It has been four years since the small town of Dhulagarh in West Bengal witnessed one of the horrifying episodes of communal violence. The day was December 13, 2016. It was the occasion of Eid Milad-un-Nabi (the birthday of Prophet Muhammad).
On the fateful day, a large group of Muslims took out a procession to commemorate the day. They alleged that the procession was stopped and stones were pelted at them near Annapurna Club at Dewan Ghat. And thus followed a tale of violence and arson. The Muslim mobs went on a rampage, forcing local Hindu families to flee the town.
The Islamist mob specifically targetted the Hindu-dominated Pollepara and Banerjeepara localities. They hurled country-made crude bombs at Hindu homes, looted the houses for cash and jewellery and later set them on fire. And the carnage continued unabated, despite police deployment. It is pertinent to remember that Dhulagarh is located just 25 km from the State Secretariat, Nabanna, in Howarth.
Hindus recount the horror of Dhulagarh riots
A local Hindu, Lakshmi Mallya narrated, “Nothing is left. We are looted of all our belongings. They (Muslims) ransacked and vandalised our houses and eventually set them on fire. We could not save a single penny from our houses, only managed to save our children and ran for life.”
Another Hindu man, Manna, whose house was vandalised by the rioters lamented, “We can’t live here anymore so we have taken shelter in our relatives’ place. Police came that day but when we were attacked even the cops ran away.” He is a barber by profession and runs a family of three. His wife, Seema, said that the Muslim mob stole ₹65,000 cash and a laptop that they had bought for their son.
A 32-year-old woman, Subhra Khanra, had to flee her house and take refuge in the local temple, after the mob ransacked her house, stole jewellery and set it ablaze. She said, “They were carrying petrol and kerosene in drums and had come fully prepared. After looting our jewellery and money they set everything else on fire. Where will we go now?”
Police stood as mute spectators, recounted Hindu victims
While speaking to India Today, another victim, Maitri Mondal informed that she had heard the violent mob yell ‘Pakistan Zindabad’. They entered her house and set it on fire. Her son, who was to appear for board exams in February of 2017, had his books converted into ashes. She narrated how the police did not do anything when the rioters went on a rampage. “For five hours, they created mayhem and the police came when everything was lost. Not a single minister has visited us yet,” Mondol lamented.
Another Hindu man, victimised by the Dhulagarh riots, stated, “When the police came, we were told to leave our houses in two minutes! They didn’t even stop the mob from vandalizing our homes. They kept looting and burning as the police stood as silent spectators.” Although the police had registered cases of rioting and arrested 65 people, the victims of the violence and the Opposition BJP had questioned the role of police in preventing the damage.
Muslim appeasement by Mamata Banerjee
The Trinamool Congress has often faced social media backlash for its Muslim appeasement and blatant attempts to trivialise and downplay atrocities against Hindus in the State. She had denied any instance of rioting in Dhulagarh and blamed social media for rumour mongering.
“In the last 15 days, social media is running wrong information on an incident which did not take place at all…In order to break a news, one must not act irresponsibly. If something has really happened then you (media) have every right to report but I think a field survey must be conducted,” she had claimed. This was despite the fact that the government had already announced a compensation of ₹35,000 for the victims and the process of disbursement had begun.
While being well-aware that the perpetrators belonged to the Muslim community, Mamata Banerjee restricted coverage of the incident by the media. The TMC government restricted the entry of media persons in Dhulagarh and even filed a First Information Report (FIR) against three employees of Zee News, including Sudhir Chaudhary for supposedly promoting ‘enmity’ between communities. It must be mentioned that Zee News was the first to uncover the incident.
Law and order situation in west Bengal remains unchanged
It has been 4 years since the Dhulagarh riots. However, the law and order situation, under the Mamata Banerjee regime, has shown little to no improvement. In May this year, shocking visuals of Telinipara, where communal clashes took place, after Hindu houses were set on fire had gone viral on social media.
Locket Chatterjee, BJP MP from Hooghly took to Twitter to inform that while she tried to call the CP of Chandannagar Police, Dr Humayun Kabir, he did not take her calls. She alleged that the West Bengal state administration had been a mute spectator as Telinipara burned. She further stated that she was prevented from going to Telinipara amid allegations of widespread communal violence and looting wherein police also facilitated perpetrators.
Victimisation of Hindus continue from Dhulagarh to Delhi
However, nothing seems to have changed since the Dhulagarh riots. The conscience of India is still shaken with the scars of the recent anti-Hindu riots of Delhi, wherein Muslims mobs went on a rampage, killing 52 people. The visual imagery of Mohammed Shahrukh Pathan intimidating a police officer and the horrifying image of IB officer Ankit Saxena’s hand sticking out a ditch sends chills down the spine. While the Delhi police swung into action and contained the orchestrated riots within 2 days, the same wasn’t true for the ill-fated Hindus of Dhulagarh.