Post-Poll Violence in Bengal
The aftermath of the assembly election results has seen the unprecedented advent of violence against BJP workers by TMC cadre. The violence commenced immediately after the announcement of the results, with the burning down of several regional BJP offices across West Bengal. This was followed by horrors of lynching, beatings, torture and murder of political opponents by the ruling TMC cadre. The victims belonged to BJP, Left and Congress, but the BJP was targeted the most. In constituencies where the TMC lost, the violence was the worst (Bhattacharya, 2021).
In many cases, a communal angle was attributed to the violence in some areas such as Birbhum. While violence occurred mainly in rural and semi-urban areas, the areas near Kolkata were also reported to have witnessed such incidents. In many tribal areas, tribal people successfully fought back the TMC goons. Besides the violence, there has been heavy migration of Hindus from Bengal to Assam, and lot of temporary internal displacement within Bengal, as people had to flee their homes in some areas. As per Assam BJP unit’s claims, around 80,000 Hindus migrated to Assam and were living in temporary relief camps.
In response to the violence, while the TMC could not deny the reports, it dismissed it as the usual post-poll violence that has normally been a part of Bengal’s political culture and was much worse during the Left rule. The TMC also claimed that its workers suffered almost equally at the BJP cadre’s hands, with Mamata Banerjee promising to compensate victims from both sides equally. As per Bengal BJP unit’s claim, 37 BJP workers died in the violence.
The reports of the violence as well as the gruesome details propelled Indian Americans and other Non-Resident Indians abroad – across 30 US cities and various other parts of UK and Canada – to conduct widespread protests against what they saw as the Bengal government-sponsored genocide against Hindus (PTI, 2021).
The response from Central government has been measured. Instead of acting directly or allowing itself to be provoked into imposing an Emergency, the Centre had directed the central forces deputed for election duty to continue to remain in the state. Besides sending a few teams from the Centre to visit the violence-affected areas, the Centre also acted indirectly through the Governor. The latter has extensively toured Bengal and visited Assam’s refugee camps, and has been applying consistent pressure on the Bengal government. The report of fact-finding team sent by the Home Ministry made the submission that even women were not spared from heinous crimes in the violence (News18, 2021). Through all these mechanisms, the Centre has been able to ensure that the public anger against the TMC has continued to boil.
The feasibility of imposing an Emergency was questionable as the nature of violence has varied, but the BJP Chief Ministers across other states are keeping alive the demands for President’s Rule in Bengal, thereby keeping the issue in constant public focus. As per the numbers given by the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP), around 11000 people have been rendered homeless and 40000, mostly from the majority community, have been affected by the violence (Ranjan, 2021). RSS and VHP have asked Hindus to exercise their right to self-defence.
Recently, the Calcutta High Court formed a three-member committee to enable persons displaced during the West Bengal post poll violence to return to their homes peacefully (Saxena, 2021). Moreover, more than 600 professors/academicians have appealed to the Supreme Court to take suo motu cognisance of the post-poll violence in West Bengal and set up a special investigation team to probe such incidents, alleging that those who voted against TMC are being systematically targeted (PTI, 2021).
From the point of view of the Hindus of West Bengal, the violence and the communal angle seen to it in some areas (despite widespread suppression by mainstream media), is an indication of the need for greater awareness of what the future holds in store. By keeping the issue alive, the BJP has signaled that it will not allow Mamata Banerjee to go scot-free in the foreseeable future.
Israel-Palestine Conflict Escalation
Early this month, violence broke out between Israel and Hamas in Gaza strip. It is the fourth biggest conflict to break out between Hamas and Israel since 2008. The violence followed sustained tensions over Jerusalem, mainly over the threatened eviction of Palestinian families and plans to expand Jewish settlements. The initial clashes occurred at the Al-Aqsa mosque compound and the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood. These clashes turned into a heavy military conflict between Israel and Hamas.
