Countering the Politics of Division and Falsehood in West Bengal

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Dr. Anirban Ganguly

On 1st October, while addressing a public meeting on Citizenship Amendment Bill (CAB) and NRC in Kolkata for the first time after the abrogation of Article 370, Union Home Minister and BJP national president Amit Shah paid rich tributes to Dr Syama Prasad Mookerjee, who, he said had sacrificed his life for the unity of India. It was an inspiring moment when Shri Shah asked all those gathered to stand up and pay their tribute to Dr Mookerjee’s memory who had set out from this city for Kashmir for his final struggle to preserve India’s unity and integrity. It was an unmistakably emotional moment, to see the BJP national president thus pay tribute to Dr Mookerjee, in his own city, after the abrogation of Article 370. This was the moment for which thousands of workers and leaders had struggled for decades, this was the moment that they had wished to see, they had hoped to be associated with when it came. For Bengal and Bengalis this was a moment of truth, of rejoicing and of reflection.

Shri Shah also expressed his gratitude to the people of West Bengal, whose support in the elections, he said, had enabled the party to cross the three hundred mark. Recalling the sacrifice of numerous karyakartas who had faced violence and vendetta and had continued with the struggle of bringing the party to a height by widening its support base among the people of the state. Indeed, the deep-rooted aspiration for change, the exasperation with the deteriorating situation in the state had driven people to vote for change, to opt for the narrative of New India.

The BJP national president also pointed out how, over the decades after independence, West Bengal was confronted with a multi-dimensional decline. Communist rule and now Trinamool Congress rule had devastated her economic and industrial profile, opportunities had shrunk and there was an overall decay. This could only be reversed when a BJP government led by the vision of development would come to power in the state. Shah’s perspective with facts and figures drove home the actual crisis that faces West Bengal, a crisis which successive governments in the state had failed to address, in fact they only exacerbated the situation.

The ruling TMC, indulging in its divisive politics, has often referred to the BJP as a party of outsider. It has conveniently omitted the fact that that founder of the BJP’s political predecessor the Jana Sangh, was one of the tallest Bengali national leaders of his time, Dr Syama Prasad Mookerjee, and yet in a ludicrous display of irrationality, Mamata Banerjee, has time and again dubbed the BJP as a party of outsiders. She does not know that Acharya Devaprasad Ghose, a legendary public figure, academic and intellectual of his time, was the longest serving president of the Jana Sangh. She must have also forgotten that about two decades back, West Bengal had already sent two leaders in the Union cabinet from BJP – such as Satyabrata Mukherjee and Tapan Sikdar, who had left their mark in the state’s politics and had made immense contributions to the growth of the party in the West Bengal. Mamata Banerjee would, of course, like to forget that she was herself a minister – a rather restless minister – in Atal Ji’s cabinet in the past and that it was the BJP which had, in those days, continuously stood by her when the communists were active in trying to ensure her political decimation.

Shri Amit Shah reminded the ruling party in West Bengal of these facts. The poignant question he asked: was it not Syama Prasad Mookerjee who saved Bengal and prevented it from going in its entirety to Jinnah’s Pakistan? This is a question which needs to be implanted in the Bengali collective mind and psyche, it is also a point that the opponents of the BJP in West Bengal have not been able to answer. Had Syama Prasad Mookerjee not resolved to salvage a portion of Bengal, none of those who criticise him now, or have, in the past, worked to marginalise his legacy, would have been able to survive with their brand of politics. Jinnah’s Pakistan would have surely been harsh place for them. Therefore, the point repeatedly made by the Trinamool Congress leader Mamata Banerjee that the BJP is an outsiders’ party is a bogus argument which does not hold ground when examined and exposed in the backdrop of history.

But the most crucial part of Shri Shah’s public address was his clearing the air on the NRC issue. For the past one month or so both the TMC and the fading intellectuals and leaders of the Left parties in West Bengal have been carrying out a false propaganda campaign on the issue of NRC. They are doing it with the deliberate intent of spreading panic, confusion and fear among the ordinary voters especially among the Bengali Hindu refugees in the state who have migrated in face of persecution – both religious and political. In clear words, unequivocally, Shri Shah pointed out that the Modi government was clear that the Citizenship Amendment Bill will first be passed and then NRC implemented in West Bengal. He also clearly mentioned that no refugees – Hindu, Sikhs, Buddhists, Christians, Jains who have come over or come over from India’s neighbourhood will be asked to leave India. They will be conferred citizenship. It is only the illegal infiltrator, who will be identified and deported. Shri Shah also appealed to all workers to take this message to the people across the state.

As Union Home Minister his message was clear, he also reminded people that parties such as the TMC and the CPM had opposed the CAB when it was placed in Parliament, it meant that they opposed the granting of citizenship to refugees. Shri Shah also reminded people of the state that when in opposition in 2005, Mamata Banerjee had repeatedly spoken out against illegal infiltrators, she had thrown papers at the Speakers’ Chair in protest saying that illegal infiltrators were altering the demography of West Bengal and were creating havoc in the region. The same Mamata Banerjee was now singing another tune, she was now protecting her illegal infiltrator vote-bank and was thus opposing CAB and deliberately spreading panic on the NRC issue.

The message was clear, the TMC and the communists were exposed, and the refugees along the border areas rejoiced. The Union Home Minister clearly stated that illegal infiltrators had no place in India, they had no right to stay, while refugees – Hindus, Sikhs, Jains, Buddhists, Christians – who had come to India from her larger neighbourhood had the right to remain in India and be conferred citizenship.
The air was cleared, Amit Shah’s samvad is directly with the people, he went to Kolkata to remove and counter falsehood, he did it upfront, he did it frankly and people responded. The task, the mission now is to take this message right up to grassroots and to resolutely counter the politics of division and of fear resorted to by the TMC and the communist parties in West Bengal.

(The writer is Director, Dr. Syama Prasad Mookerjee Research Foundation, New Delhi)