It’s almost a month since the Trinamool Congress won the Bengal election, defeating the BJP. Now that the dust has settled on a heated electoral exercise, it’s time for vichaar, vimarsh, deliberation and discussion. Especially for the BJP.
It was in this spirit that Pragna Bharati Telangana organised a public event on May 24 called “The Turmoil in Bengal: Causes and Solutions”. Pragna Bharati describes itself as “a forum for India's Intellectual Nationalist Thinkers”. And, true to the claim, they invited to their function BJP’s top intellectual, spokesperson and bobblehead Sambit Patra.
And what a change of scenery it was for Patra! No taunting and shouting down people as he does nightly on that clown circus circuit called primetime TV. Here, he was behaving like an intellectual on a forum full of intellectual people who deserve to be addressed intellectually and respectfully.
The virtues of glorious Bengal
It couldn’t have begun on a higher intellectual plane. First up: “demographic problem”, or as I call it, “OMG Muzlims are taking over everything and bullying us poor Hindoos into submission.”
Padmashri Hanuman Chaudhary, in his introduction, said the Muslim population in Bengal has gone up to 35 percent from 18 percent in 1951. Then, Patra opened his monologue declaring what Chaudhary had pointed out was the real “problem” with Bengal.
He waxed eloquent about the “virtues of Bengal”, all of which, of course, only existed before 1947, when the Commie-Congi gang took over and destroyed the state. “Bengal contributed to India in more ways than one, economically and spiritually,” Patra continued. “Kolkata was the capital of India until 1911. And until 1937, Bengal was the financial capital of India. The RBI’s headquarters were in Kolkata before being shifted to Mumbai.”
Bengal also holds great significance for his Sangh Parivar, Patra pointed out. In 1905, Syama Prasad Mukherjee, the founder of the BJP’s forerunner Jana Sangh, and the Hindu Mahasabha “changed gears” to advocate for the British Raj plan to divide Bengal because it was the only way to “save Hindus”. “Today,” he added, “Hindus, for whom Bengal was supposed to be a sanctuary, we are losing it all.”
The BJP invoked Mukherjee throughout the election campaign. Suvendu Adhikari, who contested against Trinamool Congress chief Mamata Banerjee, , “Without Syama Prasad Mookerjee’s contribution, this country would have been an Islamic country and we would be living in Bangladesh.”
Patra continued his intellectual monologue, now invoking the founder of the RSS, “Hedgewar’s playground was Bengal when he was in medical school. He joined the Anusheelan Samiti there.”
The Samiti, active after 1902, called for armed violence to end the British rule in India. (Fun fact: Anusheelan Samiti has been revived, .)
Coming back to the “demography” theme, Patra momentarily lapsed into his TV debate automaton mode. “We have Hindus migrating from villages to towns because of changes in demographics,” he declared. “The villages are being inhabited by Bangladeshi infiltrators in particular districts.”
To back up his declaration, Patra mentioned a paper published by former Bengal governor TV Rajeshwar in 1989 which stated that 52 of the 294 assembly seats in the state were “decisively decided by Bangladeshi infiltrators”. The BJP spokesperson said the paper was easily available online for anyone to read.
The only “easily accessible” reference we could find was an about BJP leader VK Malhotra claiming in the parliament that Rajeshwar had written a letter to India’s president in 1981 on the subject of “Bangladeshi infiltration” and demographic change. Malhotra quoted extensively from the letter and declared that he was willing to authenticate as it was available online. Essentially, exactly what Patra said.
Maybe the letter is buried in some archive or the other, given that it was on the internet, supposedly, even in 2004, but we could not find any trace of it. If you can locate it, kindly share.
So, coming back to the discussion, what could possibly be an intellectual solution to the “demographic problem”? “For the Hindus of Bengal, the solution is only one thing,” Patra said, “Arise, Awaken and March.”
March where and for what? That was left to the imagination of the assembled intellectuals.
President’s rule in Bengal
Patra spent considerable time on post-poll violence in Bengal in which he claimed 30 BJP karyakartas have lost their lives. “Violence in Bengal was state-sponsored,” he declared, “It’s state-sponsored. Mamata Banerjee is complicit in it. Media, administration, highest bodies of the state, bodies which dispense law in this country.”
He also had a complaint about the media, “On TV, they asked me, ‘Is this real Sambit ji?’ It’s so frustrating, I told them to go on the ground and investigate.”
Well, Sambitji, we have good news for you. TV newswallas may not have done it, but Newslaundry did. Here’s a on the post-poll violence, if you are inclined to know the truth.
Anyway, given the context, a frequently asked question from the audience was whether president’s rule could be imposed in Bengal.
Patra got excitedly sad and moaned that since he was a party spokesman he couldn’t express much of what was in his heart.
“This is a public forum. You saw what happened to Baba Ramdev,” he added, by way of an explanation for why he couldn’t pour his heart out. “He was reading out a message but that part was removed.”
Of course, .
Still, Patra persisted. “To answer your question, I will go around the bush,” he said, but didn’t really. “Please have faith in the central government. We have the best leaders in power, Shri Narendra Modi ji and Amit Shah ji. You tell me, do we have a better choice than these leaders to protect the interests of Bharat Mata?”
He paused for a response and got vehement muted nods from those in the virtually assembled crowd who had their cameras on.
“Kuch jaan ke chalo, kuch maan ke chalo. Kuch kar rahe hain jo pata nahi hai. Sab kuch articulate kare toh kar hi nahi sakte,” he resumed, threatening to break into verse. “Some things you have to know, some things you have to believe. They are doing something you don’t know. If they articulate everything they want to do, then they won’t be able to do anything.”
Helpfully, lest the assembled intellectuals weren’t stimulated enough, he concluded, “Solution comes gradually, be patient. We cannot have a perpetual president’s rule there…we need a solution that is everlasting.”
Still not placated, huh? Try this: CAA is being implemented slowly slowly, step by step, he announced. “Have shraddha, saburi,” he demanded of them, “Faith and patience. Doubt kills.”
There was time yet for a final piece of advice: write more on social media. “It’s a great influencer,” he said. “Tell your children and family members to write on social media. Not everyone has to be on the battlefield to contribute. If you want to contribute, you will come up with 1,001 solutions on how to do it.”
We’ll wait for you to elaborate on the “solution”, Sambit ji. Hopefully away from primetime TV panels, and preferably at another of these glorious intellectually stimulating functions.
Do send an invite. Thnx.