Daily Mirror (Sri Lanka) - - OPINION - By P. K. Balachan­dran

The Eastern In­dian State of West Ben­gal, which has been a strong­hold of the sec­u­lar Cen­tre-left/ Left Wing par­ties from the time In­dia gained in­de­pen­dence in 1947, is now ex­pe­ri­enc­ing a non­sec­u­lar Right Wing surge.

There is ev­ery possibilit­y of the Right Wing “Hin­dutwite” Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) cap­tur­ing power in West Ben­gal through the next State As­sem­bly elec­tions due in 2021.

It was the April-may 2019 par­lia­men­tary elec­tions which showed the new trend. The tally of the Bjp-led Na­tional Demo­cratic Al­liance (BJP-NDA) in the par­lia­men­tary elec­tions in West Ben­gal went up from two out of 42 seats in 2014 to 18 out of 42 in the 2019 polls. The tally of the Cen­treleft Tri­namool Congress (TMC) led by Chief Min­is­ter Ma­mata Banerjee went down from 34 out of 42 to 22 out of 42. The vote share of the Bjp-led NDF went up from 17% in 2014 to 40.25%. The TMC was only slightly ahead with 43%.

Charges of po­lit­i­cal vi­o­lence are now being slapped against the TMC gov­ern­ment. These sound omi­nous in the con­text of the emer­gence of the BJP-NDA as an unas­sail­able power in the Cen­tral gov­ern­ment fol­low­ing the April-may par­lia­men­tary elec­tions. There is even talk of Pres­i­dent’s rule being im­posed on West Ben­gal and the State As­sem­bly elec­tions being ad­vanced to 2020 to take ad­van­tage of the pre­vail­ing an­titmc/congress/left sen­ti­ment in the State.

Last week, three BJP work­ers and a TMC sup­porter were killed in Bhangi­para vil­lage in the 24-Par­ganas dis­trict. Not sur­pris­ingly it was a com­mu­nal clash also, as the TMC worker killed was a Mus­lim and the BJP dead were Hindu.

In the run up to the Gen­eral Elec­tions, the BJP claimed that 130 of its sup­port­ers were killed while dur­ing the elec­tions 12 lost their lives in poll-re­lated vi­o­lence

As ex­pected, the Bjp-led gov­ern­ment at the Cen­tre sought a Sit­u­a­tion Re­port from the West Ben­gal gov­ern­ment, a step which could be viewed as the first to­wards the im­po­si­tion of Cen­tral or Pres­i­den­tial rule.

Chan­dra Ku­mar Bose, vice pres­i­dent of BJP’S West Ben­gal wing has said the party’s fo­cus ahead of the State As­sem­bly elec­tions would be on the restora­tion of Rule of Law and the iden­ti­fi­ca­tion of “illegal in­fil­tra­tors from Bangladesh through the con­tro­ver­sial Na­tional Regis­ter of Cit­i­zens.

The BJP’S elec­toral prom­ise to iden­tify “illegal Bangladesh­i Mus­lim mi­grants” was a cru­cial fac­tor in en­sur­ing its vic­tory in the border districts and North Ben­gal. The party claims that more than 15 mil­lion illegal im­mi­grants from neigh­bour­ing Bangladesh are in West Ben­gal.

That the BJP is shak­ing the TMC is ev­i­dent from the fact that more than 60 Lo­cal Body level Coun­cilors from the TMC camp as well as some Mem­bers of the Leg­isla­tive As­sem­bly (MLAS) be­long­ing to the TMC and other par­ties have de­fected to the BJP.


Re­act­ing to the ad­verse sit­u­a­tion, anti-bjp West Ben­gal in­tel­lec­tu­als are to launch a cit­i­zens’ move­ment to curb the “poi­son of di­vi­sive re­li­gious pol­i­tics” in West Ben­gal. CM Ma­mata Banerjee has dubbed Hin­dut­vaas “alien to Ben­gali cul­ture.”

Har­vard History Pro­fes­sor Su­gata Bose, has pro­posed the for­ma­tion of an apo­lit­i­cal sec­u­lar and lib­eral cit­i­zens’ fo­rum that would be rooted in Ben­gal’s great lib­eral and sec­u­lar in­tel­lec­tual and po­lit­i­cal tra­di­tion.

Bose told the me­dia that the move­ment against Hin­dutva should be driven by the cul­tural ethos of renowned Ben­gali poets like Rabindrana­th Tagore and Kazi Nazrul Is­lam and the po­lit­i­cal legacy of De­sha­bandhu Chit­taran­jan­das and Nethaji Sub­has Chan­dra Bose. Bose said that No­bel Lau­re­ate Amartya Sen is “very con­cerned” about the pos­si­ble ex­tinc­tion of sec­u­lar­ism in West Ben­gal pol­i­tics.

For her part, CM Ma­mata Banerjee has called for the set­ting up of two cadre-based or­ga­ni­za­tions: the male organizati­on to be called Jai Hind Bahini and the women’s group will be called Banga Lal­lona Bahini. These or­ga­ni­za­tions will counter the RSS and BJP with “Ben­gali cul­ture” and ed­u­cate the peo­ple about the dan­gers of the BJP’S di­vi­sive re­li­gious pol­i­tics.

