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Mainstream, VOL LIX No 24, New Delhi, May 29, 2021

Bengal is witnessing a class war between centrist and rightist forces | Arun Srivastava

Saturday 29 May 2021

by Arun Srivastava

Some intellectuals and academics have been urging the leaders of the farmers’ movement to heed the message that intensification of protest would aggravate pandemic and in view of this they should call off their agitation. These people symbolising the middle class liberal cultural sensibility and concern are right. Of course fears outright could not be dismissed that some farmers would succumb to the corona virus. But once they withdraw the movement thousands of them would turn beggars and die of hunger with none to take care of them.

These intellectuals mostly from the Indian middle class are not to be blamed for their recapitulated approach and views. They carry the legacy of feudalism which prevents them from taking to a new uncharted path. Why these conscience keepers do not rise against the demagogue rulers and ask them to perform or perish is really intriguing? Their concern for preserving the societal ethics has badly got exposed in their inability to raise their voice against the extortionist and exploitative mechanism of the rulers and political leadership.

It is an open secret that the corona patients are getting exploited, charged many times more than the prevailing market rate, but shamelessly these intellectuals have been behaving like passive spectators to this dirty game. Why are they not resorting to direct action against their political idols and force them to curb these mal practices. They cannot do it. They lack that moral guts, the commitment. They can shit on the pages of the newspapers but cannot dare to hit the streets as it erode their image of being the intellectuals.

Politically they claim to be centrist, liberal and democrat. But it is really a matter of shame that they have not been raising their voice against the rightist forces and exposing their designs. Let us take two latest incidents to understand their attitude. The farmers have been on satyagrah for last six months. Only once some of them wrote a letter to Narendra Modi to look into the demands of the farmers. They refrained from making this agenda. During the Bolshevik struggle or even during China’s fight, the intellectuals had hit the streets.

But what we notice in India, the intelligentsia shrugs of his broader responsibility by simply coming out with an appeal or a statement. It is a paradox that they have been reluctant to open their mouth and raise their voice even after being pushed out of the frame by the intellectuals enjoying the patronage of the Rightist forces. The Rightist forces on the mission to vanquish them.

These intellectuals should have visited the agitation sites where lakhs of farmers are sitting leaving their families behind at their native villages. They could have interacted with them and shared their emotions, sensibilities and sorrows. This would have boosted the morals of the farmers. The farmers began camping in the outskirts of Delhi when the first wave of the pandemic was past its peak. They are still sitting at the same place when the second wave of the pandemic has reached a critical stage and ravaging the country. They are undeterred of the consequences. Like a middle class individual the farmer could have preferred to hide in a corner of his house.

The farmers under the leadership of their Samyukta Kisan Morcha (SKM), the umbrella body of farmers’ unions, are rearing to re-launch and revive their agitation. The SKM relaunched the struggle with observing the national day of protest on May 26”. In a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, it admits to “being deeply conscious of the risks of the pandemic”.

These intellectuals and experts are often heard of expressing apprehension about the longevity of the agitation. They hold the notion that it is losing support and crowd. Obviously for judging the nature of the sustainability they must have some parameter. One would expect that these lackgentlemen should make their parameters. Let the farmers and agitator know what they lack. Unfortunately instead of helping the farmers and their leaders they have been pushing this negative idea and thought amongst them.

In the political history of India, during the past 72 years, never such sustained and disciplined struggle was witnessed. Almost all the struggles, particularly led and participated by the middle class people, had disintegrated after a certain time. But this has not been happening in the case of the farmers notwithstanding attempts being made out by the top BJP leaders, including Narendra Modi and Amit Shah to finish it. What is that element that motivates the farmers to keep alive the struggle and not to get trapped in any conspiratorial plan.

