West Bengal has a rich heritage of culture, literature and arts which nourished the nation in the past. But the Left-oriented politics has played havoc with it’s ethos
Dr Sudip Kar Purkayastha
After playing a key role in social reforms and awakening India to her glorious spiritual heritage, educational and intellectual attainments, and leading the cultural renaissance through the nineteenth century, Bengal, tragically, went on the path of a steady decline and decay after the Independence, ‘What Bengal thinks today, India thinks tomorrow’. Visionary leader Gopal Krishna Gokhale had made this observation way back. Though that statement has been repeated often since then, it has lost its relevance and has rather spoilt Bengalees by inculcating in them a kind of dangerous complacency. Many of them today do not realise how they have disentitled themselves from the inheritance of the galaxy of statesmen Bengal had once given to the country.
Bengal’s downhill journey began after the dawn of Independence. It has been picking up momentum since then due to the Leftist politics. In the post- partition province soaked with blood and tears, the Left parties leveraged ‘refugee politics’ to come to power and later used ‘minority vote bank’ and ‘terror’ politics to cling to power for 34 long years.
Significantly, the Left parties and intellectuals kept silent over the savage and sustained persecution of religious minorities in East Pakistan. On the other hand, when tens of millions of helpless Hindus kept entering India only to save their religion and culture, these parties, being the prime political opposition, came in the way of
systematic settlement of the refuges across India. They incited these large vulnerable people to remain in West Bengal, saw them languishing in abject poverty to be able to use them as their vote bank.
After coming to power, the Left regime, under the façade of ‘communist ideology’, worked hard for several decades to disconnect people from their social, cultural and religious values. Their mission seemed to be converting people of Bengal as
nation-less atheist comrades of a pan-communist world. In course of their three and a half decades long rule, the left regime created a big army of confused self-hypnotised vain
intellectuals who kept defending the communist ideology as foot soldiers while their top leadership enjoyed the best of the world and common people were severely exploited. West Bengal witnessed a live demonstration of what George Orwell had penned in his novel ‘The Animal Farm’.
The age-old socio cultural values including the millennia old religious faiths were blown to smithereens.
They oppressed the masses by
creating a political structure where the party was supreme and the
administration was completely subservient to it. To cling to power, they were frequently accused of resorting to massive rigging. Whether through
rigging, malicious propaganda or by unethical use of administration they
continuously denied space to any kind of political opposition. West Bengal has earned the notorious distinction of being the only state in India where the opposition parties have almost been invisible.
The worst damage they did through their 34 years long absolute domination of Bengal was the destruction of the faith of people in ideology-based politics. Barring some good work done in the
initial years of their rule in the realm of ‘land reforms’, the history may not remember the Left politics for any
positive contribution. Their ideological pretensions were thoroughly exposed, and their fabled army of dedicated cadre began to fall like ninepins soon after they were ousted from power by a new regime in 2011.
Though this change of regime had spurred hopes of value-based politics returning in Bengal, those are showing no signs of getting fulfilled. The
successor to left regimes, a breakaway group of Indian National Congress, does not claim any clear ideological legacy unlike the Communists or Socialists. Its programmes and actions for the last six years have been
determined by a style of ‘benevolent dictatorship’, ad hoc and impulsive. It has been trying to impress people through programmes of development, whether roads, buildings, or doles.
Alongside the new regime in Bengal, continue some deadly legacies of the Left regime. It has been equally ruthless with the political opposition! The government administration has been perceived by many to be carrying out the command of the top leadership of the ruling party. There are
continuing complaints of rigging of elections conducted by the State Election commission. The party
workers are frequently accused of extracting money, terrorising people and businesses. Industries languish, joblessness proliferates, and the youth continue to leave the state in search of employment. The health care is in a poor shape, educational standards are declining.
As if those were not problems enough, the new regime very
disingenuously set its foot on to play communal politics to lure the minority vote bank. Earlier, the Left had
benefitted from it. The new regime has been trying to excel the Left. In the 1970s the Left had tacitly approved shelter to pro-Pakistani Urdu speaking people of radical Islamic faith in West Bengal after they were thrown out of Bangladesh. In later parts of their rule, they encouraged regular infiltration from the neighbouring country and used them as vote banks. The
continued tendency to play vote bank politics even at the cost of religious and cultural sentiments of the
majority community has begun to cause widespread scepticism, fear and
The present ruling regime has been badly mistaken in its perception that some scattered ‘development
initiatives’ can make people overlook the perils of minority appeasement. Historically Bengal has been a deeply communally sensitive province. In 1911 the British while annulling the partition of Bengal and reconfiguring the borders of the new province had ceded several Hindu majority districts to Bihar, Orissa & Assam and thus
artificially made it a (marginally) Muslim majority province. It was a ‘divide and rule’ strategy to keep the cauldron of communal tension boiling. Since then over the years through the pre-Independence period there have been several communal clashes and it required tact and statesmanship of
eminent leaders of that period to tackle the problem.
