The Vishwa Hindu Parishad says it is carrying out a survey in West Bengal of Hindus “forced out” of their homes and deprived of their property, a move that has the potential to stoke communal tensions.
The survey was a precursor to a nation-wide exercise, international working president of the VHP Praveen Togadia told HT on Wednesday, a few days after similar claims of Hindu families migrating out of Kairana village in Uttar Pradesh made headlines but were found to be untrue.
“Every village, every locality in cities and towns will be surveyed by us to find out where Hindus were forced to migrate under threat or force,” said Togadia, who was barred from entering the state after a rally in April 2015. His presence could cause communal disturbance, the Mamata government had said before ordering him out.
Denying the claims, minority affairs and madrasa education Giasuddin Molla said the VHP was misleading people and trying to disturb peace in the state.
“Hindu Parakram (Hindu might) and not Hindu Palayan (Hindus exodus)” was its motto the VHP said. The proclamation is especially worrisome for Bengal, where 27% of the population, or 24.7 million, is Muslim, the second highest for a state in India.
The VHP, affiliated to the Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS), which is the ideological parent of the BJP, says Hindus are being edged out of by the Muslim community in West Bengal and many other parts of the country, especially along the Bangladesh border on the east.
The BJP raised the issue successfully in neighbouring Assam, where it was voted to power for the first time in the April-May state elections. In Bengal though it didn’t meet with much poll success, the party did improve its vote share.
The BJP had targeted Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress, which returned to power, for allegedly appeasing Muslims. The state had reported communal clashes in the run-up to the elections.
The VHP has marshalled its village and block units for the Bengal survey. “It is not a question of a small town in Uttar Pradesh but it has happened throughout the country, be it West Bengal, or Maharashtra, or Gujarat,” Togadia said.
Migration was a “human rights issue” and they would raise it at all possible platforms — state assemblies, Parliament, judiciary and rights panels, the VHP leader said.
“We will explore all democratic means to expose a grand design to make Hindus refugees in their own country. India is the only country where the majority population has to flee their land and property out of fear,” he said.
Local VHP leaders claim a lot of Hindu families have moved out of villages across the state, especially along the border but there was nothing on record.
“We are aware that in districts such as Malda, Murshidabad and North Dinajpur such forced migration of Hindus has taken place,” Sachindranath Sinha, VHP organisational secretary for Bengal-Odisha zone, told HT. “We are also surveying urban areas, including Kolkata, where people had to sell off their houses/apartments.”
Their motto was “Hindu Parakram (Hindu might) and not Hindu Palayan (Hindus exodus)”, said Surendra Jain, all India joint secretary (organisation). The VHP would support the Hindus and ensure that they stayed on, he said.
“This is Bengal not Uttar Pradesh. Here, we all live peacefully,” Trinamool leader Sheikh Nurul Islam said, warning the party would thwart, politically, attempts to create discord in the state.
The findings of the Bengal survey would be discussed at the state committee meeting on July 23 and 24, a month after the VHP passed a resolution for the “protection” of Hindus at a national meet in Patna.
The saffron outfit wants a commission to look into so-called Hindu migration and a law to protect rights and property of Hindus.