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Bengal: The Crumbling Cradle of Indian Renaissance

Civilisations rise and fall. Cultures vanish and value systems decay. But, rarely does one find as meteoric, suicidal a destruction as what the once great Bengal has seen. Even a casual student of modern Indian history would easily realise the crucial role Bengal played in formulating the foundation structure that formed the spiritual, and social basis for Indian Renaissance and many social reform movements.

It is not short of divine ordainment that the land could be blessed with people such as Ram Mohan Roy, Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar, Bankim Chandra Chatterjee, Swami Vivekananda, Sri Aurobindo, Rabindranath Tagore, Shyamaprasad Mukherjee, Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose among many others.

Be it Politics, Sciences, Literature, Philosophy, Arts, Films or Industry – across the entire spectrum of all essential human endeavours, Bengal made exemplary strides.

But, today it breaks the hearts of all Indians to see the state of that very land.

In 1947 when Bengal, along with Punjab, was left bleeding from partition riots, the Indian flag was hoisted in New Delhi by PM Nehru. Millions of Hindu Bengalis fled the nascent fundamentalist, theological state of East Pakistan for India at the cost of all their worldly resources.

Unfortunately, seven decades later, successive ruling regimes in West Bengal have progressively led the state to a situation, may be even inadvertently, where the same forces that led to the partition in 1947 have not only resurfaced, but even flourished.

Of the seven decades of independence, after a satisfactory Congress administration under Dr BC Roy, 1977 proved to be a watershed year that marked the dawn of Red curse over Bengal.

That year, the Left Front swept polls in West Bengal. Little did Bengalis realise, that they had just set the universal communist wheels of regimented dismantling of religion, culture, civilisation and administration in motion. So ruthless was the process, that piggybacking on the otherwise sharp and eclectic Bengali intellect, Left infiltrated major strategic areas of the national life and subsequently wreaked havoc throughout the country while leaving Bengal in a state of perpetual stagnation.

For about three and half decades under the Left, the intellect, education, industry, and even life style of Bengalis was decimated. Instead of building on top of an immensity of academic achievements, the government deprived generations of Bengalis of English education at a time, when there was an unavoidable necessity of preparing people for the onset of impending globalisation. With a strong cadre-based political foundation, the Left conveniently rode on the eclectic Bengali past, manipulating and distorting it to lead the state to a point where mass poverty and perpetual struggle were glorified and drilled into the very core of Bengali psyche.

An obvious impact of such “red-washing” of West Bengal were two fold. Bengali youth, for centuries have embraced the rebel spirit. Be it the forward looking Brahmo Samaj, or the Hindu College students of Derozio – this free and uncompromising spirit had led to the rejection of many social & religious evils and thus, created environment conducive for Bengal to become the soul of Indian reformation movements. At the same time, this very spirit had also produced that unique modern Indian thought that resulted from the wedding of Indian traditions and scientific modernity of which Swami Vivekananda stood the tallest symbol.

This legendary free spirit, in its idealism embraced Communism as well, but in its naivety, and over zealousness suspected little of the destruction it could unleash. With the rise of trade unions, hartals, michils, bandhs and strikes, violent politics infiltrated even education and work culture deteriorated unimaginably. Disillusionment set in and increasingly bright Bengali youth fled the state in search of opportunities, thus creating a vacuum of skills resulting in a vicious cycle.

Unfortunately, such poisonous politics also facilitated the natural outcome of this vacuum – the unchecked illegal migration of Bangladeshi Muslims, the very same pre-independence electorate that sided with Jinnah and had India partitioned. For about 35 years, the process continued unchecked. The incumbent regimes were further motivated by the electoral benefits that accrued from this unholy alliance between the large scale illegal migrants and themselves.

It has been no secret that the people of West Bengal have been victims of this process for long. By estimates today a sizeable part of 2 crore illegal Bangladeshis, who may be fundamentally opposed to the very idea of India live and thrive here.

This phenomenon hasn’t been a secret. But, in the interest of ‘secularism’ that was both politically correct and convenient, people, even many intellectuals amongst Bengalis chose to overlook, preferring to bask in the egotistical glory of their eclectic past. But, the tangible effects of this demographic change were bound to manifest – it was only a matter of time.

Sadly, today it has. West Bengal – that small elongated stretch of land that was extracted from the designs of Jinnah and the Muslim League by excruciatingly painful efforts of Shyamaprasad Mukherjee, and other crusaders – stands dangerously close to where she stood in 1947.

But, unfortunately, today it is heart wrenching to witness communal incidents like Kaliachak, Basirhat, Dhulagarh and probably many others that aren’t even reported. The latest onslaught being even restrictions on Ma Durga’s Idol immersion – something that was unimaginable a few years ago.

Now the land of Bengal which produced greats like Tagore and Vivekananda, is today at the risk of being laid to waste by appeasement politics and Islamic extremists.

It is high time for responsible political parties of India to discard political correctness and come together to bring the truth to the forefront and reverse the four decades of destruction. Time is of essence, lest the cradle of Indian renaissance be lost forever.

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