Rank communalism in West Bengal

Posted on September 29, 2010

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The Left Front Government’s decision to enhance the Other Backward Classes quota in Government jobs from seven to 17 per cent in West Bengal and thus reward 49 Muslim groups in a list of 56 beneficiaries is a blatant, though futile, attempt at minority appeasement. Since it comes days after the State Cabinet decided to increase the number of Government jobs by 21,000, it is obvious that the latest move is aimed at filling the new vacancies with as many Muslims as possible. While in itself any decision to empower India’s largest minority community is not objectionable, what makes the Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee regime’s attempt suspect is the timing: It comes ahead of nest summer’s State Assembly election that the CPI(M) and its allies in the Left Front are widely expected to lose. The Communists have done precious little in the 34 years they have been in power in West Bengal to economically empower Muslims, as is evident from the observations of panels like the Sachar Committee. In fact, as several studies show, the West Bengal Government is among the worst performers in that category, notwithstanding its repeated claims of consistently meeting its ‘social obligations’. That the latest fulfilment of its ‘social obligations’ should follow the Left Front’s drubbing in the 2009 general election and months before it faces the electorate again, demonstrates the communal politics of a supposedly secular Government. But with its credibility at an all time low, the latest desperate measure will surely fall flat and meet the same fate that its recent similar attempts have.

Recall, for instance, its decision to accord Urdu the status of State official language in certain parts of West Bengal. This was not done to facilitate administrative work or make governance more people-friendly, but as a symbolic gesture to the Muslims. Similarly, the CPI(M) had organised riots in Kolkata with the help of Muslim goons who ran amok ostensibly to register their protest against Taslima Nasreen. Subsequently, the dissident Bangladeshi writer was banished from West Bengal by the Communists in the hope that this would please the fanatics and fetch their support for the party. But such efforts to please mullahs has not stemmed the drift of Muslims away from the Left Front. Nor did the announcement to provide reservation to Muslims as a religious community leave the community cheering for the Communists. Because the Government’s attempt to extend religion-based reservation to the Muslims had to be scrapped — a similar move by the Congress Government in Andhra Pradesh has been struck down by the courts — it has now sought to ‘reach out’ to the Muslims through a sleight of hand by taking recourse to OBC quotas. Since more than 85 per cent of Muslim population is expected to be covered by the job reservation, the CPI(M) and its allies believe their minority vote-bank has been strengthened through this move. Such shameful recourse to rank communal politics is also prompted by the Trinamool Congress and its leader, Ms Mamata Banerjee, mobilising Muslim support by brazenly pandering to the lowest common denominator of West Bengal’s Muslims. That such capitulation is having an impact is demonstrated by the recent riots in Deganga where a Muslim MP of Trinamool Congress led a mob baying for Hindu blood. The goons knew they would be protected by politicians.

The Pioneer

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Posted in: West Bengal