A lot of my BJP supporting friends say this. Surely, Kerala has its active foothold over communism in current times but when it comes to Bengalis, they have been more vocal about communism. Connecting the dots can easily answer your question. Also, reading some of the books. Don’t watch movies. You can complete a short novel within the time you finish watching a movie long enough. Remember the dialogue by Tigmangshu Dhulia (Ramadhir Singh from Gangs of Wasseypur). And oh yeah, Happy World Books Day since this article was written on 23rd April!
Let’s get into the topic. We talk about the 1950s (pre Communist era in Bengal). The ruling party then, Indian National Congress (INC) wanted to impose the idea that Nehruvian and Gandhian contributions led to India’s freedom. Now, of course this idea wasn’t going to work in an area which was proud of having numerous freedom fighters viz Khudiram Bose, Bipin Chandra Pal, Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose etc. Though, regular schools taught that it was Mahatma who brought them freedom, this appeared far fetched for the teenage students who knew this was not the case.
There’s a book called “Midnight to Glorious Morning?” by Mihir Bose. I would recommend you to read it because it underlines all the failures of the socialism in India before 1991. Mihir Bose describes himself as one of the people from the “midnight children” generation like Saleem Sinai, the character from Salman Rushdie’s book “Midnight Children”. According to the book, there were 26 listed Rabindrasangeet which were banned by the Nehruvian government to play in Calcutta AIR. (1956). Not just that, plays after Rabindranath Tagore’s works ‘Gora’ and ‘Amanabik’ were banned too. The film Neel Akasher Neeche by Mrinal Sen was banned, journalist Gour Kishore Ghose was jailed for speaking against Nehru; the film Mahesh (based on a short story written by Sharat Chandra Chattopadhyay was banned. For those who don’t know, he was the same person who wrote the original Devdas).
Anuj Dhar (renowned expert on classic Netaji files) testifies in a video that when he talked to some of the senior teachers of his age, and they said the following: ‘It’s a part of Government curriculum that wants you to know Mahatma Gandhi brought freedom to India but as we have been through the (pre-independent) age, we know its Netaji.’
Hence, we can see that there was an organised attempt to shut down or undermine any superior Bengali ideas during 1950-1960 phase. However, you cannot feed lies to an overwhelming majority of audience. And people are going to look for support in their own rights. This is the reason we see a split from indian National Congress twice over the years. At first, the Bangla Congress broke away from the mainstream INC in 1950s and remained till 1977. Then, we see the modern day Trinamool Congress.
Enter Naxal oppression. Now, there is no similarity with Nehruvian oppression in 50s and early 60s, and armed peasant revolts in the late 60s but there was a common ground for which the Communist revolution garnered a lot of quick support. And that was the contempt for Indian state.
“The Indian State is a bourgeois institution and that the main Indian communist parties had embraced revisionism by agreeing to operate within the framework of the Constitution of India.”
– Second document of the historic eight documents by Charu Majumder.
The upper class city-dwelling gentlemen on the other hand, were often neutral and had huge acres of lands back in their villages. A lot of them were either supporters of Bangla Congress or the INC – the reigning powers in state during those times. Armed peasant revolts did much to destroy their morale and perceived higher ground amongst the landless labourers and people of Bengal en masse. Things started to turn nasty. The government started mobilizing police officers. The inspector of Jharugaon village was killed by peasant committee members. In retaliation the police open fired killing nine women and one child on 25 May 1967. Instances of students being abducted up by police on jeep became common. The police then halted in the outskirts of the cities, releasing them onto stray fields and firing them to label the students as communist rebels. The struggles continued and finally the Communist government came into power three years later in 1970, and remained till 2011.
Here, the BJP didn’t exist during the 1947 to 1979. BJP was only formed in 1980. The ideological precursor JP didn’t come into formation. Likeminded people from RSS did lots to encourage education and provided textbooks which spoke neutral facts or facts from the lens of Hedgewar. Shyama Prasad Mukherjee never included anything in the Bengali context. The RSS also failed to realise that kids aren’t going to shape society, their views will automatically change when they discover worlds where Marx and Lenin are the de reguir and revolution is the pathway. Their minds can be altered as they grow up. Hence, teaching ideology to kids doesn’t work.
