New Delhi: There are some interesting but bitter stories related to ‘Muslims’ coming up the ladder during Mamata Banerjee’s stint in West Bengal.
Such a scenario would not have bothered others if Hindus and especially Dalits also benefited. Unfortunately, data reveals that the representation in government and public sector employment for Scheduled Castes or Dalits remained constant for 12 years between 2006 and 2018 at around 20-21 per cent. Out of these 12 years, Bengal was under Left rule for five years till 2011.
The share of Hindu upper castes dropped from 63 per cent in 2006 to 53 in 2012 and 47 per cent in 2018. Notably, the Muslim representation jumped from 6 percent in 2006 to 9 per cent in 2012. The Mamata government came to power in 2011 and this percentage for Muslims shot up to as high as 17 per cent on the ladder by 2018. This increase certainly came at the ‘expense’ of Hindus.
Truly, the West Bengal elections 2021 in more ways than one mark the beginning of a new phase in the state politics. It would not be out of context to presume that perhaps the ‘new beginning’ also portends changes that could prove to be counter-productive at times to political parties as well as to democracy. Nevertheless, the new changes generated by the new methodology of poll campaign and use of certain new idioms are inevitable in that sense, and so are welcome.
The politics of West Bengal for the last many decades revolved around one basic presumption. This ‘theory’ remained constant under Congress, the Left and subsequently under Mamata Banerjee as well. This strong element was – for the ruling politicians, the social justice etc etc have apparently come to mean that they have a right to ‘loot’ public money and in the process give legitimacy to ‘goondaism’ and some importance (read appeasement) to Muslims.
So much was the ‘importance’ of keeping ‘Muslims happy’ that there was even an attempt to term even the state’s most important Durga Puja as a ‘seasonal fest’ – the so called ‘Sharod Utsav’. Moreover, as another illustration, Jyoti Basu’s regime was too happy to keep clerics happy when they said writer Taslima Nasreen cannot stay in West Bengal.
Calling the community’s most revered religious fest as ‘an autumn festival’ making it seasonal was aimed at diluting the very religiosity.
Originally a brainchild of the Leftists – supposed to be ‘not believing’ in any organised religion – the renaming of Durga Puja as Sharod Utsav suited the ‘liberals’ who took pride in undermining anything Hindu and Indian. The pseudo intellectuals and the pretenders of ‘foot soldiers of secularism’ simply lapped it up.
It is this phenomenon that gave space to an actress to show the audacity – more as her ‘liberal right’ – and say in a televised programme that – even on Mahashtami Day, she can cook both pork and beef.
People of Bengal today if make a beeline for roadshows by the likes of Amit Shah and J P Nadda; it is due to such ‘insults’ meted out to the Hindus over the years.
Here are a few samples of ‘anti-Hindu’ sentiment in Left politics and which later became an inherent part of Left-liberal intellectualism and so called ‘freedom of speech’ ecosystem as echoed by that little known cine-TV artiste about Ashtami Day – beef.
The ‘Pakistan Resolution’ was passed by the Muslim League at its Lahore Convention in 1940.
Playing to the gallery and first instance of ‘vote bank games’, the Indian Communists openly backed the demand for creation of a new country called Pakistan.
Some years later the Muslim League had called for ‘Action Day’ (Aug 16, 1946) in Kolkata (then Calcutta) amid inflammatory anti-Hindu sloganeering.
The CPI issued a statement saying the party “would try to keep the state peaceful on that day, with a strike where necessary and without a strike where necessary”. The statement came when Jyoti Basu was the leader of the party in the Bengal assembly. Please mark the sheer opportunism.
In later years, Basu’s doublespeak on ‘secularism’ came to the fore more than once. His government virtually ‘surrendered’ to Muslim clerics in hounding out a woman called Bangladeshi writer Taslima Nasreen just for her remarks and writings against Islamic fundamentalism in Bangladesh. The same party and their associates did not mind organising chaos in the streets of Delhi and in some varsity campuses across the country in 2020 when an orchestrated protest was launched against CAA.
In fact, the Trinamool regime inherited the ‘same legacy’ because the populist leader Mamata was made to understand by ‘intellectual journalists and party leaders’ that winning Bengal was possible only by winning over Muslims. She dumped the BJP-led NDA politically and dumped Hindus from her politics.
The governance strategies of the Mamata-led regime and the Left Front government (under Basu and Buddhadeb Bhattacharya) was to placate these ‘conservative Muslims’. Has the game really changed for ‘self-virtuous’ communists?
Today, they do not mind sharing dais with Abbas Sidiqqui of the ISF and making it their co-partner in an electoral fight. Over the years, the focus of these parties towards Muslims largely remained on throwing loaves and fishes. But at the same time, the real problems of the community – from water scarcity to education were hardly addressed.
“The state of West Bengal has a serious water crisis. As high as 33 per cent Bengal is drinking fluoride-laced water,” Home Minister Amit Shah has pointed out.
Not long ago in June 2019, former Miss India Universe Ushoshi Sengupta faced eve-teasing and harassment by two-wheeler riding Muslim youths. The police did not act. Even some Muslims felt embarrassed. But this realisation came when Trinamool and the ‘powerful’ Didi had already conceded 18 Lok Sabha seats to the BJP.
Some Muslims wrote a letter to the Chief Minister. “They (the wrongdoers) should not be allowed to go scot-free because they happen to be Muslims (as is a growing perception). This will send out a message that the members of one community are not being shielded or appeased” – the letter ran. In fact, the Hindus had started believing that governance in the state either under Left or Mamata is ‘inclined’ towards a particular community.
“…..there is also a very large section here which is angry with appeasement,” says Shah referring to the huge success of BJP rallies and roadshows.
If such a contention was only a misguided argument, sample this — In 2017, Mamata set up a Rs 5 crore worth Tarakeshwar Development Authority. But she tried a ‘secular balance’ and virtually showed disrespect to Hindus and appointed Firhad Hakim as the chairman. Hakim also became Kolkata’s first Muslim mayor since Independence.