By Dr. Richard L. Benkin
Around midnight on October 27, West Bengal police from the Gaighata police station barged into the home of Apurba Ray as he and his family were sleeping and seized him. When his wife asked the police for the charge, they said it was suspicion of illegal arms possession. That was a ruse, and Roy’s wife knew it. His real “crime” in West Bengal is his strong Hindu identity.
Apurba Ray is a refugee from anti-Hindu persecution in Bangladesh and has been fighting back any way he could trying to save his Bengali Hindu brethren. Ray is an activist in the group, In Search of Roots, organized by Bikash Halder and me to defend Hindus and Hinduism, especially in Bangladesh. Unfortunately, that sets him in opposition to West Bengal political leaders who have controlled the region—first under the Left Front, now under the Trinamool Congress—by turning a blind eye to anti-Hindu persecution. In the past, they could count on support from the Center government; not anymore, which makes Ray’s situation all the more significant.
At first, the police held Ray incommunicado. When the authorities failed to meet the deadline, established by the Indian penal code, to produce him within 24 hours of his arrest, friends became concerned about his well-being. Thanks in part to a flood of calls to the North 24 Parganas Superintendent of Police and others; they finally did produce him. When they did, however, they no longer accused him of illegal arms possession. Instead, according to my associates on the ground, they are bringing a case against him as an “illegal infiltrator.”
Prime Minister Narendra Modi has stated that Hindu refugees would be welcome in India, and that could threaten the cozy deal between West Bengal authorities and Muslim groups who have waged a demographic jihad in West Bengal. That has turned border areas and others from majority Hindu or mixed Hindu-Muslim to, in many cases, areas where Hindus have been pushed out. This population shift has been extensively documented by demographers like Bimal Primanik, and by me in A Quiet Case of Ethnic Cleansing: the Murder of Bangladesh’s Hindus.
It also has created a reliable vote bank for Mamata Banerjee who has been itching to force a confrontation with Prime Minister Modi. Earlier this year, I was at a Mandir in West Bengal’s Burdwan District where I confronted a member of the West Bengal government over its inaction in stopping anti-Hindu persecution. The official admitted that it was a problem but said that his party was afraid to raise it because “certain parties” would react angrily. As we talked further, he admitted that his government’s policies were “communal” (not Modi’s) because they further divisions between Hindus and Muslims. The party would not change, he admitted, because it was necessary to protect its vote bank.
The family has engaged local counsel, and we are watching the proceedings to make sure that Hindu rights are protected.