Image Source: Facebook page of Shree Venkatesh Films
A debate has been raging on social and mainstream media on the proposed change of name for West Bengal. The state government, in a recent Cabinet meeting, decided to drop ‘West’ from the name of the State. It is proposed that the new name would be Bengal in English and Bangla or Banga in Bengali. This has triggered a debate among people with a section happy that the confusion, over why an eastern State was called West Bengal, will finally come to and end, while another section is flabbergasted at the attempt to denounce history.
The blame for this debate must go to Lord Curzon, who in 1905 decided to partition then Bengal Presidency into two parts: East and West. Although he cited administrative reasons for the exercise, the idea was to drive a wedge between the Hindus and Muslims in Bengal. There were massive protests across the province against the devilish designs of Lord Curzon; Rabindranath Tagore famously penned his song ‘Banglar Mati Banglar Jol’ and initiated the ‘Raakhi Utsav’ to foster ties of brotherhood between the two communities. Finally, the partition was annulled in 1911 and Calcutta paid a price as the National Capital of India was shifted to Delhi.
History too had different plans for Bengal; in 1947 after the partition of India, Bengal was again divided – East Bengal became a part of Pakistan and West Bengal remained with India. Until 1954, East Bengal was an autonomous unit which became an eastern province of Pakistan in 1955, thus becoming East Pakistan. In 1971, after the liberation war, East Pakistan became an independent country and took the name Bangladesh.
There have been attempts in the past to rename West Bengal (right from the days of Dr Bidhan Chandra Roy till Jyoti Basu). This is an issue where unanimous public opinion would always remain a red herring. East Bengal (or East Pakistan) managed to shed its baggage of history and adopted the name Bangladesh. Why should that burden be perennially placed on the shoulders of West Bengal?
The prefix ‘West’ brings with it the sad memory of partition, of refugees, of not-so-pleasant goodbyes; it is a constant reminder of the bloodshed and violence that came with independence. Homes were destroyed, families were broken, people were displaced – all for the whims of a few in power. The prefix ‘West’ before Bengal is like the appendix in our body; getting rid of it could bring closure to thousands who are still tormented by their experience of partition.
Bengal is changing, for the better. To move towards a new tomorrow, we must break free from the shackles of the past. As much as we remember our shared history with Bangladesh, we cannot let ourselves be weighed down by the gravity of a name. This is the age of branding and ‘Bengal’ is much more appealing and attractive.
We must also remember, no matter how hard we try, we can never put the two Bengals together again. Apart from our shared mother language, we have nothing left in common. ‘West’ Bengal is a province of a larger country with its own share of problems. Bangladesh is a different country with realities of its own. The two Bengals can collaborate, never unify. To carry the burden of ‘West’ to keep the idea of unified Bengal alive is an exercise in futility.
There is a section which feels this issue is a meaningless diversion from the lacunae in governance. I wish to point out to them the results of the recently-concluded Assembly elections in West Bengal where the ruling party was voted to power for a second term with a landslide verdict. Even the strongest critic of the government cannot point fingers at the voting process. A mandate of that magnitude is achieved only by good work, agenda for development and progress.
Moreover, anyone following the daily events would be aware that this proposed change of name is not at the cost of other works. On the same day the Cabinet decide to change the name of the State, the Chief Minister held a high-level meeting regarding illegal promoters and dengue scare. For the last 3 days she has toured three districts and held administrative review meetings about progress of various projects. West Bengal is placed in safe hands as far as governance is concerned.
Even Germany broke the Berlin Wall, which was a remnant of World War II and moved on. It is about time Bengal does too. East or West, the Bengali spirit always flies high!
P.S. – A lot of morons mocked the name Banga (confusing it with Bongo, that’s how we Bengalis pronounce Banga) without even realising Banga is a part of India’s National Anthem. Hope they expanded their knowledge of languages.
DISCLAIMER: All Images Used In This Post Have Their Respective Copyrights
A mob of CPM harmads attack a female police officer
On 13 May, 2011 when the entire State of West Bengal heaved a sigh of relief after ousting the Left from power, one had hoped that the dinosaurs that inhabit Alimuddin Street would learn a lesson, introspection and opt for course-correction. That they have chosen not to is evident in the manner in which they chose to blame the electorate for their defeat. And if the last four years are any indication, the Left are still happily residing in the dark ages, relishing their archaic policies rejected by the people.
The manner in which Rani Rashmoni Avenue was taken over by armed harmads pelting stones and bricks at police, anyone could have mistaken Kolkata for Srinagar. Months before Assembly elections, the dinosaurs of Alimuddin suddenly woke up from slumber and wanted to “display their strength”. Police was attacked, a hundred laws broken, even women officers not spared by the murderous mob! The ugly scenes on TV yesterday reminded me once again why I had voted against the Communists in 2011 and will proudly do so again in 2016.
Old habits die hard
In 2001, when Jyoti Basu abdicated his throne for his successor Buddhadeb Bhattacharya, a section of media had hailed it as reform. Constant efforts by a popular Bengali media house portrayed Buddhadeb as a moderate who was interested in “industrialisation”. We all are witness to the manner in which he led his party in the ruthless game of land grabbing for his “Bourgeoisie” friends. Hollow slogans and muscle power of the harmads was all people got in return of the promises of moon before 2006 elections.
CPM harmads beating up police with bamboo sticks
“Dheki Sworge giyeo dhan bhange” is a popular proverb in Bengal. CPI(M) too finds it hard to shed its politics of violence. In the past one year alone, the CITU has called over a dozen taxi strikes (foiled every time by people who chose luxury app-based cabs over yellow cabs which specialize in refusal). Like an annual vacation ritual, calling a general strike is also their favourite pastime! No lessons learnt from the past, these dinosaurs keep taking public sentiment for granted.
No To Bandh
People of Bengal are tired of bandhs. We have had enough of forced holidays, stalled productivity and brain drain. We want to work. No one is stopping those who want to exercise their democratic right to protest. But the protesters have no right to stop us from going to our workplaces. Forget the middle class; the hapless daily wagers are the worst affected in a bandh. These old men who shout their lungs out do not feel an iota of shame in depriving those poor people from earning a day’s wage!
Mamata Banerjee, when she was in Opposition, has also called bandhs. We have not forgotten that in December, 2006 we only got one week worth classes, thanks to her andolan! However, I admire her for she realised the futility of this archaic mode of protests and decided to give up the bandh culture in 2008. After assuming office in 2011, she made it amply clear that bandhs will not be tolerated.
From running extra government buses to making attendance mandatory (at the cost of losing a day’s salary), she has crushed the forces anarchy with a strong hand. The results are for everyone to see. A large number of people who would otherwise stay indoors on bandh day because of the fear of violence now fearlessly travel to their offices. The failed bandh on 18 August is an example for all. People were determined to work. The administration kept public life normal. The “bandh” was thus restricted to a pocket or two where the goons of Congress had a stronghold.
The lesson in this episode is that people of Bengal are tired of the culture of violence and fear-mongering that prevails in our public discourse. People want peace and progress. We want jobs, not forced holidays because few old men with graying hair want to flex their muscles!
It is high time these out-of-work septuagenarians woke up and smelled the coffee!