A step-by-step scenario.
An analysis by me, a former, longtime member (and leader) of RSS and ABVP.
-Part 1.-
BJP in power in West Bengal? Are you kidding me? You might say.
But no, I’m not kidding you. I’m serious about it.
It was unthinkable just a few years ago that BJP, Hindu fundamentalist party, will have so much influence in West Bengal, a state that has had a long history of progressive, secular movements. It was unthinkable that BJP will come to power in Assam, a state similar to Bengal with a Muslim population of 34 percent. If Assam can have a BJP government now (they just won the elections there), why can’t they do it in West Bengal — in five or ten years?
It is entirely possible, and I’m telling you how.
Bengalis have seen a bloody partition that divided the nation forever, gone through another traumatic war in 1971 that gave rise to the sovereign country of Bangladesh, and witnessed horrific Hindu-Muslim violence that has killed and displaced millions; yet they pledged to live in harmony, rejecting hate and religious extremism.
Even when Bangladesh, the other side of partitioned Bengal, has seen mass exodus of Hindus since the 1947 partition, and West Bengal has seen a rapid rise of its Muslim population, both sides of the border have done their best to keep their societies united. Religion-based riots have practically not happened in West Bengal in the last half a century; even the 1992 Babri Mosque demolition that swept India with communal violence and massive bloodshed was not able to cause major violence in Calcutta and elsewhere in the state. Major credit goes to the left, progressive and secular movements and their administrations that have kept West Bengal and its Hindus, Muslims, Christians and atheists safe.
Although I never belonged to a communist party, I must give credit to the left parties, then in power, for sustaining this peace and calm.
Hinduism in West Bengal, unlike many others parts of India, has rejected fundamentalism and social chauvinism. Islam in Bangladesh has forcefully rejected the Mullah dictates from Saudi Arabia and moved polar opposites of violent and oppressive social doctrines. Although we never hear on mainstream media here in the U.S., Muslims in Bangladesh have created a gender-equal society, through progressive social movements and science-based education. People are religious in rural areas, and many atheists live in mostly urban areas, but none of them condone violence and extremism.
Unfortunately, the landscape is fast changing. Fanatics and fundamentalists have gained ground on both sides of Bengal: Islamic extremists such as Jamat and Hindu extremists such as RSS have gained political mileage in recent years. Jamat has their political operatives in major parties including the ruling Awami League to a lesser extent and opposition BNP and Jatiya Party to a greater extent. Likewise, RSS has their own political wing BJP that is now in national power in Delhi; their many social fronts have mushroomed across the state of West Bengal.
RSS march
RSS, unlike common knowledge, is the parent organization that was founded back in 1925 by a Hindu chauvinist doctor in the conservative state of Maharashtra. My father has been a lifelong, hardcore believer of the organization, and has worked closely with its stalwarts such as former prime minister of India A. B. Vajyapee, L. K. Advani, et al. My father Jitendra Nath Banerjee sacrificed his college education to work full time with RSS, and was jailed after the assassination of Mahatma Gandhi in 1948 (a member of RSS killed Gandhi, and the new Indian government banned the organization). He came to West Bengal in 1951 after being released; RSS leaders sent him to Calcutta as a party whole timer or “pracharak.”
I became involved with the organization when I was six years old. I left them when I was about twenty two, out of ideological disillusionment. When I left, I was the West Bengal state secretary of RSS’ student wing ABVP, or Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad.
I later wrote a book about the umbrella organization and their many fronts. My book “In the Belly of the Beast” was published from Delhi in 1998.
My father was devastated when the book came out. He became very silent, and we do not speak about politics, ever, since then.
He is 92 now, and lives in Calcutta.
(to be continued…)
Partha Banerjee
Brooklyn, New York
Jamat BD