Caste discourse in Bengal always remained uncomfortable!
Caste discourse in Bengal always remained uncomfortable for many since the beginning but under the left government's 35 years rule it was too difficult but now Mamta has learnt a lot from them. This is the irony in India that opponents learn from each other and follow the same dictates. After staying in Kolkata for a couple of days, I was invited by a group of dynamic young creative activists to Nalikul, a small town, a few kilometers away from famously known 'Singur'. I was supposed to speak on caste and its influence in our minds and what may be way out. These friends had booked a hall for the talk. I arrived at Nalikul on 24th evening around 530 pm since I was given time frame that the talk would start at 6 pm. When we reach to our friends place, we were informed that the booking that they made was cancelled just a few hours earlier. The hall owner was under tremendous pressure not to allow. It is not that we were organising a huge meeting but a small interaction on the issue. The owner of the hall, I was told, was close associate of a Trinamul Congress leader.
But we were not deterred. We got a place which was semi constructed where this group of young boys and girls set and I can tell you candidly that it was a very satisfactory session. It started nearly 730 and went on till late 1230 pm with each participant deeply engrossed in the discussion. It was not a preaching but a conversation despite i thoroughly enjoyed and perhaps so did the participants.
Bengal is sitting on a volcano of communal hatred which might erupt any time if not taken on head on administratively as well as politically. Already, we are witnessing saffron upsurge at many places. The threat is real and signs are visible.
Bengal constitute nearly 25-30% Muslim population and 20% Dalit population. Together they can change the destiny of the state which has a history of working together which the Bangla nationalism brought. Will Bengal rise up and defeat the fanatics ? It will not be possible unless there is a strong Dalit Muslim OBC alliance in the state. So far the brahmanical leadership of all the political parties have desisted speaking on it because it means the 'sacred' domain of the power will have to be debrahmanised but the time has come now to talk about castes in Bengal. Most of the Bengali Muslims are actually Dalit-Pasmanda Muslims and therefore their alliance with Dalits will be natural yet there is no discourse. The Bengali intellectual class would not like to cede their privileged positions to Dalits and they realise that it will be the Hindutva which can keep their interest safe and hence the love for saffron among this elite is growing. Saffron politics is long term based. They would like to polarise Bengal therefore it is time to talk strongly on the Alliance building between various unrepresented marginalised sections which has been been marginalised by the brahmanical elite of Bengal.
Vidya Bhushan Rawat
April 25th, 2017