Among The Many Things Shattered In Bengal's Post-Poll Violence, One Was The Myth Of The Bengali Bhadralok

Among The Many Things Shattered In Bengal's Post-Poll Violence, One Was The Myth Of The Bengali Bhadralok

by Vikas Saraswat - May 13, 2021 03:07 PM +05:30 IST
Among The Many Things Shattered In Bengal's Post-Poll Violence, One Was The Myth Of The Bengali BhadralokAmartya Sen and Aparna Sen.
  • The myth of Bengali bhadralok has been shattered for all times. There is no such class in Bengal.

    It is at best a club of regional chauvinists pointing a finger at others unmindful of the four rolled towards them.

Just when Trinamool Congress deserved praise for overwhelming majority in the West Bengal elections, the widespread and chilling post poll violence hit the state.

It completely tarnished not only the already battered image of the party but also the mandate itself.

The way victorious Trinamool has tried to create fear in the minds of its opponents is reminiscent of invading medieval forces killing, plundering, raping and pillaging a conquered kingdom to force the citizens into abject subjugation.

Democracy is not just about electoral victories, it is also about regard for opposition and respect for institutions.

Brutal violence in Bengal has strangulated the institution of democracy. Opposition leaders, workers and supporters have been marked and attacked. People have been targeted for their religious and linguistic identities.

More than 20 people have been killed and thousands have fled their homes. Women have been raped and publicly shamed.

Attacks have been carried out after screening social media posts. Avijit Sarkar, one of the first victims, was killed just half an hour after his Facebook live in which he had narrated the death of five puppies by Trinamool goons in his house.

The goons had clearly outdone the grisly horse head scene in Godfather. Several Trinamool leaders were seen leading the violent mobs. Avijit had also named two such leaders.

While the country has been numbed by this violent frenzy and apathy of the state government over it, the demand for central intervention to restore law and order has also been raised by many.

Meanwhile, the Indian intellectual class, which is dominated by Bengali intellectuals, is completely silent.

Amitav Ghosh, Abhijeet Banerjee, Kaushik Basu, Aparna Sen and world's most famous Bengali Amartya Sen, all the ‘eminences’ who have been warning the country of fascism and communalism through articles, seminars, discussions and lectures have nothing to say about actual communalism and actual fascism being unleashed on ground.

The reality of Bengal, which was hailed by intellectuals as the land of Rabindranath Tagore, Sri Aurobindo, Swami Vivekananda and Kazi Nazrul has been bared once again for everyone to see.

The bitter, uncomfortable truth that Bengal of Tagore, Bankim and Vivekananda is long dead, is now dawning upon all. Wrong political selections and bad economic choices have landed the state in a miserable condition.

West Bengal which topped the charts with highest gross state domestic product (GSDP) at the time of Independence is today at sixth position. The state ranks 28th on the Human Development Index.

The rate of urbanisation in the state is extremely sluggish and about 75 per cent of the population still lives in villages.

The state's share in national industry, which stood at 24 per cent in late 50s has now plummeted to 4.5 per cent.

Obviously, the state does not have enough jobs. Every year, a very large young educated class migrates to other states. The situation is such that there are areas in Kolkata which resemble old-age community livings.

While self-employment has found favour in other states of the country, according to employment-unemployment survey, 2015, no such interest was seen in Bengal. At the primary level, school dropout numbers are just better than Bihar.

According to data released by Ministry of Social Justice, West Bengal has the highest number of beggars.

The rate of crime against women in the state is abnormally high. Bengal today ranks number one in child and women trafficking.

As for political violence the state has become synonymous with it. Dharna, gherao, skirmishes, violent protests, poll violence and permanent aggression in public debates, all show that Bengal, for long, has been raging in the fire of frustration and resentment.

It is clear that the state, about which the boast went "What Bengal thinks today, India thinks tomorrow", has lost its way long, long back.

There are many reasons for the violent and toxic nature of state politics.

If communist dystopia, Muslim appeasement and changing demography are some of the major reasons, so is intellectual arrogance.

Complete uprootedness from the spirituality of renaissance, creeping surrender in imported ideologies and a sense of intellectual superiority has created an arrogant class in Bengal which poses as being cerebral, art lover, and familiar with global literature, liberal and progressive.

But for all such protestations, it has a sense of escapism towards real problems. Dropping socio-economic standards and rotting cities are not its cause of concern because the class sees in them possibilities of great art.

A leading non-resident Bengali was recently seen marveling at a picture of dilapidated, crumbling buildings of Kolkata. What appeared a sorry state of the city to others was nostalgia for the gent.

Steeped in a sense of elitism the class identifies itself as bhadralok, as if there is a large abhadralok outside the group.

Having failed to give Bengal anything constructive or developmental, this 'enlightened' class has taken up the mantle of moral guardians of not only Bengal but whole of India.

It is no surprise that common Bengalis call this bunch aantel or pseudo intellectuals.

The priorities of bhadralok are best revealed in its cinema. Almost all protagonists in the movies of Satyajit Ray, Ritwik Ghatak and Mrinal Sen, from the 70s at least, are unemployed youth looking for jobs.

And yet there is precious little to suggest that intellectuals of the period were suggesting serious and pragmatic policies for job creation.

Instead, there was a sense of elation in Bengali cinema reaching neo-realistic standards of the Italian masters.

Bhadralok was happy that these movies which portrayed the decaying, crumbling society were receiving awards and accolades in Moscow, Berlin and Venice, even as job giving industrialists were being harassed and publicly shamed in Bengal.

The ‘sorry state of affairs’ around which coffee house debates must continue had become an essential mental prop for intellectualism to chew upon.

The source of ‘sorry state of affairs’ was also to be at such distance that the criticism wouldn't result in broken limbs.

Nonetheless it had become a craving as strong as ‘chaa’ and cigarettes, without which life was impossible. From a matter of compulsory discussions, the ‘sorry state of affairs’ had become a fervent wish.

Oblivious to pressing concerns like entrepreneurship and economic growth, bhadralok addas continue to wage cerebral wars against notions of class enemies imbued with writings of Marx, Mao and Chomsky.

Even though the relevance of these worthies has ended in their own societies, bhadralok remains in revolution mode with their inspiration.

Abandoning difficult choices like introspection over increasing plight of the state, bhadrajans have found their enemy among Bohirogato, ie non-Bengali outsiders.

First, the communists and later Mamata Banerjee — bhadralok has always supported a party with greater capacity for violence. When the communists used to assault Banerjee, The Telegraph supported the Left. When Banerjee’s Trinamool is wreaking havoc in the state, the newspaper is backing her rock-solid.

Bhadralok's sense of morality is so deeply and cruelly embedded in party loyalty that its conscience does not shake over the killings of other party members, even if they happen to be poor Bengalis.

This is the reason people like Aparna Sen shamelessly dismissed post-poll violence as a normal Bengali thing. Some artists from Bengali film industry had protested against the Bharatiya Janata Party through a pre-election campaign song.

The theme of the song was that they would not allow malice and viciousness to creep into the society. But the first thing to happen after elections was mind-numbing violence by the party these artists chose to back.

It was poor and backward Bengalis who suffered the most. And yet none of those artists has either felt sorry or condemned the violence.

In fact, Parambrata Chatterjee, a leading actor was celebrating the day calling it 'ragrano din', the day of thrashing. After ruining the state with poor ideological choices, bhadralok, in its silent approval of violence, has also exposed its insensitivity and moral vacuousness.

The myth of Bengali bhadralok has been shattered for all times. There is no such class in Bengal. It is at best a club of regional chauvinists pointing a finger at others unmindful of the four rolled towards them.

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