Secular Bengal has been slow-poisoned by vote-bank politics

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The blast in Burdwan and the discovery of connection between terror modules in West Bengal and Bangladesh and incidents like Muslims joining the BJP in Birbhum district raise a deep-rooted question: Has Bengal been communalised to a dangerous extent? Is the 'naturally secular' culture of Bengal under an unprecedented threat?

If it is so, why did it so happen in state which once proudly told the world that unlike Gujarat or Uttar Pradesh, it never saw communal tension?

Why Bengal is no more secular

Bengal started undergoing change since the early 1990s as the Left tightened its grip

The answer is purely political. Till the late 1980s, religious sentiments were far less important in the villages of Bengal. Even if the level of literacy was moderate among the Muslims, the focus was more on earning a minimum livelihood. The picture started undergoing change in the early 1990s as the Left tightened its grip on Bengal's socio-political life.

Left's social-engineering for votes crippled administration and good forces of the society

The Left government undertook a social engineering whereby the natural forces of the society were crippled to give way to party's control so that the vote-bank isn't disturbed.

This was the time when the tilt towards conservatism started. Fundamentalists started to have their ways and the secular culture of the state, in which creative and scientific practices began to fade. The administration was left paralysed so not to annoy the minorities and the fundamentalist forces took full use of this.

Liberal thinking vanished from among the Muslim community

Such a trend soon eroded the liberal thinking of the Muslim communities. Donations gathered from Muslim villages were used for religious purposes. Worse, the practices of staging cultural programmes in the villages slowly vanished because of the fundamentalist thinking.

Icons like Kazi Najrul Islam lost their appeal and even Muslim literary work failed to penetrate much. Instead, words of jihadi icons took over the task of training young minds and the result of which was seen in the recent Khagragarh blast episode.

Trinamool Congress was never in a position to replace the Left's harmful socio-political model

The Trinamool Congress government that took over after 34 years since 1977 could never replace the Left's model of social engineering and hence there was no possibility of turning the tide against the damage that had been done to the society over two decades.

The Left ignored the minority society's transformation to protect its vote-bank

The Bengali intelligentsia was also found busy finding a place in the political camps and media products instead of addressing these issues of utmost importance and hence the disease that started at the roots was left unaddressed till the bomb went off in Khagragarh.

Social reforms needed urgently

So how can Bengal deal with this situation which is slowly going out of control? It is important that an initiative is taken to encourage the cultural practices that had once acted as catalysts of secularism in the remote corners of the state. Recalling the legacy of Rabindranath Tagore, Sukanta Bhattacharya and Najrul Islam is significant to make the project a success.

Bengal has a rich reserve of cultural and creative legacy. The soft medicine can work wonders as a remedy of a complicated disease.

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