Hughli, India – In November 2019, the Supreme Court of India approved the construction of a Hindu temple on disputed land in the northern town of Ayodhya, which was once a medieval mosque.
At about the same time, the authorities in West Bengal (about 900 kilometers (559 miles) away) enclosed a two-acre (0.8 hectare) area near a sleepy Hooghly district, banning all entry.
Indian pilgrims argue that the site is a mosque and a fortified minaret in the town of Pandoa about 100 kilometers (62 miles) north of Kolkata, the capital of West Bengal. It is the holy site of the Indian goddess Shrinkhala Devi.
This was the beginning of the movement to build temples for the Hindu god Ram in Ayodhya. In 1949, Hindu radicals secretly placed Ram’s idol in the Babri Mosque. It was finally demolished by a mob of Hindus in 1992.
The Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the ruler of India, has gained political attention with the support of the temple movement initiated by its ideological father Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS).
RSS-an Indian restoration organization-and its affiliates such as Vishva Hindu Parishad (VHP or World Council of Hinduism) hope to convert dozens of mosques across the country into temples. They say that these Muslim places of worship were built after the removal of Hindu temples, although in most cases the official records are contrary.
Among them is Panduwa’s controversial shrine, locally known as the Badi Mosque (Great Mosque).
The Zafar Khan Gazi temple, a few kilometers south of the controversial Pandu Mosque temple, is now under tension between Hinduism and Muslims by private security guards armed with guns guard.
Like most unknown Bangla towns, Pandua is known for its fusion culture-Muslims and Hindus have lived here for centuries and often organize festivals together.
Sheikh Moktar, 59, is an administrative member of the local Islamic school in Panduwa and is now a member of the La Pandua school. The school has 200,000 people, of which a quarter One is Muslim.
But in recent years, this community-friendliness that was once a communist bastion seems to have shattered, especially after Hindu right-wing organizations have begun to implement tough agendas. Analysts say that right-wing Hindu groups connected to the BJP have used religious mobilization for celebrations, such as Ram Navami, who commemorates the birth of Pope Ram, in order to gain political benefits.
The annual Ram Navami celebrations witnessed thousands of people marching with swords, short clubs and scimitars, chanting slogans to praise Ram, and playing songs that belittle Islam.
In April 2017, at the Ram Navami rally in Chandannagar, a city in the Hooghly region near Pandua, Al Jazeera witnessed children including children The people marched and demonstrated, holding up anti-Muslim slogans, and loud speakers dedicated devout music.
These gatherings organized across the state have often turned into violence in recent years.
Asansol, an industrial city known for its coal mines, witnessed deadly Indian Muslim violence in 2018 and 2019.
Bhatpara in Parganas District, 24 Parganas, an industrial town north of Kolkata, witnessed deadly Indo-Muslim violence in May 2019, in which at least 7 people were killed.
For most of the past decade, the area has become home to 300,000 people and the center of community tension.
According to the latest data released by the Indian Ministry of Interior in 2018, 27 violent incidents were reported in 2015, but by 2017, community violence in West Bengal had doubled.
Subha Protim Roychowdhury, a member of the left-leaning civil society group, said: “In the past two years, there have been at least 12 riots in the area, causing deaths and massive destruction of property.”
“Bhatpara witnesses violence almost every day. It is impossible to count incidents.” Roychowdhury said.
“Defend Religious Mobilization”
Tushar Kanti Tikadar, head of the Hindu Jagran Manch (HJM) of the World Hindu Council (VHP) in southern Bangladesh, defended religious mobilization.
“It used to be celebrated outside Bangladesh, but now we don’t need to let Bangladeshis know Ram Navami well, they know,” Tikka of Barasat, 24 Parganas District, North Tikadar told Al Jazeera.
“We can now unite people in the name of Ram. This is a huge success.”
He denied that Ram Navami’s celebration was aggressive or divisive. He said: “If Muslims can display weapons during Moharram, why can’t Hindus?”
The BJP continued its very active anti-Muslim movement. Last year, Dilip Ghosh, the party’s leader in Bangladesh, stated that if they came to power, the party would “identify 5 million Muslim infiltrators and deport them to Bangladesh”.
His remarks are consistent with the party’s opposition to undocumented immigrants from Bangladesh and Rohingya refugees. Amit Shah, the party’s senior leader and Minister of the Interior, used to call Bangladeshi immigrants “termites”.
In the neighbouring state of Assam, nearly 2 million Bangladeshis, including Muslims, were excluded from the civil register, rendering them stateless.
West Bengal has a population of approximately 100 million and is one of the two largest states in India. Although it has been in charge of the national government since 2014, the BJP has not yet held power.
