West Bengal remains to be one of the states worst hit by political violence. The incidents of violence against political opponents only increased following an impressive performance by the BJP in the Lok Sabha elections in 2019 when it managed to bag 18 of the 42 seats from the state. As West Bengal gears up for the upcoming assembly elections, OpIndia got in touch with several victims of political violence and tried to understand their perspective.
One of the victims OpIndia interviewed is Bir Bahadur Singh, an RSS activist, who was shot at point-blank range in Kolkata’s Metiabruz area in public view. Singh was on his way to teach at Tantia High school, near Mohammad Ali Park, Kolkata, when he was shot at from behind.
Subjected to constant harassment since I helped Hindu victims of beef attack in 2018: Singh
Speaking about the attack on him, Singh recounts that it all started in January 2018 when he attended a Tiranga rally in the area. At the time of the rally, unknown miscreants had thrown a piece of beef outside the houses of Hindu minorities in the neighbourhood. Singh had accompanied the victims to the local councillor’s office to register their complaint.
The local councillor, belonging to the ruling TMC came to the area, picked up the piece of beef and threw it away, Singh remembers. However, the councillor did not direct a probe to ascertain the culprits behind the incident. Following this, Singh and others went to the police station to file a complaint in the matter.
Singh claims when he and others went to the police station to file a complaint about pieces of beef were thrown outside the houses of Hindus, the police officials refused to file a complaint. He also recounts that they were mentally tortured for 2 hours at the police station and were released only after they signed a confession document that said they were the ones who threw beef.
Four months later, Singh was charged for stoking communal tensions. A few months later, he was charged with a case of robbery. The systematic harassment of Singh culminated in an attack in December 2019 when the RSS activist was shot at point-blank, allegedly by goons of the TMC councillor.
“I had gotten out of my house and was walking to a place when I was shot at from behind. There was nobody in the vicinity to help so I walked 200 meters and called for help. After some time, a relative of mine came, whom I asked to call the police. The police admitted me to a hospital. I have not got justice so far. The bullet tore through my body. I was warned a couple of days before the attack that my life may be in danger,” Singh said.
Bir Bahadur also said that some leaders in West Bengal are rattled by ‘Jai Shri Ram’ chants. He also said some people have made it their business to intimidate Hindus and coerce them into leaving the area. Singh cited an example of a Hindu family that has been threatened to vacate their house or suffer the consequence for their defiance.
Change in Bengal inevitable; fight for justice will continue in new Bengal: Singh
The RSS activist also expressed confidence in getting justice and stated that there is going to be a change in Bengal in the coming two months after which he will seek justice for all the victims of the political violence.
When asked if the party leaders helped him through his difficult time, Singh said senior members of the RSS stood beside him all the time and extended their help in whatever capacity they could to fight against the tyranny of the ruling TMC and their goons. He also added that the senior RSS members have assured him that they will continue to seek justice for him and other victims of the violence.
Minority Hindus fleeing Metiabruz for safer places : Singh
Regarding Metiabruz, a Muslim-majority region, Singh said that earlier a large number of Hindus lived in the area, but the number has steadily come down because of mounting threats that have forced them to flee. It is worth noting that Metiabruz is the same area that was declared as ‘Mini Pakistan’ by a Trinamool Congress minister.
Mamata Banerjee’s minister Farhad Hakim had told a Pakistani journalist that Metiabruz of the Garden Reach area is the ‘mini Pakistan’ of Kolkata. He told the journalist of ‘The Dawn’ – “Come, I will take you on a tour of Mini Pakistan”. This is the same area where the last Nawab of Awadh, Wazid Ali Shah, spent the last 30 years of his life.