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Mainstream, VOL XLIX, No 22, May 21, 2011

An Open Letter to Mamata Banerjee

Tuesday 24 May 2011, by A K Biswas

Honourable Madam,

While I congratulate you on your spectacular victory in the just concluded Assembly Elections 2011 in West Bengal, I beg to articulate some aspirations and expectations of 24 per cent Scheduled Castes and six per cent Scheduled Tribes, who are by and large marginalised and alienated from the socio-economic development in the last 35 years. By the time this letter appears in print (if at all) you will be in saddle after being sworn in as the Chief Minister of the benighted State.

The highest priority to education of the marginalised sections craves for attention in your agenda. They just don’t need education, they want English education, which has been denied to them not with any pious intention by your predecessor. Such educational policy, little do we realise, is closely linked to your dream project for industrialisation of the State. Every home in the margin of the society thereby would turn into a home of human capital with modern knowledge to meet the challenges of their life. They would venture out of the traditional/primary sector of economy and join the world of technology management etc. This will release ample land for industrialisation. The poor people do not want land for living any more. Agriculture is the most expensive occupation with ever rising cost of labour, irrigation, fertiliser, insecticides, beyond the means of poor farmers. They continue to hold it nonetheless because they have no other means of livelihood to fall back upon. If they have alternative source of living, they will dispose of land by retaining barely that much sufficient for their homestead only. So, please turn your attention to the West Bengal villages which have overwhelmingly endorsed your call for change. They too have dreamt of change for a better life. The masses have suffered incalculable deprivation under an exclusive city-centric dispensation. The entire rural communities have been neglected by the Left Front Government. In fact, they ruled West Bengal for 35 years for their party benefit; they didn’t govern. We would expect you to govern for the benefit of the people.

Literally thousands of men and women have been slaughtered in three-and-a-half decades. To be candid, the victims of the Left rulers were the Scheduled Castes, Schedule Tribes and minorities in the main in intra- as well as inter-party clashes, police actions and custodial deaths. Their trial run started at Marichjhapi where the refugees were encouraged to return from Dandakaranya to West Bengal by the Left leaders. But the government turned their back on them and disowned them. There is no record of massacre—murders, rapes, arson—by CPM cadres who surrounded the island under the protection and leadership of the State Police at the dead of night. The planned brutality had alienated the four-million strong Namasudra community who were in the main the victims of the Marichjhapi massacre in 1979.

DEMOCRACY has been disgraced by the Left rulers. To make it more explicit, we can say that democracy had been hijacked and exploited for sub-serving interests of a small minority in the commanding heights of the ruling party machinery. Your respect for and confidence in democracy should reflect in your scheme of power-sharing among various sections of the society without favour or bias. The outgoing Chief Minister, sadly, had packed 69 per cent his Cabinet with the bhadralok, of which 48 per cent were Brahmans. Though the tiny class comprises 6.5 per cent of the State’s population, they grabbed a disproportionately large share of political power. This is showing disrespect to democracy. The dignity of democratic merit needs to be restored. The minorities, SCs, STs as well as backwards were denied their rightful propor-tional share in the government.

The deprived people haven’t yet lost faith in the system. All over the country regional parties have grabbed the reins of political power save and except in West Bengal by forming alternative political parties. The microscopic minority who are bhadralok, by denying share in the power to the vast masses, have sown the seeds of discon-tent and disaffection in the minds of the marginalised communities. You can be sure that the shape of things will not remain the same for long. Communal and caste politics enveloping regional interests will emerge sooner than expected, if you do not stem the trend in hot haste. In fact, the bhadralok have disgraced themselves to the SCs, STs, minorities and even OBCs by over-exploiting the glowing principles of democracy for their own interest. Frankly, they are deeply suspicious of the intent and purpose of the bhadralok as rulers in general. The Darjeeling Gorkha agitation, the Rajbanshi movement for greater Kamtapuri Statehood or the tribal unrest in Jangalmahal are just a few explicit examples of discontent and anger directed against the ruling class. The bhadralok do not
talk of caste or caste politics, feigning it as blasphemous but use it to secure benefits for themselves.

The Sachar Committee report on the plight of the minorities (Muslims) is known. But what is not discussed as an important public issue is unemployment among SCs and STs. By defective education in vernacular imparted to them, they have been eliminated from the job market as being unsuitable or unfit. The School Service Commission, for instance, has been recruiting some 25,000-30,000 teachers every year during the last four-five years. The Commission, however, has come out with the shocking declaration that “suitable” SC/ST candidates were not available for recruitment for some 5000 posts reserved for them each year! Over 4.5 lakh graduates and post-graduates of these communities (basis 2001 census) were available there in the State. Did unsuspecting people gulp such trash as the whole truth that they were all unfit for teaching jobs? The very attitude of the School Service Commission slighted the dignity of the universities of the State that awarded degrees to the SC/ST youths at graduate and post-graduate levels.

The midnight vandalism by lumpen elements launched on the refugee hutments and shanties along railway lines in Birati, North 24-Parganas circa 1993 has gone out of public memory. Rape, outrage of modesty of refugee women, loot and vandalism were dismissed as “e sob hoye thake” (such things happen) by Chief Minister Jyoti Basu. The ruling party’s women’s wing President, Shyamali Gupta, had added insult to the injury of the women disgraced by the ruffians by saying that they were “baje meyechele” (women of loose morals). Justice awaits them till date.

These are the people who were beyond the margin of political spectrum but have over-whelmingly voted for your victory believing that there is light at the end of the tunnel. If you fail them, please be sure, regional, caste and communal parties, which are hitherto unknown in West Bengal, will emerge to offer them tempting alternatives. The deprived people of any section, communty will find it difficult to ignore their appeal in the backdrop of betrayal of democracy by the Bengali bhadralok.

Wish you a very successful tenure,

Yours faithfully,

A.K. Biswas

(a resident of Bagdah constituency, North 24-Parganas, West Bengal)

The author is a former Vice-Chancellor, B.R. Ambedkar University, Muzaffarpur, Bihar. He can be contacted at email: born.bengali@gmail.com

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