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Sunday, March 27, 2011

It’s Left versus Future in Bengal 2011

By Swapan Dasgupta

For the past 100 years, there have been two sharply conflicting perceptions of Bengalis. The first takes off from Gopal Krishna Gokhale's astonishingly non-prescient testimonial, "What Bengal thinks today, India thinks tomorrow." The second centres on the Bengali bhadralok as the obvious inspiration for Rudyard Kipling's chattering, disruptive bandarlog in Jungle Book.

Few communities in India have been the object of so much simultaneous admiration and disdain as Bengalis. The enlightenment of Rabindranath Tagore, and the artistry of Satyajit Ray constituted a defining facet of the Bengali inheritance. But this awe was also offset by the exasperation with the indolent, over-politicised and disruptive Bengali. Till the early-20th century the Bengali babu was regarded as an epitome of high-minded effeteness—the man who would be Devdas. By the 1960s, he had been transformed into a prickly contrarian, screaming cholbe na—a ridiculous Don Quixote with a Red Book.

For 34 years, the Left Front monopolised, the politics of West Bengal because it engulfed both traditions. It incorporated 'progressive' politics with its earnest concern for the 'struggling masses'—a romantic ideal that, along with the glorification of squalor and poverty, appealed to the lofty Bengali self-image. And in its espousal of endless bandhs, strikes and 'cadregiri', the Left blended a perverse sense of entitlement with cussedness.

The Communist movement did more than merely direct the course of politics: it reshaped the Bengali character. From aspiring to bourgeois refinement, the Bengali in Bengal (to be distinguished from their expatriate cousins) began worshipping at the altar of insolence and bloody-mindedness. In the shift from the stylised but happy rusticity of a Jamini Roy painting to the wall graffiti of angry, gorilla-faced peasants brandishing sickles and the Red Flag lie the story of Bengal's regression.

Election manifestos, as Devi Lal once famously remarked, aren't meant to be read. Yet, it is worth glancing through the Trinamool Congress manifesto for next month's Assembly election to gauge the extent of Bengal's decline. In 1975-76, the share of industry in West Bengal's Net Domestic Product was 19 per cent; by 2008-09, it was down to 7.4 per cent. In 1976-77, it had 7.6 per cent of the total number of factories in India; by 2008-09, it was 4 per cent. In 1976-77, after nearly a decade of Left-inspired turbulence, Bengal still accounted for 13.3 per cent of employment in manufacturing; it nosedived to 5 per cent by 2008-09. Although the TMC manifesto doesn't mention the gold medal Bengal got for the number of man-days lost in bandhs, strikes and closures, it admits "industrial workers…also lost the productivity race during CPI(M) rule."

The story of Bengal has been grim since 1967. As India advanced into the frontiers of the global economy, the state that was second only to Maharashtra in the early-1960s took large, determined strides backwards.

The Left claims it focussed on the regeneration of rural Bengal. The countryside certainly gave the Left unwavering support for seven consecutive elections. This was partly due to the irrevocable security of tenure granted to share-croppers between 1978 and 1981. This empowerment was complemented by the draconian control over rural life by the CPI(M)'s dreaded Local Committees.

Communists hero-worship tyrants like Stalin and Mao because they are control freaks. Starting from the silly notion that all human activity is inherently political, the Left Front sought to extend its control from the state to society. Its rule has seen political intrusiveness in every walk of life from policing to education. 'Cadre raj' has come to signify a million tyrannies perpetrated by the 'party' to control public institutions and private lives.

In three decades—far too long for any one dispensation to be in power—the CPI(M) has fractured Bengali society. In seeking total control it has pitted their cadres against those whose voting preferences were suspect, those who incurred the enmity of local apparatchiks and those who were contrarian. Dissidence could flourish in urban clusters but it needed exceptional courage and fortitude for anyone known to be anti-CPI(M) to withstand the oppressive regimentation in rural Bengal.

The Reds believed that with political control they could also regulate people's aspirations and freeze Bengalis in a state of permanent mediocrity. Fortunately, India's economic growth has led whetted expectations and triggered a realisation that Bengal has lost the plot. For a people that revel in its imagined intellectual master race status, the mere admission that Bengal has ceased to be at the centre of the world is a gigantic mental shift.

