Friday, January 29, 2016

Jan 30 1948 - Gandhi and Godse: Pages from Past and Prejudice

“I weep for Adonais – he is dead!
Peace, peace ! he is not dead, he doth not sleep…
He lives, he wakes – ‘tis Death is Dead, not he
Mourn not for Adonais – Thou Young Dawn
….The Spirit thou laments is not gone….”

These lines drawn in piece meals from P B Shelley’s famous work ‘Adonais’ tries to underline that the poet John Keats is not dead. It is Death who has died. Shelley means that, for such a spirit as that of Keats, Death has no existence.

Most of us equally in India feel strongly about Mahatma Gandhi, our Father of the Nation. Pt Jawaharlal Nehru had very rightly lamented in his national broadcast within hours of Gandhi’s assassination – on that fateful day January 30, 1948 that “THE LIGHT HAS GONE OUT OF OUR LIVES”.
“The Mahatma’s assassination marked the climax of the nightmare that partition had become,” analysed Mark Tully in his impressive work ‘From Raj to Rajiv’ – a publication of BBC Books.

But in retrospect, we can also study Mahatma Gandhi’s failures – just as someone has said, to err is human and yes, even, Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi too was human. Mahatma Gandhi cared for non-violence all his life.
But India or rather the whole of Indian sub-continent – and I am including Bangladesh and Pakistan in that – continues to bleed.

In circa 2016 as we bow our heads in memory of Bapu, is it not pertinent to declare –albeit in pensive mood that – Gandhi’s non-violence has lost out to violence?
While millions died during the partition, lakhs of refugees who from eastern Pakistan (now Bangladesh) and west Pakistan who crossed over to India – under duress and in sheer poverty – blamed Bapu for accepting the partition. Muslims – whom Gandhi sought to protect – have turned a pro-violence community today – at least in terms of perception. And Hindus feel they must give up the Sanathan spirit of 'tolerance'.

As a result over the last few decades the so called Hindu-revivalism has turned increasingly ominous. For Muslims again there is a peculiar dilemma. To many Muslims – who stayed in India abandoning Mohammed Ali Jinnah’s partition and Pakistan – there is a lasting guilt of the community’s role in dividing the country. 
Yet the real blame should have gone to those who went off in search of paradise in the new country. But the “real tragedy”, according to M J Akbar and I endorse that - the price of partition is not being paid by the people who got Pakistan but “by the Muslims in India” – who stayed back and trusted their Hindu and Sikh brethren. This is the irony and a melancholic turn!
While radicals have blamed Gandhi for the partition, the truth of the story is as late as March 1947- Gandhi had rejected division of the country: “If Congress wishes to accept partition, it will be over my dead body. So long as I live, I will never agree to the partition of India’.
A few years earlier in 1944, Gandhiji had got a shock when he was heckled in public by a Poona-based journalist Narayan Apte. In fact a little known periodical ‘Agrani’ then had a photo caption of Gandhi and Apte: “I denounce you a hundred times because you have conceded Pakistan’. At later stage, it goes without saying Apte had worked in tandem with Mahatma’s assassin Nathuram Godse.
यह पत्र आज भी गोडसे परिवार ने संभाल कर रखा है।
Godse and his missive to his family
In the words of Manohor Malgonkar in his book ‘The Men who killed Gandhi’, “…when it turned out that the Muslim League was altogether unappeaseable, the Congress began to show signs of giving in to their demand for Pakistan, but Savarkar and his followers (that included Godse certainly –blogger) remained staunchly opposed to it till the very end, and so to be fair, did a large number of people within the Congress organization itself”.
It would be pertinent here to say that strangeness has always not only made history interesting – it has guided the course itself. The two men – Narayan Apte and Godse (elder of the two) were so different in personalities - but - yet ironically both had become the closest of friends!

There’s another incongruity (or absurdity) that drove post-1947 phenomenon in India. Gandhiji’s ‘fast’ was literally turning the tide – as Hindu arsonists in Bihar controlled themselves and stopped revenging Muslim carnage of 1946 Direct Action in Calcutta. 
It left positive impact in Delhi and parts of Punjab too. 

Can the riot-hit refugees forget Partition?
It is often said ‘like a drunk making a good resolution in the morning’ – rioters stopped attacking helpless citizens in several parts. Hindus and Sikhs greeted Muslims with fruits. Things were too good at times to be real. Words spread that things were being stage-managed too.  