The party has also been trying to make cattle slaughter an election issue in the state, and Muslims and Hindus both consume beef widely. Since Prime Minister Narendra Modi came to power in 2014, dozens of Muslims have been lynched by Hindus mobs across India on charges of smuggling and killing cows.
Hardline Hindu agenda
The tough Hindu agenda seems to have brought dividends to the BJP, which won 18 of the 42 parliamentary seats in the 2019 West Bengal parliamentary elections. The party won only two seats in the 2014 general election.
BJP has deployed the entire top leadership including Modi and his right-hand man Shah, with the aim of winning the state legislative elections scheduled for the summer of 2021.
The party has also stepped up its efforts to select Bangladeshi icons, including secular liberal heroes, such as Subhas Chandra Bose and Rabindranath Tagore who wrote the Indian national anthem.
The Indian Marxist Communist Party (CPI-M), which has ruled the country’s politics for 34 years, has now become a marginal area. The Bharatiya Janata Party is becoming the main challenger minister Mamata Banerjee of the All India Trinamool Congress Party (AITC) led by the chief.
During the Communist rule that ended in 2011, there were basically no religious conflicts in the state, although during this period elections were characterized by political violence.
Analysts say that CPI-M has made secular Bangladeshi society secularized. After the partition of India in 1947, Bangladeshi society split along religious lines. The division witnessed a large-scale population shift between West Bengal and East Pakistan (formerly East Pakistan) in India. Bangladesh), which later became Bangladesh.
“Due to the violent division of India and Bangladesh in 1947, and the subsequent [Hindu] Ranabir Samaddar, a political scientist from Kolkata said.
“…Communists have secularly divided the separated society by promoting tolerance between Hindu refugees in particular and Bengali as a whole,” the founder and distinguished founder of the prestigious Mahaniban Kolkata Research Group of the Institute of Social Sciences Chairman Samadada told Al Jazeera.
“Weaponized the process of Indianization”
In the past ten years, Hindu right-wing organizations have pursued religiously polarized political ideas, while proposing a statement that successive governments have preferred Muslims who make up one third of the state’s population.
Sadada said: “The BJP used money and muscle power to provide weapons for the Indianization process, and successfully affected the poor (Dalits and indigenous people) and established a mass base.”
Muslims remain one of the most marginalized communities, with only 6% represented in government work, while housing discrimination in cities is widespread. The Muslim literacy rate is also 7% lower than the national average (2011 Census).
In recent years, the number of Muslim representatives in the state’s democratic institutions has increased. In 2011, Muslims made up 20% of the state assembly, the highest percentage since independence, but still lower than its population.
Since the Indian nationalist party came to power six years ago, the Muslim community in Bangladesh has been concerned about the rise of the BJP.
The Bharatiya Janata Party controls 17 of India’s 28 states, but there is only one Muslim lawmaker. India’s 543-seat parliament has 27 Muslim members. Among the 302 seats in the BJP, there is not a single Muslim parliamentarian.
Muslims across India are sometimes attacked for their appearance, and their businesses are also resisted by the informal society of Hindus.
During the pandemic, the media conducted a vicious campaign against Muslims, accusing them of spreading the coronavirus, which has killed 150,000 people in India.
Manzar Jameel, an education activist based in Kolkata, said that “the trend is worrying”.
The 60-year-old activist said: “Muslims often receive public comment in public places. This was unimaginable a few years ago. It is terrible.” He was referring to hatred and hate speech against the Islamic community.
“We have never received such radical comments in Kolkata. Despite the underlying anti-Muslim sentiment and all its drawbacks, it was largely a peaceful place during left-wing rule. People usually spontaneously interact with each other during the holidays. We ate together and this has been reduced,” he said.
One-fifth of Kolkata’s population is Muslim, and there has been no major religious violence in the city for decades. Currently, the mayor of the city is a Muslim from the AITC ruling party.
But some members of the community say that Muslims in multicultural cities have begun to hide their identities in public. University student Nousheen Baba Khan admits that this “facelessness” trend is growing.
Another young Muslim woman said on condition of anonymity that her parents “instructed” her not to “cover up.” [her] On the head or wear anything that might indicate “she is a Muslim”.
Information technology professional and businessman Lumaah Yasin wants her son to settle abroad. She said: “We might not say that, but yes, we are scared.”
“This is not only the fear of Muslims, when we think of this country, the greater fear is… If you separate the country from the state based on community, race, and language… what will happen to all of us?” Yassin
In his 30s, Yasin felt that if the BJP came to power, West Bengal’s “tolerant and international” culture would allow people to live in peace and maintain differences, which would be under attack.
“Moreover, it is much more expensive than my son’s travel abroad.”