The coming election is only nominally a battle between the CPI(M) and TMC; it is a fight between the Left and those Bengalis who no longer want to be left behind. After 1967, Bengal was a great place to leave; after May 2011 let's hope it becomes a better place to live.

Sunday Times of India, March 27, 2011

15 comments:

Anonymous said...

Thoroughly enjoyed your very correct description of Bengal. One more reason I admire Swapan Dasgupta is his very deft selection of the right words. Without sacrificing humour. In this world of political correctness this is no mean achievement.

Wish comrade jyothi basu is forced to read this writeup in the Hell that he is burning in for Eternity.

"...determined strides backwards "

" Communists hero-worship tyrants like Stalin and Mao because they are control freaks. Starting from the silly notion that all human activity is inherently political, the Left Front sought to extend its control from the state to society. Its rule has seen political intrusiveness in every walk of life from policing to education. 'Cadre raj' has come to signify a million tyrannies perpetrated by the 'party' to control public institutions and private lives ".

" For a people that revel in its imagined intellectual master race status, the mere admission that Bengal has ceased to be at the centre of the world is a gigantic mental shift ".

Excellent Sri.Swapan Dasgupta !!

Anonymous said...

A similar brilliant assessment of sorry state of affairs in Tamil Nadu from the solitary Tamil Editor T.R. Jawahar I admire :-

http://www.newstodaynet.com/col.php?section=20&catid=30

Feel free, this poll

Anonymous said...

Swapan, I am an anglophile bong BJP sympathiser much like you. What angers me is the BJP's utter neglect of Bengal. The BJP is run by a bunch of short-sighted, rustic Hindiwallas who do not understand that they need to win seats in WB, Kerala, TN etc. Why can't the BJP find someone from Bengal and give him/her the same status as Sushma Swaraj, Jaitley or Gadakri? Why were educated peeople like Tathagata Roy, Victor Banerjee and Satyabrata Mukherjee not given their due? Why couldn't the BJP think out of the box and give Advani a second ticket from Bengal during the 2009 elctions? The Bengali lower classes are quite religious and can form the BJP's mass vote, while the more urbane Bengalis can head the party.

The BJP can also consider paying a hefty bribe to the crafty media moghul who runs Bengal's most popular Bengali and English newspapers and news channel.

Frankly, it will serve the BJP right if they lose in 2014. A party with a strategy this myopic does not deserve to win.

On another note, do you think Mamata's victory could help the BJP make inroads?

Anonymous said...

Apropos comments of Anonymous@ 2:20AM ,

I am also a hindu. But I fervently pray BJP does not come to power.

Give it any name hinduism , hindutva blahblah , it does NOT promote fascism , fanaticism slotting fellow human beings into Muslim/Christian/Jew yadayada.

This is another reason I fervently pray NO RAM TEMPLE comes up at Ayodhya also ever.

All the existing Temples from Tirupathi to Kumbakonam , Sreesailam to Srirangam , Kashmir to Kanyakumari have not impacted us hindus to vanquish such deep seated uncalled for hostilities towards Muslims. As a hindu I expect every hindu to have well internalised the core crux of our Holy Texts & Puranas. Thus seeing the oneness in all beings of the world. We hindus fail incorrigibly.

Earlier Kaanchi Seer Sri.Jayendra Saraswathi without mincing words bluntly told it was actually the HINDUS including Vishwa Hindu Parishad etc etc who were extremely belligerent , recalcitrant full of disparate tendencies unlike the Muslims' Representative who was very docile & peaceful person. This triggered a chain of violent reactions culminating in throwing the very Seer into prison.

Spare me cut & paste reports.I know much that happened inside which many hindus would suppress & deny.

For a long time I almost bought this spiel that hindus are angels & muslims are bad. My late brother much much earlier told me a lot more facts. He also asked me to listen to Saeed Naqvi instead of RSS people. For decades I led a zombified existence due to several psychiatric drugs forcefed.

Thanks to Ramana Bhagavan I am good now. I have been living in a Middle Eastern country for sometime. Met some Pakistanis also. The fault is with us Indians , hindus included.

I recoil at the mention of Advanis , Murli Manohar Joshis & Sushma Swarajs.

We Indians deserve to be governed by a combination of China-America-Britain-Israel-ISLAM.

The above are my personal opinions. Hence don't start an arguement like hindu fanatics shadow warrior IITian blogger.

