Subhabrata Ghosh, the inspector-in-charge of Kaliachawk police station, and other officers were wounded when protesters drove them out and set on fire part of the police station including the barracks and then ransacked the nearby houses. Two persons reportedly sustained bullet injuries. No arrests, though, have been made following the incident in Kaliachak, which is also the hub of fake currency smuggling racket in Bengal, leading Malda south Congress MP Abu Hasem Khan Choudhury to claim that Sunday's violence was another evidence of "utter lawlessness in the state”. "None has been arrested even after such an alarming incident in Kaliachak under my parliamentary constituency. Police personnel were attacked, documents were torched. Police had to flee. Despite being so badly humiliated they could not nab any one yet," Choudhury was quoted, as saying.
Violence Against Madrasa Teacher Who Taught 'Jana Gana Mana'
That is a bizarre claim in itself since Jana Gana Mana is a pet peeve of the Hindutva brigade who insist, despite Tagore’s own statement to the contrary, that it is obeisance to the King Emperor and would rather have Vande Mataram as the national anthem. The maulanas may have well done the beleaguered Jana Gana Mana a favour.
Also Akhtar writes in Bengali dailies and a column calling for strong actions against madrasas which harbor terrorists and an end to early marriages for girls irked many in the local community. Even back in June 2015, the state education department unable to find a workable and safe solution was allowing him to mark attendance at the office of the district inspector of schools. What the New Indian Express article does not make clear is how he was back at the school teaching the national anthem under those circumstances all of which again underscores the fact that the story has not been covered in depth.
While many details appear confusing, what is clear is this is not a stray incident. According to the New Indian Express, Akhtar has appealed to Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, the governor and the chair of the State Minorities Commission six times but to no avail. The Indian Express reported in April 2015 that its investigations had revealed that the Metiabruz madrasah managing committee had petitioned the board to remove him because of an “atmosphere of tension”. At that time the Kolkata municipal elections were around the corner and the government had no interest in alienating powerful local community leaders. The Non-Party Democratic Forum had rallied by Akhtar’s side saying it “signals a forthcoming Talibanistic orthodox reign of terror for all citizens, Muslims and non-Muslims alike".
Ironically, the same Akhtar was recommended for the state government’s Shiksha Ratna award for best teacher in the state shortly before the trouble started. The national anthem controversy has thrust him into the news because it is so egregious but this is the story of a longer tussle between the belief system of a teacher and the religious leaders of the community which he is serving. One could argue that his “progressive” beliefs are a mismatch in the more orthodox community where he works. But nothing can ever justify a mob with iron rods attacking the headmaster of the school.
And that is what seems to have happened in this case as well. The Mamata Banerjee government has actually been good at nipping attempts to create communal tension in the bud. (Remember the furore over the missing fourteen-year-old girl which given communal colours before she suddenly returned home?) But at the same time it has been accused of pandering to the minority community for votes. As a result the police seem unwilling or unable to stand up to bullying to protect the likes of a Kazi Masum Akhtar. That is why we should ensure Kazi Masum Akhtar’s case is not just a local news footnote. In many ways he stood up for the national anthem. Hopefully the media will also stand up for him.