But the refugees from Pakistan having suffered directly at the hands of Muslims felt outraged that Gandhi was staking his own life to save Muslims. Gandhi also wanted Indian government pay Rs 55 crore to Pakistan as was agreed upon before 1947. Angry protestors often marched to Birla House to voice their protest.
A few organizations also protested. All these ultimately resulted in culmination of January 30, 1948. ‘Hey Ram’ and the Man of Peace had fallen to assassin’s bullets.
But who gained and who lost? Lot remains to be judged from historical conjecture perspective !
Whether an undivided India would have been a possibility? How long it would have lasted?

Whether making Jinnah united India’s first Prime Minister was a practical suggestion? Should Indian independence been postponed? 

Monday, January 25, 2016

Republic Day Musings: A 1947 without Lord Mountbatten – History Revisited

“Sir, I suffer from the congenial weakness of believing I can do anything”. –
Lord Louis Mountbatten to Winston Churchill when the all important offer of Indian Viceroy post was made.

Compared to somewhat middle class conservative mannerism of my parents and a dose of ideological upbringing, I saw my cousins and friends around were brought up with more worldly wise wisdom and pragmatism. Success in school examination mattered most to people of my generation during younger days. It still does, I suppose. 
To these worldly wise lots – out of box thinking and even dreams do not matter much. Looking around, I am different more given to useless pondering of much more futile issues. So most often I am a failure.

Sand work of Sudarshan Pattnaik

Nevertheless, on a chilly winter morning of New Delhi as India celebrates yet another Republic Day my wild thoughts are lost somewhere. What would have been the course of Indian history had not protagonists like Mountbatten came around to decide about India’s history?
Mountbatten was chosen by British leadership under then Prime Minister Clement Richard Attlee then to take over the reins of India. In the words of Mountbatten’s predecessor, Earl Wavell (Viceroy from 1943-47) India and the British Raj then had already “reached a completely impasse” situation.
This ‘impasse’ actually relates to the gulf of difference several events and history had created between Wavell and the then Indian political leaders – in fact a galaxy of them.
Mountbatten later in an interview to writers Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre had said, “there was nothing wrong with Wavell at all, except this handicap which prevented him from being able to communicate”. He further puts it eloquently, “they did not mistrust him – it wasn’t that they mistrusted him – they didn’t feel they could get anywhere with him”.        
Mountbatten and Prince Charles in 1970s

Mountbatten later in an interview to writers Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre had said, “there was nothing wrong with Wavell at all, except this handicap which prevented him from being able to communicate”. He further puts it eloquently, “they did not mistrust him – it wasn’t that they mistrusted him – they didn’t feel they could get anywhere with him”.

One can always ponder on the fascinating choice of its players by the history. Mountbatten was ironically the great-grandson of Victoria now being chosen to preside over the severing of the link of the British empire with Indian sub-continent.

But what was supposed to be Mountbatten’s precise agenda? Did the British Raj already made up their mind for withdrawal and grant Indian independence? Were they looking for a scapegoat in Mountbatten to pull them out of the mess?  

On the other hand, Indian political scene had offered five foremost protagonists then to be dealt effectively and individually then collectively. The famous five – Mahatma Gandhi, Mohammed Ali Jinnah, Jawaharlal Nehru, Liaquat Ali Khan and Sardar Vallabhai Patel – were already divided politically by then. 


The 16 August, 1946 Calcutta protest – Direct Action Day - demonstration by Jinnah had already given a glimpse of how horrifying things could turn.
The protest by Jinnah’s supporters on the fateful day had already left 15000 injured and at least 5000 killed. 

(Direct Action Day (16 August 1946), also known as the Great Calcutta Killings, was a day of widespread riot and slaughter between Hindus and Muslims in Calcutta now Kolkata. The 'Direct Action' was announced by the Muslim League Council to show the strength of Muslim feelings both to British and Congress, says Wikipedia, because Muslims feared that after the British pulled out, Muslims would surely suffer at the hands of overwhelming Hindu majority)

This brings us to the issue of India’s partition. But before that we must take a closer look at the five political stars mentioned above. Although the communal passion had come to stay in Indian public life and Jinnah was a ‘player’ in the theater, it is also true that all these five players had submerged completely their entire life into politics and freedom struggle. All Five had actually started to dream about the ‘culmination’ of their lifetime’s sacrifice and struggle. In other words, Indian independence would have come sooner than later despite Mountbattens or the likes of Jinnahs and Nehrus.
Jinnah: A key player
The western writers and historians have shown a great tendency to hail Mountbatten’s stint as a success. In doing so they declare rather unhesitatingly that “many colonial nations were not so fortunate and were forced to pay the price of their freedom with bloody wars”. (the quotes attributed to Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre).

