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Malda violence: BJP and CPI-M delegation team stopped while entering in Kaliachak

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Kolkata/New Delhi: Delegations of opposition parties BJP and CPI-M were on Monday prevented from proceeding to violence-hit Kaliachak in Malda district by the administration, triggering a war of words between political opponents in West Bengal.

Eight days after the violence during which a police station was attacked and BSF vehicles torched, the state’s ruling Trinamool Congress accused the BJP and the RSS of trying to turn a “criminal issue” into a “communal” one in view of the upcoming assembly polls.

The BJP called the January 3 violence a “planned action” and flayed the administration for stopping its parliamentarians.

The Communist Party of India-Marxist alleged that the state administration was not allowing opposition parties to proceed to Kaliachak as it had “something to hide”.

The three BJP MPs — BhupendraYadav, Ram Vilas Vedanti and SS Ahluwalia — sent by the party on a ‘fact finding mission’ were detained on Monday morning soon after they alighted from the Gaur Express at Malda station, 30 km from Kaliachak.

Ahluwalia, the sole Bharatiya Janata Party LokSabha member from Bengal, told reporters that the team’s only purpose was to ascertain the truth and restore the confidence of the people.

“We told the Malda district administration that we have come to ascertain the truth, we have not come to instigate or incite anyone. We wanted to restore the confidence of the people.”

Police told the MPs that prohibitory orders under Section 144 of the Code of Criminal Procedure had been clamped at Kaliachak, as added by Ahluwalia.

“They (police) told us that our presence will lead to problems, and the situation would deteriorate.”

The MPs spent three hours at the station before they were “forced to board” the Shatabdi Express.

Yadav termed the act “condemnable”.

Hours later, a CPI-M delegation headed by LokSabha member Mohammad Salim was also stopped.

Salim, also a Communist Party of India-Marxist politburo member, said that despite having given prior intimation to the district administration about their visit, they were stopped by a large posse of policemen at Amriti, about 35 km from Kaliachak.

“They said our visit could trigger law and order problems. Though I told them that my aim was to ascertain the facts by talking to the people, they refused to budge,” said Salim.

“I wonder if the administration has something to hide. And so it is stopping all opposition parties from going to the troubled spot.”

Trinamool chief national spokesperson Derek O’Brien accused the BJP parliamentary team of trying to go to Kaliachak to fuel “communal tension”.

“This was a ‘criminal issue’ but the BJP/RSS, as is their strategy, tried to turn it into a ‘communal issue’.”

O’Brien said the situation at Kaliachak was “tense”, but never “got out of hand” and praised the police for handling the issue “tactfully”.

“Thankfully, no deaths occurred, no injuries and 10 people have been arrested.”

The Trinamool Rajya Sabha member alleged that the “BJP/RSS were trying for the last one week to present, what I call, CIN 100: Communally Insensitive Narrative, 100 days before the state goes to polls.”

In Delhi, BJP national secretary Sidharth Nath Singh said party leaders will meet union Home Minister Rajnath Singh and seek an investigation by an appropriate agency into the violence.

“An incident happens on December 1 and the reaction happens on January 3… it took more than 30 days. If there was a communal reaction, it had to be spontaneous. Therefore, it was not a communal reaction, but a planned action.”

The BJP leader said Malda had become a hub for drug trade as authorities overlooked opium cultivation, asking why the West Bengal chief minister did not make efforts to stop such cultivation.

According to reports, protesting against remarks allegedly made to “hurt religious sentiments” in Uttar Pradesh, a large number of people on January 3 went on a rampage in Kaliachak, torching vehicles including those belonging to the Border Security Force (BSF) and also attacked the police station.(IANS) (Picture Courtesy:theweek.in)

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What Would Be The Outcome Of The Judgement On Homosexuality With BJP At The Centre?

If parties like the BJP and "cultural" organisations like the RSS realise the value and motivation of such mindsets, they will desist from their present attempts to impose a straitjacket of their pseudo-religious identity on the nation.

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Flag Of BJP, homosexuality
Ruling on gays: Is the BJP out of sync with modern realities? Flickr

More than the social impact of the Supreme Court’s judgment on homosexuality, what will be of concern to the ruling party at the Centre is its political fallout. Hence, the eloquent silence of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) on the subject.

