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

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Caste in West Bengal Politics

It is difficult to agree with Praskanva Sinharay’s argument (“West Bengal’s Election Story: The Caste Question”,EPW, 26 April 2014) that “caste” is emerging as a “determinant” factor in West Bengal’s political scene. The association of some “Matua” leaders with dominant parties like the Trinamool Congress or the Bharatiya Janata Party is proof, not in favour of, but against the above argument. Rezzak Mollah’s rhetoric of mobilisation of the dalits and Muslims under one political platform is still the dream ofa frustrated man who tries to catch at straws in the political deluge that threatens him after being expelled from the Communist Party of India (Marxist). The author informs us that a party called the Bahujan Mukti Party “has already created a support base among the different lower-caste communities”. Will he be able to substantiate his statement with the results of the parlia­mentary elections in which nearly 30 candidates of the party were reported to be contesting?

Lastly, the author makes some judgmental comments about the Left Front regime without caring to check the facts. Among other instances of such comments, I would like to flag the use of the phrase “forcible land-grab” while referring to the incidents of Singur-Nandigram. The fact is that the government did not initiate any land acquisition proceedings in Nandigram under the Land Acquisition Act. Hence, the question of any “land-grab” by the government in Nandigram does not arise. So far as Singur is concerned, lands had been acquired under a law that was in operation at the relevant time. The high court had held that the acquisition was done after following the lawful process and nearly 80% of the landowners had agreed to hand over their lands in lieu of compensation. If acquisition of land is constitutionally permissible, and if Singur’s lands were acquired lawfully and not arbitrarily, how can such an act of the government be categorised as “land-grabbing”? This phrase, though very popular amongthe activists, forecloses any scope to examine whether a specific case of land acquisition is really unethical or unjust.

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