KOLKATA: Chief minister Mamata Banerjee on Saturday compared the ongoing assembly elections to the Banga Bhanga (partition of Bengal) movement to drive in her points that BJP is dividing people in the name of religion and this is not Bengal’s culture. Such references to historical events and facts have re-emerged as a topic of discussion in poll-bound Bengal across political parties as well as common people.
While the official pages of BJP have not mentioned the 1946 Great Calcutta Killings, its supporters are posting pictures, writings on this particular event on social media to polarize Hindus before the remaining four phases of the elections.
Asking Hindus to vote wisely, the posts refer to Suhrawardy’s role during the riot, in the context of the promotion of Muslim politicians and officials by the BJP’s rivals, sending out an overt, or sometimes implied, message that the disastrous days could be back again.
Assistant professor at the Institute of Development Studies in Kolkata, Anwesha Sengupta says, “The attempt is to reinstate fear in public memory by dragging the episode of 1946 because Calcutta has a history of being a riot-torn city. In a region which has suffered partition, it is like opening the old wounds because many families have personal memories of communal violence and BJP is banking on it to consolidate votes.”
In several poll campaigns, BJP is invoking Syama Prasad Mookerjee to shed away
’s ‘outsider party’ tag.
According to BJP’s Mohit Roy, “It is an attempt to remind the Bengali Hindus that it is for Syama Prasad Mookerjee that they are living in a safe homeland, otherwise, it would have been Bangladesh.”
says this is “communal” politics and an attempt to incite Bengali sentiments.
Several Facebook users recalled how Bina Das and Ila Mitra single-handedly prevented riots on Prince Anwar Shah Road and the Park Circus area, the role of Manikuntala Sen and Renu Chakravartty in mobilizing a mass movement during the 1943 Bengal Famine and providing relief to the famine victims.
Activist Kasturi Basu shared a poster which states ‘Banglar Maayera Meyera Sokolei Muktijoddha’. She wrote “it is time to build resistance against the fascists who try to distort history and erase them from collective memory”, hinting at Narendra Modi’s claim that he did ‘satyagaraha’ for the freedom of Bangladesh. A YouTube channel — Counter Communalism — launched a video where activist Sumit Chowdhury discussed the story of Muhammed Ali Jinnah’s ancestors, who were Hindus, to counter divisive forces.
Filmmaker Saumitra Dastidar feels these stories need to be re-told. To make people aware of the imminent dangers like farm laws,
, Hathras rape case, a video series ‘Amader Kotha’ by No-Vote-To-BJP campaign is citing memories from the past. In one of the videos, a middle-aged Bengali homemaker recalls the stories of the 1943 famine that her grandmother told her and is skeptical whether the farm laws will again pave way for hoarding and lead to another famine-like condition in Bengal.
CPI(ML) general secretary
says, “Implementation of farm laws will bring back ‘Company Raj’ just like the times of East India Company.” He posted sketches of the Tebhaga movement by Somnath Hore, which stood for its peasant militancy and communal harmony. To evoke memories of hunger and food crisis, CPI(ML) is drawing Chittaprasad's sketches of famine-ravaged Bengal as poll-graffiti in rural Bengal.
CPM’s slogan ‘Haal ferate ferao laal’ evokes memories of the Left-Front government in Bengal. “The election has now become an event of fear but in my childhood, it was a festival of democracy, when I used to accompany my grandmother to the booth,” reminisces Sanjukto Morcha’s candidate from Bally, Dipsita Dhar.