The “Goli Maro…” slogan has now found its way to the streets of Kolkata, as was evident in a BJP (Bharatiya Janata Party) procession to the venue of a rally addressed by Union Home Minister Amit Shah on March 1. As of March 3, four BJP supporters have been arrested for chanting the slogan.
That such a slogan, which many believe was a precipitating factor for the Delhi riots, has caught on in Kolkata is an ominous indication of a pronounced shift in the political narrative in Bengal. “It is clear that the ‘Goli maro…’ slogan was aimed at further dividing society along communal lines. But, at the same time, violent political slogans—that may not be communal in nature—have also become quite common in the State. Political leaders from the ruling party itself have been heard making inflammatory statements time and again, like urging people to throw bombs at policemen,” said Biswanath Chakraborty, social scientist and professor of political science at Rabindra Bharati University, while speaking to Frontline.
Condemning the incident and lashing out at the BJP, Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said, “Those who chanted the slogan in the BJP rally, in the language heard in Delhi, ‘Goli Maro…’, they spoke in a language that is wrong, inflammatory, demonic and illegal. Each and every one of them will be dealt with legally. No one will be spared…. This is Kolkata not Delhi.”
Biswanath Chakraborty feels that while Mamata is to be commended for the arrest of those who raised the slogan, “one cannot help but wonder whether she has the moral right to condemn such acts”. “This kind of competitive communalism in politics was not there in Bengal during the rule of the CPI(M)-led Left Front, and it is Trinamool’s brand of politics and repeated playing of the communal card that has brought it about. Further, when Anubrata Mondal (Trinamool heavyweight in Birbhum) told people to hurl bombs at the police, the Chief Minister did not condemn him, rather she made excuses for him. If she had been stern then, nobody would have dared to raise a slogan like “Goli Maro…” in Kolkata, said Chakraborty.
Amit Shah’s visit to Kolkata set in motion a fresh wave of political activities and recriminations, with the Left and the Congress launching a two-pronged attack on the Trinamool Congress and the Bharatiya Janata Party, and Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee striking back. While the Congress and the Left accused Mamata of indulging in “politics of understanding” with the BJP, Mamata hit back saying the Left and the Congress had done nothing while riots were taking place in Delhi. Attacking the BJP, she said, “Over the past few days the way people have been killed in Delhi, I think it is a planned genocide which was later portrayed as communal riots.”