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EDITORIAL: 16-28 February 2002

Left turning right?

Muslim bashing has been a pastime for a certain group of people in the country all these years. Never before have Communists in West Bengal been accused of indulging in such practices ever since they came to power around 27 years ago. Muslims have been among most committed cadres of the comrades over the decades. They have been voting for them en masse, notwithstanding the fact that they have been bypassed by the industrial development and an economic boom in the state since the eighties. They are the ones who come out to defend the party flag whenever it is in danger and face the wrath of party opponents, bear the brunt, fight for the party, get killed during demonstrations, bandhs, agitations, hartals and elections, that usually take place somewhere in the state under a Communist raj. They never dreamt that one day they will be singled out as anti-nationals and their institutions and madrasas will be tarred by none other than a Communist chief minister of the state. 

The tone and tenor of the WB Chief Minister Buddhadeb Bhattachatrjee had threateningly been hostile towards Muslims and their institutions ever since the attack on the American Centre in Kolkata on 22 January. Though the police and the intelligence agencies have so far not been able to establish the identities of the people involved in the attack and are still groping in the dark, the chief minister was quick with the customary madrasa-bashing which, according to the standards set by LK Advani, needs no proof. Simply repeating the accusations ad nauseum is sufficient to arouse mass and media hysteria. To date not a single madrasah has been pinpointed in this Advani-led crusade. If there is any single madrasa which has been pinpointed as a terrorist or ISI den, we would like to be enlightened.

The WB chief minister had criticized the madrasas of being in-league with the ISI and other anti-national elements. He announced off the cuff in Siliguri district that ‘unrecognized’ madrasas will be closed down by the government very soon and asked the police to survey madrasas in border districts in the state and furnish all information regarding them as well as their sources of income. 

Buoyed by this anti-Muslim rhetoric from the highest quarters in the state government, the police which still lacks credible proof of anyone's involvement in the gruesome Kolkata American Centre incident, went into an overdrive to catch the elusive culprit(s). The police reportedly conducted several search operations in a number of madrasas in the state capital and other parts of the state and arrested several people from there but without any proof of their involvement in the said attack. The police has also claimed that there are ‘ISI relations’ with madrasas and that they are ‘involved’ in the incident, despite the American Centre's refusal to acknowledge that the attack was aimed against it. These conflicting theories about what really happened have aroused Muslim fears.

The chief minister has tried to explain away his earlier remarks following the sharp criticism that came his way from his own ranks. He has claimed that he was misquoted by the media. But no one seems to have accepted his belated about-turn. Even his party bosses went public to admonish him. Former chief minister Jyoti Basu who has painstakingly cultivated the party in the state, rebuked his successor for his irresponsible remarks against madrasas. Basu advised the CM to admit that he had made a mistake.

The chief minister's outburst may be unexpected for some people, but not for all. We have witnessed as to how people like Karunanidhi when in power changed overnight and started maligning Muslims for nothing but to appease the BJP government at the centre. Obviously state governments need favours from the centre. There seems to be no better way under the current dispensation than to accuse Muslims for everything that goes wrong and implicate mosques and madrasas for whatever takes place in the country.

Madrasas have been facing volleys of charges ever since the Sangh Parivar came to power at the centre. There has been a systematic effort to malign their name and somehow prove their involvement in ‘anti-national’ activities. 

Though there is not a single proven case against madrasas, there has been no let up in the charges hurled at them. (SUR)

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