Millennium Post

Descendants of the forgotten heroes

The Bharatiya Janata Party entered the Legislative Assembly of West Bengal after a long pause of 15 years. This was followed by another victory in two college-level student union elections in remote towns of the state. In the light of Modi wave this has been seen as a major breakthrough in a state that is predominantly leans to the Left. Although the ruling Trinamool Congress is theoretically opposed to the Left’s politics, it has behaved like the ultra-Left on various issues.

In the wake of India’s Independence, West Bengal was curved out for ‘Hindu’ citizens from the proposed East Pakistan. The chief architect of West Bengal Dr. SP Mookherjee was initially against the partition of the country. However, when he sensed that the Muslim League would not be happy only with partition of India, but also was maintaining a secret campaign for inclusion of Calcutta (now Kolkata, which had a majority Hindu population) in Pakistan, he expounded the idea of West Bengal.
Tathagata Roy, erstwhile State BJP President writes in “The Life and Times of Dr. Syama Prasad Mookerjee – A Complete Biography” that Hindus were kept under pressure by their fellow Muslims.

In their option forms Muslims allegedly filled ‘Pakistan, preferably Calcutta’. This was a turning point in Dr. Mookerjee’s understanding of his contemporary politics. He toured all over Bengal and secured a small patch of land for Bengali Hindus. This idea, however, initially was not that popular in the province since the Leftists were hand in glove with the peasants and workers, as well as for the then Prime Minister of Bengal Province Fajlul Haq, who had supported a united Bengal formulae for vested interest. Sarat Bose, the brother of legendary nationalist leader Subhas Bose, who was also professing the united Bengal formulae had become redundant to Bengal politics.

Dr. Mookerjee’s idea, however, was slowly accepted by prominent person like Lord Sinha, Dr. R. C. Majumdar, Dr. Suniti Kumar Chatteji and Iswardas Jalan. Soon after that the Congress and the Mahasabha jointly organised as many as seventy-seven meetings to spread the idea of West Bengal. Since Hindus were a minority among Bengali speaking population, staunch political adversaries of Dr. Mookerjee like Sir Jadunath Sarkar had no option but to support the creation of West Bengal.

History has taken a different course in Bengal after partition, and more so after the untimely death of Dr. Mookerjee in Kashmir. Consequent governments in West Bengal both from the Congress and Left parties designed history books to glorify their own polity. There has been an uncanny silence about the pre-independence history of Bengal, whereas numerous books have been published on extremist national movements that took place prior to Dr. Mookerjee’s entry into the political stage.

Dr. SP Mookerjee along with Deen Dayal Upadhyay founded Bharatya Jansangh, the forerunner of Bharatiya Janata Party that is now struggling to make a meaningful entry in West Bengal’s politics today. The systematic erasure of Dr. Mookerjee’s name and the rejection of his contribution to the very existence of the state have made it further difficult. The descendants of the forgotten heroes, who created West Bengal, are now miserably failing to bank on the historicity of their own origin.
Politics in Bengal is not primarily focussed on the economy. It has an overtone of culture and history.

The Congress banked on the history of freedom movement to lure its voters. It projected the literature, songs and poems of that period as its own. Similarly, the leftists projected IPTA songs and famous Bengali litterateurs, poets and singers like Nazrul Islam, Sukanata Bhattacharya, Utpal Dutt, Salil Chaudhury as their own mascots. The legitimacy of polity in Bengal has been closely related to the cultural identity.

Does the BJP lack mascots for Bengal politics? Perhaps not since Bengali writer Bankim Chandra’s Vande Mataram is indeed one of the punch lines that right-wing politicians use in their discourse. There is a platter of historical and cultural components that BJP can showcase as its own. It would require a conscious retrospection of the party’s own journey since the inception of Bharatiya Jansangh and the prominent personalities related to it.

The BJP wave, allegedly sweeping national politics, may seem more prominent than state politics. The real intrusion in the mind of its electorate, however, may not be easy if the people can’t associate themselves with the cultural and social identity of the party’s legacy. It would be easier for opponents to brand it as a party ‘foreign’ to Bengali identity. Its electoral success lies outside Calcutta metropolis, inhabited mostly by Bengalis. The BJP must reclaim its place in West Bengal’s history. Emphasising forgotten history of how West Bengal was created may be a good starting point.
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