Even when they fight each other politically over domestic issues, it seems the Trinamool Congress (TMC) and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) must somehow bring in the Bangladesh factor into their war of words.
BJP's West Bengal unit leaders publicly accused “Bangladeshi extremists” of fomenting religious fundamentalism in the state at a media briefing in Kolkata on Wednesday.
They launched a scathing attack on Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee for “encouraging” such elements and said West Bengal could also “turn into Bangladesh” unless Delhi stepped in to improve the situation.
The BJP press briefing was organised in the context of its bitterest acrimony with Mamata's Trinamool. For the first time, BJP's West Bengal unit chief Dilip Ghosh called upon the central government to dismiss the state government and introduce President’s rule in the state.
Mamata's party came to power in 2011 and secured its second consecutive victory last year.
Trouble has been brewing since Sunday (July 4) at Baduria in North 24 Parganas, after a student wrote a blog. It soon went viral and apparently offended a section of Muslims.
Police sensed the public discontent by nightfall, and arrested the youth to pacify the locals. But apparently this was not enough.
Over the next two days, angry mobs roamed the streets, shouting slogans, vandalising shop and vehicles. Police, who mostly carry batons, tried to stop them but the mobs shoved them aside and continued their mayhem.
The angry mob demanded police to hand over the youth to them and set 12 police vehicles on fire as the latter declined to comply.
Reinforcements were sent as the outnumbered policemen could do nothing. Oddly enough, the additional forces were not deployed but kept at local police stations as the mob kept growing in size by the hour and became more aggressive.
The mob then started ransacking local houses, attacking common people, damaging vehicles and looting shops. Their slogans grew louder as helpless people cowered in their homes and frantically called police for help but nobody came to their rescue.
Police later claimed that the only order they had received was to “keep calm and study the situation”. Police also prevented journalists from visiting the affected areas.
By now, Basirhat, Hasnabad, Taki and parts of Barasat have been affected.
It was unclear why Mamata's government allowed the situation to spiral out of control in areas close to the Bangladesh border.
Initially it was the majority community that was targeted.
By Tuesday however, a Hindu backlash began, with mobs targeting houses, shops and vehicles. BJP leaders who had made video recordings of the incidents in different areas, met state Governor Kesrinath Tripathy at 2:30pm and briefed him about the situation.
Tripathy called up Chief Minister Mamata an hour later and spoke for 12 minutes. According to available indications, the governor wanted to know why the outbreak of communal violence had been allowed to get out of hand. If the police could not act, why the para-military forces and the army had not been called out.
Mamata said that police were in charge and along with local Trinamool leaders, they were trying to persuade the people to desist from violence. The Government had not ordered firing as that would have killed 200-300 people – a claim Mamata reiterated at a media briefing later.
This apparently did not convince Tripathy who promptly called Union Home Minister Rajnath Singh and briefed him about the situation.
In the meantime, Mamata launched a vitriolic tirade against Governor Tripathy and the central government, accusing the former of insulting and intimidating her.
She claimed she wanted to resign at one stage and warned that the governor should not overstep his authority. Mamata also condemned communal elements among Hindus and Muslims, but clearly she was after governor Tripathy, journalists said.
Governor Tripathy remained calm and expressed his shock at Mamata's language and vehemence.
He reminded her that he was doing only his Constitutional duty. It was his right to inquire about failures of law and order. Tripathy said he had neither insulted nor intimidated the chief minister at any stage.
Amid the chaos, the central government dispatched Border Security Force and later, army units to patrol the troubled areas.
Home Minister Singh asked Tripathy and Mamata to maintain decorum in their dealings.
Sources in the West Bengal government said the centre had acted after Kolkata requested assistance but this was denied by the state's BJP leaders who insisted that Delhi moved after Tripathy spoke spoke to Singh.
BJP's West Bengal unit chief Dilip Ghosh made a telling point at Wednesday's media briefing: “When it came to the violence in the Darjeeling hills, Banerjee lost no time to call in the army. Why did she not ask for additional help even after the failure of her police here?
“Because a particular community was involved in the violence and they could not be punished? This is yet another instance of how this TMC government aids and abets violence sponsored by Muslim extremists as they go on a rampage, keeping the police inactive.”
He referred to what he described as Mamata's “shameless appeasement of militant Muslims”, alleging that under Trinamool's rule, Muslims had attacked Hindus at Deganga, Canning, Dhulagari, burnt thanas at Malda and Birbhum but hardly anybody had been punished.
In this context, he referred to the role played by fundamentalist madrasa teachers from Bangladesh, who addressed youths and students in West Bengal at special meetings, where Islamic jihad was preached.
Other BJP leaders said there was evidence of extremists' activities in Malda, Murshidabad and other areas. Even if Mamata's government tried to protect them and suppress their activities, the central fact-gathering agencies had collected plenty of information and evidence of activities of such people who usually belong to banned political organisations in Bangladesh.
It is clear that the controversy will not end very soon, as more and more state and national leaders join in the latest exchange of hostilities between the BJP and the Trinamool.