Bengal On The Edge Of A Precipice

Bengal On The Edge Of A Precipice

by Jay Bhattacharjee - Jul 9, 2017 05:12 PM +05:30 IST
Bengal On The Edge Of A PrecipiceVehicles torched in violence in Baduria after protests over an objectionable social media post in North 24 Parganas. (Samir Jana/Hindustan Times via Getty Images)
  • West Bengal has been facing an existential threat from deadly forces for a long time now.

    It’s high time the centre responded to the situation.

It is painful for all Indians to see a particular part of the country reeling under assault from violence inspired by a certain religious ideology. One can be eternally euphemistic in one’s public stances. However, this commentator believes that it is time now to take the bull by the horns and address the threat that confronts India by its proper appellation – Islamic jihad, fuelled and financed by Pakistan and several Islamic countries in West Asia, including Saudi Arabia and Iran. Let us be specific – the land of the Ibn Sauds and the land of Khomeini march in tandem to the call of Islam.

Indian citizens have been exposed to the Kashmir inferno for quite some time and are now well aware of what is happening in that part of the country and are reasonably sensitised to the issues involved, as well as the forces at play there.

However, West Bengal is another cup of tea. Most Indians would barely be conversant about the developments in the state in recent decades. The general overview the country has of West Bengal (WB) is its relentless (and apparently irreversible) economic decline and the permanent chaos that marks life in that part of the world. Sporadically, Indians outside WB take note of the latent cultural and literary talent of the Bengalis. However, here too, it is largely the probashi (expatriate) Bengalis who hit the headlines with positive news. The WB Bongs, generally, are harbingers of bad tidings.

In the case of the existential threat that WB is facing from deadly forces, the rest of the country is almost clueless. This analyst has written earlier for this magazine about the grave danger that confronts WB at this juncture, and India in the final analysis.

Some other writers have also discussed the issue on this portal, and this has been supplemented by some commendable coverage by a senior staffer of the portal who is based in WB.

The country’s mainstream media, or MSM, particularly the English-language one, is conspicuously silent about the periodic outbursts of communal violence in WB. And, again, making a departure from “socially correct” terminology, it must be put on record that the violence is almost always directed primarily at Hindus, who are at the receiving end of the lathis and swords and worse. Certain areas are notorious trouble-spots – these include Malda, Murshidabad, Dinajpur and North 24 Parganas, to mention the prominent ones.

All these are Muslim-majority districts, with Malda having more than 52 per cent Muslims as per the official Census data of 2011. It is an open secret among the military and paramilitary forces that the ground reality may be different. Younger officers make no bones about sharing their experience on this issue, including the most uncomfortable scenarios. This pertains to the situation in certain parts of WB that have become virtual no-go areas for the local law-and-order forces.

In any case, the police in WB have been soft, for many decades, on illegal immigration from Bangladesh and rampant crime in the border areas. The Communist Party of India (Marxist) started this policy of turning a blind eye to these issues for more than three decades. The All India Trinamool Congress (TMC) has merely gone ahead and fine-tuned this abdication of state responsibility. The strategy of the present WB Chief Minister is very simple, though it may be toxic for the nation’s security – if the TMC can routinely garner the bloc votes of the Muslims, she can win a disproportionately large number of seats in the constituencies that have multiple candidates trying to tap the residual non-TMC voter base. Here, too, she counts on the former lumpen CPM cadre who have switched their loyalties to Mamata’s party.

Of course, the TMC candidates need not all be Muslims – all they have to do is to keep the Imams and the Muslim seniors in their support base happy. In contrast, the Hindu electorate has no effective leadership or programme. The residual influence of the CPM’s now-discredited ideology ensures that the West Bengal Hindu is still hesitant to combat Islamic theological politics in a determined manner.

To return to the theme of the relentless attempt to use demography as a political weapon, it is worthwhile to look at the way Yugoslavia was destroyed. I studied this and explained it to my readers in the article of January 2016 cited earlier. It is not necessary to repeat all the facts in that essay, but it would be helpful if the process of a demographic coup d’etat is spelt out once again.

