While the West Bengal Chief Minister was busy with her engagements in feel-good fairs, Kolkata was witnessing a horrible violence at a college which even led to the death of a police inspector. The local media, which was capturing the scuffle between two students union, showed the red-dressed murderer and claimed latter that the youth was known as ‘Imlay'. The CPI(M) slammed the state government, accusing the latter had made it free for all while the ruling party, the Trinamool Congress (TMC) said it was a problem caused by the Left and the Congress. The two clashing unions were those of the Congress and the TMC.
Whatever be the blame game and whoever is at fault, there is no denying the fact that West Bengal has failed to get rid of the evil called ‘politicisation of education'. Mamata Banerjee is often heard of claiming that her administration would separate politics from education and script a turnaround from the days of the Left. She stressed quality as her priority when she set up a mentoring group for the prestigious Presidency University to help the institute regain its height. But within twenty-one months, it has been proved that the CM's cosmetic surgery achieved nothing. West Bengal has remained where it was.
The problem is much deep-rooted. What's happening today is not something that Banerjee had started. Her regime is just witnessing the continuation of the same old game and because it's an ill-equipped administration, there is no hope that things will improve in the near future.
No structural change
The change of guard at the Writers' in May 2011 was not any change in direction. It did not call for any structural change in the state's socio-political and economic modes of functioning. It was just a desperately sought relief to see the back of the same faces that had been ruling the state for 34 years. But just changing of the faces does not alter the legacy. Banerjee declared that her government would rewrite the future of Bengal in golden words and a section of the society and the media, who were fatigued by her predecessors' stagnant politics, expected an upheaval to follow. But never did they think that the legacy of 34 years has been so deeply entrenched that it will be virtually impossible for a weaker and disorganised regime the undo the past. It is precisely what's happening in Bengal today.
Left showed the way
Let's see the education sector in the state. It has been one of the strongest pillars of the Bengali way of life but the Left chose to repeatedly stab it during its rule. The totalitarian motives of the Marxists ensured that mediocrity excelled in the state while the education system was conveniently transformed into a means to widen the party's base. Education was brought under the grips of a rigid ideology and meritocracy became the last word on the list of preference for those who called the shots. It was systematically done so that the youth, the hope for tomorrow, surrendered its mind before the party's superiority and learn to toe its line blindly. "If they have Amartya Sen, we have Nirupam Sen (a former Left minister)", is what a strong party organizing member had said once when he was asked to value talents.
This process, continuing for a prolonged period, halved the Bengali society between the meritorious and the party-created pundits. The former soon began to move out for they found it difficult to co-exist with the latter, far more in number and power. The result: Bengal turned into a wasteland of failed individuals (or rather party cadres) who only knew how to serve the party for the latter to ensure their survival. The rich political campus of institutes turned out into the playing ground of aspiring anti-socials and goons. In the name of student politics, what Bengal has ultimately come to face is an ugly game of violence and destruction. Education became a system that produced party cadres rather than good talents.
If the leaders of the TMC today feel terribly disgusted even at the slightest mention of the Left, it is because those people either felt themselves or saw someone else around them falling victim to a party-influenced system which also included education. The Frankensteins are hitting back at their creators and a game of revenge is currently on in Bengal.
Hard to break the vicious cycle
There is no way that the vicious cycle can be broken in near future. The set of rulers who replaced the previous ones two years ago does not have the social capital and hence fresh ideas required to overhaul the crumbling socio-political or socio-economic infrastructure.
On the worse side, it also does not have an alternative ideological orientation to make a welcome change or even attempt one. If the Left Front had inherited an educational sector battered by the Naxalite problem, the TMC inherited a completely ruined sector. We see party-backed rogues having easy access to educational institutes while they should be in jail. They are being utilised with a hope that the party will be able to penetrate the young minds for its longer survival just like the Left but since the former has no ideology or organisation apart from being a one-woman show, there is little hope that the process of smooth indoctrination will ever take place. Instead, we see institute violence turning out to be a regular affair. From Raiganj to Kolkata, the list is already long and it's not even two years.
The tragedy of Bengal is that: Mamata Banerjee is the new Left while the Left is the new Mamata. And Bengal needs a third force, a fresh one, to make a move towards hope.