Another life perishes in West Bengal. A youth leader died on Tuesday after he was mercilessly beaten up by the police. His crime was that he had gone to join a rally to protest against the state government's decision of not holding college elections after a policeman was killed in an ugly pitch battle which had broken out ahead of a college poll in the city a couple of months ago.
The administration suspended college election after the law-keeper was shot dead by a goon. But the very decision to suspend college election led to another death, this time a youthful protester getting killed by the same law-keepers.
The civil society roars in disgust, the opposition screams in anger, social media network is flooded with tearful words but yet there is no guarantee from any quarter that what has been happening in the state over the last few months will not be repeated in the future. In fact, each of those who keep an interest in the state politics are deeply worried about the outcome of the panchayat polls due in a few months time (given they are held at all) and its consequences.
No point in blaming only Mamata Banerjee
It is not just a question of Mamata Banerjee's administrative failure, as some people are saying. There is no doubt that the post-parivartan West Bengal has seen more downs than ups but the reason for this failure can not be just attributed to Banerjee's way of functioning. West Bengal has undergone a complete degeneration and given the social capital it has at its disposal today, there is little hope that the current situation can be overcome, at least in the near future.
There is no point to believe that just a change of political guard can alter a society's fate unless a massive social engineering mission is undertaken. West Bengal's social woes are not new. The geographical blow delivered by the Partition had crippled its economic fortune long ago and subsequent political instability never allowed it to strive for the betterment. The early 1970s were a horrendous episode in the state's history when a lion-share of its intellectual capital was shattered by state retaliation.
The late 1970s had seen an ambitious Left Front regime taking over but decades of entrenched rule by the same political clout saw a decay setting in. The Bengali culture comprising academic superiority and critical faculty had received a body blow during the social engineering which the once-invincible Left had started in the society. The state had moved backward and the better of the best soon deserted the intellectual capital of the country. The political rulers of the day, in the name of establishing equality, set in a practice of mediocrity and the art had been perfected in 34 long years.
Mamata was a replacement, not an alternative
There was no reason to feel delighted when Banerjee took over for she had inherited a rotten structure which could never be repaired. But yet, the elite bhadralok classes of the Bengali society had felt that here came the savior. The elitist-media too felt the same. But none of these ambitious quarters had understood that Banerjee was just a replacement and not an alternative. It was beyond her capacity to script a turnaround for she neither had the social nor economic capital to overhaul the system.
She understood that as a naïve administrator who had little capacity to make things happen, the best way to cling on to power was by making promises and blame others for all the woes. The moment she went to the defensive, all hell broke loose in the state. For there can not be a vacuum anywhere and Banerjee's hollow party politicians also started taking calls for it was never possible for a single leader to do everything on earth. Her advisors started offering disastrous advices. After the excessive dominance of the Left, it was the under-performance of the post-Left which did a massive damage to Bengal.
Bengal today needs to differentiate between political and the rest
If the state is witnessing shocking deaths taking place in broad daylight, it is because not a single mind there is devoted to the cause of engaging in something for betterment outside the purview of politics. Mamata Banerjee hasn't started this trend. She has just carried on the tradition and out of compulsion. The statecraft doesn't know how to differentiate the political from the administrative. The result: everywhere we are seeing how a monstrous politics is devouring us. Even now, in the aftermath of the SFI leader's death, people are busy debating pro- and anti-government stands in politics. Even the Left sympathisers' attitude has been disappointing. It is unfortunate.
Are bhadraloks ready to take up the battle?
Individualism is being sacrificed at the altar of politics in Bengal today and quite regularly. But this can not go on for long. It will be interesting to see how many members of the state where a bhadralok-dominated political culture rules will stand up on the occasion and ensure that things don't slide further. It looks West Bengal will be in the ruins in 2016, the year when it goes to the next assembly polls. But a man can only get up after reaching to his knees. Can the state find a better alternative instead of just a replacement? The question is: How many are willing to take up the battle?