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Updated: April 13, 2014 02:58 IST

'Faces of the riots' to visit West Bengal to campaign against violence

Suvojit Bagchi
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Qutubuddin Ansari and Ashok Mochi. File photo: S.K. Mohan
The Hindu Qutubuddin Ansari and Ashok Mochi. File photo: S.K. Mohan

Gujarat’s Ansari and Mochi will attend public meetings in West Bengal

They are identified as the “faces of the riots” across the country and next week both of them — Qutubuddin Ansari and Ashok Mochi — will be here to launch a State-wide campaign against communal violence.

The pictures of Mr. Ansari with a folded hand in the backdrop of a terrified face and of Bajrang Dal activist Ashok Mochi, celebrating with an iron rod in the right hand and fire in the background during the 2002 riots emerged as two photographs which represented the Gujarat violence. Both are at peace now. In fact, Mr. Mochi regretted his action.

A civil society organisation, Janwadi Vichar Andolan, Bharat (JAVAB), is bringing the “faces of the riots” together in West Bengal. Last month, Mr. Ansari and Mr. Mochi launched their campaign in Kerala’s Kannur,hosted by the CPI(M).

The two will first appear together at a public meeting in south Kolkata’s Jadavpur on April 20. Then they will move to Burdwan in north Bengal and Raiganj in south to attend at least three more public meetings. They will travel together from Gujarat to West Bengal.

The constituencies where their public meetings will be held are featuring heavyweights. In the fray in Jadavpur are historian Sugata Bose of the Trinamool Congress, CPI(M) leader of South 24 Paragans district Sujan Chakravarty, and a BJP nominee.

Mumtaz Sanghamita Chowdhury is the TMC candidate in Burdwan-Durgapur, where Mr. Ansari and Mr. Mochi will stage their second show of solidarity. While Ms. Chowdhury is not known outside her constituency, her father Syed Abul Mansur Habibullah was the legendary peasant leader of Bengal and first speaker of the State Assembly, after the Left Front came to power in 1977. The fight is close in this constituency too.

In Raiganj, the CPI(M)’s Md. Salim is pitted against Congress leader Priya Ranjan Dasmunsi’s wife, Deepa Dasmunsi.

Explaining why Mr. Ansari and Mr. Mochi are pitched in the selected constituencies, Sayeeda Tanveer Nasrin of JAVAB said: “I did not get many friends or organisations to host the programme in their cities or districts. Finally, three organisations came forward in three different districts and we managed to put it together.”

They are the Independent Journalist’s Society, the Jadavpur University Alumni Association and a civil society platform in Burdwan.

Interestingly, Mr. Ansari and Mr. Mochi are visiting those constituencies where the Muslim population is very high.

Contending that it was “mandatory” to bring the “faces of the riots” to West Bengal, though it had not witnessed any communal violence for decades, Dr. Nasrin said: “Perhaps, the State is showing trends that can be interpreted as ‘communal polarisation’ after decades. It is time to highlight that communal violence affects both — the victim and the victor, anywhere and equally.”

Mr. Ansari and Mr. Mochi are expected to hold a joint press conference in Kolkata.

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