Deganga West Bengal’s Ayodhya?
“Faith (imam) and infidelity (kufr), both are galloping on the way towards Him,
And are exclaiming (together): He is one and none shares His kingship.”
Darbar-i-Akbari by Muhammad Husain Azad (pg 492) tells us that Abul Fadl had this verse inscribed on a building which the eclectic emperor Akbar had built for the common use of the Hindus and Muslims.
There were a plethora of articles, essays and reportage with regard to the Ayodhya verdict. In fact, there was no dearth of publications, both national as well as ‘international’ which did not discuss the issue. Undoubtedly, the matter was of profound significance and could have had a serious politico-security impact on the Indian state. Nevertheless, it seems that two decades must have taken away a lot of steam and momentum from it. A globalised, post 9/11 India, especially its youth may not be that much interested in the debate of Mandir-Masjid. They are rather more engrossed in the aspects of career.
Still, even in this subdued political atmosphere of 2010, on the day of the verdict, the streets exhibited a deserted look; shutters of most of the shops were down and majority of the vehicles were unmoved. That too in Kolkata: the city which boasts of being the epicenter of communal harmony; at least for the last three decades of Marxist governance.
Interestingly, this same city was full of gaiety and fanfare when at around 40 km away from its international airport; a group of people were languishing in their own prison-like habitats. The reason: communal disharmony. Or one should aptly refer to it as ‘ruffian-like hooliganism’ inflicted on a section of the populace; which went visibly unnoticed by their brethren. This is not to be seen only through the prism of religion; but surely to be viewed in terms of responsibility of a civilized nation-state, where the administrative machinery still does declaim to exist.
Has the time come to deconstruct the political apparatus of this six-decade old democracy? Conservatives may not subscribe to such a radical viewpoint. Even if not, then even the most hardliner probably would agree that a serious re-thinking in that direction is necessary. At least one particular parameter needs to be looked into, analysed thoroughly and the hypocritical moorings pruned off, sooner; the better.
As an Indian citizen, we feel proud to vociferously proclaim the secularist strand that echoes through the labyrinth of our voluminous Constitution; sometimes explicitly in the form of Fundamental Rights and at times, even implicitly. And we decry counter-arguments manifested in the vitriolic attacks launched on us both from within as well as from without as far as secularism is concerned.
We also boast of an impartial judicial system which takes care, through writs, of any infringement on our Fundamental Rights. And last but not the least; we flex our intellectual muscles when we talk about our independent media and civil society: which do not merely act as the fourth pillar of democracy by extending Montesquieu’s categorical definition of the term; but definitely act as an important platform to showcase independent thought in an independent India.
But where were the media, the civil society, the politicos, the administration and the common man when a section of hapless Hindus (the author is helplessly using this term) were being traumatised in a secular land? They were not being subjected to torture, pillage and rapine in an Islamist state, which is governed by the Shariat: that could have still provided a raison d’etre to the overt acts of those goons. Rather they were being ‘mentally demolished’ in a land which grants ‘freedom of religion’ to every citizen.
And what was the dispute all about? Well, about a piece of land. Yes, again a piece of land.
As Dr Tharoor points out in his book INDIA: From Midnight to the Millennium and Beyond, that there exists a ‘hackneyed phrase that there are several Indias in one India’; this particular event corroborates the cliché once again. However, Dr Tharoor may not appreciate this ‘India’ that is being discussed in this article.
He, like many liberal thinkers, who may or may not have been mentally and intellectually persecuted by a group of over-enthusiastic right-wingers; have quite unnecessarily shielded themselves from a reality which now sometimes haunts us in our wildest dreams, but would probably graduate toward ominous proportions if not taken due care.
The reality that is being put forth here is not unknown to any of the Indians, and not in any way alien to the liberal writers, thinkers and politicos of all shades and colours. The reality not just pertains to pseudo-secularism, since the word betrays semantics, but rather of ‘deprivation’, of ‘beguiling a large section of the populace’, of ‘emasculating a group’ and of ‘dismantling the very structure for which our forefathers gave up their lives’.