Anonymous said...

Apropos comments of Anonymous@ 2:20AM ,

I am also a hindu. But I fervently pray BJP does not come to power.

Give it any name hinduism , hindutva blahblah , it does NOT promote fascism , fanaticism slotting fellow human beings into Muslim/Christian/Jew yadayada.

This is another reason I fervently pray NO RAM TEMPLE comes up at Ayodhya also ever.

All the existing Temples from Tirupathi to Kumbakonam , Sreesailam to Srirangam , Kashmir to Kanyakumari have not impacted us hindus to vanquish such deep seated uncalled for hostilities towards Muslims. As a hindu I expect every hindu to have well internalised the core crux of our Holy Texts & Puranas. Thus seeing the oneness in all beings of the world. We hindus fail incorrigibly.

Earlier Kaanchi Seer Sri.Jayendra Saraswathi without mincing words bluntly told it was actually the HINDUS including Vishwa Hindu Parishad etc etc who were extremely belligerent , recalcitrant full of disparate tendencies unlike the Muslims' Representative who was very docile & peaceful person. This triggered a chain of violent reactions culminating in throwing the very Seer into prison.

Spare me cut & paste reports.I know much that happened inside which many hindus would suppress & deny.

For a long time I almost bought this spiel that hindus are angels & muslims are bad. My late brother much much earlier told me a lot more facts. He also asked me to listen to Saeed Naqvi instead of RSS people. For decades I led a zombified existence due to several psychiatric drugs forcefed.

Thanks to Ramana Bhagavan I am good now. I have been living in a Middle Eastern country for sometime. Met some Pakistanis also. The fault is with us Indians , hindus included.

I recoil at the mention of Advanis , Murli Manohar Joshis & Sushma Swarajs.

We Indians deserve to be governed by a combination of China-America-Britain-Israel-ISLAM.

The above are my personal opinions. Hence don't start an arguement like hindu fanatics shadow warrior IITian blogger.

Anonymous said...

Reposting my comments from another site monopolised by many hindutvavadis:-

Ramana Bhagavan has pointed out equivalent MahaVaakyam in Jesus Christ's " I Am That I Am " , Holy Koran's " Unal Haq " & Jews' " Yahweh " & beautifully clarifies they all mean the same as contained in Upanishads. Ramakrishna Paramahamsar and several other Sages also reiterate the same Truth.


The most potent weapon of Enquiry provided by Ramana Bhagavan " Who Am I " ALONE is capable of busting all unwanted speculations & imaginations. No wonder all kinds of people comprising of Muslims , Jews , Christians , Hindus , Agnostics , Animals & Birds found Peace That Passeth Understanding in His Very Presence. That is exactly what is elucidated by Sri.Aadi Shankara in His |Viveka Chudamani & several Advaitha Texts. The best elucidation of Srimad Bhagavatham is presented by Sri.Nochur Venkatraman in contemporary world. He is breathtakingly remarkable. And there are many independent non hindu bloggers living in countries like America , Britain who also are equally enlightened. They apply themselves seriously to the study of Texts likeYoga Vaasishtham , Ribhu Gita , Ashtavakra Samhitha .


When a person comes to know the truth about his Self , he would never be able to slot any fellow being as Muslim/Christian/Jew and so forth. And thus stands relieved of this unhealthy itch of " saving this world ". Without haranguing in loud decibels such a Jnani helps the entire world. Kaanchi MahaPeriyavaa once pertinently pointed out :- " This is Advaitha Peetham . Yet look at the people thronging here . They are only looking for wish fulfilment like job promotions , increment , progeny , cure of ailments etc. How many are seeking God /Self "? Ramakrishna Paramahamsar also said the same thing. God is ever available to all. But few seek Him . But blithely blame God for all troubles besetting him. Dhruva stung by his stepmother's words does strict penance . Alas ! When he gets his wishes granted is he happy ? He comes back crying bitterly " what a fool I was to aspire for proprietorship over kingdom when I could have asked for the very Lord Himself ". Hence follows Prahlad's story. How Sri.Narada's Grace ensures Prahlad is Born Enlightened.Did Narada give lengthy speeches or send voluminous research papers to the child in the womb ?

Anonymous said...

