Three sadhus and two of their associates were brutally assaulted at Gaurangdih village of Bengal’s western Purulia district Thursday (11 January), triggering a war of words between the BJP and the Trinamool Congress.
The assault by villagers, all of them Hindus, drew nationwide concern and condemnation. So far, a dozen villagers have been arrested and the sadhus and their aides, who were on their way to the Gangasagar Mela at Sagardwip, have returned to their native Uttar Pradesh.
The police claim a misunderstanding arising out of ‘language problems’ triggered the assault on the sadhus and their associates.
According to the police, the sadhus, who were travelling in an SUV, asked a small group of schoolgirls for directions to a brick kiln near the Gaurangdih village. They had been referred to the owner of the brick kiln and wanted to request him (the brick kiln owner) for donations.
According to the police version, while the sadhus spoke in Hindi, the schoolgirls, who had little knowledge of the language and could speak only in Bengali, panicked. They thought that the sadhus were trying to abduct them.
The schoolgirls raised an alarm. Hearing them, local villagers gathered at the scene and took the sadhus to a mandir. A large crowd gathered and started accusing the sadhus of intending to molest the girls and abduct them.
According to witness accounts, the sadhus and their associates were beaten with sticks and shoes, and blows rained on them. Two of the sadhus were stripped, punched, kicked and sustained grievous injuries.
The police reached the spot after quite some time and rescued the victims. Had it not been for the police, the sadhus would have been lynched.
The assault, though not communal in nature, brings to the fore some very disturbing issues.
The police explanation that the attack on the sadhus was due to a misunderstanding that arose because the schoolgirls did not understand Hindi is not credible.
No one in Bengal is a stranger to Hindi. And especially not youngsters who watch Hindi movies, serials, Instagram reels, YouTube and Facebook shots etc in Hindi. So there is no question of not understanding Hindi. Most people in Bengal, especially the young, are well-versed in Hindi.
The most likely explanation is that the sight of the saffron-clad sadhus, at least one of them with his face smeared in ash, triggered a deep-seated suspicion and hostility among the locals.
The ‘scared schoolgirls’ explanation is, in all likelihood, being offered as an excuse by the villagers who think that will absolve them of their crime.
The moot question, therefore, is: Why did the sight of some saffron-clad sadhus trigger such suspicion and hostility among the villagers who were all Hindus?
The answer lies in the decades of insidious and covert conditioning that people of Bengal have undergone.
Since the 1960s, the eco-system in Bengal has been infested by communists. School textbooks have been written by communists. Most filmmakers, poets, novelists, thespians and other ‘influencers’ in Bengal are leftists or left-inclined.
And they have all seeded anti-Hindu sentiments even among Hindus of Bengal. School and college textbooks are littered with disparaging references to Hinduism and Hindu religious and social practices.
Movies, theatres and novels depict and portray sadhus, purohits and Hindu religious figures as villains or deceitful and immoral persons. Sadhus and purohits are often derided in even popular literature and made out to be objects of ridicule.
Irreverence for sadhus and purohits has, thus, been seeded surreptitiously and is now deeply ingrained in the Bengal psyche. Maulanas and padres (Christian priests) are, of course, depicted as revered figures in movies, plays, novels and poems.
But while that is yet another glaring instance of the well-known double-standards of the communists and so-called ‘liberals’, it is beside the point here.
However, to only blame the communists for this will be wrong. The ‘demonise and denigrate Hinduism’ project was initiated by British colonisers. And some so-called Bengali ‘reformers’ became ardent torch-bearers of this project.
It is not only arts and literature that denigrated and demonised Hindu religious figures, and Hindu faith and practices.
Thanks to the stranglehold of communists over educational institutions and the education system, school teachers in Bengal (many of them card-carrying members of communist parties) have been subtly imbuing in their students a disrespect for Hindu religion and religious figures.
In the name of inculcating a ‘scientific and rational temperament’, educationists in Bengal have, over the last six to seven decades, seeded a disdain for Hinduism, Hindu religious practices and Hindu religious figures among students.
The horrifying attack on sadhus at a village in Purulia last week was only a manifestation of this deep-seated disdain for Hindu religious figures who have been vilified, and portrayed as criminals, sorcerers, cheats, and worse in films, plays, novels, songs and other media.
But there exists a deep discrepancy here: Saints like Ramakrishna Paramahans, Swami Vivekananda, Rishi Aurobindo, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu (15th century Vaishnavite saint), Loknath Brahmachari, Sri Sri Ram Thakur, Anukul Thakur and Bhaktivedanta Srila Prabhupada (founder of ISKCON), to name a few, are deeply revered figures in Bengal.
Even communists have never mustered the courage to speak ill of them. All these Hindu religious icons of Bengal have vast followings.
Monks of religious orders like the Ramakrishna Mission, ISKCON and Bharat Sevashram Sangha are given a lot of respect in Bengal.
Why, then, are other sadhus looked upon with suspicion and hostility? The people who beat up the sadhus in Purulia with sticks and shoes, disrobed them and kicked them were definitely not atheists. They would definitely have been quite religious.
The answer may lie in the fact that those sadhus were not Bengalis. A parallel political culture that has taken deep root in Bengal since the 1980s has fostered antipathy, if not animosity, towards non-Bengalis, especially those from the Hindi heartland.
Soon after coming to power in 1977, communists started depicting people from north, west and central India as rapacious, unprincipled, uncultured and uncouth people who were only interested in exploiting Bengal and Bengalis.
This strategy of fostering a strong sub-nationalism among Bengalis was a political project aimed at strengthening the grip of communists on Bengalis.
Seeding animosity towards non-Bengalis, especially the Hindi-speaking people who held the federal power structure in their grip, was an integral part of this project.
It thus became easy for communists to blame all the ills afflicting Bengal — a direct consequence of their misrule — on the federal government in New Delhi. And this, by extension, fostered ill-will among Bengalis towards all Hindi-speaking people.
This, perhaps, is why the sadhus from Uttar Pradesh were assaulted by the Hindus of a village in Purulia last week. They were driven by their twin animosity — towards the saffron-clad sadhus and towards Hindi-speaking people.
The communists fostered this animosity among Bengalis, and Mamata Banerjee has only made it more deeply-ingrained through her aggressive promotion of Bengalis nationalism.
The policy of Muslim appeasement, practised covertly during communist rule but blatantly by Mamata Banerjee, has also led to vast numbers of Bengali Hindus becoming wokes and apathetic towards their own faith.
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