“Ben­gali cul­tural tra­di­tions run very deep. Our Mus­lim brothers fought Pak­istan with Tagore and Nazrul Is­lam on their lips in 1971. It is time we did the same here now,” singer Suchet­ona Majumder, a spe­cial­ist in Rabindra Sangeet, told Su­bir Bhau­mik of ‘South Asian Mon­i­tor’.

Ben­gal’s lib­eral and sec­u­lar in­tel­li­gentsia largely sup­ported the Left un­til many of them shifted al­le­giance to Ma­mata’s Tri­namool which dis­played a more pro­nounced Ben­gali ethos, Bhau­mik re­calls.

Many Ben­galis have memories of par­ti­tion-time in 1947 when Ben­gal was di­vided into a largely Hindu West Ben­gal and a largely Mus­lim East Pak­istan (which even­tu­ally be­came Bangladesh in 1971).

Ac­cord­ing to Bhau­mik, po­lit­i­cal com­men­ta­tor Sukho­ran­jan Das­gupta said that Ben­galis don’t want di­vi­sive re­li­gious pol­i­tics again and nov­el­ist Sa­maresh Majumder said that Ben­gali cul­ture is syn­cretic with a mix­ture of the Hindu and Mus­lim.

The shrill anti-bangladesh rhetoric of the BJP and threats to im­ple­ment the Na­tional Regis­ter of Cit­i­zens or NRC in West Ben­gal have not gone down well with many Ben­galis ob­serves Su­bir Bhau­mik.

“That it has led to the ex­clu­sion of nearly four mil­lion Ben­galis, more Hin­dus than Mus­lims, in As­sam, is some­thing Ma­mata Banerjee seems des­tined to play up as she prepares to re­sist any im­po­si­tion of NRC on West Ben­gal,” Bhau­mik adds.

Any at­tempt to push the four mil­lion so-called Bangladesh­is from As­sam and 15 mil­lion from West Ben­gal to Bangladesh will spoil the cur­rent good re­la­tions with Bangladesh, he warns.

BJP sup­porter and top model Payel­ro­htagi’s de­scrip­tion of Raja Ram Mo­han Roy, the fa­ther of Ben­gal re­nais­sance, as a “Bri­tish stooge” cre­ated a furore in West Ben­gal.


How­ever, pro-bjp com­men­ta­tor, Swapan Das­gupta says that con­trary to the left­ist/elit­ist view, Ben­gal has been tra­di­tion­ally hos­pitable to pro-hindu and Right Wing pol­i­tics.

Writ­ing in The Te legra phd as gupta says: “From the 19th to the mid-20th cen­tury, in the pe­riod that wit­nessed the birth and the flow­er­ing of In­dian na­tion­al­ism, Hindu-ness was an im­por­tant cur­rent in Ben­gal’s in­tel­lec­tual thought and pol­i­tics. Most na­tion­al­ist thinkers were con­cerned with try­ing to come to terms with the rea­sons for the loss of na­tional sovereignt­y and ex­plor­ing ways of overcoming it. In this scheme of things, the re­form and re-craft­ing of Hindu so­ci­ety oc­cu­pied a key po­si­tion.”

“Ta­pan Ray­chaud­huri’s study of Ben­gal’s re­sponses to the West in the 19th cen­tury dealt with three in­tel­lec­tual stal­warts - Bhudeb Mukher­jee, Bankim Chan­dra Chat­ter­jee and Swami Vivekanand­a. All three fo­cused on is­sues that re­lated to Hin­dus as Hin­dus. To them, moder­nity did not mean dis­card­ing the Hindu in­her­i­tance but re­shap­ing the Hindu in­herit an ce,”d as gupta pointsout.

“In the realms of po­lit­i­cal ac­tivism too, the move­ment against the Par­ti­tion of Ben­gal in 1905 had ex­plic­itly Hindu over­tones, take Aurobindo Ghose and Bipin Chan­dra Pal as fore­most ex­am­ples. And this re­li­gio-po­lit­i­cal as­pect was em­braced by Rabindrana­th Tagore.”

“From the late 1920s till In­de­pen­dence, there was of­ten very lit­tle to dis­tin­guish the Ben­gal Congress from the Hindu Ma­hasabha,” Das­gupta says.

“The Hindu Ma­hasabha boasted of the in­volve­ment of in­tel­lec­tual stal­warts such as Shyama Prasad Mook­er­jee, Nir­mal Chan­dra Chat­ter­jee and even Ra­man and a ch at ter­jee. The pres­sure built up by Shyama Prasad was a key fac­tor in en­sur­ing that the Hindu ma­jor­ity districts of Ben­gal were not included in East Pak­istan,” he adds.

How­ever, with the death of Dr. Shyama Prasad Mook­er­jee in 1953 and the adoption of the parochial “Hindi-hindu-hin­dus­tan” slo­gan by the Hindu Right Wing then led by the Jana Sangh party, the Hindu Right Wing’s in­flu­ence waned in West Ben­gal.

But now, the BJP is seen in West Ben­gal as a Hindu party which ac­com­mo­dates lo­cal iden­ti­ties, and there­fore per­fectly in tune with Ben­gal’s ethos based on Ben­gali-based In­dian na­tion­al­ism, Das­gupta feels.

Hin­dutva bri­gade dis­plays its power in West Ben­gal

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