Second thing. In an interview with indologist Rajiv Malhotra, Mohan Bhagwat says that RSS was a late bloomer in the world of academia, media and communications. The use of press and media for RSS only started in 1980s. Before this, the left had already published numerous articles, books, within the 30 year span starting right from the independence. It’s like starting a career in cricket at the age of 35. Surely, not everything is over but a large part of the phase is indeed underutilized. The early RSS was more into rapid community building and discipline. This is RSS’ core strength and the establishment of 750 shakhas of RSS in Bengal, by the year 2013 bears a testimony to it.
Now you might wonder why am I talking about history for so long? Well, the Communist Party planted the seeds of indegenous pride with the proletariat being at the one who decides for themselves and an ethos which protected them. Despite numerous strikes, lockouts, red tapism, dwindling economy as a whole, the Bengalis were proud of themselves to assert who they are for the first time. English, as a medium of education was cut from the nip. Bengali medium schools propped up in huge numbers under Jyoti Basu, the communist chief minsiter of Bengal from 1977 to 2000.
Oh, did I just forget Jawaharlal Nehru brought this crazy rule in late 1950s that not more than 50 people must attend a wedding? The books where you can find the citations behind these are:
‘India Unbound’ by Gurcharan Das
‘Nice Guys Finish Second’ by Braj Kumar Nehru
“It’s painful that, after ten years of indepedence, an agricultural country cannot feed itself. It would be wrong for us to blame the gods, or the stars or flood and drought. We must recognise that there must be something lacking in our approach which has led us to this relative lack of success.”
– Jawaharlal Nehru (1957)
Back in the day, Indian marriages used to take place for weeks compared to the current situation where its over in two to five days, hundreds were fed and the menu ran several pages. The reason why Nehru took this decision was to curtail the overwhelming use of the PL 480 wheat variety which India imported from the US. Such was the shortage of food in the late 50s. Like any other brand of socialism, Nehruvian socialism wasn’t any different.
It is important to note that the balkanisation of the larger state to form small indegenous population is the role of a lot of new age communists. In a perfect communism, the state has to take care of all the job and welfare of its citizens and to have it, one needs to know the groups of people. Gigantic population, here, is always an adversary because the state turns confused about whom to care about and scarily enough, whom not to. So, what does a communist leader do? Select an area and identify the oppressed people, instill pride in their people and construct a narrative of bourgeoisie vs proletariat, fight for equality and appear progressive. When these are over, the final step is to ascend to the throne. The modus operandi is the same everywhere. And so, was the case of Bengal.
The Communists overturned the rule of curtailed wedding attendance and allowed Bengalis to celebrate someone’s weddings for as long as they could. The communist parties held their own pandals during the Durga Puja, some of which continues till date and holds historical significance. The labourers, who created these pandals, were given unwarranted privilege (as long as they stood with Communist Party of India, per se). Songs composed by Rabindranath Tagore were celebrated once again. It was the communists who rejuvenated the Bengali pride, a narrative which was cemented in Maharashtra and the southern states but lacking in the east. Call it nostalgia or call it Orwellian groupthink of current day communist-minded Bengalis, the fact remains that Bengali affiliation towards communism is more of a historical backlash against the Indian National Congress. And not BJP.
However, ideologies can be twisted over time. Fascism, an ideology crated by Giovanni Gentile holds that altruism has the highest value, higher than individualism and state has the highest authority, something which we see a lot in socialism and communism or the left. Gentile is said to be the inspiration for both Benito Mussolini or scholars today like Noam Chomsky or Slavoj Zizek, as they stand vindicated against capitalism. Same goes for Nazism or the ideas originated from National “Socialist” Party during the Third Reich. And not surprisingly BJP, which is considered an alt-right based on western opinion influencers and news anchors over South Asia viz Mehdi Hassan and Reza Aslan.
Communism here is an exception. It was a part of the political left and will always be. The aim of such a system is simple and that is, to rise against the oppression of a state (whether the state is actually oppressive or not is immaterial). Hence, we find the communism which once championed the cause of Bengali pride have diverted their ideologue in sync with the Keralite and North Eastern left to form an Indian communist narrative. Also, this is the reason why the entire left ecosystem is collectively against whom they perceive as a fascist while calling themselves a champion of secularism where everybody has “an equal opportunity”. The social media provides a great opportunity for people to come together and discuss ideas from all corners of the world and from herein, we see certain vocal Bengalis proud and against fascism (which factually died with Benito Mussolini)
And on that note, keep reading 🙂
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of SatyaVijayi