How would you have defined Europe’s twentieth century given chance ?
It can be defined as a long European war, lasting from 1914 to 1989. The European twentieth century began with the first world war and entered its own twilight era at 1991 with the fall of second western totalitarian system.
Likewise Bengali twentieth century can be defined by its intense activism on the political, cultural, intellectual, artistic front which began with the radical nationalistic movement led by Bengali Hindus against the decision to partition Bengal taken by then British governor Curzon at 1905.
Like 1991 was for Europe, 2011 was a watershed year in Bengali history. Fall of Communist government and election of Mamata Banerjee as the Chief minister of West Bengal has ushered in the twilight of the 20th century of Bengal like the year 1991 did for Europe.
Twilight is a phase when the aftershocks of the previous era can still be felt but new movements are in the process of taking shape. In Europe twilight phase continued with the dissolution of Yugoslavia and Chaos inside Russia. Post-cold war world was relevant until EU/NATO continued to build inroads into former Soviet satellite states. That world came to an end in 2008, after that one can see that change taking shape in the form of Right Wing movements happening in Germany, Austria, Italy, France etc.
West Bengal faces similar issues like that of Europe. Stagnant economy, rising unemployment, illegal immigration, limited amount of resources getting stretched, rise of violence leading to law and order problems. In Mamata years these issues have become primary concern in West Bengal.
More than that, however, the rise of native-Hindutva in Bengal has baffled the political commentators and Bharatiya middle class who has an interest in the Bharatiya politics. It is because they are used to Kolkata and its political dynamics which they tend to project over the state and the whole Bengali society altogether. They also can’t differentiate between Bengali elite and Bengali mass.
Speaking of the Bengali mass, the most important trend in West Bengal in the current decade is undoubtedly the decimation of Communism from all spheres of society in the first term of Mamata. It must have surprised everyone, but it was long time coming. The liberization of Bharat’s economy in the nineties have affected Bengali community like every other part of Bharat. The appeal of socialism decreased among young generation and the issue of job, development became primary concerns.
Infact, beginning from 1990s to 2011 leftist ideals became less attractive to Bengali youth. 1990s was the time when young Bengalis began leaving Kolkata in search of Jobs every year. So, current state of leftist parties at West Bengal shouldn’t surprise anyone. There was a pattern, its just people didn’t saw it or they refused to do it.
1950s saw several waves of Communist movements and sixties saw their intensification until left front came to power their on their own in the late seventies. Those decades saw intense activities and participation on political, literature and cultural front just like the Agnijug in the first half of twentieth century.
Compare those decades with TMCs formation in the late nineties and their coming to the power in 2011 on an anti-CPM plank. Unlike the previous two this one was not an ideological movement. Mamata Banerjee came to the power as a populist leader with support from core left vote bank, i.e farmers, labours, urban poor etc.
It was a reactionary movement from the beginning. There was clear dissolution with the communist ideology among Bengali youth for a long period. So, it is clear that there was already a vacuum in place. Thus an era came to an end in West Bengal. Yet, the next one was anywhere but close.
Right now the growth of native-Hindutva we see at West Bengal (like we have seen at Kerala in the case of Sabarimala) isn’t something unusual. World over Globalization(or western colonization V.2) is facing a backlash from native ideologies. Also considering its history of Hindu nationalism this isn’t something new for Bengal.
Indeed Bengal has seen it all already. Barbarity from its Islamic rulers, horrors of British colonial occupation, Communist brutality you name it. Lesser have ended older civilizations, destroyed stronger nation states…yet Bengal lives on. Truly, Bengal’s life force, it’s exceptionally strong civilizational heritage is something to behold.
Bengalis have rebelled socially, culturally, militarily whenever Bengal has faced brutalization under foreign occupation. Its remarkable civilizational heritage have produced giants whose presence rejuvenated Bengali society again and again, Bengali culture flourished from new ideas, thoughts. Its rebirth from within has happened whenever its death seemed certain.
Bhagwan himself appeared as Mahaprabhu Sri Krishna Chaitanya when Bengal was reeling under Muslim occupation, when its civilizational heritage were getting trampled upon everyday. His grace revived Bengali society. Bengali literature, music, architecture saw new life. Bengal lived unlike Persia, Egypt, Mesopotamia, Nubia.
Again, five hundred years later in the 19th century in the Bengal suffering under colonial brutalization many greats took birth whose contribution in Dharma, politics, freedom struggle, art, literature, drama, philosophy, music is still venerated across Bharatavarsha. With their presence happened Bengal renaissance which gave birth to modern Bharat itself.
Civilizational identities gain in form and substance in opposition to others. Since its appearance in Bengal, its intensification and its eventual waning from the political scene Communism unlike Islam has never directly confronted Bengali identity like its doing now.
Communist intellectuals, artists have taken an agenda to dilute Bengali identity itself which started from declaration of Bengali identity as a linguistic one and continued with promotion of Durga Puja as a cultural festival in the mass media. That agenda still continues unabated in the current TMC regime where we see them crediting Akbar as the founder of Bengali new year, mass media terming Dol jatra as “Basantotsav”, blacking out incidents of anti-Hindu violence from it’s news. It has made them enemy of common Bengali Hindu.
Bengali society is fast changing its character and social media is an indication of that change. Quiet, dull years of 1990s will look like dreams in the future as change picks up pace.
As Bengali mass gets ready to fight another civilizational battle like they are fighting for the last 800 years, Mamata Banerjee, TMC, BJP all come across as side-characters. The main battle is between Bengali civilizational identity and the Islamo-communism combo. Real strength of a race becomes clear when it falls into hard times.
Bengal has fallen into hard times before and came out of it stronger than before. Its history is replete with violence, anarchies, rebellions. Do not expect Bengal to pass quietly from history.
Bande Mataram. জয় গৌড়, জয় বঙ্গ (Jai Gour, Jai Vanga).
-by Bhriguram Swami (the author can be found on twitter at @From_Himalaya)
(This article was first published on medium.com on May 2, 2019 and has been reproduced here with the author’s permission. Some minor edits have been done to conform to HinduPost style-guide.)
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