A man’s 16-year-old son is murdered in a riot. What do you think he wants next – Vengeance ?…….Sympathy ?………Compensation from Government ? No. All that Maulana Imadadul Rashidi ( The Imam of Asansol ) wants is peace.
West Bengal witnessed violent clashes when Vishav Hindu Parishad led Ram Navmi rally through a Muslim dominated area in Raniganj. The situation turned violent between the Hindu and Muslims community following a heated exchange of words when one of them objected to the music being played by the participants in the rally. Some claimed that the clashes started when the participants made provocative remarks against members of another community.
Local administration failed as the mob attacked the police hurling stones. Shops were vandalised leaving 4 dead and many injured. Section 144 was imposed but the Raniganj-Asansol belt remained on the edge for days. The situation remained tense with internet services scrapped and prohibitory orders in place.
For anybody who lives in India, this is not new. The ingredients of a communal clash anywhere in the country are more or less the same. But what was different this time around was the call by Imam (the person who leads prayers in a mosque) to maintain peace.
Rashidi lost his younger son aged 16 in the clashes. The man who had served as an Imam for 30 years said, ” I want peace. My boy has been taken away. I do not want any more families to lose their loved ones. I do not want any more houses to burn…. I will leave Asansol if there is any kind of retaliation. If you love me, you will not raise a finger.” Even more, he has been requesting people before prayer to campaign against rumours.
While everyone lauded the courage shown by the Imam in such emotional situation, Union Minister of State for Heavy Industries and Public Enterprises and BJP MP Babul Supriyo made a series of posts on Twitter the day the clashes began detailing the violence that propagated between the two communities. On 30th March, he crossed all limits when he made inflammatory comments while visiting the riot hit areas defying prohibitory orders under Section 144. “I will skin you alive”, said the MP. While it remains unclear whether these remarks were directed towards a particular community or a group of miscreants trying to create trouble, however, there can be no denying that such provocative comments in an already tense situation can only add fuel to fire. The Bharatiya Janata Party further defied prohibitory orders when it sent a 4 member delegation on April 1, 2018 to take stock of the situation.
In such situations it best that responsibility of isolating violence and clash hit areas be left to local administration without the state level and national politics weighing in. The burden on the law and order machinery becomes heavy in a politically charged environment. While the administration works towards containing violence and the political parties play blame game, it has taken a voice of humanity in the form of an Imam to call out for peace.