But what was our partition then? And more importantly, did they miss the blood bath and the post-1947 sort of permanent enmity between India and Pakistan? 

Would India of 2016 be different without 1947 and the chief protagonist Mountbatten who scissored the map of India? A United India – in retrospect – today is only a wishful thinking. Many would say the division of India was a blessing in disguise. Others can argue, Moutbatten was against partition himself and would have preferred Indian leaders to settle for a united country. 

It was later claimed that Jinnah’s illness and possible premature death was not known to many including the people who mattered like Mountbatten. 
“If somebody had told me he’s going to be dead in X months would I then said let’s hold back India together and not divide it? Would I have put back the clock, and held the position? Most probably. I have a feeling Jinnah may not have known himself he had tuberculosis,” Mountbatten reportedly told Larry Collins and Lapierre in exhaustive interviews later in 1970s.

Lapierre's autographed book 'Freedom at Midnight'
This is something difficult to stomach as Mountbatten’s predecessor Wavell had got a wind of it. The British staff under Wavell also perhaps knew and had “kept it to themselves”, Mountbatten claimed. 

To me this argument is not convincing as Mountbatten came and started ruling India with every minute details about India and Indian politics and the political stars. 
They could not have missed this vital information about India. The 'Partition of India' was perhaps a lasting revenge of the colonial masters as they felt ‘defeated’ and had to reluctantly withdraw from India. 

However, no last word can be said. Muslim scholars like Rafiq Zakaria believed partition had rather harmed the cause of Muslims in the sub-continent. No contemporary scholarship can bring an end to hundreds of questions raised by historical phases. Indian partition is certainly one of them. Similar issues pertain to the fate meted to Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose. There will always remain room for more studies.

In the ultimate analysis, the Republic Day is also an occasion to ponder about governance in the country and the roadmap for future.
Basically the two pronged approach of industrialization concentration and poverty alleviation and improvement in qualitative life remains our national need if not the focus of administration. There is further need for investment in social sectors and education and the entire mechanism has to dispel any type of regional imbalances and discrimination.  
At this time for reflection, the true spirit of Republic is well summed up in the immortal number of one of my all time favourites, Yesudas.
“Tere aane se saj gayee humaree yeh tutee phutee naav

…..Goree yeh duwaaye karna jarur, maajhi se naiya ho nahi dur

Sabko kinare pahunchaayega, maajhi toh kinara tabhi paayega

North Bengal ground Zero: Agony of Tea garden workers

Didi, Mamata Banerjee, is most often used to losing her temper. Uncomfortable questions by media persons often have provoked her to question journalists their ‘intent’. She would dismiss them as “CPI-M-er lok (CPI-M supporters)”. I have personally faced that a number of times ! So when during her trip to Siliguri once she lost cool facing questions of suicide deaths – not many local journalists and officials were surprised. A furious Didi gave them a “virtual dressing down” and told them true picture needs to be highlighted. 
Gardens: Now brewing starvation?
An estimated 65 people have already lost their lives due to suicide and food mal nutrition.
A beleaguered Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee – more busy with politics of 2016 assembly elections – took an indifferent stance and dismissed that all suicides in tea garden areas could not be linked to workers per se. “All media reports about tea-workers deaths and suicides from tea gardens in North Bengal are not true. Many deaths reported are either former tea-garden workers or people associated with families of tea garden workers and their dependents,” Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had said during one of her numerous trips.

Then came in Didi’s dose of politics and oft-repeated blame game!
She blasted the erstwhile Left regime for “not doing anything” for smalltime tea-growers and tea garden workers. “On the other hand look at us. We have cleared a major programme worth Rs 100 crore for tea-garden workers,” she waxed eloquently. 
But the truth of the matter is even Didi’s regime has not helped anything change substantially on ground zero.

For instance, ending the private lease over land Bandapani tea-estate control was passed on to the state government in 2014; yet the tea-garden closed four years ago is still shut. 

