8:09 am - Tuesday November 10, 2015

Trinamool targets Amit Shah in Parliament, to hold huge counter-rally in Kolkata

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A day after Bharatiya Janata Party president Amit Shah launched a scathing attack on West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee on her home turf, Trinamool Congress launched a counter-attack in Parliament and will hold a public meeting in Kolkata.

Placard-wielding Trinamool MPs held a demonstration outside Parliament on Monday demanding a probe into alleged links between Shah and the Sahara money laundering case. They also tried to storm the well of Rajya Sabha to press their demand.

TMC leader Sudeep Bandhopadhyay alleged Shah’s name was mentioned in a red diary recovered by the Central Bureau of Investigation during searches at Sahara’s office. The party also demanded a clarification from Prime Minister Narendra Modi on the issue.

Minister of state for home affairs Kiren Rijiju, however, denied the presence of the “red diary”.

“These are political allegations. There is no truth in it. No such diary was recovered,” said Rijiju.

Trinamool leaders are also set to hold a public meeting at 1pm in Kolkata to counter Shah’s allegations against Banerjee at the same spot where he held his rally on Sunday.

Shah had sounded the poll bugle to oust Trinamool from the state in the 2015 Kolkata Municipal Corporation and 2016 assembly elections and called for a Trinamool-free Bengal.

The BJP’s rise in Bengal has sparked speculations about new equations in the state’s political arena where the saffron brigade was only a fringe player until recently.

However, banking on Modi’s poll promises on development, the party bagged an impressive 16.8% vote share in the April-May Lok Sabha elections. Even though the BJP won just two of the 42 seats, it made an impact.

Frequent clashes between BJP and Trinamool supporters have been reported in West Bengal since the polls.

The BJP chief’s address came at a time when the ruling Trinamool is reeling under graft allegations in the multi-crore Saradha chit fund scam and the Burdwan blasts on October 2 that killed two alleged militants from Bangladesh.

Addressing the rally that saw a crowd of two lakh people, Shah had attacked Banerjee over the Saradha case, terrorist activities as well as lack of development in the state.

The TMC on Sunday had refused to attach much importance to Shah’s rally and described it as a ‘grand flop show’.

The city police, West Bengal fire department and the Kolkata Municipal Corporation had denied permission for the event at the Victoria House, where the ruling Trinamool usually organises its annual martyrs’ day rally.

An intervention by the Calcutta high court saw the BJP getting the nod only at the eleventh hour.

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After U.S. President Barack Obama raised the issue of religious intolerance in India, The New York Times published a very strong editorial criticising Prime Minister Narendra Modi for what it calls his “dangerous silence” on a series of communal events in the country.The editorial, by the NYT editorial board, lists recent attacks on churches and reports of Ghar Vapsi or conversion and marks out the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) for its proposed conversions programme in Ayodhya in March this year, saying the group “was playing with fire.” “Mr. Modi’s continued silence before such troubling intolerance increasingly gives the impression that he either cannot or does not wish to control the fringe elements of the Hindu nationalist right,” the NYT editorial surmised.Full text of the Editorial published in the New York Times on February 6, 2015:What will it take for Prime Minister Narendra Modi to speak out about the mounting violence against India’s religious minorities? Attacks at Christian places of worship have prompted no response from the man elected to represent and to protect all of India’s citizens. Nor has he addressed the mass conversion to Hinduism of Christians and Muslims who have been coerced or promised money. Mr. Modi’s continued silence before such troubling intolerance increasingly gives the impression that he either cannot or does not wish to control the fringe elements of the Hindu nationalist right.Recently, a number of Christian churches in India have been burned and ransacked. Last December, St. Sebastian’s Church in East Delhi was engulfed in fire. Its pastor reported a strong smell of kerosene after the blaze was put out. On Monday, St. Alphonsa’s Church in New Delhi was vandalised. Ceremonial vessels were taken, yet collection boxes full of cash were untouched. Alarmed by the attacks, the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India has urged the government to uphold the secular nature of India and to assure its Christians they are “protected and secure” in their own country.There is also concern about the mass conversions. Last December, about 200 Muslims were converted to Hinduism in Agra. In January, up to 100 Christians in West Bengal “reconverted” to Hinduism. Hard-line Hindu nationalist groups, like the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), make no secret of their support for a “homecoming” campaign designed to “return” non-Hindus to the fold. More than 80 per cent of Indians are Hindu, but Pravin Togadia of the VHP says his organisation’s goal is a country that is 100 per cent Hindu. The only way to achieve that is to deny religious minorities their faith.The VHP is reportedly planning a mass conversion of 3,000 Muslims in Ayodhya this month. The destruction of the Babri Mosque there in 1992 by Hindu militants touched off riots between Hindus and Muslims across India that left more than 2,000 people dead. The VHP knows it is playing with fire.Mr. Modi has promised an ambitious agenda for India’s development. But, as President Obama observed in a speech in New Delhi last month: “India will succeed so long as it is not splintered along the lines of religious faith.” Mr. Modi needs to break his deafening silence on religious intolerance.

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