The second most important incident has been the conspiracy being hatched out by the RSS and Modi government to dismiss the Mamata government. The fight between Modi-Shah combine and Mamata may appear to purely political. But this has wider implication. These intellectuals and academic should take pains to explain why the BJP-RSS has singled out Bengal and used its entire energy and resources to ensure the defeat of Mamata. Was it for the simple reason to win the election? Or, was there anything more relevant and important which evades our perception and eyes.

The determination of the RSS to throw Mamata out of power was so captivating that Modi addressed 22 public rallies even after country was being ravaged by the corona. Amit Shah had rented a flat. He has turned a sort of permanent resident. Importance of election could be gauged from the simple fact that he used the land of a foreign country, in this case Bangladesh, to reach out to the backward castes residing in Bengal. He went to Bangladesh to persuade the religious leader of the Matua sect to issue a dictate to vote for him. This underlines the importance of Bengal election for RSS and BJP. Unfortunately they miserably lost the election. Modi met with waterloo in the battle field of Bengal.

Losing the election did not make them patient. On the contrary they turned more vindictive. Modi-Shah opted to use Central Bureau of Investigation to destabilise Mamata government and malign her image. At the direction of Amit Shah the CBI framed four senior TMC leaders including three ministers in Narada scam. They were already charge sheeted but CBI tried to arrest them and take them in custody.

There is no ambiguity about the nature and character of the legal war that has been going on in Calcutta High Court. So far it appeared to be a war of attrition between the CBI and Mamata Banerjee on the arrest of TMC ministers and leaders. But now it has no inhibition; it is a class war, a battle between two ideologies.

It manifests the deep rooted conspiracy hatched out by the Rightist forces led by the RSS and BJP to smash the centrist and liberal forces and make them subjugate to their diktats. RSS is aware that with the traditional Left forces losing their relevance and sting in the prevailing political scenario, the onus to fight the right forces lies on the centrist forces. If they somehow succeed in their mission to denigrate the centrist forces then in that backdrop they can aspire to have complete hegemony on the political system and institution of India. It has become imperative for their survival.

The Rightist forces true to their political philosophy have been consistently raising two issues; who after Modi and which party. They have succeeded to a large extent that there is no leader who can challenge Modi. But the water loo of the BJP in Bengal election has exposed the hollowness of this political line. Notwithstanding their systematic vilification campaign and striving to polarise the Hindus, the centrist forces outright rejected the fascist design of the Rightist forces. The authoritative manner in which Amit Shah and Modi claimed of wresting the state from Mamata, had unnerved the centrist and liberal forces. Obviously this defeat was unpalatable for Modi and Shah.

That is the reason that RSS and BJP have been resorting to all modes of war strategy to beat the centrist forces, which in the current situation are symbolised by Mamata. The CBI has been showing utter contempt for law. Though the TMC leaders have already been charge sheeted, the CBI sought their custody. This was purely an attempt to scare and demoralise the centrist forces. The CBI even resorted to lies. It blamed Mamata for creating hurdles for CBI. The most glaring has been its argument to transfer the case of granting the bail to the arrested TMC leader as the atmosphere was not congenial in Bengal though the High Court did not agree to it. The CBI even filed case before Supreme Court. But after excruciating grilling by the division bench it decided to withdraw the request. It could not justify its allegation to the court that a fair trial could not take place in Calcutta. They resorted to lies to mislead the apex court.

One thing is absolutely clear that RSS must not have resorted to this nature of hysterical action, if it was sure that this would not adversely affect the future of the B JP at the national level. Some political analyst wrote that RSS felt happy and enjoyed Mamata’s Bengal win. This is absolutely a wrong narrative. The fact is otherwise. Victory of Mamata has been the reason for more worry to RSS than the BJP. The fact of the matter is RSS had more stake in the Bengal election than BJP. These experts cite Mamata reciting chandipath as the sign of victory for the RSS. It is a misnomer.

Till May 2, the day of counting of votes, as usual RSS was willing to perform the task of prompter from the wings. But after BJP met with waterloo RSS refused to play second fiddle to Modi-Shah and took the charge to spearhead the fight against her. It was not thrust on the RSS. The RSS leadership had come to realise that any complacency in checking the Mamata omen would see the gains made during the seven years of Modi rule going down in the drain.