Mamata’s political opponents - Congress, CPI(M), BJP and even GNLF and trade unions associated with these parties say things have only worsened under Trinamool dispensation.
For instance, GNLF affiliated Himalayan Plantation Workers Union has now threatened to intensify agitation by March. They have already met Darjeeling district magistrate Anurag Srivastava and urged him to intervene vis-à-vis closed tea estates at Panighata and Kurseong sub-divisions near Siliguri. The union has also urged the district administration to take over land from the closed tea garden owners and distribute the same among workers. This has been reportedly turned down by the administration as plantation land cannot be distributed like that.

On December 31, 2015; Siliguri mayor Asok Bhattacharya, a local “popular” Marxist leader, announced that 23 Left Front councilors and one independent will help tea workers with their personal December allowance. He had also taken strong exception to Mamata regime’s hyped expenditure of Rs 50 crore for Uttar Banga Fest under which all youth clubs in the locality were to get Rs 2 crore each. “The Chief Minister and the state government should instead stand by the tea garden workers,” he said.

That the strife of tea-garden workers – a huge number of them rendered jobless and quite a few already committed suicide - in North Bengal is assuming ominous dimension can be understood from the fact the Union Commerce Minister Nirmala Sitharaman herself landed in Siliguri and held discussions with state government and other stake holders. But the meetings yielded little results as the union Minister was unfortunately forced to urge the Mamata Banerjee government – in the ultimate - to take “prompt actions”. Nothing concrete seemed to have emerged even from the meetings even with Duncans Industries proprietor G P Goenka --- who merely said the problem will be “resolved very soon”. 
Duncan Industries owns as many as 16 distressed tea plantations in the region including Terai-Dooars Darjeeling Hills and North Dinajpur district.
blogger: In North Bengal
According to the union Minister Sitharaman, many workers have been rendered jobless even as “interacting with tea garden workers I (she could) realize that the workers want to work”. The financial crisis haunting tea garden management has turned serious in last two months with many distressed labourers even taking extreme steps to end their lives.

The Darjeeling District Legal Aid Forum has filed a PIL in Calcutta High Court on 8 December 2015 seeking steps to prevent the deaths of tea workers especially owned by Duncans. On the other hand, the Darjeeling Terai Dooars Plantation Labour Union backed by politically influential Gorkha Jan Mukti Morcha announced launching of agitation against management of tea gardens in College Valley and Peshok under the Alchemist group.

The small time tea garden owners and tea-growers are also pulling up their sleeves amid the crisis and trying to reorganize themselves. In some affected region tea workers have taken preliminary steps to run ‘self-governed’ tea factories themselves. In Jappaiguri district in Maynaguri area, the tea-garden workers have drawn out plans to run at least 10 small tea factories. But it’s a long way to go, as the common refrain is.
But according to Vijay Gopal Chakravarty, president of Jalpaiguri Smalltime Tea Workers Association, the move to run the estates and set up these proposed factories is revolutionary as for long the frustrated tea garden workers were largely dependent on the “mercy” of tea brokers and big companies. 

“Even at times they thought of giving up tea plantation and dedicate the land to other agriculture cultivation. But now there’s a change. They want to retain the inherent strength of their land, that is tea cultivation. This initiative if renders expected results will go a long way,” says one local tea farmer Jeevan Pradhan in Maynaguri block.
More than one group of native tea growers are procuring land and trying to set up their own owners-employees run cooperative type tea factories. In some pockets already 400 hactres land has been procured at a cost of Rs 25 lakh where tea growers themselves will grow tea and also run small-time factory. In Maynaguri block there are already small success stories.


Thursday, January 21, 2016

An Open Letter to Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose: Happy Birthday Netaji (on Jan 23)

My dear Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose;

If I fail you, it is because I am incompetent to talk about myself, our country and people !!  ….the country you left and of course with the people and the politicians around. As an individual I was always awed by the great patriotism and valiant courage you displayed. 

India attained its freedom from British raj in 1947 but it soon submerged into some kind of stagnancy, some kind of bondage to a particular political party and more so the particular dynasty. That was our unbecoming !
At this juncture as the nation awaits your birthday once again, Netaji, my observations can easily lead to ponder where the country and more so the people – you loved so much - had taken a wrong turn.
Netaji: The Valiant Patriot
India as a nation known to people of my generation – late 1960s-early 1970s as my parents married only in 1967 – has progressed. But in retrospect, Netaji, India as a civilization has been actually in the process of change and each passing day sees that transition in the context of the millennium-old spectrum of social life. All these meant multiple challenges. 

