The unfair attack on Bengal
A malicious political campaign has unjustly targeted Bengal with divisive forces aiming to break the ethos and ideas that form the state’s backbone
First, the right wing came after our Durga Puja celebrations mocking our consumption of meat and other festivities during Navratri, then RSS told us that our thinkers such as Rabindranath Tagore had no place in educational books, soon after alleged BJP goons destroyed and desecrated the pride of Bengal and our intellectual guru, Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar. Battleground West Bengal has become a tussle not only between the powerful regional party (Trinamool Congress) and an aggressive national party (Bharatiya Janata Party); it is also a scrimmage for the very idea of Bengal. The foundation of the state, its culture, beliefs, and tenets that have governed its various governments are also squarely under attack.
There is an atmosphere of fear and loathing that has been built around West Bengal today. Many among national media are leading the anti-Bengal brigade with misleading campaigns of utter lawlessness. For years the state remained invisible, nothing that it did right made it to the front pages; left alone to waste away as it sought to play catch up with its counterparts. Its social schemes received awards from the United Nations, the state improved its ease of doing business, it improved on the health indices, but to all this, the rest of the country turned a blind eye.
Bengal also started attracting industry in spite of its rigid land acquisition policy. The progress on this front is gradual but it is happening indeed. The Tata Group that exited Bengal after the Singur agitation is back with Tata Hitachi shifting base to Bengal. Kolkata startups such as Wow! Momo have been picking up funding aggressively; Sector V and Rajarhat are bustling with IT activity. Not enough to take on Bengaluru and Gurugram, but there are green shoots of development. Swanky new hotels, national restaurant chains, young businesses, are all taking root there. But why not once is there any recognition of this? That this state, that had enough financial woes, is finally trying to set its path right.
Many sons and daughters of this rich soil of heritage, scampered away to greener pastures as they rightly looked for jobs and opportunities. Bengal struggled, fighting its own ghosts of the past to push towards a better future for those that stayed behind. It is heart-breaking that those very people, who sought a better life for themselves, are unable to see the development that has taken place. Sure, there is a lot to be done but to wear blinkers and call all things related to Bengal as something destructive and negative is a huge disservice to the lakhs of hardworking people earning their livelihood there.
Are there no problems in Bengal? Of course, there are, as there are in other states. But this targeted denigration of Bengal and its people by biased, divisive forces is unfair. It is an attack on the idea of Bengal. After all, where else can you find temples, churches, mosques, synagogues, gurudwaras co-existing peacefully within a 5-kilometre radius. Kolkata still remains one of the few cities that are considered safe for women. Bengal has sheltered communities such as the Muslims, Jews and Parsis when few others would. The Chinese population, though now dwindling having opted to migrate to US/Canada, has also remained safe within the confines of Kolkata. The ethos of the state have been built steadfastly on secularism and universal brotherhood; the varied and vast number of migrants bear testimony to that.
And that is why they vilify our heroes (Raja Ram Mohan Roy and Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar) who banned 'Sati', started female education, and widow remarriage. That is why they brandish religious symbols and chant slogans that have no genesis in Bengal. They, who are steeped in regressive thoughts, fundamentalist ideas, and show scant respect to women aim to destroy this foundation of Bengal. Our progressive, liberal and secular thought are in short supply these days around the world. It is, therefore, more the reason to hold onto it closer. All other problems can find a solution, but only if we remain who we are.
(The writer is a journalist and media entrepreneur. The views expressed are strictly personal)