In his election rally today, Prime Minister Narendra Modi called Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee a speed breaker in the state’s development. While that is perfectly accurate, one actually needs to ask a fundamental question: how can any nation or state or people even tolerate much less live under someone as demented as Mamata Banerjee? She picked up the shards that a nearly four-decade Communist rule reduced West Bengal to and proceeded to pound them further through a vicious combination of Jihadi patronage, naked cronyism, plunder and political pillaging. Or in the memorable words of Mencken, Mamata’s government “is a broker in pillage, and every election is a sort of advance auction in stolen goods.”
Eight years of tawdry rule later, she has transformed West Bengal into a Mamata Sultanate not different in character and deed from those of Ala-ud-din Khalji, Aurangzeb or Tipu.
And this fatal mutation has occurred in less than a century. It’s still not too late to begin reading history or at least developing a healthy interest in it.
Bengal was one of the first and goriest victims of the untrammelled horrors of British colonialism. An account of its all-round rape and destruction by that gold standard vandal, Robert Clive should be made mandatory reading for every Indian. As also by a long march of successive vandals like Bentick, Dalhousie, and Curzon.
But its extraordinary heritage produced extraordinary warriors who didn’t take this lying down. These were the true pioneers and blazing luminaires who lit, carried and spread the flame of our freedom struggle not just in India but across the world.
Why aren’t we teaching our children these stories?
Each time I think of Bengal I’m invariably reminded of the yawning gap between this…its extraordinarily glorious and multifaceted past and the hellhole that it has today become.
To me, Bengal evokes brilliant cultural and spiritual inheritances like Navadwipa (today: Nadia) sitting fittingly on the banks of Bhagirathi. It was here that the Sena dynasty flourished. It was here that saw the flowering and fruition of some of the finest pearls of Sanatana philosophy. It was here that the Naveena (Navya) Nyaya scaled its highest peak. It was here that Bhagawan Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu took birth and spread the fragrance of the Gaudiya Pantha across India inspiring countless saints and poets like Jayadeva.
Bengal also invokes the melodious blend of a highly refined language, and a society that was characterized by high culture, manners, and refinement. Even if we restrict our history to the middle of the 19th century and onwards, Bengal presents quite an astonishing feat unparalleled anywhere in the world because it’s a culture that produced, within just a century, wide-ranging, high-quality and multidimensional contributions to Bharatavarsha.
Consider some of the names: Rajaram Mohan Roy, Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, Swami Vivekananda, Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyaya, Surendranath Banerjee, Swami Abhedananda, Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar, Rabindranath Tagore, Sri Aurobindo, Subash Chandra Bose, Khudiram Bose, Sarat Chandra Chatterjee, R.C. Majumdar, Jadunath Sarkar, Surendranath Dasgupta, Radhakumud Mukherjee, Abanindranath Tagore, Shyama Prasad Mukherjee…in every field of human endeavour be it philosophy, nationalism, freedom struggle, Dharma, art, music, literature, drama, Sanskrit, scholarship, this little piece of land in the vast geography of India has literally showered a massive bounty of the highest quality upon the whole country and inspired the world.
Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyaya
Thanks to our broken and chaotic educational system, an important cultural and national memory has all but faded away. For nearly four decades during the freedom struggle, there was a rich cultural exchange between Bengal and South India—specifically, Karnataka and Andhra. The early years of the 20th Century saw towering Kannada litterateurs, thinkers, and scholars take to Bengali with unprecedented gusto. Colossuses like T S Venkannayya, A R Krishnashastry, D V Gundappa, D.R. Bendre, Masti Venkatesha Iyengar, M Govinda Pai, and K. Krishnamoorthy drew inspiration from and generously translated works of Bankim, Ramakrishna Paramahamsa, Swami Vivekananda, and Sri Aurobindo. I refer the interested reader to this fine essay which elucidates the topic very well.
Which is why I said it’s profoundly tragic when I notice that since the 1940s or so, not only the culture, but the very existence of Hindus in Bengal is under threat today. Just how it managed to usher in the Mamata Sultanate is a question that ideally should torment every Indian who cares about our civilisation.