Foremost of all these challenges has been one core issue – that is the gap in “absorption” of a rich ancient culture into a new synthesis called modernity.
You had left India at a crucial juncture of its history. Some of your compatriots and albeit political rivals took over the reins of power and sorry to say, often displayed gross selfishness, partisan and parochialism. A new kind of political culture was pushed. It actually accentuated several dormant problems and these have today turned into demons – those cannot be controlled.
The Hindu-Muslim disunity is one of them. Casteism is the other. It only shows your leadership as the INA you led was able to shed all these trappings. Sadly, a free India could not. No democracy – as enforced in the manner – actually can achieve that. This was our another faultline, may be! 
The sociology of nationalism debate would suffice that India as a nation – post the gruesome partition of 1947 – does bear resemblance to “western nations”.
Bertrand De-Jouvenel, the French Philosopher who was born in 1903 and has seen your times, was impressed by our country’s size (post 1947 itself) and had said in 1960s later that “Bihar itself has a population equal to France”.
So, Netaji, our beloved Netaji….India is itself a continent – with considerable variety of people, their culture, occupation and climate and natural resources. So perhaps naturally we also inherited the challenges of provincial discrimination, religious (or communal) passions and hatreds. 
Sadly, we did not do enough as citizens to conquer these vices. I often wonder, whether your presence amidst us during such hour would have resolved at least a few problems.
On this birthday, you will hit newspaper and television headlines with a ‘difference’. Some ‘secret and codified’ papers regarding your life and times may be brought out by the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. 
This new leader, India chose so enthusiastically in 2014, comes from the land of Mahatma Gandhi and Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel. Without going into details, I ought to share with you another information that Modi also – mildly put - has disapproval of certain things Pt Jawaharlal Nehru did and said.
We will debate these political issues on a later day, Netaji. But as an ardent admirer of yours – initially by the fashion as I too was born a Bengali and you are a folk hero of Bengalis. And later by conviction – I beg your attention to the contemporary setting. Things are actually in a mess today and would have certainly pained you – if not shocked you! The challenges are many and yet we as countrymen and women continue to contribute in increasing a few – at least every month. The situation we are in, Netaji, should be enough to wake us up to the realization that the basic game has changed fundamentally. Lingering territorial disputes are no longer the driving force. After 68 years, we still have found no answer to starvation and problems on water have only grown manifold.
Instead, it is high time we appreciate that the world and our country should be viewed through economic prism and developmental lens. One community can be rivals to another in one front and at the same time we need to be on a winning partnership in another.
The task ahead is for scrupulous placement of several broken chapters and episodes on an increasingly complex chessboard. But you would appreciate, Netaji, this is an interconnected chessboard. 
I am referring to the game of chess as this sports teaches each one of us that after the game is over – pawns and the King have to get inside the same box.

Now the practical issues: In 1940s when you left us in agony and even few years later – in 1947 – when India was divided but free from colonial masters – as a nation India emerged a miserable figure. Our country was stricken with dire poverty. But overall there have been intriguing changes in food scenario and plans. The heavy shortfalls in agricultural stocks and targets are now thing of the past.  In industry we have reaped benefits from dependence on heavy industries. But the truncated new-economic culture ensured in many pockets the gap between haves and have nots has increased manifold.
Our farmers often end their lives themselves. We disrespect women and fight over religion.

On your part, on some occasions, and leaders like you spoke of self-dependency in industrialization. This has been another area of our failing Netaji. You would appreciate that India was actually a colonial economy par excellence – when we exported raw materials and Britain dumped the manufactured goods. From our Asian brothers like Japanese, we need to learn corrective steps on these fronts.
A Rare snap of Bose
Lately our government is talking about ‘Make-in-India’. Japan or even neighbours like South Korea have over the years utilized the same technical novelties that are prevalent in India but are strangely enough not adequately adopted. Sad na? 
In the ultimate analysis, Netaji, as one of your million admirers – in this missive one only hopes it is time Indian people give unto themselves a critical advantage of hearing the opposite views. We hate criticism. In the process, we fail to do the right diagnosis.
We have become such much of a country of ‘yes men-and-women’ and this cannot be an India the fearless son of my country like you dreamed off.

