For a city with a centuries-old history of mining coal and producing steel, a gate at the entrance to Asansol, describing it as the “City of Brotherhood”, was scarcely noticed by residents and passers-by until a few years ago. However, after March 2018, the message put up by the city’s civic body is not only hard to miss but also presents the paradox the city is grappling with.In March 2018, Asansol burnt in hatred. Over 26 years after the city witnessed a divide along communal lines post-Babri Masjid demolition, the city appeared to be divided again. People were killed and prohibitory orders remained imposed for weeks as riots broke out over processions during Ram Navami. As the constituency gears up for polls on April 29, 2019, the fault lines of the communal divide seem more pronounced.Days before the polls, Trinamool Congress nominee Sreemati Dev Varma (Moon Moon Sen) had several events lined up earlier this week on Monday. At a crossing on the Domohani Road in Ward No. 31 of the Asansol Municipal Corporation, the 65-year-old actor made a brief speech to a crowd of a few hundred, largely comprising women and children.“The sound of azan from your mosque is the same as that of shlokas from the Gita,” she began. “Will you vote for those who want to divide us,” she asked in an apparent reference to the BJP.Ms. Sen, who represented Bankura Lok Sabha seat in 2014, had no hesitation in telling the audience that she is not familiar with Asansol and was contesting as per the wishes of her party chief and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. Her speech was replete with references to her mother, Bengali screen legend Suchitra Sen. Asked about her chances here, Ms. Sen’s reply reflected the wit of a politician: “Ask me what are the chances of Mamata Banerjee becoming Prime Minister and I will tell you its cent per cent.”Challenges galore The arithmetic of the last Assembly polls, held three years ago, may be with the TMC — it had won five of the seven seats in the Asansol LS constituency. But there are other challenges for the party. A TMC MP from Kolkata admitted that prime among them was of keeping the party’s flock together. This was one of the reasons why an outsider was given the ticket.Defending the seat is Union Minister of State Babul Supriyo. The singer-turned-politician’s greatest weapon this election is a song that has already courted a lot of controversy. Beyond the open coal mines of Raniganj where people can be seen carrying coal — mostly smuggled from the mines — on bicycles and their heads under the scorching sun, Mr. Supriyo is in the midst of a very busy campaign. As his convoy passes through Pandabeshwar, his supporters distribute booklets on the work he has done in the past five years, with his song playing in the background. Refuting the Election Commission’s reservations about the song, Mr. Supriyo expressed happiness at the over one lakh views it had notched on the Internet. “Why will you vote for Moon Moon Sen who is asking for votes in the name of her dead mother? What about the living and their problems?” he told a small gathering. While reminding people to play his song, the MP also raised slogans of ‘Jai Shri Ram’ during his campaign.Corruption from coal and freedom to allow religious processions found echoes in the words of Prime Minister Narendra Modi when he addressed the public meeting at Polo Grounds in Asansol the very next day (Tuesday). Just on the other side of the railway tracks, where the Prime Minister addressed the public meeting, Noorani Masjid and its adjoining areas still bear the scars of last year’s violence. “There was an unfortunate incident last year. What happened then should not recur any time in the future,” said Maulana Imdadullah Rashidi, referring to the riots. The cleric’s 16-year-old son was killed in the riots but he defused the situation with love, threatening to leave the city if members of the community targeted others.Another flare-upEarlier this month, a communal flare-up was also reported at Barakat in Asansol over a Ram Navami procession when authorities had to intervene, make arrests and suspend Internet services in the area. Imam Rashidi tried to downplay the incident. “There were some rumours in Barakat. Everything is quiet now. Elections will come and go. Asansol needs to, and will return to, where it was before 2018,” he said, his voice reflecting the same sanity and reason he had put forth a year ago.For Imam Rashidi, Asansol is really the city of brotherhood. “We are brothers living together here for centuries. Those who are used to hate will never realise what brotherhood means,” he said.
John Lloyd Cruz a dashing guest at Vhong Navarro’s wedding PBA IMAGESANTIPOLO — On a night where almost every San Miguel player struggled to buy a basket, Chico Lanete emerged as the lone offensive bright spot for the Beermen on Sunday.Inserted into the starting lineup for the first time this conference, the 38-year-old guard was the latest Beermen to step up to the plate, drilling four treys to help his crew hack out a hard-fought 77-76 victory over Magnolia.ADVERTISEMENT View comments Read Next AFP official booed out of forum “I just repaid the trust coach gave me so that I can bring that to our next game,” Lanete, the Zamboanga native, said in Filipino after finishing with 14 points, four rebounds, four assists, and four steals.Lanete influence in the game in a big way, capping his performance with a clutch triple from the left wing with 1:31 remaining that gave San Miguel a 73-71 lead to hold off Magnolia.FEATURED STORIESSPORTSWATCH: Drones light up sky in final leg of SEA Games torch runSPORTSLillard, Anthony lead Blazers over ThunderSPORTSMalditas save PH from shutoutDespite shooting 31 percent from the field, the Beermen were able to pull off the close win to reclaim the No. 1 spot in the 2018 PBA Philippine Cup standings at 6-1.READ: Beermen regain top spot, halt Hotshots’ run LATEST STORIES Typhoon Kammuri accelerates, gains strength en route to PH 2 ‘newbie’ drug pushers fall in Lucena sting NEXT BLOCK ASIA 2.0 introduces GURUS AWARDS to recognize and reward industry influencers Globe Business launches leading cloud-enabled and hardware-agnostic conferencing platform in PH MOST READ Beermen regain top spot, halt Hotshots’ 5-game run Don’t miss out on the latest news and information. “Chico is a veteran and we had the right timing to insert him after that timeout,” said SMB coach Leo Austria, who expected nothing less from the 11-year PBA veteran given his wealth of experience.Lanete, however, said that he’s just trying his best to live up to Austria’s expectations as the Beermen try to stay afloat with their star guard Alex Cabagnot still recovering from plantar fasciitis.“Alex is really a big help for our team. I’m just making the most of the opportunity given to me,” he said.ADVERTISEMENT Trending Articles PLAY LIST 00:50Trending Articles01:30’Excited’ Terrence Romeo out to cherish first PBA finals appearance01:46US defense chief agrees it’s time to take another look at defense pact with PH01:29Police teams find crossbows, bows in HK university01:35Panelo suggests discounted SEA Games tickets for students02:49Robredo: True leaders perform well despite having ‘uninspiring’ boss02:42PH underwater hockey team aims to make waves in SEA Games01:44Philippines marks anniversary of massacre with calls for justice01:19Fire erupts in Barangay Tatalon in Quezon City Brace for potentially devastating typhoon approaching PH – NDRRMC Slow and steady hope for near-extinct Bangladesh tortoises