Invariably, we can to Will Durant in such cases:
The Islamic conquest of India is probably the bloodiest story in history. It is a discouraging tale, for its evident moral is that civilization is a precious good, whose delicate complex of order and freedom, culture and peace, can at any moment be overthrown by barbarians invading from without or multiplying within.
These words are an eternal caution, and when we look at the history of Bengal, we see repeated instances of the same barbarism inflicted upon Bengal from the times of Bakhtiyar Khilji and Kala Pathar right up to Jyoti Basu and now, Mamata Banerjee. And so, from the kind of magnificent contributions Bengal made to national life, it became the heaven for Communist barbarism, driving away its own citizens, and strangling its economy. The verifiable historic truth is that wherever Communist rule flourishes in India, it will lead to an escalation in Muslim extremism and Christian conversions. The unfortunate fact is that the heads of almost all of these Communist states have been born as Hindus. This is a psycho-cultural genocide that has no parallel anywhere in the world.
At a foundational level, this state of affairs can be attributed to a depletion in the all-round vigour and energy on the part of the Hindus who held out and fought back bravely for centuries without respite. It is also equally a fact that no force on earth can stop the onslaught of a determined and organized gangsterism in the form of Islamic Jihad.
And so we have a situation in Bengal where even the prevailing atmosphere of the mortal siege that the Hindus are reeling under has become normalised. The iconic historian Edward Gibbon describes this situation eloquently:
“The sectaries of a persecuted religion, depressed by fear, animated with resentment, and perhaps heated by enthusiasm, are seldom in a proper temper of mind calmly to investigate…the motives of their enemies, which often escape the impartial and discerning view even of those who are placed at a secure distance from the flames of persecution.”
Indeed, it’s quite tragic that when the mass murderer Yahya Khan unleashed his Jihad-crazed Islamic hordes in 1970-71, it was the countless Hindus who suffered the maximum rape and death toll. Even worse, after India liberated East Pakistan, the new “Bangladesh” unleashed a fresh wave of atrocities yet again against Hindus, and in less than 40 years, Hindus became a minority in Bangladesh and continue to face persecution. This is a disaster of epic proportions anywhere in history.
I know this is a dismal picture of the situation facing Hindus in Bengal so far. So I’ll set out a few brief points on what can be done to remedy the situation going forward.
But then to move forward meaningfully, we need to truthfully and bravely face our own fears and shortcomings. I’ll list a few of them here:
When we face these harsh realities with courage—indeed, this is what Hindu history has taught us and we’ve forgotten–the solution will open up to us. In the Hindu conception, there’s a beautiful verse yenaiva sasruje ghoram tenaiva shantirastu nah, meaning “that which has created the ghastly has also created the peaceful.”
When we do this, we won’t need to look too far. We can take inspiration from say, Sri Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyaya’s evocative Ananda Math where he gives the conception of India as the Cosmic Mother embodied as Jagaddhaatri, Kali, and Durga each signifying the past, present, and future of this ancient and unbroken civilization and culture. This is an extraordinary conception in the annals of Indian literature. What also stands out in Ananda Math, apart from Vande Mataram, our national song, is that Sri Bankim shows how even Sanyasins—typically portrayed as recluses, not interested in the world—take up arms against an oppressive and barbaric colonial regime which intentionally, purposefully caused the 1770 famine wiping out one third of the entire population of Bengal.
That apart, there’s are also prominent areas in which real and meaningful impact can be made. This is in the realms of art, cinema, literature, music, scholarly and intellectual work. All of these continue to be dominated by the Congress-Left ecosystem even today. Here is a random list.
But the most important thing in all this is one word: regularity. You must drive your message and do all of these things regularly, repeatedly, even if you’re saying the same thing again and again.
Every such event, study circle, etc generates a certain momentum, and to sustain the gains of this momentum requires rigorous regularity; else the energy will get scattered and eventually it’ll be lost. And postponing or delaying these efforts isn’t a luxury Hindus there and elsewhere in the world can afford.
Because the ultimate loss will be civilisational. Pakistan and Bangladesh are the standing examples of this loss.