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Wednesday, Oct 27, 2021
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At The Fire Ceremonies

Worshipping the ballot box, the BJP aims for a Hindu awakening in Bengal; the TMC plays along, then hits out

At The Fire Ceremonies
Photograph by PTI
At The Fire Ceremonies
outlookindia.com
2018-04-07T10:55:29+05:30

From the charred remains of homes in the Hill Bosti slums of Raniganj, it is hard to distinguish between a Muslim hut and a ­Hindu one. Except perhaps for spaces of worship in individual shanties that the flames somehow mis­sed. Those  fires were lit by mobs that cha­rged through the neighbourhood after communal clashes broke out during Ram Navami celebrations on March 26-27.

Take the house of 50-year-old widow China Badyanath, that was in the way of the rioting arsonists. She sits howling, hand on her head in a gesture of extreme hopelessness, atop the rubble—a tangled mass of burnt logs, pieces of soot-covered tin, its sharp, blackened edges jagging out. Nearby lie pieces of a trunk, its lid blown off, and which contained her life’s possessions—a few faded saris and some cash, a few thousand rupees, which she had saved up from her job as a domestic help. A rickety plywood cupboard for groc­ery—a sack of rice and some dal—is now a heap of cinders; the grain which had spilt out had got cooked in the intense heat; a splatter of dried lentil soup stains the floor. Incredibly, one corner of the tiny room, China’s pujor ghor, or prayer corner, remains intact. As framed pictures of Durga, Laxmi, Sara­swati and Radha-Krishna stare benignly back, it even seems possible that they were intentionally spared by the attackers.

“Hindus and Muslims of this locality lived like brothers and sisters for...forever,” says “a Hindu housewife”, as she identifies herself. While religious beliefs were dif­­f­­erent, she says, no one interfered in other’s opinions. She cannot say what broke such perfect amity, but will not deny rising feelings of hurt and hat­red. “Look what ‘they’ did to us,” she hisses, pointing to the wailing...

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