The RSS leaders had seized that Mamata’s victory would embolden the centrist, liberal and democratic forces to stage a comeback. Though the BJP vigilante and other outfits of Sangh parivar during these years had resorted to all kinds of machination to finish them, they could not accomplish in the right earnest as the power of resilience of the centrist forces has been quite robust.

The RSS ideologue knew that resurgence of these forces and their projecting Mamata Banerjee as the alternative to Modi will sound a death knell for the rightist forces. During Modi’s tenure the rightist forces have been trying to occupy the centre stage of the political system and institution. They have succeeded to a major extent. The democratic and parliamentary institutions have been systematically weakened and torn apart. Nonetheless they could not check the centrist, liberal and democratic resistance.

Under Modi though BJP had won the elections of 2014 and 2019, the fact remained that the centrist and liberal forces continued to be overriding and still articulate the perception of more than 70 per cent of the people. It is worth mentioning that even in 2019 Lok Sabh election which crowned Modi as the creator of New Modern India, these forces had tried to assert their existence. Since Rahul Gandhi could not fit in their ideological and political frame, they made a tactical retreat. The Congress could not make them rally behind. Still the Congress had managed to get 3 seats more than what it had won in 2014.

During last couple of years these forces have once again started asserting and the results are before us. BJP under the same Narendra Modi has lost almost all the elections, across India, whether it was of assembly or panchayats in UP. The art of politics is to make the people think new in the new situation. This is the political artistry. The successive defeats should have made the RSS and BJP realise that fascist ideas and jargons which it has pursuing for years have turned reduntant. They may seduce some saffron worshippers and blind followers, they are no more liked by the people. They could not override the centrist, liberal and democratic forces beyond a certain point.

It is a known fact that RSS has been spearheading the campaign against Mamata and the BJP was playing the second fiddle though it pretended to be the public face of the saffron parivar. Mohan Bhagwat, Narendra Modi and Amit Shah committed the biggest crime by resorting the politics of terror and hatred. They failed to read the mood and psychology of the people of not only Bengal but of India. They misunderstood their acceptance by a section of the urban middle class as the approval of their politics by the Indian across the country

In fact a peep into the past actions of RSS would reveal that they had always targeted Mamata, as they had come to realise that she was the only force which could pose a serious challenge to the Sangh’s hegemony. In 2017, RSS had passed a resolution in its pratinidhi sabha, the highest decision-making body, against the Mamata Banerjee-led Trinamool Congress government’s alleged failure to stop political violence.

RSS had set a “Mission Bengal” in 2016 itself. In March 2017, the RSS passed a formal resolution to this effect. Since then, the task to win Bengal has been its priority. In its March 2017 resolution the RSS even expressed concerns over the rise of “jihadi elements in West Bengal,” and “encouragement to the anti-national elements by the state government due to its Muslim vote bank politics and declining Hindu population in the state.” It criticised Mamata Banerjee for her “appeasement politics,” and urged the citizens “to create awareness against this Jehadi violence.” The RSS’s top-decision making body had also urged the Central government to take “firm action against these anti national Jehadi elements of the state”.

The memberships had witnessed a sharp surge after the former president of India Pranab Mukherjee visited the RSS headquarters in Nagpur in 2018. Following the visit, professionals such as doctors, designers, and teachers began showing interest in joining the Sangh in West Bengal. There are 1,700 shakhas, 800 milan units and 300 mandalis in the state. On an average, nearly 4,000 swayamsevaks work in each of 294 constituencies of the state.

The RSS’ work in Bengal can be divided into three phases: first, from 1939 and 1953, an uneven period; second, from 1953 to 2008, when it anchored in the state and the third, beginning from 2009. This was the most favourable situation for it. Based on the gains the RSS cadres and leaders had started dreaming that 2021 election would see the first ever chance of Hindu BJP coming to power.

