met with resistance when they tried to demolish the main Durga Mandap that has existed for long, ran riot in Deganga block of West Bengal’s North 24 Parganas district, a short distance from Calcutta. Hindu homes were ransacked, Hindu shops were set on fire, Hindu temples were desecrated. All this happened while the district administration and the police twiddled their thumbs. In West Bengal, the Marxists are loath to take on the mullahs; for the Trinamool Congress, the mullahs are powerful allies in Ms Mamata Banerjee’s quest for power at any price.
Humiliated and simmering with rage, abandoned and forsaken by their own in West Bengal and elsewhere, the grieving Hindus of Deganga decided not to celebrate Durga Puja, the most important festival in the Bengali Hindu calendar, this year. The Durga Mandaps in Deganga wore a deserted look, the joyous sound of dhaak, the traditional drum, was not heard, and an overwhelming sense of mourning prevailed. Fear played spoil sport, too: If the September riots were any indication, Muslim belligerence was not to be taken lightly. Meanwhile, in a demonstration of crude triumphalism, Haji Nurul Islam and his goons, with the full support and blessings of the Trinamool Congress, have built and inaugurated a new mosque right in the middle of Deganga market. The high-volume and high-pitched azaan is more a taunt to the Hindus than a call to prayers for the faithful.
The ghetto now rules Deganga. The Hindus, reduced to an awful minority by Muslim ‘settlers’ who entered West Bengal illegally and settled in Deganga as ‘citizens’ after being provided with ration cards by the local committee of the CPI(M) that facilitated the inclusion of their names in the voters list, can only grieve over their persecution today. Ironically, the Hindus voted en bloc for the Left, as did the illegal Bangladeshi immigrants-turned-Indian citizens. Then the demography changed radically; the pampered minority became the oppressive majority. That coincided with the waning of the Left Front and the waxing of the Trinamool Congress which, mindful of numbers, chose Muslims over Hindus in Deganga and strengthened its hold by patronising the likes of Haji Nurul Islam. When Ms Mamata Banerjee went around ‘inaugurating’ Durga Puja at various pandals in Hindu majority constituencies of Kolkata this year, she did not spare a thought for the Hindus of Deganga; she need not have because their votes do not matter. That’s the power of demographic change, forced and natural.
Nor does the Left Front, especially the CPI(M), care about the Hindus of Deganga. The Marxists believe survival depends not on alienating the mullahs but pandering to them. Hence the recently announced communal quota; hence, too, the West Bengal Government shamelessly looking the other way as students of a tax-payer funded Islamic ‘university’ — really an over-glorified madarsa — in Kolkata force their women teachers to wear the burqa on campus. Then there is the media which has blacked out the plight of Hindus in Deganga, striking an ideological posture with which we are all too familiar. But it is not Left-liberalism that has kept Deganga out of the columns of newspapers and prime time bulletins of 24x7 news channels: It is the fear of incurring the wrath of both Ms Mamata Banerjee and her Marxist foes. The tragedy that has befallen the Hindus of Deganga is similar to the stuff that once made Ripley’s ‘Believe It or Not’ a popular inclusion in Sunday papers.
Postscript: I have received the following e-mail from Hindu Samhati, the only organisation which has been trying to draw the attention of media and authorities to the fear that reigns in Deganga, admittedly without any success so far:
“Minor Hindu girl abducted by Muslim youth in Deganga in broad daylight on October 1.
Victim — Sangita Mandal; age 17 years, four months. Class 12 student. Daughter of Sukumar Mandal. Address: Village Purba Changdana, PS Deganga.
Kidnapper — Naharul Islam; age 22. Son of Abdul Rahim. Address: Village Doharia.
Sangita was abducted in a Maruti Omni van at Ambika Nagar in front of Polytechnic College.”
In a similar case of abduction and forced nikah when the mother of the minor girl appealed for justice to a division bench of Calcutta High Court earlier this year, the honourable judges of secular India’s secular justice system had cited sharia’h to legitimise the ‘marriage’, insisting that the age of the girl was inconsequential. We live in depressing times.