“Glad that BJP has not come to power,” West Bengal Muslims heave sigh of relief over BJP’s defeat in elections

Trinamool Congress Chief Mamata Banerjee | Picture Credit: News18

With Trinamool Congress (TMC) winning a landslide victory over the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in the strongly contested West Bengal Assembly elections, Muslims from the state expressed relief that “they have kept communal forces at bay.” Although convinced that TMC may not have done much for Muslims in the state, members of the Muslim community believe “it (TMC) has not disturbed the community and has let it live in peace”. A TCN Ground Report. 

Yumna Mobin, TwoCircles.net

Support TwoCircles

Kolkata: As Mamata Banerjee headed Trinamool Congress (TMC) recorded a landslide victory in state Assembly Elections in the eastern Indian state of West Bengal and becoming the Chief Minister third time in a row, Muslims from the state heaved a sigh of relief. This wasn’t entirely because Muslims have high hopes from TMC but largely because voters in the state have been able to stop Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) in its track. 

TwoCircles.net spoke to members of the Muslim community from the state to understand what they think of the victory of TMC and what it means for the Muslims of the state, who form 27 per cent of the state’s 9.3 crore population. 

Most of the Muslim men that TwoCircles.net spoke with said that “they were afraid of BJP coming to power.” 

Just like in other states of India, where religious polarization and politics of hate have become the mainstay of elections, the Muslims from West Bengal believe that “had BJP come to power, the social fabric would have been destroyed.”

A West Bengal resident Hamzah Khan, 27, said that he has not felt any threats to his identity in his home state. 

Khan is a marketing consultant, who has studied in Mumbai and works in Hyderabad. 

“In other parts of the country that I have studied or worked in, I have felt discrimination to some extent, but never in Bengal,” he told TwoCircles.net. 

Khan, however, maintained that “of late, in a very subtle way I have felt some changes, in some circles at home.” 

“I am glad that the BJP did not come to power as I don’t like the type of politics of religion they do,” he said. 

It has become clear that people in the state were apprehensive of BJP coming to power in a state that for a large part of its history has been ruled by the Left. Following the loss of the Left parties, the anti-Left politics in the state has been fronted by TMC, who has been in power for a decade now. 

Muslim men from the state said that the “violent nature of politics which was manifesting itself through violence and rhetoric during campaigning and can be seen in other parts of the state,” was seen in West Bengal as well. 

“The BJP, through its rallies and campaigns, seemed to have succeeded in communalizing the political and cultural landscape of West Bengal,” a youth said. 

For fifty-one-year-old businessman Nehal Ahmad from Kolkata, “he is happy that BJP has not come to power as it is not a Muslim friendly party.”

“I have been living in Kolkata for most of my life. During all my school life, college life, and at my workplace, I have never felt any kind of discrimination or hate against Muslims,” he said. 

Ahmad said that although in the past few years, he has felt this changing. “Since 2014-15 (when BJP came to power at the Centre) I could feel it in my interactions with friends, acquaintances and clients, a kind of leaning towards that ideology (the BJP’s),” he said. 

Unlike Hamzah Khan, who said that he admires Mamata Banerjee as a leader, and fully believes in TMC’s capabilities, Nehal Ahmed on the contrary, thinks that the state was saved from communal disharmony by voting TMC back to power.

As per Nehal Ahmed, this was the primary reason that people in the state voted for TMC. 

“TMC has not done much for the Muslims here. It is just that she (Mamata Banerjee) has not disturbed the Muslim community. Here we can practice our religion peacefully, without any fear at any point,” Ahmad said. 

Both Khan and Ahmed said they don’t believe in the narrative of the TMC’s ‘Muslim appeasement’ or how the Muslim community benefits more than the Hindus or Christians living in the state as is often presented by the BJP, or the mainstream news media. 

“If other festivals are being celebrated with equal enthusiasm, so can Muslims of the state celebrate festivals like Eid with fervour but peacefully,” Ahmad said. 

Ahmad further said, “during TMC’s rule, all the festivals over the past ten years have been celebrated and are still being celebrated, on a much larger scale than it was during the Left government.” 

“Be it Durga Puja, or Mahashivratri or even Christmas and New Year, all the celebrations take place equally on a bigger and larger scale than what it used to be in the past,” Ahmad said. 

The overwhelming view is that the results of the West Bengal election results – bringing Mamata Banerjee back to power for the third time in a row, will protect the “Bengali culture that is innately peaceful and secular, symbolic of the true spirit of unity & peaceful coexistence.”

Even after experiencing acute religious polarization in the run-up to the elections and volatile polls, people in West Bengal seem to have managed not to give up their ‘shared history’ and refused to see politics in the religious binary of “Hindus vs Muslims.”