When Mamata Banerjee led the front to dislodge the 34 years of Communist rule in West Bengal, she used the slogan of ‘Poriborton’ based on Maa, Maati, Maanush. The people of Bengal responded positively, but in reality, the promise of change remained only in the form of change of guards. Now the Bharatiya Janata Party has also started the Parivatan Yatras to reach out to the voters, what would be the content and contours of that change?
It is a well-known fact that Bengal and Bengalis spearheaded the cultural revivalism and reforms in modern Bharat. Reforms were started with the likes of Raja Ram Mohun Roy and Pandit Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar, spiritual awakening with Swami Vivekananda and Sri Aurobindo, scientific revolution by Acharya Jagadish Chandra Bose and Satyendra Nath Bose, while Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay and Rabindranath Tagore propelled the nationalist movement forward with the literary and political edifice. For all the revolutionaries of Bharat, Bengal was the land of inspiration. RC Mujumdar and Radhakumud Mookerjee led the project of writing history from the Bharatiya point of view. Dr Syama Prasad Mookerjee laid down his life for the cause of Jammu & Kashmir and gave a new political shape to the philosophy of cultural nationalism.
What is not known about Bengal is that it was also a driving force for agricultural and industrial development for the entire Eastern regions of Bharat. Despite the exploitative colonial rule, even after Independence, it was a major production hub. From textiles and crafts to perfumes and jewellery, Kolkata was the primary centre. Bengal was also a prominent producer of agricultural commodities like wide variety of rice.So, what went wrong with the Sonar Bangla?
It was the virus of Communism that led to the downfall of Bangla. Mainly after the rise of radical Communism in the form of Naxalism and militant trade-unionism of the so-called Marxist parties killed the spirit of ‘Bangla’. The democratic process was subverted; the party took over the state machinery, culture of political violence to eliminate opponents of Marxism and suppressed the cultural nationalist spirit of Bengalis. Illegal migration was encouraged to change the demography and further nurtured it as a vote-bank. Between 1950-51 and 2017-18, West Bengal’s contribution to India’s domestic production reduced from a high of 11.6% to 5.9%. The open and leading Bengal was turned into an introvert parochial region.
To get rid of this menace, people of Bengal had voted for Mamata Banerjee. Her party perpetuated the Communist variant of politics and made it more virulent with blatant communal secularism and use of police machinery to sustain institutionalised corruption.
If Parivartan has to be genuine, then the real Bengali spirit – culturally vibrant, economically dynamic and intellectually leading – needs to be revived. The worshippers of Kali Mata will have to follow the path of Ramakrishna Paramhans rooted in spiritual revivalism. For the challenger like BJP, providing the real alternative in terms of content and contours is the challenge.