We tend to read too much from the previous statistics and figures. We tend to ignore the fact that politics does not have permanent features. The economic changes bring about variations in the politics. While analysing the election trends we often refer to the old figures which seldom provides us the correct insight. During the last ten years the people of Bengal, like the people of any other state, chose new priorities and narratives. Obviously it is not correct to express surprise at BJP gaining ground in the state. With Congress and CPI(M) turning irrelevant the people who once constituted its support base, eventually shifted their loyalty to some other party. There is nothing astonishing in it.

RSS general secretary Dattatreya Hosabale in a statement also alleged that there was a conspiracy behind the violence. He used the word conspiracy to malign Mamata. This has a planned implication. He wanted to tell the people of the country that Mamata, who the centrist andliberal forces plan to project as the challenger to Modi’s hegemony was not a competent and honest politician. This was primarily aimed at creating confusion in the minds of the people and even some of the opposition parties who might prefer to throw their weight behind her.

However a closer look at the nature of the violence would reveal that the RSS and BJP had planned the violence. During their electioneering the senior BJP leaders would warn the TMC cadres to get ready to face their assault. The tapes carrying these threats had become viral. These are in the public domain.

RSS accused the state administrative machinery of being mute spectators. “Neither the rioters seemed to be afraid of anything nor is there any initiative by the state police and administration to control the violence,” it alleged. The RSS has always conspired to use the word violence to vilify Mamata and her government.

As has happened this time the RSS has been using the element of violence to send the message that her government is anti-people and had failed in its task. In 2017 RSS said “The first and foremost responsibility of the ruling administration, whoever or whichever party may be in power, is to establish peace and safety in the society by maintaining law and order, to instil fear of law in the minds of the anti-social elements, and to punish those involved in violent activities. Electoral victory belongs to political parties, but the elected government is accountable to the entire society.”

It has urged the West Bengal government to “effectively establish rule of law by immediately containing violence and to initiate legal action against culprits by arresting them without further delay”.

A sustained effort is being made to hide the real face of the RSS and present it as a transformed modern social group. The goal is to avoid it as being described as a demagogue. A new RSS will certainly not carry the obsolete ideological baggage of yester years. It is being said only to create confusion and blunt the opposition attack. A new organisation needs a new kind of treatment. Interestingly the RSS is trying to create this cultural hegemony through the Hindu religion, spirituality and culture.

This is yet another shrewd strategy to undermine the old language of secularism. Though the RSS decries secularism, it is however aware of the fact that secularism continues to the defining political ethics. Indians are basically secular in their approach.

After Modi became the prime minister in 2014, the RSS started giving a shape to its expansion programme in Bengal. In 2017 districts after districts were taken over by men wearing saffron bandanas. They wielded swords and trishuls, tridents. Asansol and Birbhum became the prime centres for the expansion. RSS initiated the worship of Ram. In a state where Durga Puja is considered to be the biggest cultural-religious function, such fanfare around Ramnavami was unprecedented. RSS used its all might to make it a success.

The RSS’s organisational strength increased. Mamata used police to frustrate their activities. As a result they had to abandon their programme of Shastra Puja. They stopped the aggressive expansion of the programme. Several of its leaders were including the BJP state president, Dilip Ghosh, were booked under the Arms Act for brandishing weapons. The BJP gradually emerged as the primary political opponent of TMC. The CPI(M) was further relegated to the background. The left could not build its movement against the RSS as it was in a state of confusion whom to treat as its main enemy. RSS used the worst performance of the BJP to strengthen it at the grass root level.

According to RSS functionaries, nearly 800 to 1,200 such Jan Jagran meetings were held in each of 294 constituencies. As per their estimate, for every thousand meetings, nearly 8,000 RSS workers and sympathisers were mobilised. Through these meetings, the RSS’s campaign reached to the booth level. The target was to also increase the voter turnout, RSS officials said.

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