Who cares for bengal?

( First published in a different form in the Wirehttps://thewire.in/communalism/bengal-violence-tmc-bjp on 14 June, 2018. This article is its revised and updated version.)

Do all of us, those who love Rabindra Sangeet, those who wistfully talk about Satyajit Ray, Ritwik Ghatak, Mirnal Sen, Aparna Sen, those who cannot live without Nazrul Islam, those whose first love across generations remains Sukanto Bhattacharji, women and men, ever thankful to Raja Ram Mohan Roy for his relentless struggle against his own people for abolishing the practice of Sati ,and this list is long, just sit and wring our hands and let Bengal bleed to death?  

Bengal is being ravaged by a cynical game between political parties. It is up for grabs. The Bhartiya Janata Party is relishing the moment and the Trinamul Congress, by its foolishness and hotheadedness is driving the state into the hands of the BJP. Mamata Banerjee needs to realise that she is the Chief Minister of the state and not merely the head of her party. It is unbecoming of her when she says that among the people killed after elections, the number of her people is higher than their( BJP’s) number. All suffering violence are the citizens of Bengal and therefore it is her responsibility, as the CM of the state  to give them a sense of security. It is not for her to only speak for her party members. But we can see that she is doing exactly this. She has started looking partisan and her appeal to save the Bangla culture sounds hollow and unconvincing to the people. Cannot she see that her own party people are now joining the BJP in large numbers?

One knows that the BJP is hell bent on creating and sustaining violence in Bengal. It knows that this is the route to power in the state. When it demanded its dead to be taken to Kolkata and paraded there it was merely reading from the script written by the Trinamul Congress in 2009. Then the ruling left front was clueless.

Mamata Banerjee should rise above her party and start acting like a leader of the people. One knows that it is difficult for her to shed her excitement and act calmly. But this is the need of the hour. Her response to attack on the doctors by the relatives and friends of a patient in the NRS hospital is callous and uncharacteristic of her. She deputed her nephew to issue an officious statement asking the hurt and agitated doctors to resume duty has only made them angrier towards her. After all, here is a leader who can rush to the Vidyasagar College after the bust of Vidyasagar was broken but she remains in her office when human beings are violated! It was too late when she decided finally to visit the striking doctors. And when she went to them, instead of adopting a reconciliatory and persuasive role, she started threatening them. 

It did not help that the attackers bore a wrong religious identity. The burden of the particular violence is now on the whole community. The leaders of the BJP did not lose a moment to say that it were the Muslims who habitually indulged in violence and were protected by the CM and her party. Her silence and coldness towards the agitation of the doctors is only giving credence to the charge of the BJP. Muslims of the state are paying for her churlish behaviour.

A patient dies in a public hospital. Over burdened doctors face the wrath of the alleged relatives and friends of the patient (it is no secret that owing to their precarious functioning Calcutta hospitals have become dens of antisocial elements who operate in the guise of “patient party”). In frustration and retaliation, they strike work. It is a familiar story, repeated time and again, state after state. Have we ever heard that the attackers did what they did because they belonged to their religion? We can say that in almost all the cases, the violaters are not punished. The demand of the doctors for security also remains where it belongs to. Nowhere have the governments been able to provide a foolproof secure atmosphere to the doctors. They remain vulnerable everywhere.

But when you have a party like the BJP, it makes it sure to underline the religion of the attackers to imply that it is this identity that turned them into attackers. When the CM refuses to open her mouth even to sympathise with the victim doctors , the BJP leaps in joy to say that she is silent because the attackers are Muslims!Sources say that owing to work load and other reasons that hinder their services the doctors could not show the kindness and sympathy that is generally demanded and expected of a doctor. Then, will the sufferers say that because they were Musalmans they were not treated well? Also, should the Musalmans say that since it is they , being mostly poor, who visit government hospitals ,the government  hospitals have been made deliberately dysfunctional, to discriminate against them? Should we allow a medical issue to be overshadowed by a communal agenda ?

