Why I don’t want saffron in West Bengal..

India is a dangerous country at the moment. Anyone can die anytime for no fault of their own. The people have grown angrier and less tolerant towards others and most importantly, they are not afraid to assault and even kill the other person. Narendra Modi and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) wanted a “Hindu Rashtra.” They wanted the citizens (especially the Hindus, as it looks now!) to feel proud about being an Indian. This, along with a flailing scam-ridden Congress, was the reason why Modi became the prime minister of India in 2014.

To promote and consolidate their idea of a “Hindu Rashtra,” the BJP gradually started to provide ground rules and self-attested commandments. Commandments which were to be followed by the people if they wanted to qualify as a true Indian, by their standards. Do not eat beef, stand up when the national anthem is played during movies, to name a few, were some of the commandments which were drawn up by the governing party. These rules, what we gradually saw, became a structure through which BJP has created an atmosphere of fear and vulnerability for the ones who might not conform with them.

Social media, at the moment is filled with videos of cow vigilantism where Muslims are being abused and lynched under the assumption of beef transportation. News of Dalits being humiliated and beaten by Hindutva groups have been making headlines. The fate of Modi’s “Digital India” has been such that a message on WhatsApp has led to deaths and mob violence. Elections are not being won or lost based on developmental work done by the government, but based on identity and religious appeasement.

Unemployment is still rampant while issues of minorities and women safety are ignored on a regular basis. BJP has not only failed to keep its promises but what’s worse is that they are attacking the social fabrics of different communities in an attempt to homogenise the citizens within their own nationalistic narrative.

BJP flags

West Bengal, I agree is not the most peaceful and developed of states in India. The state is stagnant in terms of infrastructure, job opportunities and couple that with recent communal tensions for which the state government Trinamool Congress (TMC) has been largely responsible. More so, chief minister Mamata Banerjee is herself accused of playing appeasement politics. However, what Didi has been able to do is, conserve and protect the identity of the people in her state. Bengalis are very proud and defensive about their culture. Me being a Bengali, I am no different.

Why I do not want BJP to come to power in Bengal is because, identity is the exact thing which they will come after first if and when they form a government. They will try and consolidate themselves in the state not through their work but by trying to alter the habits and cultural characteristics according to their own norms.

Why am I assuming this? On June 27th in Kolkata, Amit Shah while giving a speech at the Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay Memorial Lecture, said that the reason for a divided India was due to Congress taking a decision in 1937 which was to sing the first two paragraphs of the national song, “Vande Mataram” and leave out the rest. He reportedly said, “Vande Mataram is nothing but a reflection of cultural nationalism of the country.”

Shah, without reading and interpreting the lines of the song quite confidently used it as a tool for his party’s nationalist agenda in order to get headway in West Bengal before the Lok Sabha polls in 2019. If one reads the lyrics of the song, it doesn’t talk about India but it’s a song which surrounds West Bengal and was one of the central themes for Bengali revolutionaries during the British rule.

Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay

The song which was originally titled as “Bande Mataram” then translated to Hindi as “Vande Mataram” is one of the most pivotal pieces of Bengali literature. These are the kind of things which Bengalis are proud and protective about. Now I don’t know whether Amit Shah really read the lyrics and researched what the song is really about or whether he knew about it but still chose to distort it; in both cases, he disrespected something which defines Bengalis to a large extent.

This is what the BJP is all about. They just don’t respect ethnic, regional and religious diversities and culture. No wonder eminent personalities from Bengal did not meet Amit Shah even after getting invitations from BJP.

There is a reason why the Communist Party of India (Marxist) and TMC have been able to rule in Bengal for so many years despite their failures. Both parties have been able to the preserve the culture and the “Bangaliana” of the people and for that they have garnered the support of the people. The roads in Kolkata might be filled with potholes for over 10 years but Bengalis treated to a programme to celebrate Rabindranath Tagore’s birthday.

I am aware that BJP might bring a bit more to the table in terms of structural development in Bengal, than TMC but that development might come come at the cost of our identity. That is too high a price.

Although the average Bengali gives their two bits of criticism about the potholes, but he/she lights up when they hear some Tagore songs on the very same road. If BJP comes in, I might not hear that Tagore song on the road. And me being a Bengali, if I don’t eat my fish and listen to Tagore, I will not be happy.

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Ayushman Basu

Ayushman Basu

I’ll only talk if you’re willing to listen.

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