On Monday, the West Bengal unit of the BJP put out a video drawing analogies between the slogans of the separatist leaders of the Muslim League in 1946 to that of the recent speech by Peerzada-turned-politician Abbas Siddiqui. The BJP tweeted, “Ladke lenga Pakistan (We will fight until we get Pakistan) – Muslim League leaders, 1946. Matribhumi ke saadhin korbo (We will gain independence for our homeland) – Abbas Siddiqui 2021.”
While addressing a large gathering of supporters at the Bridage Parade Ground in Kolkata, Abbas Siddiqui remarked, “I want to say this to all Bengalis, and my beloved folks to vote for the CPIM wherever they field their candidates. In the next election, we will free our homeland even if it requires shedding our blood for it.” As can be seen in the video, Abbas Siddiqui’s vicious election rhetoric of separatism and violence was cheered on by a large number of supporters.
লড়কে লেঙ্গে পাকিস্তান – মুসলিম লিগের নেতারা ১৯৪৬— BJP Bengal (@BJP4Bengal) March 1, 2021
মাতৃভূমিকে স্বাধীন করবো – আব্বাস সিদ্দিকী ২০২১ pic.twitter.com/3DY7pHzNEx
The ‘secular’ alliance of Abbas Siddiqui, Congress and Left
The 24-year-old Siddiqui, who has made a name for himself as a ‘Peerzada (cleric)’, had been hinting at joining electoral politics since last year. He hails from Furfura Sharif village in Hooghly district and yields strong influence over young Muslim voters in the four districts of Hooghly, Howrah, North 24 Parganas and South 24 Parganas. Sensing an opportunity to make his way to the State Legislative Assembly, he floated the Indian Secular Front (ISF) party in January this year.
Although he had initially planned to align with Asaduddin Owaisi’s All India Majlis-e-Ittehadul Muslimeen (AIMIM), the plan did not materialise. He instead joined hands with the Communist party and the Congress, even though they have lost ground in the State. Despite not forging an alliance with Owaisi, Siddiqui has informed that he will not oppose AIMIM in West Bengal. Given that Owaisi did not ally with the Congress-Left-ISF, the Muslim vote will get divided between in 3 ways (with Trinamool Congress as a major player in the political arena).
Abbas Siddiqui realises that his influence over the Muslim vote bank is limited to the youth in South Bengal whereas Congress has a stronghold in Muslim-dominated areas of Malda, Murshidabad, and North Dinajpur in North Bengal. The alliance is therefore mutually beneficial. While Congress has been thriving on Muslim appeasement, it has refrained from allying with the Owaisi due to its ‘extreme rhetorics’. However, Siddiqui’s incendiary rhetoric, fear mongering and calls for ‘divine intervention’ for death of Hindus have been conveniently ignored by the Left or the Congress.
A vocal Anti-CAA critic who threatened to block Kolkata airport
In December 2019, the Indian government passed the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) to fasttrack the citizenship of individuals who have come to India illegally from the neighbouring countries of Afghanistan, Pakistan and Bangladesh to avoid religious persecution. While the law covered only the religious minorities from these 3 countries, Islamists and left-liberal lobby had insinuated that Indian Muslims will lose their citizenship.
Amidst the raging debate on CAA, Abbas Siddiqui had threatened to block Kolkata airport if the law was not revoked. Claiming that the citizenship law was unfair to the Muslim population of the country, the cleric urged Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee to either move the Supreme Court or bring a resolution against CAA in State Assembly. Speaking to Times Now, Siddiqui warned her to take immediate steps or else risk losing the support of Muslims in West Bengal.
Abbas Siddiqui had urged Allah to kill 50 crore Indians, later made a U-turn
During the outbreak of the deadly Coronavirus in the world, a video of Abbas Siddiqui shot on February 26 last year had gone viral on social media. He was seen addressing a large gathering of followers and praying to Allah to kill 50 crore Indians with the virus.
In the video, the cleric was heard referring to anti-Hindu Delhi riots and saying, “Recently I have got the news that mosques are being set on fire, mosques are being burnt for the last two days. I think something is going to happen within a month. May Allah accept our prayers. May Allah send such a terrible virus to India that ten to twenty to fifty crore people die in India. Am I saying something wrong? It is absolutely blissful.”
His genocidal statement was well-received by his followers as they applauded in unison. Siddiqui also said that he did not mind whether he would die or survive but he would surely take Hindus with him. However, he later claimed that he was quoted ‘out of context.’ In an attempt to water down the vitriol that he spewed earlier, Siddiqui went on to say that he respected “India’s secularism” and that he had worked for the people, irrespective of religion and caste.
Abbas Siddiqui championed Islamic supremacy, fear mongering and changing population demographics
The ever-changing population demographics of West Bengal had been a matter of concern for the Hindu population in the State. With a low birth rate, coupled with mass infiltration of illegal Muslim immigrants from the neighbouring country of Bangladesh, Hindus have already been outnumbered in Murshidabad, Malda and Uttar Dinajpur districts. In an undated video that surfaced on social media in November last year, Islamic cleric Abbas Siddiqui had revealed that Muslims constituted ‘the majority’ in the State of West Bengal.
“This is Bengal. We (Muslims) are not minorities here. We are the majority here. Keep this in mind. We have a 35% population in the State,” he emphasised. Siddiqui also claimed that such a thing was possible as Adivasis, Matuas and Dalits did not fall into the Hindu fold. “If we do not come to power next time, they (Hindus) will rape our women in front of our eyes. Do you understand? You cannot do anything if you do not have power in your hands,” Siddiqui was seen fear-mongering at a public rally.
Electoral challenges of Abbas Siddiqui
Abbas Siddiqui is junior in the hierarchy of pirzadas. To add to that, his uncle Toha Siddiqui is a vocal supporter of the Trinamool Congress. Many Bengali Muslims revere pirzadas to an extent that they abhor the idea of them engaging in politics. With the growing influence of Salafi Islam in the State, other Islamic preachers have been labelling Sufis such as Siddiqui as an ‘apostate.
Nevertheless, to increase the scope of his electoral chances, he has appealed that the ISF also represents the interests of Dalits and tribals. This electoral strategy of ‘Dalit-Muslim unity’ has also been used successfully by Owaisi’s AIMIM during the Lok Sabha elections in Aurangabad in Maharashtra. However, TMC leader Arup Biswas commented, “The ISF will hardly be viewed as a secular party. It is an Islamic party and will be painted as such.”