The shameful chain of events unfolding in Bengal since early this week after the murderous assault on junior doctors by a mob is the direct fallout of a process that was set in motion by the communists four decades ago and adopted zealously by Trinamool chief Mamata Banerjee since she came to power in 2011.
The lumpensiation of Bengal’s polity, along with the promotion of mediocrity in the fake garb of anti-elitism and anti-bourgeois, was initiated by the communists immediately after they came to power in 1977. The Bengal unit of the CPI(M) was run iron-handedly by Marxist hardliner Promode Dasgupta who scoffed at intellectuals and labelled them ‘bourgeois’. The Marxists, dominant partners of the ruling Left Front, actively pursued Dasgupta’s policy of purging the academia, the arts and all other intellectual spaces of all who they viewed as bourgeois. This led to a veritable brain drain from Bengal. The truly talented were replaced by average and below-average leftists, or their lackeys, in all these spheres.
Along with this, the communists actively cultivated, promoted and protected anti-socials and muscle-men who acted as the Left’s foot soldiers and helped the communists stay on in power. What was also subtly promoted was the utter disdain and sheer contempt for any display of intelligence and intellect. Thus, a huge mass of people in Bengal developed deep antipathy towards any one seen as ‘successful’, and this included the ‘educated’ like doctors, chartered accountants, engineers et al. To be ‘successful’ and ‘wealthy’ became a crime in Bengal and this very quickly led to attacks--verbal and physical--on the wealthy, the educated and the successful.
The communists developed this very sinister political strategy to stay on in power in Bengal, even though it has resulted in an unmitigable disaster for the state. The strategy was to make a large mass of people ‘faithful’ to the party (the CPM) and make them permanently dependant on the few crumbs that the party would hand out to them periodically. This large mass of ‘faithfuls’ were mostly illiterate, unskilled, anti-intellect, unemployable and engaged in petty professions. They were completely dependent on their political masters who controlled their destinies and, in turn, expected the ‘faithfuls’ to return the favours granted to them at the time of elections. These ‘faithfuls’--roadside vendors, hawkers, daily labourers, rickshaw pullers and auto-rickshaw drivers, and all those engaged in petty and subsistence vocations--were systematically brain-washed into believing that their sorry plight, and that of Bengal in general, was to be blamed on anyone and everyone who was ‘successful’.
Thus, a large mass of people all over the state developed a deep animosity towards not only wealthy businessmen and industrialists, but also professionals--doctors, engineers, chartered accountants, white-collar executives and other professionals deemed successful through their merit and hard work. This animosity has, over the past four decades, found frequent expression in attacks on such ‘successful’ people in the state. Doctors being in the profession that involves frequent and close interaction with these sullen masses harbouring this deep animosity, thus became the easy targets of such relentless attacks. The attackers have almost never been punished because they have enjoyed the patronage of, earlier, the communists and, now, the Trinamool.
This lack of any action against them granted them a sense of immunity---to break the law with impunity. But while the communists could control the masses and generally prevent things from going out of hand, their successors--the Trinamool--simply does not possess that capability. The CPI(M) was, after all, a cadre-based party with largely disciplined comrades and a clear chain of command. The Trinamool, on the other hand, suffers from rank indiscipline, deep factionalism and the absence of any chain of command. Thus, ever since 2011 when the Trinamool came to power, lawlessness and hooliganism have only increased.
Mamata Banerjee is even more dependent on lumpens and muscle-men for ‘election-management’, a euphemism for rigging polls, than the communists since she doesn’t have the advantage of a well-structured party machinery working for her. Thus, the lumpens and hooligans, knowing fully well that they enjoy a lot more immunity from the law now, have become more brazen. Thus, attacks on doctors and others have increased ever since the Trinamool came to power in the state in 2011.
It is, however, not just the doctors who have been facing attacks. The greater brazenness of the underclass and subalterns who are auto-rickshaw drivers, taxi drivers, rickshaw pullers, hawkers, petty tradesmen and labourers has resulted in attacks on even middle-class ‘bhadraloks’ (genteel folks). Thus, Bengal’s newspapers are these days replete with reports of auto-rickshaw drivers abusing and assaulting passengers, of roadside vendors and petty tradesmen getting into violent arguments with customers, of ‘para’ (neighbourhood) goons molesting women and terrorising their well-to-do neighbours, and of sundry other crimes where the victims are almost always the upper middle class or the affluent. And again, in almost none of the cases have the police done their job of filing strong chargesheets against the accused to ensure their convictions by courts because they were asked by the ruling politicians not to do so.
Since 2011, another angle has been added to this deplorable state of affairs in Bengal. The brazen ‘minority-appeasement’ policy followed by the state chief minister has resulted in the perception gaining ground that Muslims are above the law. Police now turn a blind eye to the many acts of law-breaking by members of this community and the violators are rarely, if ever, prosecuted. There seems to be an unwritten rule that muscle-flexing and crimes by members of the minority community ought to be overlooked by the police. This has only emboldened the many lumpens in the community to break the law with greater audacity. Bike-borne young men from this community have been involved in a wide range of petty crimes, but few have been prosecuted. Their targets, again, have been the upper-middle and affluent classes.
Thus, the frequent assault on doctors (and many others who fall in the same category of successful professionals or businessmen) is only the disastrous fallout of a policy that was initiated by the communists for their own narrow political ends. When Mamata Banerjee came to power, she not only adopted this policy, but also followed it with more vigour. And she compounded the situation with her policy of minority-appeasement. The result is a toxic mix of lawlessness, state apathy and a deep sense of insecurity among the citizenry that is taking Bengal down the road to imminent ruination.
Jaideep Mazumdar is an associate editor at Swarajya.
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