For the BJP and its ideological mentor, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), any expansion of the concept of civil liberties is fraught with danger to their restrictive worldviews since a widening of human rights carries the prospect of greater individualism.

If the rights of the homosexuals to live without legal constraints are conceded, it can only encourage the people to free themselves of other restrictions as well such as on choosing live-in partners (of whatever sex) and eating, dressing and speaking as they please.

Homosexuality, India
SC decriminalises homosexuality, victory for gay rights. Pixabay

It is noteworthy that the verdict on gays has come close on the heels of the judgment which described the right to dissent as a “safety valve” which the government can only shut off at its peril lest there is an explosion.

Moreover, the court had also upheld not long ago the right to privacy which the government described as an “elitist” concept.

For the Hindu Right, as also for other religious fundamentalists, this dalliance with civil rights — the freedom to criticise the government, the exaltation of privacy and now the decriminalisation of homosexuality — entails a push towards liberalism and modernism which are anathema to any group which wants the society to be bound by shackles of orthodoxy and obscurantism.

It is ironic that although the Hindutva brotherhood speaks of decolonising the Indian mind, the two colonial laws which have long been its favourites are the section on homosexuality in the Indian Penal Code and on sedition.

Now that one of them is gone, there is little doubt that these closet followers of Britain’s 19th century politician Lord Macaulay — even as they decry the secular groups as “Macaulay’s children” — will hold on resolutely to the law on sedition as their only safeguard against the “anti-nationals” who, they believe, stalk the land.

Homosexuality
It is ironic that although the Hindutva brotherhood speaks of decolonising the Indian mind, the two colonial laws which have long been its favourites are the section on homosexuality in the Indian Penal Code and on sedition.
Wikimedia Commons

It is also possible that the saffronites will keep a hawk’s eye on any social problems that may arise because of the assertion of gay rights. As the BJP MP Subramanian Swamy has said, with eager anticipation, if a five-judge bench can overturn an earlier judgment in favour of criminalising homosexuality, a larger bench can undo the present verdict if gay bars begin to flourish and there is a rise in the cases of HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) infections.

Interestingly, what these judgments underline is how the judiciary is more attuned to the changing world than the elected representatives of the hoi polloi who often argue in favour of giving greater primacy to the legislature than the judiciary since they claim to represent the people while the judges are unelected denizens of an ivory tower.

However, one possible reason why MPs and MLAs, especially of the BJP, seem to be out of sync with the present-day world is the presence in their midst of a large number of criminal elements who can hardly be regarded as the most progressive sections of society.

For instance, of the 543 elected members of the Lok Sabha, of whom 186 have a criminal record, 63 belong to the BJP, followed by eight of the Shiv Sena, four of the Trinamool Congress and three each of the Congress and the AIADMK.

Homosexuality
Gay Pride Procession. Pixabay

What the Supreme Court judgment appears to have done is to persuade parties like the Congress, which usually hedges its bets lest it should fall on the wrong side of public opinion, to come out in the verdict’s favour, presumably because it senses that this judgment, more than any other, has become a touchstone in the matter of breaking out from the stranglehold of the past.

To distance a party from it, as the BJP is doing, will amount to virtually alienating the entire youth community. Even if a majority among them do not have homosexual instincts — according to official figures, there are 2.5 million gay people in India, but this may be an underestimate since, till now, it was unsafe for them to reveal their sexual orientation — the youths nevertheless see the ruling as an assertion of living life on one’s own terms and not be held hostage by the dictates of a society steeped in conservatism and of political parties which believe that their agenda can only advanced if the country is made forcibly to conform to khap panchayat-style social and cultural norms.

Also Read: Why JDU & BJP Coalition Will Remain Instant

To these youths, being or not being aware of homosexuality is of little consequence. What matters to them is to be able to make up their own minds and not be told by elders to abide by certain rules which are regarded as outdated by the younger generation.

If parties like the BJP and “cultural” organisations like the RSS realise the value and motivation of such mindsets, they will desist from their present attempts to impose a straitjacket of their pseudo-religious identity on the nation. (IANS)