The paradigm works out as follows:

The first step is to ensure a major change in the demographic composition of a province or part of a federal country. This is effected through immigration (mostly illegal or sub rosa) of a particular group (religious, ethnic or linguistic) from a neighbouring country or through significantly higher birth rates domestically.

The next stage is to cause law and order/public security problems in the relevant areas for the federal/central authorities and administration of the country.

This is followed by the terrorisation or even subjugation of the erstwhile majority (now reduced to a minority). Thereafter, the victims are compelled to leave their original homelands, as was done in Kashmir in 1990 and as may be attempted in WB in the next few years, if the TMC continues in power.

The objective is to give rise to civil-war conditions or tensions in the province/region.

Now comes the very sensitive part of the exercise. This involves the internationalisation of the conflict and the involvement of other regional and global powers.

Historical rivalries are also leveraged to invite physical foreign intervention.

In the case of Kosovo, in the final act, the international Islamic lobby was utilised to finance insurrection and procure arms to combat the federal/central forces, as well as to also canvas the secessionist “cause” in international organisations and platforms.

Our babus and netas on Raisina Hill are not particularly well-versed in history. Otherwise, they would have observed that the above process was also followed, more or less exactly, by Nazi Germany when it destroyed Czechoslovakia in 1938, through the terrorist violence of the minority Sudeten Germans in the western region of that model democratic country. A minority that works from inside to destroy a federal country can also be a linguistic/cultural one and not necessarily a religious one.

In the case of Germany, the people of that country seemed to have learned their lesson after their catastrophic defeat in the Second World War. On the contrary, international political Islam has learnt nothing from the losses it has had in the last twelve-odd centuries. If anything, the defeats and debacles, whether in Seville or in Poitiers or Vienna, are looked up to for inspiration. Just search for the Islamic laments on the fall of Seville and Cordoba and you will get an idea about what drives Islamic revanchism.

In this convoluted intellectual war that political Islam is waging, Bharat or Hind, to be more precise, occupies a very special place. The Lutyens-zone secularists can cry themselves hoarse from the roof-tops that this is all a conspiracy of “right-wing Hindu nationalists”, but Ghazwa-e-Hind is not a fantasy conjured up by some “bhakts” in various parts of the country. There is sufficient evidence that the Pakistani armed forces teach this doctrine in some form or the other in their courses.

There is also credible feedback that some Islamic places of worship in India have also started mentioning this concept during their prayer meetings. Tarek Fatah’s recent essay on the subject created an uproar in the desi secularist circles, but the powers that be in Delhi would be most unwise if they dismiss Fatah’s well-meant warning to India.

Returning to the latest developments in WB, what should be the response of the union government? The Bengal Governor’s perfectly justified decision to ask the state administration to explain the riots and violence in a strategically located area and to take adequate measures to protect all citizens seems to have touched a raw nerve in the Chief Minister. She has stooped to new lows in her reaction and this probably shows that she is on very weak ground this time.

Admittedly, WB is not yet ripe for President’s Rule, since there is no overall breakdown of law and order throughout the state. However, this writer is in favour of invoking the Armed Forces (Special Powers) Act (AFSPA) in WB after declaring certain districts as “disturbed areas”. The centre has full powers since 1972 to declare certain areas as “disturbed” and there is a clear need to categorise at least four or five districts of WB as “disturbed”. Raisina Hill must summon the necessary resolve to take this step; just the invocation of the Act and the categorisation of certain areas as “disturbed” will suffice at this stage. WB is not as terminally sick as the Kashmir Valley and this writer’s surmise is that necessary corrective measures, as advocated here, will work now. If Delhi hums and haws, Bengal will need much more stringent and drastic action in the years to come.

Also Read:

West Bengal May Be Headed For A Kosovo-Like Situation With The Rise Of Islamism

Can Hindutva Re-Establish Itself In West Bengal Politics?

Jay Bhattacharjee is a policy and corporate affairs analyst based in Delhi.
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