Here’s a wish from Rabindranath Thakur :
Chitta jetha bhoyshunyo, uchcho jetha sheer… Bharatere sei sarge koro jagorito (Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high… let my Bharat awake into that heaven of freedom)
Words from Gitanjali (1910).
In independent India of 2017, imagine if the poet were to look up to the sky for inspiration and tried to put his vision into his own words. The poet would not be allowed to describe the blue sky as he chooses to in his beloved Bengali language. Instead he would face a fatwa from the government of West Bengal to call the blue sky “aasmani” instead of “akaashi”. If the poet wanted to describe the rainbow, he would have to call it “rongdhonu” instead of “ramdhonu”.
His words would become restricted. The poet’s spirit would wither away.
How did we reach to this stage? Should I be scared?
But scared of what? Of whom?
Of late, I see numerous articles from eminent liberals warning Bengalis about the expanding empire of BJP ruled states. They say Modi is coming to impose the culture of the “cow belt” on West Bengal.
Apparently, the “North” will take over. Supposedly, they will take away my Bengali language and force me to speak Hindi (I already speak it fluently, don’t worry). Supposedly, they will take away the regular meal of beef curry from my table and replace it with paneer (just like almost all Bengali Hindus, nobody in my family eats beef, don’t worry).
Dear liberals, I am more similar to those “invaders from the North” than you think. On the other hand, you and I probably have nothing in common.
So, stop warning me about the dangers to my Bengal and my Bengali culture from the rising tide of BJP. Tell me what your Indian secularism has done for me before you shed crocodile tears about Bengal.
Let me tell you clearly. I don’t have any confidence in your Indian secularism. Can it protect me when the need arises? Take our National Anthem:
Punjab, Sindh, Gujarat, Maratha…
You must know these words, again written by Rabindranath. Tell me, where is Sindh? Show me Sindh on the map of the Republic of India. Can you? What happened to Sindh and to the Hindus there? What happened to their homeland and their culture?
Again from the National Anthem :
Dravida, Utkala, Banga.
Where is Banga? I only know about West Bengal. There must be an East Bengal somewhere. Where did it go and what happened to the Hindus there?
Was secularism able to protect the Hindus of East Bengal? No, as a matter of fact, this whole joke called “idea of India” was built on the bones of millions of Hindus of East Bengal.
Why did Indian secularism throw away the lives of Hindus of East Bengal? Is it not true that they threw these lives away because they were impatient to rule from Delhi? Today, their biological and intellectual descendants have come to teach me “idea of India”.
The only “idea” in “idea of India” in 1947 was this : throw away the lives of millions of Hindus (and Sikhs) of West Punjab, East Bengal, Sindh and others so that we can rule from Delhi.
Trying to emotionally blackmail Bengalis today with the same “idea of India” is a sick joke. Secularism took away East Bengal. Today, all it can give us is renaming the leftover West Bengal simply as “Bengal” or “Banga”. Could it be any more pathetic?
I am being told to fear the so called “Hindutva forces”. Really? Is that the real fear?
What happened to Hindus in the Muslim majority regions of India that went to Pakistan in 1947?
In the Republic of India, there was one, just one large region where Muslims were a majority. Kashmir. What happened to Hindus there? They were marched out of the state and became refugees forever.
There are 57 Muslim majority nations spread all across the world. They could be as rich as Qatar or as poor as Somalia. Tell me what is the status of democratic, religious and cultural freedoms in these countries.
How do Muslim majority nations behave across the world?
How have Muslim majorities treated minorities in parts of the Indian subcontinent that broke away from India in 1947?
How have Muslim majorities treated minorities even inside the Republic of India?
Now tell me why I should not be worried as district after border district of Bengal turns Muslim majority?
Why should I believe that the pattern that has repeated in every corner of the Republic of India, in every corner of the Indian subcontinent and indeed in every corner of the world will not repeat in say West Bengal or Western Uttar Pradesh or Kerala or Assam?
Are you asking me to believe in magic? At least you should say so openly. I do not believe in magical sky gods. Perhaps you do.
Now tell me what is the real danger to my personal security, my way of life and my culture.
Does Indian secularism wish me well? Will it give me a fair deal? Can it protect me?
I see liberals burning Manusmriti every day. In fact, I think that the sales of this book are driven almost entirely by liberals buying it just so they can burn it. Go ahead, for it is your right. But would these liberals ever dare to burn the …. ? You know what I am talking about. Are you saying that no oppression of human beings is carried out in its name?
Everything I need to know about Indian secularism and liberalism is already clear from that comparison.
Yesterday, I happened to read a much talked about article in The Hindustan Times by Naseeruddin Shah. Here is the last paragraph of this article and I guess it was meant as some kind of punchline
I have too much respect for the acting of Naseeruddin Shah to accuse him of malicious propaganda, so I will only express pity for his ignorance. Because I have never seen a more spectacular example of an author destroying his own argument.
Mr. Shah, you should know that Mohammed Iqbal, who wrote “Saare Jahaan se achcha Hindustan hamara” in 1904, became a rabid Muslim separatist in the 1920s. He was one of the leading lights of the idea that Muslims cannot live in a Hindu majority democratic India. His close collaboration with Jinnah laid the intellectual basis for Pakistan, with Iqbal often coming across as more extreme than even Jinnah in believing that separation of Hindus and Muslims was inevitable. Heck, he shed tears and eulogized the guy who killed a person for writing a blasphemous book. You know, it is like eulogizing someone who kills someone for eating beef.
Now add to this the fact that Mohammad Iqbal was a great scholar, with a Bachelors degree from Cambridge and a Doctoral degree from Munich. That’s even more impressive if you imagine the attitudes towards Indians in colonial Europe of more than 100 years ago. Great scholar and great literary master and yet Iqbal became the rabid Muslim separatist that he was.
If a brilliant and educated man as Mohammad Iqbal can become a danger to Hindus …
I am sure Mr. Naseeruddin Shah can explain why I have nothing to worry about. Or can he?
Since I was a child, I have been taught about the greatness of Indian secularism. The media writes about it non-stop. Cable news blares about it incessantly.
It’s as if Nehruvian secularism is the state religion. But what has it ever done for me?
So today I renounce it. I renounce Nehruvian secularism. This is my dissent.
Yes, I understand that I have been late in my realization. But what do I do? I am not a media celebrity nor a full time propagandist.
I am just an ordinary person. I have my compulsions. I have to be busy during the week with my everyday job so that I can put food on the table.
You tried to divide my Bharat over caste on a Monday.
You tried to divide my Bharat over language on a Tuesday.
You tried to divide my Bharat over veg and non-veg on a Wednesday.
You tried to divide my Bharat over North and South on a Thursday.
You divided my Bharat on August 15, 1947. That was a Friday.
I am only replying to you on a Saturday.
Abhishek Banerjee is a math lover who may or not be an Assistant Professor at IISc Bangalore.