Cry, My Beloved Bengal
There have been dramatic events in Malaysia in recent times. On the 9th May, the ruling party in Malaysia, which had enjoyed uninterrupted power for 61 years since independence was voted out in what was one of the most stunning upsets in electoral history. Many had hoped for such a turn of events, but most Malaysians never expected that this would happen.
However it did. The shell shocked Ex-Prime Minister tried to put a spin on events, but finally bowed out fairly gracefully, leaving the field to the opposition which then took over promising all manner of enquiries into the conduct of the past administration. On the day that the results were announced, all public transport ran as usual, the flights left on time, tourists entered and left Malaysia, the Malls were full of holidaying youngsters (the new government had declared a holiday).
There was no violence to speak of and certainly no severe injuries and no deaths. The passion that the Malaysians felt did not reflect itself on a wave of violence despite the fact that many opposition figures had been jailed (unfairly, they felt) earlier and many wrongs had been committed.
Or let us take the doings in Karnataka. The nail biting election over, the usual shenanigans of the politicians started. There was much drama, and finally one short lived Chief Minister resigned and another has taken office. There was much verbal pyrotechnics but no physical violence and nobody died.
On the other hand we had elections in Bengal. The run up to the elections saw dozens of deaths, the day of the elections saw 12 or 13 deaths depending on which news source you see, and post-election, some more deaths are taking place even today. I think roughly a hundred people must have died in the whole panchayat poll process.
Was it because it was a hotly contested election where two forces were both expecting victory? Not in the least. The ruling party won roughly a third of the seats uncontested. Why they were uncontested need not detain us now. Even in the contested seats, it was a forgone conclusion that the Trinamool Congress was going to win; the only question at stake was by what margin.
Even then, people died like flies. The only conclusion that can be drawn from this violence that resembles the mindless violence of rioters in the post independence communal conflagration, is that the population of Bengal is an uncivilized group who believe that violence is the answer to all argument. Similar situations exist in other states, particularly in the North Indian states and Kerala, but Bengal seems to lead the rest.
What is it about the soil of Bengal that breeds violence? We have had some of the most bestial riots in Pre independence India, and now having, at least in our half of the province, largely eschewed communalism, are leaders in political violence. I wonder what it says about us as a people and as a civilization? In my more politically innocent days I used to think that a particular political ideology was responsible for the violence, but now the exact opposite ideology seems to be outdoing them. And lest we forget an even more pernicious group are trying their best to displace them in order to what perhaps improve on the violence levels.
I sometimes try to reflect on what makes us so violent. Is it our huge population crowded into some of the most jam packed cites that leads to flare ups at the least provocation? But our villages are just as violent. In fact most of the deaths that took place during the recent elections were in the villages. Or is it some genetic predisposition? The level of violence in both Bengals makes this a distinct possibility, I would think. Or is it the lack of opportunity, the lack of job opportunities and the general sense of hopelessness that is the cause?
I am inclined to think that the last is the cause of the mindless mayhem that is characteristic of Bengal today. A person who believes that he has no future is one who is most addicted to anarchy and destruction. Whether it is true or not, the youth of Bengal are convinced that there is no light at the end of the tunnel. This all pervasive hopelessness is the principal cause of mindless violence.
I think this is proved if we look at eh most violent states of India and try to correlate the development statistics with the violence. Having said that, it is also true that Bengal and Kerala are not so terribly behind in the development stakes. The reason here is the sense of hopelessness. The feeling that nothing is going to happen much in the near or medium term future, the only thing to do is to migrate or stagnate is what leads to the violent mindset when they see any challenge to whatever meagre gains that they have made. So, if you are going to take away my panchayat seat and deprive me of the spoils of office, you are dead!!(literally).
The only way that this violence can end is if there is a mindset change and a feeling of hope is generated. Somehow I cannot see this happening in my lifetime. So for those who value their lives, stay indoors and as far away from poll related processes as possible.