Is West Bengal Government Preparing an anti-Hindu Action?
Earlier this year, I was at a Mandir in the rural Burdwan District of West Bengal. Most of the people with me were there because of my work to stop anti-Hindu persecution in Bangladesh. One man, however, was there to keep an eye on us. He was part of West Bengal's ruling party, the Trinamool Congress (TMC), led with an iron fist by strongwoman Mamata Banerjee. I confronted him about why the West Bengal government turns a blind eye toward anti-Hindu persecution in the state and the illegal infiltration from Bangladesh that has pushed Hindus out of several key border areas. He admitted that both were problems but said that if they raised the issue "certain parties" would object strenuously. "So what," I replied. "Isn't it more important to stop the persecution?" Yes, he said, but they needed those "certain parties" (i.e., code for Muslims) as the party's vote bank.
Fast forward to the landslide victory by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). A key element to that win was a rejuvenation of Hindu pride after years of a government that demonized it as bigoted. During the campaign, Mamata was one of only a few Indian politicians who said that she would never join hands with Modi, and she has maintained that attitude ever since. Moreover, while the TMC maintained its control in West Bengal, the pro-Modi vote made some serious--and heretofore absent--inroads. Are recent events in the state part of a TMC/Mamata effort to shore up its base through action against Hindu activists?
On October 27, an associate of mine, Apurba Roy, was seized by West Bengal police along with his brother Nitish, at first on a manufactured charge of weapons possession. After the authorities failed to comply with the law to produce the accused within 24 hours along with a charge, international pressure forced their hand. Only the charge had changed to "illegal infiltration." You see, Roy was a refugee from anti-Hindu persecution in Bangladesh, and had fled to West Bengal at some point in or prior to 2008. Prime Minister Modi stated categorically that such refugees would be welcome in India. Mamata's minions, however, would have no part of that and have begun rounding up people like Roy--while continuing to allow Muslims to cross from Bangladesh, increasing their current political strength.
Colleagues on the ground told me that while in custody, Roy faced severe questioning about his activities and those of my colleagues and me. Other Hindu activists have been arrested recently, including Hindu Samhati founder and prominent Hindu leader, Tapan Ghosh (although he has been released at least for now). It would not be out of keeping for the West Bengal rulers to harass pro-Hindu activists, including those like Roy and me who are only trying to stop the ethnic cleansing of Hindus in Bangladesh. We will know more later this month when, according to the most recent filings, the government will hold its first hearing on Apurba Roy's case in a Bangaon courtroom.
Will this herald a TMC action to purge the state of its opponents? A lot of people will be watching for the answer.