Notwithstanding all such well meaning efforts, the province went through the horrors of Great Calcutta Killings and communal pogrom in Noakhali in 1946 which eventually
culminated in the partition of the province. For nearly a decade from 1937 to 1946 the League-supported or League-led governments in Bengal breached their responsibilities to the religious minorities time and again. As India’s partition looked inevitable, Jinnah and Muslim League left no stone unturned to annex the whole of Bengal to Pakistan. Things became so scary for the Hindu minorities that Shyamaprasad had to work tirelessly and play a key role in enforcing the partition of the province so that each of the communities could live peacefully and pursue its culture and religious faith. West Bengal was seen at that time as the only means to ensure security and safety for the Hindu minority.
Post 1947, while Pakistan and later Bangladesh continued to indulge in
sustained persecution of religious minorities, true to the lofty tradition of India both Hindus and Muslims lived in peace and harmony in West Bengal for decades. But the excessive greed for power through minority vote bank
tempted successive political regimes in the state to resort to the dangerous game of being mute witness to large scale
infiltration from Bangladesh. According to the reply to a written question by MoS Home Kiren Rijiju made in Rajya Sabha in November 2016, the number of
illegal migrants from Bangladesh living in India was around 20 million, which incidentally is
nearly 12.5 per cent of Bangladesh’s total
population! This is a
probably unparalleled in the world history. The impact of such huge
infiltration is never
confined to one single province but it can upset the demographic balance across the whole country and give rise to
It may not be wrong to say that there is a subterranean yearning in people of Bengal in favour of going back to value based politics but they are not in a position to trust any political party. It is possible that under the Left regime an artificial politico-intellectual culture of leftist pretension had taken some
measure of hold in young generation. Strong waves of pseudo secularism and false liberalism had made them look at Indian values and ideals with disdain. But by now most of them have become disillusioned at the manner in which the left played truant with their
professed ideologies. The young
generation is also frustrated by the overtly selfish nature of politics being indulged into by the present regime. At this juncture, an ideology that is both entrenched to the soil of India and has witnessed successful implementation can potentially attract the people of Bengal, especially its youth.
Coming to India as a whole
significantly, the contemporary
politics, especially subsequent to May 2014 Parliamentary elections, makes an interesting study. The increasing footprints of the ruling party in large number of provinces prima facie
suggest that a political ideology of the kind mentioned above has been in operation. Simultaneously India has been making rapid strides in terms of
various social, cultural and economic parameters. Her stature is
rising internationally. IMF recently projected India to emerge as the fourth largest economy in the world overtaking Germany by 2022.
A brief survey of the country and major political parties in terms of their political ideologies makes some stunning revelations. It may not be inappropriate to say that Congress had surrendered the major plank of its
ideology i.e., non violence, for the sake of sharing power in the Viceroy’s Executive Council way back in 1945 at the Simla Conference by agreeing to support the British war campaign against Japanese in South East and East Asia. From 1947 onwards for several decades thereafter, the party claimed monopoly to Indian freedom struggle and enjoyed the power and perks that came as entitlements to the ruling party. On the issue of political
ideology, it did not have any clear thinking, but chose to depend on the Left intellectuals and historians.
On its part the Left had diagnosed that any political ideology rooted in Indian culture, values and ethos would be their strongest adversary. Integral Humanism fitted that description. In a determined bid not to allow this
ideology to proliferate, the Left tried to muffle it by sustained and mischievous propaganda. With overt and covert cooperation from the ruling Congress at the centre and mainstream media, they carried out malicious campaigns to stereotype any such political
ideology as archaic, regressive and heaped scorn at them as being ‘cow’ oriented. Their mischief also reflected in the derogatory acronym ‘BIMARU’ to refer to provinces where the
alternative political ideology commanded bulk of its followings till the 1990s.
Though the Left was allowed a
disproportionate say in the formulation of the ideological contours of India after independence, its importance had grown phenomenally after Indira Gandhi began to take conspicuously leftist position from late sixties onwards through her
programmes such as abolition of privy purses, bank nationalisation, Garibi Hatao, etc. The sum total of these
manipulations resulted in building up an ideological ecosystem in the country comprising of distorted version of Indian history, culture and ethos. In the process the leftist intelligentsia sought to promote pseudo secularism and fake liberalism across the country.
These unjust ideological deceptions began to abate over last decade or so, especially since 2014. The Leftists received the first major blow in 2011. The enormity of the ideological fraud they had perpetrated on unsuspecting people came in full public view on the eve of 2014 elections when the whole country witnessed as to how the Party was trying to hide a series of mega scams and scandals under the ideological wraps of secularism and liberalism.
In a way the electoral battle of 2014 may be seen as the first major
confrontation between these synthetic left leaning political ideologies and an indigenous one that is founded on Indian culture, values, and ethos. n