Warm regards. Will I hear from you, Netaji, ever?

My dad & daughter: Both Netaji fans


Sunday, January 17, 2016

Malda: Joblessness: Welcome to Didi's Parivartan-land

Joblessness leads to hunger. Hunger drives people mad. This madness can open a Pandora’s Box for dreadful Crimes. This is precisely the story from Malda in Didiland. 

December 28, 2015: Around 12pm noon there were a few explosions at Danga village near Kaliachak, around 15 KM from Malda town in Mamata Banerjee-ruled West Bengal. At least two youths died and two others were injured.

January 3, 2016: Around 9.30 am, over a lakh Muslim residents in Kaliachak area gathered to protest the supposed comments from a Hindu Mahasabha leader Kamlesh Tiwari. A local religious group, Edara-e-Sharaia circulated some leaflets condemning Kamlesh Tiwari’s supposed remarks with “grief”. The organization urged Muslims and followers of path shown by Prophet Mohammed condemn such remarks and demand appropriate actions.


The mob gradually turned violent and communal – quarreled with a BSF team, stoned Hindu houses in the locality and later set a nicely built Kaliachak police station on fire.
Ironically Kamlesh Tiwari’s remarks came around December 11-12 and that too in a reaction – after Samajwadi Party leader Azam Khan made controversial remarks on RSS leaders. Technically, West Bengal and more so remote Malda had little to do with either Azam Khan or Kamlesh Tiwari. 

What is the political significance in all these? 
Why Mamata did not act?

It is presumed that no Chief Minister would like to take the blame that her/his government did not act against wrong doers. Come what may – the Malda episode as a whole would certainly leave Mamata Banerjee embarrassed. She is desperately trying to walk confidently towards ensuing assembly elections and also wrest the political initiatives for her party Trinamool Congress. Traditionally Congress has had an upper hand in the region. Didi’s keenness is understandable as a prominent Forward Block leader recently joined her party.

Clearly Mamata has many sympathizers even in Malda these days or for that matter in Malda-Siliguri-Jalpaiguri stretch in north Bengal. But what were her compulsions? 


In this part of the state, there’s a reading that Didi might contest from one of the “safe seats” to turn the wave in her party’s favour. “Politics is all about learning and implementing it effectively. 
Just as Narendra Modi changed the wave in UP during Lok Sabha polls by contesting from Varanasi, Mamata will try take a page out of Prime Minister’s book,” says Ajay Banerjee, a teacher. Many others in the region are also impressed with this political ‘gupshup’ and say left to her Didi would push Muslim theocracy to hilt.

So it’s all about politics and the close nexus of neta class and crime. 

For locals – a few rational guys – things were exploited to the hilt in Malda with “crystal clear political motives”. They suspect a pattern in Malda and parts of North Bengal since last few months to spark off political and communal row in the region – obviously keeping hawk’s eye views on ensuing assembly elections. Key players of course – Trinamool Congress, the state’s ruling outfit of powerful Mamata Banerjee – whose magic has somehow failed in Malda, Siliguri and other parts of North Bengal.
North Bengal has remained a Congress bastion and lately in Siliguri, Left parties did well in civic polls while in 2014 Lok Sabha polls, BJP increased vote share in many segments and also won the prestigious Darjeeling parliamentary seat.

On ground zero - the helpless looking voters – certainly most of them are Muslims and sought after group by Mamata Banerjee – make one feel that nothing other than lip-service and ‘minority appeasement’ have taken place in the region. Thanks to decades of neglect in administration in the locality by the erstwhile communist regime and now under Trinamool Congress – Mamata has left a trail of evidence. 

It pictures how the polity has been reduced to a fiefdom of some hooligans. Along the highways are innumerable shanties and small houses covered in a haze of brown dust.


“Last developments in these localities were seen under Late Ghani Khan Chowdhury. Since then we only got good politics,” laments a Hindu resident shy to identify himself. Many Muslims readily agree. A CPI-M sympathizer Mofidul Haque (40) tries to explain the political game better.
“Mamata Banerjee has failed in last four and half years and therefore now craze for politics. She is nervous about North Bengal as Siliguri has almost returned to Leftists. Congress has been traditionally strong in Malda, Murshidabad, Raiganj and Berhampur segments,” he says.                        

