Bengal Needs to Reinvent Democratic Culture
   07-Aug-2019
 
 
Trilochan Mahato was killed in Purulia only because he was a BJP worker. (Inset): The latter in which the killer writes that he wanted to kill Mahato since the Panchayat polls in the state 
 
 
A government with a national perspective, which seeks to replace the politics of violence with the politics of development, can only restore peace and public tranquillity in West Bengal 
 
 
The year 2011 has a profound significance in the political history of India, as it was the year in which West Bengal saw a transfer of power between two fascist parties that was marred by violence, a rare sight in our historical experience. After 34-year-long Communist rule under CPM, the Trinamool Congress captured the power through bloodshed, by which the Communists sustained it for so long. A reign of terror followed the electoral victory of TMC, and the same was repeated in 2016.
 
West Bengal was the fountainhead of Indian renaissance that has touched all aspects of national life, from nationalism and spirituality to art and science. A hundred years ago, prominent leader of India’s freedom struggle, Gopal Krishna Gokhale, rightly observed about the people of Bengal, “What Bengal thinks today, India thinks tomorrow”.
 
Sadly, the state which was far ahead of other Indian states has now dropped out of the scene. Why is Bengal lagging behind the other states in terms of all criteria of growth and development, such as per capita income, the human development index, inequality, and people below the poverty line? How has the land of renaissance turned out to be the land of violence?
 
 
 
Answering these questions, one may easily conclude that the roots of political violence in West Bengal trace back to the three-decade-long CPM rule in the state, wherein the inherent violence of Communist ideology happened to be an instrument of governance. Apart from the reign of terror of the mainstream communist parties, its offshoots like Maoist-Naxalite parties also played their part. Based on statistics, more than 13,000 people have been killed since the start of the Naxalite-Maoist insurgency in 1980.
 
Exposing Political Violence
 
 

 
From left Shri Hitesh Shankar, Shri Gautam Lahiri, Shri Pramod Mujumdar, Shri Kanchan Gupta, Shri Prabhat Kumar, Shri Dilip Ghosh and Shri Manoj Verma releasing ‘Bleeding Bengal’ 
 
New Delhi: Political violence in Bengal has crossed all limits. The ruling party goons openly kill their opponents, and law and order machinery simply turns a blind eye. When the entire country was celebrating the victory of Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi, the BJP workers in Bengal were being harassed and killed. BJP worker Sushil Mondal was killed in Bardhaman only because he was installing the BJP flags to celebrate the BJP victory. Instead of taking any action against the killers, the state government and the administration tried their best to convert the killing into an incident of personal conflict. The Lutyens’ media tried to hide the incident, but the social media exposed both the Mamata government and the Lutyens’ media. There are hundreds of such incidents in which the innocent BJP workers were killed only because the TMC workers found their political future under threat. Apart from killing the party workers, their houses were set on fire and family members were brutally tortured. The people are even killed over the shouting of ‘Jai Shri Ram’.
 
The National Union of Journalists (India) through Prabhat Prakashan has compiled the incidents of political clashes in West Bengal during May and June 2019. The report of the violence, titled ‘Bleeding Bengal’ exposes the terrible face of the politics in West Bengal under Mamata regime. The Report was released in New Delhi on July 19 at Nehru Memorial Museum & Library in the presence of eminent journalists of Delhi. Releasing the Report, senior journalist Shri Kanchan Gupta said if the country faces the threat of Fascism that is in Bengal. He expressed concern that a big section of the state media has stated crawling before the state government and the gross mistakes of the state government are being ignored.
 
Former president of Press Club of India Shri Gautam Lahari said the image of West Bengal, which is coming out following political violence, is very shameful. There is no place for violence in democracy. NUJ(I) general secretary Shri Manoj Verma said the media cannot turn a blind eye to the political violence in Bengal. BJP state president Shri Dilip Gosh said the Mamata regime has turned the state which has been rich in arts, culture, literature, philosophy into Afghanistan, where bloodshed is the daily affair. He said they are not fighting for change in political power but social change. 
 
 
According to an article in the Mainstream Weekly published in 2010, the Communist Party of India (Marxist)-led Left Front coalition that governed West Bengal from 1977-2009 committed over 55,000 political murders. Here, I can’t help but mention about Kerala where around 300 RSS-BJP workers have been murdered by the CPM goons so far. In West Bengal, the present law and order breakdown of the state is a collective responsibility of both the CPM and TMC, if the former saw the seeds of political violence, the later repeating the harvest.
 
With post-poll violence against BJP marring the state’s post-poll scenario, law and order situation has crumbled. TMC goons have been unleashing a brutal attack on BJP workers in several districts, including North 24 Parganas, Coochbehar, Howrah and West Burdwan, resulting in many deaths and injuries, after the BJP made a giant leap in the Lok Sabha elections, securing 18 of the 42 Lok Sabha seats in the state. In the post-poll violence alone, at least 15 BJP workers were brutally killed in various Trinamool attacks. On June 8, four workers of the BJP were shot dead by members of the TMC in Basirhat’s Sandeshkhali. Their crime: they voted for BJP and chanted ‘Jai Shri Ram’. More than 80 BJP workers have been killed in the state only in one and a half years.
 
Unfortunately, the death toll is likely to rise significantly in the coming days as Mamata Banerjee seems to be rattled by the clear message which the people have sent in the last Lok Sabha elections that they are no longer in a mood to tolerate the jungle raj any more. With Mamata stooping to a new low in appeasement politics and forgetting all etiquette of politics, the pre-existent Jihadi violence against Hindus has escalated further.
 
Now, even apparent political battles are ending up with communal overtones in many Muslim-rather Bangladeshi Muslim-dominated areas. Reacting to the allegations of appeasement, the arrogant Chief Minister has asserted in her first political meeting after the election debacle, “I appease Muslims…. Will do it 100 times as there is no harm in taking kicks from a cow that gives you milk!”
 
Apart from political violence and Jihadi appeasement in the state, rampant corruption, squalid poverty have increased manifold so far as to the level that the collective moral compass of the people has decayed. A recent example for this moral degradation is Mamata Banerjee’s ‘Cut Money’ remarks. She has reportedly told the party leaders and government officials to return ‘cut money’ taken from common people and government schemes! According to news reports, ‘cut money’ is the amount or percentage of money that is illegally charged by government officials and TMC workers in West Bengal from ordinary citizens to deliver services to them! A state Chief Minister is advising her cronies to return bribe, that too only after the rise of BJP posed a formidable challenge to her corrupt regime. What else could explain the prevailing anarchy in the state better than this incident?
 
The only remedy to the on-going anarchy and the deterioration of law and order in West Bengal is to reinstate democracy and the supremacy of the Constitution in the state. For that, Bengal has to go back to its cultural roots and reclaim the values of Hindu renaissance spearheaded by Swami Vivekananda, Sri Aurobindo, Rajaram Mohan Roy, Keshav Chandra Vidyasagar, Rabindra Nath Tagore, etc. A government with a national perspective, which seeks to replace the politics of violence with the politics of development, can only restore peace and public tranquillity in West Bengal. With BJP rising in the state as a political alternative, as far as Bengali people are concerned, those days are not far away.
 
(The writer is national convenor of Prajna Pravah)