West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee yesterday launched another attack on what she saw as the ruling BJP's attempt to "turn Bengal into Gujarat", declaring that "if you stay in Bengal, you have to learn Bangla". The Trinamool Congress leader, who has come under fire for her handling of the doctors' strike in the state, also criticised the BJP for its attempts to extend its influence in her state by using "politics of riots".
"We have to bring Bangla (language) forward. When we go to Delhi, we speak in Hindi. When we go to Punjab, we have to speak in Punjabi. I do it. When I go to Tamil Nadu, I don't know the Tamil language but I know a few words," Mamata Banerjee said at a rally in North 24 Paraganas district.
"If you are coming to Bengal, you have to speak in Bengali. We would not allow that people will come from outside and beat up Bengalis," she added.
The Chief Minister's attack on the BJP's use of Hindi mirrors criticism levelled at the centre by south Indian parties, notably the DMK and the PMK, who yesterday called a Southern Railways order to communicate in either English or Hindi the "destruction of a language (Tamil)".
Ms Banerjee also attacked Prime Minister Narendra Modi's party for the "politics of riots that BJP had followed in Gujarat" and the culture of violence she felt the BJP was attempting to create in West Bengal.
"We have nothing against Gujarat or residents of that state. We are against the politics of riots that BJP had followed in that state and is trying to replicate here. As long as I am there I would never allow them to turn Bengal into Gujarat," she declared.
Outbreaks of post-poll violence between BJP and Trinamool workers have not stopped since the BJP claimed 18 of 42 Lok Sabha seats in a performance that left the state government scrambling for answers; the Trinamool managed only 22, 12 down from it's 2014 haul.
"Staying in Bengal and intimidating Bengalis by roaming around in bikes and resorting to hooliganism, will not be tolerated. I want to know why the houses of minority community, Bengalis are under attack," Mamata Banerjee raged.
"If you think that you will live in peace while torturing and intimidating our Bengali brothers and sisters, you are mistaken. People will not spare you," the Chief Minister warned.
Ms Banerjee has faced criticism for failing to handle the crisis the doctors' strike with Union Health Minister Harsh Vardhan urging her to "show sensitivity and end the suffering of patients across the country".
She was also criticised by award-winning filmmaker and actress Aparna Sen, who appealed to "mother" Mamata Banerjee to talk to junior doctors who have, thus far, stood firm in their demands.
The protests were sparked by an attack at the NRS Medical College in Kolkata on Monday that left two junior doctors seriously injured after a dispute with a family whose relative had died.