Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Bengal’s locus in Indian diaspora

Bengal—the name echoes of many milestones. This was the place where the seeds of freedom movement were sowed. This land procreated the fearless crusaders, passionate patriots to cast away the British mercenaries. The tender, fertile expanse of greenery once vibrated of collective resolution:
“Eka shutre badhiaychhi shahasrati mon
Eka karje shopiachhi shahasra jeebon
Bande Mataram” –Tagore
Alongside, the then extraordinary reformists initiated various societal alterations in Bengal to exemplify a new, independent era: a modernistic, progressive era devoid of casteism, Sati, child marriages, ignorance and illiteracy. Bengal pioneered women’s liberation—emancipation from the antahpur(insiders’ domestic quarters) to the mainstream gentry. With the development of Bethune College in Kolkata as the first women’s college in the country in 1871 along with the foundation of Hindu Mahila Vidyalaya in 1873 began the much coveted transmutation of gender equalization and appreciation.
In the field of religiosity, Swami Vivekananda was the first known Hindu scholar who perpetrated Hindu philosophy to the West, besides inspiring thousands of Indian youth to actualize Vedantic and Yogic principles.
The anti-establishment, anti-British imperialism sentiments catalyzed the birth and growth of yet another socio-political movement in Bengal: The Marxist/Leninist/Communist drive. Consequently, the socialist partisans, the national bourgeoisie and the massive peasantry corroborated Indian politic since 1920s. Further, in the Naxalite movement, the rustic, agrarian section of Bengal joined hands with the elite students to launch a predominantly radical insurgency against the individual “class enemies" chiefly landlords, politicians, law enforcement officers, university teachers et al.
Bengal isn’t the hub of an exclusive ethnic group but it nurtured and continues to do so, myriad of communities from various culture, creed and bearings. Subsequently, Sir William Jones, Ronald Ross, William Carey, Abu Taleb, C.V.Raman, Chandrasekhar, Sashi Hesh, Ravi Verma, Mother Teresa and many more have contributed in Bengal’s edifying omnipresence in various capacities.
Then, what triggered Bengal’s abhorrent semblance of today?
According to the latest survey in 2007 by International Institute of Population Sciences (IIPS), Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MOHFW), Government of India, out of all the 28 states of India, West Bengal ranks:
16th in terms of literacy rate
10th in terms of fertility rate
24th in terms of households having electricity
20th in terms of media exposure
The pseudo-socialist governance monopoly along with the mass exodus of sons and daughters of the soil has perhaps taken its toll on the growth trajectory of this state. Bengal’s battered present sticks out like a sore thumb amidst India’s rapid progress testimony. When, India as a nation is bubbling with optimism, Bengal, as a neglected offspring is succumbing to economic stagnation and bureaucratic corruption.
The once exalted cultural disposition is buried under the bouts of hunger and insecurity, the pillars of the glorified past are ravaged by the challenging times, the elite mercilessly suppressed under the Leftist propaganda, the poor oppressed to extinction.
The famous saying of the statesman Gopalakrishna Gokhale, “what Bengal thinks today, India thinks tomorrow” is reduced to a comical rhetoric.
Is this the Bengal our forefathers died for?

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