Coming back to the incident, on September 07, 2010, a group of hooligans, allegedly under the tutelage of Haji Nurul Islam, a Member of Parliament (MP) from the Bashirhat constituency, vandalised the Kali Mandir in the Deganga intermediate Panchayat area: a place which is close to a busy hub of the capital of West Bengal.
Why did the goons do this? Actually, they wanted to extend the graveyard and naturally got engaged in a conflict with the ‘other’ community, who perform Durga Puja for years in a nearby compound. As an altercation ensued, the huns under the auspices of the local MP wielded their authority and the police were to act as bystanders, as has always been the case in West Bengal for the last three decades.
However, it seems that apocalypse is looming large on the horizons of the province because this time around, the MP belonged to Trinamool Congress, the party which is believed to bring succour to the people of the province after the thirty-year long maladministration and malnourishment of the Left.
Now, this really turns out to be dangerous. Who would the beleaguered people now confide in? The Left has been termed as pseudo-secularists and now the centrists seem to be a close second in that regard. The far right has been distinctly disowned by the people themselves. In fact, they are no less than a pariah in West Bengal.
A seasoned political analyst would comment as follows: “As we live in ghettos in India, based on language, religion, caste etc, our politics is also moulded accordingly. Hence, the majority has nothing to fear, even if they are a minority on a national or provincial scale. What would actually matter is the population density of a particular group in a constituency.”
The author would like to yell and ask that analyst: “Should we not again go back to the Morley-Minto Reforms of 1909 and give to ourselves the separate electorates? Should we not undo the reforms of the Father of the Nation? And should we not reverse the irreversible tract of historical formation of India?”
And if we are impotent enough to do either of the aforementioned, then please let us not always be confounded, bemused and manhandled by a ludicrous set of political generalissimos. And let us all break the yoke of a biased liberal thought-process which quite ‘illiberally’ terms any antagonistic literature as reactionary, conservative, communal and biased.
The desecration of the Kali Mandir at Deganga is an irreversible process, no doubt. The Hindus reacted in the Satyagraha-esque manner by not performing the Durga Puja this year. Even then, the reluctance of mainstream media to cover the event evokes stupefaction.
No sane character would, however, contemplate an equally uncivil attack on the ‘other’ community since in the lexicon of the sane; the word ‘other’ ought not to exist. But the single most important thing at this juncture is to bring the perpetrators to book; whosoever they are.
If the rule of law is to exist in independent India, then the guilty needs to be sent to the hoosegow. If the people of India in general and West Bengal in particular are still to have faith in the constitutional process, then the culpable has to be incarcerated. The travails and tribulations of the ‘minority’ in Deganga must end.
As a disclaimer, this article is not preaching any dogma, nor proliferating any parochial mindset; but merely labouring for an enlightenment of both the masses and intellectuals alike to not perpetuate a ‘false sense of secularism’ which has been held hostage to political hooliganism and a systemic criminalisation of the Indian political apparatus.
Well, at last, the light may be at the end of the tunnel, if not for India as a whole but may be for the ‘minorities’ at Deganga. The National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) asked the West Bengal government to file a report on the violence that took place on September 7, within a month. But again, reports and commissions for most of the times foster delinquency.
For Deganga to become West Bengal’s Ayodhya, there needs to be a complete revitalisation of ‘consciousness’ of the masses of the province, which seems unlikely in the foreseeable future unless propelled by some externalities. Nevertheless, an ‘Ayodhya-isation’ of the issue is evidently not desirable. But if the interests of the ‘minorities’ are not safeguarded in a ghettoised India and especially in West Bengal, then fanning of sentiments of gullible denizens would be easy.
What the masses basically need is the rectitude of the government, whichever composition it might be. And no one desires a Godhra or Ayodhya or for that matter a Deganga. What Akbar could do in the medieval era surely can be replicated in the post-colonial.
By Uddipan Mukherjee from Kolkata