The Muslims in West Bengal are living with a sense of relief, even solace. At least for the time being. Two months back, most Muslims were worried about the BJP coming to power. Due to acute religious polarisation, heightened clashes and riots in different parts of India, we feared the social fabric here getting damaged forever.
More than for Muslims, the West Bengal Assembly election this time was a test for the Bengali culture, a test of its psyche that is intrinsically peaceful and secular, symbolic of the true spirit of unity and peaceful coexistence.
Bengal’s populace, irrespective of religion, caste, class, sex or ethnicity, comprising even its “Bhadra Lok” class, understands and acknowledges that it is different. This is because it has inherited the legacy of Swami Vivekananda, Raja Ram Mohan Roy, Swami Ramkrishna Parmahansa and Subhas Chandra Bose.
With a sense of radicalism, the Bengalis love to watch films by Satyajit Ray, Mrinal Sen and Ritwik Ghatak. They have all grown up reading Marx, Lenin and Mao Zedong.
As a resident of Kolkata and a young Muslim woman residing here, I have never felt any kind of Islamophobia or discrimination based on my identity ever, having been born and brought up in the same city.
In other parts of the country, especially in north India where I currently study, I have felt it to some extent, but never in Bengal. I am happy that emerging communal-type politics was unsuccessful in disrupting our cohesive community and culture.
Most people were sceptical of the BJP coming to power in West Bengal. This was because of their vicious nature of politics embodying itself such as unrest, turmoil and divisive oratory in the sort of campaigning, similar to what has been happening in many other states of the country.
The BJP, through its rallies and campaigns, almost seemed to have succeeded in communalising the political and cultural landscape of West Bengal. Thank god for no vain.
The narrative that the Mamata Banerjee regime practises “Muslim appeasement” or how the Muslim community benefits more than the Hindus or Christians living here, as is often proposed by the mainstream news media, is not only incorrect but even laughable. No community is given preference to the other whatsoever.
Yes, the unity and consensus are beautiful. Imagine, a Muslim TMC candidate, Javed Ahmed Khan, is the elected MLA from Kasba, a Hindu majority constituency. Can any other state of India, especially of the Hindi Belt, even imagine such a scenario? This can happen only in WB.
Be it Durga Puja or Mahashivratri, Diwali, Christmas or New Year, Holi, Eid or Janmashtami, Rakshabandhan or Bhai Phota; all festivals are celebrated with the same excitement and energy.
The rich legacy of Rabindranath Tagore and Kazi Nazrul Islam of this land, though gradually, might seem to be fading away, is nowhere close to extinction. The students of Presidency, Jadavpur, Scottish Church and Calcutta Universities in West Bengal remain nostalgic about the contributions of Che Guevara and Fidel Castro.
It is heartening how even after experiencing critical religious polarisation, Bengalis managed to not give up on their heritage or succumb to thinking only in terms of the “Hindus versus Muslims” binary.
Communalising the political and cultural landscape of West Bengal is difficult, if not impossible. The social fabric here has been saved temporarily. Or for the next 5 years at the minimum.
Let’s wait and watch what the future has in store. The concern is certitude or conviction to continue with this belief, temperament and way of life as residents of West Bengal, a Muslim, a Bengali or neither.