Israel clearly had an upper hand in the conflict, due to superior war technologies. It conducted sustained airstrikes and artillery attacks in Gaza, killing nearly 248 Palestinians. It also bombarded several important infrastructural sites, such as Gaza’s only COVID-19 testing facility, the building housing prominent international media houses and almost a thousand other properties.
Hamas came in for severe international criticism for indiscriminately firing nearly 4300 rockets into Israel. Israel was successfully able to repel almost 90% of them through the use of its anti-missile iron dome defence system – which was provided by the US and has become a bedrock of country’s defence capabilities since 2011. Israel also tricked Hamas by misleading the media outlets about its potential targets, anticipating that Hamas would go underground. It thereby caught Hamas unawares and unleased heavy bombing on their underground refuges.
In a parallel to this conflict, one of the worst ever episodes of internal communal violence within Israel also intensified, as Jew versus Arab riots broke out. However, it was successfully controlled through an internal crackdown and the death toll was minimal.
A subsequent ceasefire has now ended the hostilities between Israel and Hamas, but tensions continue to simmer in Jerusalem. There were, recently, renewed clashes between the Israeli police and civilians at Al-Aqsa mosque, due to stone-pelting incidents and civilian support for Hamas.
At the United Nations Human Rights Council, the vote on an anti-Israel resolution on whether to investigate the violations against civilians during the conflict saw abstention from India, France, Japan and 11 other countries. Germany, UK and Austria opposed the resolution. However, Russia and China, alongside Pakistan, Bangladesh and 20 other countries favoured the investigation, thereby leading to the passage of the resolution.
Saudi Arabia-Iran Talks
For the first time since 2016, Saudi Arabia and Iran have opened up official channels of bilateral communication in an effort to improve their relations. Simultaneously, Saudi Arabia has also attempted to improve relations with Turkey and Qatar that have been frozen in recent years.
The groundwork for the Saudi Arabia-Iran talks was laid in April and currently both sides are holding talks. Coinciding with US effort to revive the nuclear deal with Iran, this breakthrough has been likely a result of the change of US Presidency, as President Biden has adopted a much more firm approach towards Saudi Arabia as compared to his predecessor. It has also been a result of the successive failure of Saudi foreign policy in the region, with a failed war in Yemen and failures in Syria having emboldened Iran, and the distance between Saudi Arabia and UAE widening due to the Yemen war.
To what extent the new détente between Saudi Arabia and Iran will hold remains to be seen, as the conflict between Shia and Sunni Islam is much more psychologically deep-rooted than foreign policy adjustments, and, Iran is unlikely to dismantle its intricately-built networks of Shia militias spread over the region to fight its proxy wars in other countries.
Bhattacharya, A. (2021, May 3). DailyO. Retrieved from https://www.dailyo.in/politics/assembly-elections-2021-poll-violence-trinamool-congress-mamata-banerjee-bjp-in-bengal/story/1/34537.html
News18. (2021, May 29). Retrieved from News18: https://www.news18.com/news/india/heinous-crimes-against-women-too-panel-submits-report-on-post-poll-violence-in-bengal-3789467.html
PTI. (2021, May 10). Economic Times. Retrieved from https://economictimes.indiatimes.com/nri/migrate/indian-american-diaspora-hold-rallies-against-post-poll-violence-in-west-bengal/articleshow/82516271.cms?from=mdr
PTI. (2021, June 1). India Today. Retrieved from https://www.indiatoday.in/india/story/bengal-post-poll-violence-600-academicians-appeal-to-sc-to-set-up-sit-probe-1809706-2021-06-01
Ranjan, A. (2021, May 18). India TV. Retrieved from https://www.indiatvnews.com/news/india/more-than-40-000-affected-in-bengal-violence-says-vhp-as-it-appeals-to-help-violence-hit-hindus-in-mamata-s-state-705419
Saxena, A. (2021, May 31). Live Law. Retrieved from https://www.livelaw.in/top-stories/west-bengal-post-poll-violence-calcutta-high-court-3-member-committee-enable-displaced-persons-to-return-homes-174949