Another extremely obnoxious trait of Hindus is showing off their information overload. They keep telling " Muslims don't know this Holy Text that Holy Text blahblah...we alone have so much ...so all the rest should go through several births , be born as hindu in this motherrrrland to attain salvation".

Shockingly ridiculous. There are numerous Holy Texts whose crux is the same. Ramakrishna Paramahamsar says " If you touch the Holy Ganges at any point anywhere , you have touched Her. There is no need to keep on touching her from Gangotri to Ganga Sagar to claim one has touched Her ". The ripe mature person gets it with Viveka Chudamani or Ramana Bhagavn's Ulladu Narpadhu/Sath Dharshanam alone.

There was one Muslim Devotee of Ramana Bhagavan who was satisfied with the small booklet Who Am I given by Bhagavan. And never asked for anything more.

One Muslim from Kashmir who could not speak Tamil, Sanskrit etc stood awestruck before Bhagavan & said " I want only you to be my Teacher whatever births I take ".

And Bhagavan's Silent communication gave him immense solace. And he left in Peace.Lots of such anecdotes are there.

Sri Raghavendra Swamigal communicated with Munro the German from His Samadhi silently.

JayKumar said...

Swapanji,
Beware Dravidians are on board.

Anonymous said...

On distribution of free TV sets , rice , gold etc by those in power in India.

MGR the late Chief Minister wanted to 'uplift' the gypsies called 'Nari Koravas' in Tamil Nadu. He gifted free buildings consisting of apartments , money and so forth.

That MGR was utterly wrong was proved later as the same Nari Koravas rented out the free apartments at exorbitant rates , took to their old ways of living by poaching many animals & birds.

Only difference they have plenty of cash in their hands.And they constitute a powerful lobby today.Likewise we have an influential lobby of 'eunuchs' in Tamil Nadu. In addition to a plethora of various castes lobby.

Anonymous said...

We are full of stories purveying wisdom but alas they go over our heads.

There was this King who disregarded the counsel of his wise Minister & gifted away precious Sandalwood Trees to a poor woodcutter with a view to 'uplifting him from poverty'.

The King realized his folly only on finding the woodcutter had chopped off all the Sandalwood Trees converting them into charcoal.

Anonymous said...

For anonymous with "I am that" message, I tried to convey this to my friends in Saudi. Unfortunately, they thought that it was against Islam. My Pentacostal friends said that it was crap. I congratulate anonymous for spreading this message in Dubai and with Pakisthanis and rest of muslim community and hopefully, we will see terrorism wiped out from Pakisthan (they are inherently docile, but were just reacting to Hindu attitude) and also rest of the Islamic world.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous@9:53 PM ,

:)) :))

When Ramana Bhagavan was alive , He had barely ten to fifteen earnest devotees. Only after His 'passing away' (Videhamukthi) the crowds swelled. Ditto with Ramakrishna Paramahamsar.

Valmiki brilliantly portrays the mindset of most human beings. When the people of Ayodhya get emotional following Sri.Ram in His exile , they are treated to a grand feast by Sage Bharadhwaj.

The people glibly forget Ram praying:-

" Let Ram go wherever He wants to..let Bharath rule...as long as we keep getting such sumptuous food what else do we need ...."

That is the irony. You will find very few seekers. Most are looking for wish fulfilment in the name of God.

That is the reason Bhagavan says "suffering alone is the way".

Intense pain alone paves the way for disenchantment with this charade called life.

Anonymous said...

I asked an Indian converted christian to explain the difference between a catholic and a protestant. What he said was very interesting and am repeating verbatim:-

" Among Catholics , one man preaches , rest listen.

Among Protestants , any person can take to the mike & preach.

These Pentacostals are considered 'terrorists' among christians by both catholics & protestants".

Asit Guin said...

History of Bengal after independence is divided into two periods; period of famine (1947 - 1977) and the period of delayed success (1977 - till date). There was famine in 1959, 1966, and 1974. Famines were mainly due to non-cultivation of land under jotedar ownership. Agriculture is not much profitable for them. After 1977, due to land reform, food production is up and famine problem is solved. There was one potential famine in 1978 (due to big flood), but panchayat and co-ordination committee avoided a famine like situation. So the new period of delayed success started. Haldia is delayed by 12 yrs, Bakreswar by 8 yrs. Singur will also come one day after some delay like Haldia. DELAYED SUCCESS IS BETTER THAN FAMINE.

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