Is there a looming demographic crisis in India? Several states, including Kerala, are getting there, thanks to a nearly 10% gap in the pace of population growth between Hindus and Muslims. But the grim moment seems to have arrived in West Bengal. It has been nurtured assiduously over the last decade by the ruling AITC government. The fast-breeding minority population native to the state since partition in 1947, has been augmented ever since. More so, during the Communist regime (34 years) and that of the AITC (10 years and counting). Massive infiltration from Bangladesh of its poorest and most rootless including the violent Rohingyas is an alarming feature. These are the equivalent of the CIA trained Pakistani ISI recruitment of terrorists ‘from the gutter’. This helps Bangladesh’s per capita but certainly does not help India. It does give the AITC state government a terror arm of its own with low-cost operatives who are expendable.
The burgeoning statistics, and demographic spread all along West Bengal’s border with Bangladesh tells a chilling and graphic tale.
The assembly election of 2021 illustrates the problem. It has 1.8 crore block-voting immigrants from Bangladesh on the state’s electoral rolls. This is in addition to an average of 30% of the increasingly assertive minority population spread across the state. In some areas the combined concentration exceeds 50%.
Mamata Banerjee, a three-time chief minister, who has developed into a ruthless demagogue and instigator of violence, states all Bangladeshi immigrants are now Indians. She has bluntly announced CAA and NRC will not be permitted. RSS run educational establishments are banned in West Bengal. Kolkata has the notoriety of being the state of choice for hawala and money laundering operations.
This same demographic dividend was sought to be utilised in Nandigram. In parts of the town, where the chief minister narrowly lost by under 2,000 votes to Suvendu Adhikary, the concentration is 50%. Banerjee chose to contest from Nandigram for the first time, banking on the minority vote.
She gave Bhavanipur in Kolkata, her usual constituency, which has a large Hindu and non-Bengali population, the go by this time. Part of this was dictated by her strident ‘outsider-insider’ campaign. A leadership and state that probably wants to secede or force an Article 370/356 J&K style autonomy. Will the tanks have roll-out, as they did in Punjab in the eighties, to quell this danger? Should the union government wait that long? Are the neo-Khalistanis too not waiting and watching once more?
This is not the first time West Bengal has posed impossible binaries for the decision makers. The Naxalites had to be put down so brutally that the flower of a generation was lost. Only that time it fell upon the Indian National Congress (INC) led by Chief Minister Siddharth Shankar Roy to deliver the coup de grace.
Those who voted in Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his RSS-reared BJP men into power in New Delhi in 2014 were sure they had backed an unwavering Hindu nationalist regime. And that Modi was backed by a disciplined political party that believed in the propagation of Hindutva, Veer Savarkar-style. Much of the garlanding of photographs, quotations from the great man, and a prime ministerial visit to the Cellular Jail cell in the Andamans, where Savarkar spent solitary decades, seemed to also make this very point.
It was the first majority government in 30 years. It was not burdened with the weaknesses of the AB Vajpayee-led NDA coalition of a decade earlier. And yet it was not so weak that it didn’t promptly go overtly nuclear. Nor so meek that it didn’t build the Golden Quadrilateral of national highways.
Wrongs, people believed, once Modi was elected with a thumping majority for the NDA, were going to be righted. And many indeed were.
The upper echelon of the government was and has been corruption-free. Infrastructure has blossomed. The armed forces were addressed in terms of one rank one pension (OROP), and a huge military equipment procurement programme. This time, there were no kickbacks and middlemen commissions.
GST was launched in Modi 1.0. Indian diplomacy was carried to new heights by the prime minister himself. Subsidies reaching their intended recipients has become the new normal. Digitisation in banking and government functioning got a tremendous boost. The unbanked millions were given bank accounts for the first time. Pakistan was taught a signal lesson on the limitations of cross border terrorism. China was unable to get its foot in the door near the ‘Chicken Neck’ off Dhoklam and Sikkim. The NDA improved its electoral footprint across new parts of the nation for the first time.
Come the second consecutive term in power, in 2019, again with a brute majority, two big ticket issues, pending from the dawn of the Indian Republic were addressed in quick order. The first was the swift, almost magical takeover of the state of Jammu & Kashmir, into the mainstream. The second was the verdict on the Ram Temple at Ayodhya which gave the Janmabhoomi, at last, to the Hindus. Another bout of checking China had to be undertaken in Ladakh. This, and threats along other parts of the LaC with China, are ongoing.
More military procurement, including many items being manufactured nationally is growing apace. Two attacks of the Covid -19 pandemic, one in 2020 and one, worse than last year, is raging presently.
The BJP gained 77 seats in the West Bengal assembly, up from just 3, but did not succeed in wresting the state government from the Trinamool Congress. In the normal course, this would be understood as the healthy process of democracy where the voter is the final arbiter.
But in West Bengal, there is a hostility amongst the minority population egged on by the Trinamool Congress and its supremo that is abnormal. Murder, rape, arson, and terror, aimed at the Hindu majority continue unabated. A band of leftist intellectuals inside and outside the state have tried to cast the Trinamool Congress victory in terms of ‘Bengali pride’ and its distinctness from the Cow-belt BJP. But if it were only so innocent.
Over a lakh of people have fled to Assam and elsewhere to save their lives. Hundreds in aggregate have been murdered in just the last five years, and this continues even now, after a 217 seat win.
The union government has refused to take drastic action so far. Is the prime minister’s hopeful policy of ‘Sabka Vishwas’, introduced at the outset of Modi 2.0 in 2019 responsible? Should the BJP MLAs, karyakartas, organisers, supporters be abandoned to their fate?
Or is this minority hostility sanctioned by the Trinamool Congress mainly a West Bengal problem? Neighbouring Assam, won for the second consecutive term by the BJP, with an over 40% minority population in South Assam, aided by massive Bangladeshi infiltration, saw absolutely no post-poll violence.
Does this not make the border state of West Bengal a national risk? Almost all the violence can be laid at the door of the goons drawn from Bangladeshi imports. This gives it the complexion of jihad against Hindus aided and abetted by the Trinamool Congress leadership.
Given that the minority community live and work their businesses in closely knitted ghettos all over the state, they may not have taken into account the consequences of a backlash. Too much too soon could trigger it. Undivided Bengal has seen some of the worst Hindu-Muslim violence in 1946.
Can the Government of India approach the West Bengal situation with a business-as-usual attitude?
The rank-and-file BJP supporter in West Bengal is extremely upset. A government with nationalist and Hindutva credentials must stop this in its tracks with extraordinary measures. Then, to tackle the broader issue countrywide, it must pass a Population Control Bill and the Uniform Civil Code, given its majority in both houses of the parliament.