Bengal the state which literally powered the colonial machine of the British empire by hosuing flourishing trading ports of Chittagong and Calcutta. The state which produced famous sons of soil like Subash Chandra Bose, Rabindra Nath Tagore, Swami Vivekananda and Shyam Prasad Mukherjee is all but gone.
Bengal is all but ignored by the main stream media because there is nothing worth mentioning from the state. The only reports that do trickle from the alternative media outlets are related to the mishandling of affairs by the present ruling government, blatant minority appeasement, unchecked rioting, abject poverty and illegal immigration.
But all this misery and misfortune that culminated in the ‘Great Bengal Tragedy’ of today did not take place overnight. There were various factors that contributed to the unique and precarious situation that West Bengal is poised at. In this three part series we would analyze the historical aspects that led Bengal astray, the flaws which is wrong with West Bengals society and finally How West Bengal still can give a shot at redeeming themselves.
Factors that lead to the ‘Great Bengal Tragedy’
- Bengal Partion of 1905
The plight and the current religious animosity which Bengal is facing today should squarely be blamed on the English. The ghost from the infamous colonial past still haunts India and festers as a wound that can never heal, and is being taken advantage by Indian politicians to further bridge the divide.
The decision taken by Lord Curzon in 1905 to divide Bengal on the basis of religious lines was due to the increasing independence sentiments being whipped up by Indian National Congress. The erstwhile Bengal Presidency spanned 189,000 square miles with a population of 80 million.
The present day Assam, Odisha and parts of Bihar were included in the Bengal Presidency. To quell the independence movement in a brilliant tactical move Lord Curzon partitioned Bengal into Eastern and Western entities purely based on religious grounds citing administrative reasons.
The strange thing is Hindu population could see through the English machinations of the infamous divide and rule policy and severely opposed the move. Whereas the Muslim majority East Bengal were pro partition and set up their organisation based on communal grounds. This should be termed the first mile stone towards Bengals path to destruction.
- Direct Action
This event that led to the massacre of 4000 Bengali Hindus one of the worst massacre in modern history. The sad part is there is not much mention of this event anywhere in India leave alone Bengal.
The events which culminated prior to Direct action was the rejection of the proposal which to divide India on relgious lines set forth by the Muslim League by the Indian National Congress. The Muslim League at that time was ruling in the Muslim majority Eastern Bengal where the demographics was 56% Muslims and 42% Hindus under the provincial autonomy scheme
They Muslim league declared a bandh on 16th August termed Direct Action Day, this was when religious fenzy was whipped up during public rallies which lead to targeted killings based on religion particularly targeting Hindu community.
The next direct implication of this event was the massacre of Naokhali where 5000 Hindus were massacred in cold blood. This set the precedence for the religious affairs in the failed state of Bengal even today.
- The final partition of Bengal
With the initial reaction triggered by Lord Curzon in 1905 by dividing Bengal on religious line, it set in motion a dangerous chain of events. The massacres, atrocities, rapes and forced conversion bought upon on the Hindu population of Bengal during ‘Direct Action’ and ‘The massacre of Naokhali’ were directly related to the partition of 1905.
The final partition of Bengal into East Pakistan and West Bengal only broke the already ruined state with a society which was even too weak to protest. Their resolve was already broken by the largest man made famine bought upon by the Birtish in 1943, partition was the final nail in the coffin.
Apart from the human death toll which ran into thousands partition destroyed the booming industry of Bengal forever. The reason being most of the raw material which was required to process jute was procured from the Muslim dominated East Bengal which became East Pakistan post partition.
The manufacturing and industrial units were set in Western Bengal, after partition both the regions suffered and this slowly lead to the economic ruin of West Bengal. Post partition the choices of the political leadership made by the Bengali population was to blame for the further plunge into decadence.
- Rise of Communism- Naxalbari movement
Despite being called Manchester of the East and being home to the so called intelligensia of the nation, Bengal badly failed to rein in the zamindars. This feudal system practiced in the rural parts of West Bengal hinterland gave rise to deep resentment in the peasant class.
Seizing the moment Communist leaders like Charu Mazumdar, Kanu Sanyal and Jangal Santhal. Even with CPI(M) in power they could not control the Jotedars who ruled the roost and made the poor peasants work forcibly.
Jyoti Basu who was the Home Minister then was left helpless too and watched from Calcutta as the Naxalbari movement gathered steam. Communist China started supporting the movement from across the border and slowly this seed of dissent spread its roots across the India, and the State still wages a low intensity conflict with the dissidents.
These movements which took place in Bengal formulated the political thinking of the masses and drew the intelligensia closer to communist ideology. The common Bengali started idolizing a virulent and illogical kind of secularism which was more akin to becoming slavish and turning a blind eye to the rise of Islamic fundamentalism.
These actions directly culminated in the choices West Bengal right from shaping up their societal thinking and psyche to choosing the political leadership. These historical events had a drastic effect on the economics of this once thriving and great state. These aspects would be dealt in the upcoming articles of this three part series on West Bengal.