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OPED | Thursday, October 21, 2010 | Email | Print | | Back  

Ill winds that blow through Deganga
October 21, 2010   5:12:46 PM

A heady cocktail of minority appeasement and rank communalism has sent this West Bengal town on a spin, says Richard L Benkin

For three days in September, anti-Hindu violence wracked the Deganga area in North 24 Parganas, West Bengal. Though the violence has subsided, Hindu residents fear renewed attacks. West Bengal BJP member Tathagata Roy visited the area twice since the violence began and observed, “that no Hindu was physically hurt, and no Hindu woman was molested, a regular feature in all Muslim attacks. But destruction of property and threats were both rampant….This was a well-thought-out, well-executed pogrom whose objective was to terrorise the Hindus no end without committing any major crime beyond arson.” That the matter is now fodder for political bickering instead of effective counteraction only furthers the attackers’ objectives.

Mr Bimal Pramanik, Director of Kolkata’s Centre for Research in Indo-Bangladesh Relations, has tracked a decades-long effort to change Hindu-Muslim demographics in West Bengal. Since the emergence of an independent Bangladesh in 1971, East Bengal’s Hindus have fallen from under one in five persons to between seven and eight per cent today; while the proportion of West Bengal’s Muslims has risen by 25 per cent, exceeding Muslim growth in Bangladesh. Mr Pramanik attributes the population shifts to anti-Hindu attacks and “illegal immigration from Bangladesh”.

The political infighting over Deganga is reminiscent of similar wrangling in the US. Americans reacted to the 9/11 terror with a wave of patriotism, unity and a collective will to defeat those who attacked them. Over time, however, that fervour was replaced by the same political bickering now taking place in India. Democrats blamed the attacks on Republican President George W Bush; Republicans blamed his Democrat predecessor, President Bill Clinton. The result: Support for resolutely fighting the Islamists has been plagued by disunity and political jockeying.

Islamists, meanwhile, proceed in a united, resolute manner and Muslims get a free pass to express their anger however they wish. If Hindus do it, they are ‘Hindu fanatics’; Jews, ‘Zionist oppressors’; Christians, ‘Islamaphobic’. If they attack Muslims, it is their fault. If Muslims attack them, it is still their fault. Arab terror attacks that murdered over 1,000 innocent Israelis were justified as anger over the so-called occupation. The September 11 attacks were deemed expressions of Muslim anger for which Americans must atone; and when Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad accused the US of orchestrating them, many at the UN applauded enthusiastically. And virtually every international body and media outlet determined that the 26/11 Islamist terror in Mumbai is insufficient cause to bring anyone to justice. As American author Michelle Malkin wrote, “The eternal flame of Muslim outrage was lit a long, long time ago.” Woe to any people it burns because the world’s elites will blame them for it.

The Deganga pogrom can be viewed parallel with another planned, jihadist event: The 2000 Palestinian intifada.

The Pretext

Deganga Pogrom: Hindus stopped Muslims from tunneling between the Deganga Mosque and a nearby mandir.

Arab Intifada: Private citizen Ariel Sharon visited Jerusalem's Temple Mount.


Deganga Pogrom: As the area's Muslim population has grown, it has tried to stop Durga Puja and claim the land for their mosque.

Arab Intifada: Muslims claim the Jewish Temples never existed, and claim the Mount as a holy site for Muslims only.

What happened

Deganga Pogrom: Angry Muslims gathered at the Mosque after iftar (giving it religious significance) and began attacking Hindus, their temples, homes and shops. When troops arrived, they attacked undefended Hindu villages in the interior.

Arab Intifada: Angry Muslims gathered on the Temple Mount by Al Aqsa mosque (giving it religious significance) and began attacking Jewish worshippers below. When troops restored calm, they launched a bloody terror war against Israel.


Deganga Pogrom: Stopped the immediate violence, but made no arrests, defended Hindu religious sentiments, or defined Muslim actions or claims as illegitimate.

Arab Intifada: Defeated the uprising, but allowed enemy claims to be given legitimacy, until recently, did not press Jewish rights; even released terrorists as ‘goodwill gestures’.


Deganga Pogrom: Events under reported domestically and blacked out internationally; no discussion of Hindu rights.

Arab Intifada: Took terrorists’ case as cause célèbre; no mention of Jewish rights.

The Result

Deganga Pogrom: The Muslim attackers and their instigators see they can attack Hindus in India without consequences. False Muslim claim to Hindu lands stronger.

Arab Intifada: Arab claims to Jewish land are given more legitimacy — that is, terror works. False Muslim claim about the Jewish Temples stronger.

The attackers and their backers object that identifying pogromists as Muslim and victims as Hindu unfairly smears an entire faith. While religion should not be an important issue, our enemies, not us, made it so. There were deliberate efforts to give the Deganga and Palestinian violence a religious overtone. In 2004, Yassir Arafat apologised to the father of a 20-year-old terror victim because he was Christian and they were gunning for Jews. In 2006, there were deadly riots worldwide over cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammed. The rioters were not Hindus or Jews, but Muslims who called the cartoons blasphemous. Muslims, not their critics, have made this a religious fight. More frightening, few were Al Qaeda and most were just Muslims. Draw what conclusions you may, but the religious component injected by Muslims is a fact.

The Deganga riots are more significant than we might believe. The violence and the decades-long demographic change speak of a deliberate effort to reduce India piece by piece, no less so than Islamists’ effort to do the same to Israel. If Indians do not awaken soon, as Israelis have, they might find that international elites have defined Bengal as they have Kashmir.

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