Though congratulations are in order for Trinamool Congress (TMC) for its sweeping victory in the West Bengal elections, the widespread post-poll violence has not only disgraced and tarnished the party but the people’s mandate as well. The effort of the TMC cadre to instil fear in the adversaries, through large scale violence, loot and plunder were akin to the actions of some medieval foreign army terrorizing the citizens of a vanquished country. Besides win or loss in elections, democracy also stands for the dignity of the institutions and place and respect for the opposition. But in this naked dance of violence, democracy was done to death as political opponents were marked and targeted.
People are still in the crosshairs for their religious and linguistic identity. Nearly 20 people died and hundreds fled their homes and took shelter in neighbouring Assam. Even women were not spared and their homes vandalized and set ablaze. Attacks were planned after sifting through social media posts. An opposition political worker was lynched just half an hour after a Facebook Live session in which he had mentioned the slaughter of his five puppies by TMC goons. Many TMC leaders were seen leading the riotous mobs. The above-mentioned worker had also named two such leaders. These are the incidents that have transpired in West Bengal after the elections. Even so, many are calling Mamata Banerjee’s victory a defeat of ruthlessness in politics.
While the whole country was shocked and horrified at the violent frenzy and the state government’s apathy, a demand was raised for the central government’s interference to take care of broken down law and order machinery. All this while, the Indian intellectual class or the “Woke” brigade, which is dominated by Bengali intellectuals, maintained a careful silence over these acts of reckless hate. “Woke “celebrities such as Aparna Sen, Suman Mukhopadhyay, Bratya Bose, Suvaprasanna, Jogen Chaudhary, Kabir Suman, Indranil Sen, Amitav Ghosh, Parambrata Chatterjee, Kaushik Basu, Abhijit Banerjee, Kaushik Sen, and the most famous Bengali of them all Amartya Sen, who regularly caution and warn the country to the dangers of fascism and communalism through long write-ups, seminars and forums, remained largely silent to the ruthless violence let loose in West Bengal. This is the same set of people who brand BJP workers, even voters, as fascists, ’genocide enablers’ and bigots. Now, who is the fascist here? People who exercised their right to vote for a party of their choice or the “Woke” celebrities who maintain a careful silence over violence and mindless atrocities due to a personal agenda? For these people, the killing of political opponents is justified and perfectly fair game. They pretend to be morally superior by virtue of their words alone and not actions.
The Bengal whom these intellectuals call the land of Swami Vivekananda, Sri Aurobindo, Rabindranath Tagore, Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay, Kazi Nazrul Islam and Satyajit Ray, and the symbol of tolerance, brotherhood and fraternity, its shameful reality has been exposed in front of everyone. The dire truth is that the Bengal of Vivekananda, Bankim Chandra and Tagore is long gone. Due to wrong economic and political choices, the state was already relegated into a pitiable condition.
Bengal was one of the most industrialized regions of British India, but this industrial powerhouse lost its economic might soon after independence. Till the early 1950s, West Bengal’s contribution to the country’s GDP was the highest amongst all the states but today, it is in 6th place. The per capita income fell accordingly. The state occupies the 28th rank on Human Development Index. Nearly 75% of its population still lives in villages as the rate of urbanization is very slow. Contributing nearly 24% to national industries at one time, this figure for West Bengal has today, declined to a measly 4.5%. It is obvious that there are no jobs in the state and hence, every year, a very large group of educated youth leaves for greener pastures.
While other states of the country have displayed an increasing tendency for self-employment, according to Employment-Unemployment Survey (2015), no such interest has been witnessed in West Bengal. In leaving school at the primary level, the state is counted above Bihar only. The rate of crime against women is very high. According to the latest study by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) submitted in 2019, the data being compiled on the directions of the Supreme Court, West Bengal was ranked second in recording the second-highest incidence of children and women trafficking. Political violence has become synonymous with the state.
It is clear that Gopal Krishan Gokhale’s saying ‘What Bengal thinks today, India thinks tomorrow’ sounds like an old curse because that Bengal took a wrong turn decades earlier. There are many reasons for the violent and toxic form of the state’s politics. If one of its reasons is Muslim appeasement and changing the demographic ratio, the other important reason is intellectual sanctimony. A complete severance from the spirituality of renaissance, devotion and dedication to imported ideologies and the feeling of pseudo superiority has created a class that prides itself on being thoughtful, lover of arts, knowledgeable about world literature, liberal and progressive but runs away from actual problems. This class can be identified by its history as a collaborator of the power elite. This powerful upper caste ‘service community’, comprising of the Brahmins, Kayasthas and Baidyas, still dominates the socio-economic space of West Bengal. It became powerful during the British times as the colonial masters provided them with the knowledge of the colonists. This class of English educated Bengalis remained the trusted ‘service community of the British and was completely immersed in the English culture. The British-emulating and received pronunciation-accented English of the members of this coterie stands out, dripping in class privilege. Having pretensions of nobility, this class identifies itself as Bhadralok in a way as if a very large ungentlemanly and undignified world exists outside it. Its adherents are high on rhetorical flourish but vacuous in substance, who make all sorts of commitment about solidarity when convenient and disappear when it is actually needed. Having grown up as class collaborators, their vocabulary does not have words like the poor, the village and the rural except on boutique trips to Shantiniketan, Mednipur and Bolpur to take in a bit of culture. Increasing poverty and decaying towns are no cause for agitation for these people because high art is originating from there. It seems as if this narcissist class which failed to provide a creative and development-oriented direction, not only shoulders the burden of West Bengal’s morality but that of India itself. No wonder, the man in the street calls these distinguished people as “Calcatian Antel” aka the “Pseudo-Intellectual” or the “Intellectual of the Calcutta brand”, identifies them as a specimen category who is marked by the combination of mannerisms, accent and attire, and warns others to be wary of them.
Such elements regularly socialize and are socialized at Calcutta Club and Bengal Club, the regular intellectual haunt of the Bhadralok, where they discover their radical edginess. At these haunts, keeping aside the inconvenient ideas of economic prosperity and entrepreneurship, a war with those imaginary notions, assumptions and concepts is continually fought, which, in the writings of Karl Marx, Mao and Noam Chomsky, provide a sense of class enemy. Though these gentlemen may have lost their relevance in their own countries in the present time, the Bhadralok, drawing inspiration from them, is in a permanent posture of revolution.
Forsaking the tough option of introspecting on the plight of the state, the propensity of these pseudo-intellectuals to look for external reason has found an enemy in “Bohiragato” or the non-Bengali person. The Bhadralok has always supported the party with the most capacity for violence, be it the Communists or the TMC. The commitment to the party in Bhadralok’s morality is so severe, rigid and ruthless that its conscience remains unmoved even with the murders of political opponents and workers, even though they may have been poor Bengalis.
The post-poll violence was shamelessly dismissed as a normal Bengali reaction after each election. Some so-called intellectuals opposed the BJP on the ground that they do not want ill-will and malice in society. The violence in the state affected the poor and the backward Bengali the most but none of these intellectuals opposed it. After ruining a prosperous West Bengal by its ideological misdemeanours and providing a continuous silent approval to mindless violence, the Bhadralok has laid bare its apathy and moral hollowness. This is the tyranny of the lumpen.
This monstrous cycle of political violence has festered in West Bengal for too long now. Even though it may have been justified by the media, politicians and the ‘intellectual’ elites, the time has arrived to end it for all times. The ruling class and all stakeholders in the prosperity of the state must introspect and act now for a prosperous state cannot be created on a pile of corpses.