To understand the wickedness of its politics you have to read the statement of the state president of the BJP who claims that 47% of the Muslims are criminals.In the same breath, he requests them not to fall in the trap of the CM who is using them to do violence against her opponents!This statistical confidence is fantastic. To reach this exact figure of 47% , you have to be a data- wizard. But we all know that it is a tested technique of magic realism. To make your claim credible you employ statistics. People would dismiss you if you say you have seen elephants flying but they ll pause and think when you claim that you have seen exactly 7 elephants flying! It creates an illusion of exactness and truth. The RSS has used this technique and seen that Hindus tend to believe its claim of “We 5, our 25”, that by a particular year the number of Muslims would cross the number of Hindus in India. This “exactitude” lends credence to their claims about Muslims. They would give you the exact number of Hindu women kidnapped and converted by the Muslims.

The BJP would do everything. It believes in SAMA, DAMA, DANDA, BHEDA. Its followers donot mind it. But what about the rest?

Is it not the time for the political class to go to the people and speak against violence? Or, do they also believe that the violence is in the political culture of Bengal and nothing can be done about it? Prakash Karat, when asked about the violence of his party had expressed helplessness claiming that it was the political culture of the state. The Trinamul has been using violence to deal with its rivals. That becomes the justification for the violence now being employed by the BJP.

Violence begets violence.  Each act of violence becomes a justification for the next act of violence. Communal violence then does not look worse than the left violence and “democratic” violence. We know that communal violence is particularly bad because it creates a permanent divide in the society and makes the members of a community suspect in the eyes of another community. It creates violent competitive communitarian politics. All that is right but it gets justification from other kinds of violence.

Just after the Trinamul party assumed power after dislodging the left, it started attacking and burning the party offices of the CPM. Some of us, who had opposed the violence of the left earlier got worried and prepared a statement criticising the violence on the CPM. While collecting signatures for it, I called a senior cultural figure of Bengal, a revered name who was on the forefront of the opposition to the violence of the CPM. She refused to condemn this reverse violence. It was slightly shocking but not entirely unpredictable.

To say and believe that you cannot do politics in Bengal without violence is an insult to the people of Bengal. But their goodness needs to be organised. Would Rahul Gandhi who keeps talking about the power of love, Sita Ram Yechuri , who swears in the name of the people and Mamata Banerjee who wants a second renaissance in Bengal rise to the occasion and lead the people and the state towards peace? Or, would the rest of the civilised society, poets,writers, journalists, actors, cinema people, students and teachers watch from the margins while their dear Bengal gets dismantled before their eyes?

Update on “tally mismatch” in 2019 Lok Sabha Elections: Ravi Nair

In an earlier post  we made note of the serious matter of unaccounted movement of EVMs in private vehicles in different parts of the country and the mismatch between the ECI figures for voter turnout and EVM votes cast, neither of which the EC has satisfactorily explained until today.

Now in a detailed analysis in NewsClick, Ravi Nair points out that even three weeks after the last phase of the election, ECI is yet to publish the “final data”, and whatever it has put out till now is “provisional numbers”.  More worryingly, Nair points out that when glaring anomalies came into the public domain, ECI not only deleted the uploaded data from both Suvidha Portal and its main website, but also issued a release to say that whatever was published was “the provisional voter turnout data”, which was “tentative”.

However, the ECI never bothered to answer the fundamental questions: How did it announce winners based on these “provisional” and “tentative” data? How did the automated counting of votes polled in EVMs become “tentative”?

Read Ravi Nair’s article “ECI’s stance on data discrepancies: No right to question?” on NewsClick here.

God in the Classroom!

Unfolding Debate about Secularising Education

( To be published in ‘Indian Journal of Secularism)

“There is in every village a torch – the teacher; and an extinguisher – the priest.”
-Victor Hugo

“Keep the words God, Jesus and the devil out of the classroom.”

A school teacher’s message on the first day of the school for first-grade students had caused tremendous consternation among a section of the parents.

She had a simple rationale to present her proposal. With their being a public school with children coming from different religions and beliefs joining it, she did not “[w]ant to upset a child/parent because of these words being used,” In her letter she had also advised them to talk to the children when they go to the church/temple/synagogue – whatever might be the case – or discuss the issue at home at an appropriate time and place of talking about it.” (https://www.indystar.com/story/news/education/2017/08/30/teacher-tells-first-graders-dont-talk-god-classroom/612118001/)

Well, instead of the discussion getting fixed on the slow imposition of the concept of God or closing of child’s minds it turned into a debate on students’ free speech rights. It did not take much time for the management of the school to rescind this proposal.

