Bengali Speaking Muslims Of Rural Areas Have Been Left Alone By The Government And Muslim Intelligentsia.
1. Poverty and unemployment among the rural Muslims are very high.
2. 80 per cent Muslims of West Bengal live in villages.
3. Only 3.6 per cent Muslims in villages have completed secondary education.
4. Only 1.7 per cent Muslims in villages are graduates.
5. Village Muslims are hot headed.
New Age Islam Staff Writer
27 April 2022
Family members of Birbhum violence victims. (Express Photo)
On 21 March 2022, one of the worst cases of massacre and arson took place in a village named Bugtoi, about 250 kilometres from Kolkata in West Bengal. Ten people including a 7 year old girl was burnt alive after the deputy Pradhan Bhadu Sheikh was killed by unknown persons. The family of Mahilal Sheikh were killed in retaliation. One year ago, Bhadu Shaikh 's brother was also killed. The accused in the massacre is Anarul Hussain, who is a TMC leader of the area and wields political clout.
The massacre is said to be a fall out of political and business rivalry. The population of the Muslims in the village is 35 per cent but unemployment and illiteracy rate is high among the Muslims of the village. The village falls under Birbhum district in which the famous Visva-Bharati University is located. The population of the Muslims in the district is also 35 per cent.
The population of the Muslims in West Bengal is 30 per cent but 80 per cent of the Muslims live in rural areas. Literacy in rural Muslim community is lower than in cities and towns. In rural areas literacy rate in Muslims is lower than that of the Scheduled Castes, a fact mentioned in Sachar Committee report.
In rural areas, only 3.6 per cent have completed secondary education as compared to 4 per cent among the Scheduled Castes. Only 1.3 per cent Muslims are graduates as compared to 1.7 among Scheduled Castes.
Birbhum district is an economically and industrially backward district in West Begal. Opportunities for employment and livelihood are scant and so the Muslim community is steeped in poverty. Due to poverty, the parents can not support the studies of their children. Many drop out after primary level.
Many of them do not have skills and qualifications to get decent job and so they work as migrant labourers in Kerala, Delhi or Rajasthan. Those who stay back in the village, work as masons or daily wage labourers in the village or in the neighbourhood.
The condition of the Muslims of Bugtoi is the same. Most of them are unemployed and so they are involved in illegal mining or illegal sand, coal and stone business. Anarul Hussain, slain Bhadu Shaikh and Mahilal Shaikh were all involved in illegal coal, sand and stone business. Anarul Hussain was initially an ordinary mason but under political patronage, he joined illegal sand, coal and stone business and gradually became crorepati. There was a rivalry between Bhadu Shaikh and Mahilal Shaikh over coal and sand business. This led to the suspicion that Mahilal Shaikh was behind Bhadu Shaikh's murder. All claimed to belong to the TMC.
But only business rivalry cannot be the cause of a massacre of this degree. Even if Mahilal Shaikh was behind Bhadu Shaikh's murder, his entire family including his 7 year old daughter were not guilty. This was only because of the illiteracy and the uncivilised way of life of the Muslim community of the village.
Since there was lack of education and employment, a powerful section of Muslims was rich while the majority of the youth spent time in gambling and illegal activities. Many of them were addicted to illicit liquor. Some of them were involved in money lending on interest.
Though there are two or three madrasas and mosques in the village, there was a lack of Islamic education in the village. The imams of the mosques did not have any influence in the village as their job was limited to leading the prayer. There was no reform work among the Muslims. The entry of Tablighi Jamat is banned in the village. Other religious organisations also do not have any presence in the village. The Muslims of Bugtoi led a wayward life in the absence of any reformist movement. Licentiousness is rampant. Dirty politics is what most of them are involved in.
In many of the remote villages of West Bengal, the police do not enter without the permission of the local politicians or the local club enjoying patronage of the ruling party. The club or the local political committee resolves local disputes. In Bugtoi too, the police and the fire brigade were kept away by Anarul Hussain.
The lack of religious or secular education was not the problem of only the Muslims of Bugtoi. It is the general phenomenon of the rural Muslim community of West Bengal. Due to poverty, the Muslim children can not go for higher studies and are compelled to work as hawkers or labourers. Since, most of the Muslims in Bengal villages are Bengali speaking, they are not aware of Islamic teachings due to unavailability of Islamic books in Bengali. Since, they are not aware of Islamic teachings, they go to any extent when there is a dispute in the family or close relationship.
It is also a fact to be noted that the Muslims in villages are hot headed and inclined towards violence. The Bugtoi village has 65 per cent Hindu population and there is also political and business rivalry among them but they do not fight among themselves or kill one another. They are more educated than the Muslims and know about the repercussions of violence. For Bengalis, violence is the last thing they will resort to but the Muslims in villages are ever ready to resort to violence giving little thought to what the results may be.. During the last days of the Left rule, it was the Bengali Muslims of Medinipur and other districts who had been involved in political violence against the Left Front government and most the of the people killed in the anti-Left violence were rural Muslims.
The root of the problem lies in the fact that all the work of educational and religious reform of the Muslims are based in towns and cities of West Bengal where Urdu speaking Muslims are in better condition both in terms of education and livelihood. Since the majority of Muslims in rural areas are Bengali speaking Muslims, they are cut off from the educational and religious movements of the state carried out by Urdu speaking Muslims. Very few Bengali speaking educationists are working among Bengali speaking Muslims.
In short, the Muslim leaders and religious organisations should also be held responsible for what happened in Bugtoi. Political leaders have only exploited them for their political ends and religious leaders have ignored these rural Muslims and spent their resources and energies in spreading sectarian hatred in towns and cities.
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