           Politico-crime nexus:

“One Mafizul was with a local CPI-M once and quite powerful. He joined Trinamool a few months ago and what followed next is known to all,” say locals.

That Mafizul carries political clout is understandable from the fact that he has been made the president of Trinamool in neighbouring Sujapur block. Saharul Biswas, the former Trinamool president of Surajpur area, obviously does not share good relations with him. “Violence and political clashes have become common since Mafizul joined TMC,” Biswas alleges.  
Police officials would not like to talk much about individuals. After December 28 explosions, they simply went on look out for Liton even as making crude bombs is considered “regular and good business” by history sheeters and political elements in the district.
Malda district Trinamool chief Moazzem Hossain has, however, denied the involvement of his party in these violence incidents including the mob rampage at Kaliachak police station. 
“There is mischievous campaign against our party and Chief Minister. From day one, we have said police should investigate the cases properly and take appropriate actions. Didi has made it clear every time he came this side, we can never endorse any such illegal acts,” he waxes eloquently.
But the argument from Trinamool leaders has to be taken with a pinch of salt. 
The CPI-M supporters and those owing allegiance to BJP and Congress do not agree that TMC has a clean slate. “We all see these build up to state assembly elections. Mamata Banerjee wants to encash in Malda belt by playing minority card to the hilt. That’s why a desperate attempt to protect the Muslim law-breakers,” says BJP leader Shamik Bhattacharya. On January 6, Bhattacharya was detained in English Bazar police station in Malda after he and other local BJP leaders wanted to visit Kaliachak area.
SP, Prasun Banerjee later said Kaliachak area was under prohibitory orders under section 144 and thus the BJP delegation was barred from visiting the locality. Incidentally there was no improvement in situation even five days later when on January 11, the three-member BJP central team comprising S S Ahluwalia, Bhupender Yadav and Ram Bilas Vedanti - all deputed by Amit Shah – were prevented at Malda railway station and put on Shatabdi Express for return to Kolkata.

BJP sensed political motives in all these. So did the CPI(M). While Prakash Karat and Sitaram Yechury have targeted Mamata Banerjee for overall failure in administration, Raiganj MP Mohammed Salim visited Chanchal area, second largest town in Malda district, on January 11and slammed Mamata for “minority appeasement”.  
BJP MLA Shamik Bhattacharya has alleged district SP Prasun Banerjee of working as a Trinamool stooge. “He has been working as a district secretary of Trinamool and should be removed from his post,” he said. Another BJP leader from Malda district Srirupa Mitra Choudhury has urged the union Home Minister Rajnath Singh to visit Malda and Kaliachak soon.  

On January 12, 2016, a BJP delegation led by Kailash Vijayvargiya met Rajnath Singh and urged him to take cognizance of the situation in Malda. The Home Ministry later decided to depute an official team to visit the violence-hit district.

In meeting with the Home Minister Rajnath, Vijayvargiya also alleged that “pro-Pakistan” slogans were raised by the mob. In a memorandum submitted to the Home Minister, the delegation demanded among other things that the Trinamool government in the state should be directed “to take positive steps to restore people’s sense of security and confidence”.  

Saturday, January 16, 2016

Communist Miscarriage: Bengal’s demise and Mamata administration

West Bengal political violence and overwhelming instances of politisation of the entire police machinaries in the state is slowly drifting towards a war which no one probably wanted and – no one can win it in the ultimate.

The Mamata regime is again under fire. This time for helping a Trinamool leader Mohammad Sohrab’s son “escape” – after he was allegedly involved in a hit and run case that left an Air Force personnel dead. The BJP took the battle to the President as also on January 16, 2016, actress Rupa Ganguly – women wing chief of BJP Bengal – led party protestors in a street-side demonstration in front of Lal Bazar.
Police deny there’s any cover up efforts. “We are not concerned about how many people were inside the car. Right now, our main target is to nab all the three accused (Ambia Sohrab, Sambia Sohrab and Sonu). We’ll only be able to throw more light in the case once we have them in our custody,” a police officer said.
Bangla Role Models !!
Rupa Ganguly of Draupadi fame in TV serial acidly also made a veiled attack on the Left parties on the site of protest when she said CPI(M) was “number 1” – to be blamed for the deteriorating law and order situations and “police inactions” in Bengal. “Trinamool Congress is something much bigger and even above that number one,” she said.