There is nothing new about this dilemma faced by a teacher who has welfare of students at the center of her/his concerns. Continue reading God in the Classroom!

A Case of Harassment of Dalit Student in Jadavpur University: Srijan Dutta

Guest post by SRIJAN DUTTA

The value of a man was reduced to his immediate identity and nearest possibility.

The line quoted above is from Dalit PhD scholar Rohith Vemula’s ‘last’ letter, discovered after he was found hanging in his hostel room in January 2016. The letter had exposed how caste-based discrimination is used as a medium of oppression against Dalits and other minorities. Casteism serves both as an ideology and as a means for exploitation by the upper castes and upper classes of the Indian society.

Recently, a complaint has been made by a second year Masters student of the Department of Library and Information Science in one of the hotbeds of Bengal student politics, Jadavpur University. Jadavpur Uiversity is also a premier institution of higher learning, with a well deserved reputation.  Raja Manna, a student belonging to the ‘Scheduled Caste’ category, has revealed that he has been facing a lot of harassment and discrimination at the hands of his dissertation guide, Prof. Udayan Bhattacharya, an upper caste Brahmin.

Continue reading A Case of Harassment of Dalit Student in Jadavpur University: Srijan Dutta

हमदर्दी और हमशहरीयत: ट्विंकल, टप्पल और भारत

( सत्य हिंदी.कॉम पर 10 जून,2019 को सहनागरिकता का भाव विकसित करना ज़रूरी शीर्षक से प्रकाशित टिप्पणी https://www.satyahindi.com/waqt-bewaqt/twinkle-sharma-murder-case-aligarh-102906.html का परिवर्द्धित रूप)

अलीगढ़ के क़रीब टप्पल में दो साल की ट्विंकल की हत्या के बाद सिर्फ़ अलीगढ़ नहीं, देश के कोने कोने से बच्ची के लिए इंसाफ़ की माँग की जा रही है। हत्या पर अफ़सोस, शर्म और नाराज़गी का इजहार किया जा रहा है।

दो साल की बच्ची को आपसी रंजिश के चलते ही क्यों नहीं, मार डालना परले दर्जे की विकृति है और उसका कोई मनोवैज्ञानिक औचित्य नहीं दिया जा सकता। यह तथ्य कि अभियुक्त पहले से ही ऐसा था, कि उसपर अपनी बच्ची के साथ बलात्कार का आरोप था, मारी गई बच्ची के परिजनों को कोई राहत नहीं पहुँचाता।दो साल की बच्ची की हत्या इसलिए भी अधिक क्रूर है कि वह किसी भी तरह अपनी रक्षा नहीं कर सकती थी।

शायद ट्विंकल बच जाती अगर पुलिस ने पहले ही परिवार की गुहार सुन ली होती। इसलिए ज़िम्मेवार पुलिसकर्मियों को सज़ा भी ज़रूरी है।

Continue reading हमदर्दी और हमशहरीयत: ट्विंकल, टप्पल और भारत

The “massive mandate” of 2019 and the role of the Election Commission

Caution: Long read!

This is the elephant in the room, is it not? Was this “massive mandate” of the Lok Sabha elections 2019, the result of a free and fair election? Should we continue to discuss this outcome – the scale of the BJP victory, the numbers of seats, the margins by which seats were won – through political analysis alone?

Rather, has not political analysis of the election become inevitably deeply influenced by these margins and these numbers of seats, by the scale of the sweep?  In other words, the analysis is of necessity post facto, assuming that these seats have actually been won fairly, and therefore represent the views of the electorate.

I found very revealing a story by two Reuters journalists who covered rural North India extensively.  Mayank Bhardwaj and Rajendra Jadhav ruminate on how they could have gone so wrong in assessing the mood of the electorate. Although they say they never thought Modi would lose this election, it looked certain that he would return with a reduced majority. There was nothing  they heard and observed on the ground that suggested the actual outcome. They conclude that next time they will travel even more, push their respondents harder, “be more aware of our limitations.”

Many seasoned journalists have the same sense of shock. But what if they were not wrong after all?

Continue reading The “massive mandate” of 2019 and the role of the Election Commission