By R. Upadhyay
A huge belligerent rally led by the JEI-Hind in the historic maidan of Kolkatha in West Bengal on March 30 this year has largely gone unnoticed in India.
The rally was to protest against the death sentence to Delawar Hussain Sayeedi awarded by Bangladesh court as he was one of the prime accused in collaborating with Pakistan army in the genocide during Bangladesh liberation war. The incidents that Sayeedi was accused of included indiscriminate killing and elimination of the hapless minorities in the then East Pakistan.
The JEI was not alone in demonstration. It gathered the support of sixteen other fundamentalist organisations of the community. While the aggressive and assertive stance of the JEI was nothing new for West Bengal, but ignoring their mind set is dangerous and the potential for future mischief in parallel with the happenings in Bangladesh should alert the authorities. Unfortunately, it looks to be a tall order.
The venue chosen for the demonstration is not without significance. It was the same Kolkatha Maidan from where the Muslim League gave a call for “Direct Action” in 1946 before partition. The gory events and the riots that followed are still fresh in the memory of those still surviving from those horrible days.
I am not sure whether the history books of the State refer to the direct action call which triggered subsequent riots at many places in Bengal.
Surprisingly, even the media did not take due notice of this aggressive demonstration. More surprising was the indifference of the government on this blatant demonstration against the stringent action being taken by a friendly neighbour that is fighting against heavy odds to establish a secular polity in that country.
One cannot but recall the tragic events that followed the partition of Bengal. The Muslim league that was emboldened by the support it received from the communists went to the extent of demanding the incorporation of the whole of Bengal into Pakistan. Will history be allowed to be repeated in West Bengal and the not so benign outfit JEI allowed to run riot in India? Should vote bank politics alone be the causative factor to remain indifferent by the State in this blatant communal display of something happening in the neighbouring country. Have they forgotten the sermon of Swami Vivekanand who said “ “ It is out of the past that the course of future has to be moulded: it is the past that becomes future. Therefore more the Indians study their past the more glorious will be their future and whosoever tries to bring the past to the door of everyone, is a benefactor of the nation”. (Integrated History of Ancient India by Wakankar).
Due to mounting communal tension just before and after partition there was a large scale exodus of population from both sides after the partition. But what went unnoticed and allowed to happen was that those going from the present state of West Bengal after taking temporary shelter in the then East Pakistan returned to India and settled in the bordering districts. The reverse did not happen and so those who came from East Pakistan and now Bangladesh remained in India thereafter.
Another crucial factor that helped the reverse migration from the East was the open door policy of the political leaders of West Bengal. Those who belonged to groups that indulged in violent acts before partition were admitted into the ruling party and rehabilitated! This only encouraged further exodus from across the border and the whole movement took a different colour with the political parties vying with each other to make them their “vote bank” in the electoral politics. This was being continued relentlessly and one cannot blame the JEI Hind to take an extremist position to gather them all and hold a rally in the heart of Kolkatha!
In West Bengal today out of 294 Assembly constituencies, 70 are Muslim-majority in which Muslim voters are decisive in 45. The success of 59 Muslim MLAs in 2011 Assembly elections that included 40 from TMC-Congress combine, 18 from Left Front and one independent shows that the community has captured almost 20% seats in the Assembly. In fact if the reserved seats for SC (68) and ST (16) are discounted , then the figure would be around 29 percent. This was possible only because of the greedy political parties who were more keen to expand their vote banks than to realise the far reaching consequences that could happen one day. One result has been the huge rally of the JEI Hind in the heart of Kolkatha which should have shocked those with secular credentials in this country.
West Bengal is the most densely-populated state in India with only 2.7% of the country’s land area having the burden to support over 7.8% of country’s population. It is also the second state in the country which has the largest population of minorities in ratio of population. The growing demographic imbalance has long term implications which the politicians and the authorities do not seem to care.
The most unfortunate chapter of the modern history of West Bengal is the indifference of its left-liberal intelligentsia over the undeclared demographic invasion from the east which is now Bangladesh. Supreme Court has termed such alarming rate of infiltration from Bangladesh as “external aggression”.
Ignoring the communal history of pre-partition Bengal, the vote greedy main political parties and left-liberal intelligentsia including the academicians, human right activists and professionals always maintained “look other way attitude” towards the menace of the perennial and ceaseless infiltration from across the border.
Mamta Banerjee emerged as a fire band Congress leader of West Bengal in 1984 after defeating the CPM veteran Somnath Chatterjee in Lok Sabha election from Yadavpur constituency. Since her politics always remained focussed around West Bengal, people of the state expected that her party would be free from the vote bank politics. But ironically the same “look the other way” attitude continues. With her known financial integrity, simple attire and humble approach it was thought that she would bring some fresh air into the worrisome vote bank politics which ironically never happened. The JEI Hind should have been taken to task but it appears that she had no choice but continue with the politics of her predecessors..
Her silence over forced expulsion of Taslima Nasreen, unjustified promise to include Urdu as second official language of state, establishment of the chapters of Aligarh Muslim University, reservation and package for the Imam of mosques only confirms that no matter who comes to power, the vote bank politics in West Bengal will continue to stay! This could be the pattern in other states too.
In West Bengal presently due to ghettoised and clustered settlement of infiltrators with the locals in several Assembly constituencies, Islamists hold the key to the electoral success. They seem to have understood the fierce competition among the political parties for their votes and this has emboldened them to hold such rallies as witnessed in the heart of Kolkatha.
During 2006 assembly election campaign in West Bengal, TMC leaders claimed, “there are two crores bogus voters” (Pioneer dated February 24, 2006) in the State. The party’s assessment might have been pointed towards those illegal voters settled in the border districts and fringe area of Kolkata but it was not willing to the identity those voters!
Today the civil society has raised a loud voice against black money and corruption but is it not shameful that the people of West Bengal are not sensitive to anti democratic electoral fraud of accepting the votes by the political parties from the illegal immigrants by enrolling them in the voters list? Is the silence over demographic invasion from the illegal immigrants and legalizing them as voters in West Bengal not political corruption?
(He can be reached at e-mail [email protected])
About the author: SAAG
SAAG is the South Asia Analysis Group, a non-profit, non-commercial think tank. The objective of SAAG is to advance strategic analysis and contribute to the expansion of knowledge of Indian and International security and promote public understanding.