Mamata Banerjee rarely speaks, but when she does she makes sure that she addresses the concerns of her core constituency and keeps them happy and more importantly voting for her. In an admission that was as brazen in its content as it was in its arrogance, she reportedly (1) said that “since 30 per cent of her electorate were Muslims, she had to cater to them; had to appease them…”. What she probably meant but left unsaid was that as far as she was concerned, the remaining 70% of the people of West Bengal did not matter to her – why should it when she has repeatedly shown in election after election that with a monolithic 30% contribution to her vote basket, she has to do little else to keep winning.
The genie that Mamata uncorked in her quest for getting to, and remaining in power is well and truly out of the bottle and dancing to its own tunes. What is also perhaps unsaid but can be inferred from Mamata’s own statement is that she is no longer in control and it is the genie that controls her – Basirhat, Kaliachak, Dhulagarh, Nadia are all consequences of having uncorked the genie-bottle.
This is not the first time an Indian politician has unleashed similar genies in an attempt to garner votes or appease a section of the society – Rajiv Gandhi did it in the infamous Shah Bano (2) case. VP Singh did it when he unleashed the Mandal virus (3) in a bid to consolidate his vote bank – Both decisions continue to bleed our body polity till today.
If West Bengal is on the brink of a communal conflagration – a veritable powder keg that threatens to explode any minute, then Mamata is solely responsible for it. The Malda-Kaliachak (4) highway blockade by more than two lakh Muslims that descended into violence, rioting, loot, and arson is one of several stark reminders, in the West Bengal of the last few years, of what happens when political leaders forget their democratic duties and indulge in mindless appeasement to preserve their vote banks at any cost.
When a minor boy posted what was innocuous for many but highly “objectionable” (5) to the Muslim community, not only was the seventeen year old boy arrested but Mamata by some accounts sat back and allowed the “anger” of the muslim mob to play out (6) before she even lifted her little finger – This is not mere speculation. This is an accusation (7) that has been made by none other than CPI-M Member of Parliament Mohammed Salim who everyone will agree is not a “Hindutva ideologue” by any stretch of imagination.
If one were to trace Mamata’s legacy of appeasement one would have to go back to the Nandigram (8) episode and the murder of Rizwanur Rahman (9) where she stood up for the Muslims with the intention of garnering the Muslim vote bank and bringing down the CPI-M government. What started as vote-bank flirtation soon grew into cynical appeasement as she realized that if she kept a few Muslim leaders happy, they in turn would deliver the Muslim vote-bank (10) to her.
However, in a world where there are no free lunches and given the fact that the Muslim community and their leaders are always known to extract their pound of flesh, Mamata is now trapped in her own web of cynicism – she is now like the silkworm Bombyx Mori that spins a cocoon all around itself essentially trapping itself in its own shell. The only way the silk worm can free itself off its fetters is by breaking open its own carefully crafted shell. If Mamata were to do that she would lose the only ace up her sleeve, the only reason she still remains in power.
Trapped in her own machinations, Mamata has had to keep appeasing the hungry genie she uncorked as she continues to rain SOPs and concessions on the Muslim community. Consider this (10):
- She announced a monthly allowance of ₹ 2,500 to each Imam in Kolkata
- She granted a stipend of ₹ 1,500 to the thousands of muezzins who call out to the faithful five times a day – when the Kolkata High Court termed this discriminatory and struck it down, she got around it by routing it through the Wakf board.
- She banned the telecast of a play because it was scripted by Taslima Nasreen since a few Muslim fundamentalists raised objections.
- She banned (11) Salman Rushdie from entering Kolkata because a few Muslim fundamentalists protested against his visit.
- Urdu has been made the second official language (12) in West Bengal in all areas where more than 10% of the population speaks Urdu (which literally means a large part of West Bengal)
- RSS chief Mohan Bhagawat’s event on Sister Nivedita’s “role in the Indian nationalist movement” was denied permission (13) recently – this comes in the wake of Muslim clerics demanding that Ram Navami processions be banned (14) in Kolkata. This effectively means that not only is Ram banned from West Bengal but also one of Kolkata’s most illustrious sons – Swami Vivekananda.
- Finally, her silence and lack of condemnation of the numerous riots by Muslim mobs controlled and directed by the Islamic clergy has polarized West Bengal on communal lines.
She has also mastered the art of blacking out the media, while providing a window for the Islamic rioters to have their way, and then transfer the blame onto Hindutva elements – This flowchart has been made into a template that is “copy-pasted” before and after every conflagration in order to subjugate the Hindu voice and protect the Islamic fundamentalists.
What we are witnessing in West Bengal are the first signs of what Bat Ye’or (15) called “Dhimmitude (16)” a term used to describe the plight of non-muslims in an Islamic theocracy that encompasses the relationship of Muslims and non-Muslims at the theological, social, cultural, political, and economic levels who have been vanquished by jihad and subservient to the Sharia.
West Bengal of today is a test case of what can happen when secular myopia and selfish vote-bank politics results in the sacrifice of democracy at the altar of Islamic fundamentalism and bigotry.