ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

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Calcutta Diary

It is a national malady of the most sickening kind to convert into icons hoary old men after they kick the bucket. A large proportion of the nation's energy and resources are spent in observing birth and death anniversaries of such departed souls. The individual thus worshipped might have been a crook of the first water or he might have had the reputation of an unspeakable despot while alive, but the ritual of hypocrisy continues unendingly month after month and year after year.

The Bharatiya Janata Party has begun to show its fangs. It was a minor episode; normally there would have been no reason to blow it up to the proportion it has now assumed. The BJP-led government in New Delhi had planned a year-long centenary celebration for their patron saint, Shyamaprasad Mookerjee. The inaugural ceremony they wanted to organise in Calcutta to coincide with the prime minister’s last visit to the city. The premises for holding the inaugural session were generously let out by the government of West Bengal, and the responsibility for ancillary security and other arrangements was also assumed by it. Nonetheless, the state government apparently committed an unpardonable faux pas. The state’s chief minister was away and an invitation to attend the occasion was sent by the union government to the deputy chief minister. The latter immediately wrote back a polite letter of acknowledgement to the union minister concerned and mentioned that he would rather not attend the meeting; since his ideology and views about life and living were radically different from those that were held by Mookerjee; he was actually worried that should he turn up at the meeting and was urged to speak a few words, what he might say would cut athwart the purpose the organisers had in mind; the deputy chief minister wanted to avoid embarrassment to them and to the prime minister who would be present.

Fascism abruptly reared its head. How dare this minister of the Left Front government of West Bengal not attend the meeting despite being invited? Since Mookerjee is the inspiration of the BJP-RSS fraternity, and they are ruling the country, their word is law and nobody in the country has the right to say ‘no’ to any such invitation. That would be akin to, and in the case of the West Bengal deputy chief minister was, treason. The prime minister himself, when he rose to speak, provided the cue for mounting a severe criticism of the state deputy chief minister. The BJP has now officially taken up the cudgels: these communists do not mind worshipping alien individuals like Marx and Lenin; their reservation looms large only if they are invited to show some reverence for great Indian leaders and savants like Shyamaprasad Mookerjee; this reveals the contemptible aspect of Left thinking in the country. A pronouncedly authoritarian streak embellishes the BJP’s fulmination, and bears an eerie resemblance to the threat held out to minority communities: if they want to continue as citizens of India, they must show proper respect to the concept of hindutva; that apart, if you are anxious to prove your credentials as a loyal son of the soil, you must do as the BJP orders you to do, and this includes compulsory attendance in the Shyamaprasad Mookerjee centenary celebrations.

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