I have maintained at times in these blogs and elsewhere that the illustrious Bertrand Russel is out of fashion these days. Some decades back he had put it quite graciously: “Indian democracy was intended to serve as an example of the possibility of economic emancipation without the sacrifice of democratic forms”.
Well, West Bengal is a test case of utter FAILURE of this definition!

In 2011, Mamata Banerjee ousted the Leftists ending their 34-year-old monopoly on Bengal politics but with often harmful and yet contagious and menacing influence on Bengali mind. So much was Bengal pushed to an ideological bankruptcy that it did not mind embracing someone called Mamata Banerjee – a product of Congress backyards – as the alternative and perhaps their savior. Nothing changed on ground. Nothing could have changed. It has turned worse, according to many. 

I know of Trinamool Congress law-makers, who say privately, “I will win no doubt…that’s my good luck. But that is also the ill-luck of Bengal”. “…..eitai Bangla-r dur bhagya,” he had said precisely and did not lament – I suppose.

Let us come back to blankness of Bengali mind however punctuating with my confession on own onetime favorite liner during younger days in St Anthony’s High School – “ami monei praney communist (I am communist by heart)”. 
Since World War II – that is 1940s- the world had understood that Marxism as an analytical guide to politics is OBSOLETE. But thanks to propaganda machines and ‘frog-in-the-pond’ and ‘know-all’ virtues of Bengalis and not forgetting equally amiable Mallus – Marxism survived and thrived in parts of India.

Thankfully it got carried over to my in-law’s land: Tripura too! And I assure you there are lot many ‘smart frogs’ in that world. Sadly, the political culture of the Congress and the socialists – Janata parivar – in national spectrum moved into Leftist trappings. Harkishan Singh Surjeets could decide India is ‘safe’ under H D Deve Gowda.

Therefore the moral of the story is Triumph over Communism in 2011 while was Mamata’s ‘Her-story’, it did not mean a paradigm shift of Bengal politics and administration. Like all greatness about Bengalis, Bengal and Maxism under that illustrious Bhadralok Jyoti Basu – who easily threw up adjectives like ‘barbarous’ on BJP – Trinamool dispensation under Didi also bequeathed a series of conflicts for the people. 
The indifference to ‘religious doctrines’ evaporated the faith and fear of value system and the lack of it. This opened room for goondaism in gully politics, Puja pandals and in rural Bengal. 

It also heralded appeasement of a community calling themselves ‘minority’ and yet their struggle towards a better life never found emancipation in the administrative rule book of Jyotism and later under Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee. 

There was innate parochialism . This meant only Bengalis could criticise Bengal. L K Advani as India’s Home Minister could not nor could Khushwant Singh – if he happened to make some remarks on Rabindranath Tagore’s skills on writing fictions.

When the plot changed after 2011 – the scenario suited Mamata Banerjee. She displayed Bengali culture when she sold paintings for huge amount, she displayed courtesy of ‘Sonar Bangla’ when she said her police force could tie Narendra Modi in a rope on his waist. She threw names like ‘Haridas Pal’ on politicians of other hues. Bengal was rising?
With the death of Lenin, his followers almost gave up the slogan: ‘the workers have no fatherland’. Mamata redefined that with her ideology and in the context of motherland India. Thus she finds logic when natives of Malda can have “conflicts” with Border Security Force. 
From Burdwan district to Malda, border areas became hyper sensitive.
Have not we heard such statements from insurgency-hit northeastern states and Jammu and Kashmir? So what was really happening around Malda? Fake currency, opium cultivation. Is Mother Saradha above having her share of smiles?

     TMC leader's son Ambia Sohrab  (Facebook)

 I compliment Kerala for not discovering their version of Didi. Mamata Banerjee has contemporaries in Kerala politics like soft-spoken K V Thomas. Both came to Lok Sabha first in 1984 – 8th Lok Sabha.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Modi’s Pakistan Policy 2016: A re-evaluation

Attempts to resolve Indo-Pak problems without criticism, risk and failure is like thinking about globalization where people do not have both purchasing power and the shopping habits.  

Both Pakistan and India have been preoccupied with and about each other for greater part of their respective existence as two entities since 1947. In Pakistan, foreign policy experts believe neither India nor Pakistan had planned the 1965 war.