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Sandeshkhali UPSC NOTE

 Situation in Sandeshkhali, West Bengal

  • There are two routes to Sandeshkhali in West Bengal. 

  • One takes you through a Hindu-Muslim divide.

  • The other through the acquisition-deprivation divide

  • Both stories are compelling and powerful.

  • In the first story, the name of the villain is Trinamool leader Sheikh Shahjahan, and the victims are the Hindu women. 

  • The story fits into the long tale of Muslim attacks on the hapless Hindu whenever and wherever the Hindu is weak or in a minority.

  • The strength of this story reinforces a sweeping narrative that has gained traction in West Bengal in recent years, restoring the festering wounds of Partition. 

  • The problem is that in Sandeshkhali the story is not only partial but also false

  • The immediate perpetrators of alleged crimes against women here are Uttam Sardar and Shibaprasad Hazra, both non-Muslims. 

  • The third is Ajit Maity, whom the villagers of Sandeshkhali attacked last week.

  • Under public pressure, Mamata Banerjee’s police arrested all three men, though Sheikh was absconding

  • That he had been spared for so long helped to feed the allegation of Ms. Banerjee’s Muslim ‘appeasement’ with an eye to the forthcoming elections. 

  • Hindus are all but in ‘minority’ in both Sandeshkhali blocks: 70% in one and 77% in the other, mostly belonging to the Scheduled Castes and Scheduled Tribes.

Hindu-Muslim Strife Narrative

  • Rather than a Hindu-Muslim strife, Sandeshkhali quintessentially reflects the crisis of Mamata Banerjee’s model of governance

  • Unlike in many other States where people form collectives around caste, tribal, linguistic or religious identities, in West Bengal’s post-Partition strife for life and livelihood, people clung to different political parties for both protection and provisions.

  • During the long rule of the Left Front, due to the well-coordinated structure of the hegemonic CPI(M), partisan affiliations of individuals and groups got further reinforced in offering the master key to enter public life

  • Party affiliation gave people an identity which, in turn, created a fusion called party-society

  • In the twilight years of the Left Front, the educated middle class party leaders were slowly but steadily getting replaced at the grassroots by enterprising individuals representing either relatively well-off farmers or those running small trade and businesses

  • With the Left Front’s defeat, the most ambitious of these local political managers changed sides and joined the Trinamool Congress (TMC).

  • Ms. Banerjee realised early on that although she had to work with party society, she could not run a government the CPI(M) way. 

  • In her party, she alone drew universal authority without any stable hierarchy of command

  • She compensated for this in a three-pronged manner. 

  • She brought some key bureaucrats and police officers, irrespective of their rankings, under her direct command and placed her faith in them over party workers

  • She befriended ethnic, caste and religious community leaders, and inducted them in the party. 

  • Moreover, she extended protection to the local party chieftains to expand their dubious businesses in lieu of complete personal loyalty.

  • These enterprising political managers were quick to leverage their political power — in cahoots with the local administration and police — for usurping as much profit as possible from legal and illegal businesses involving land, forest, sand, coal, fisheries, foodgrains and siphoning off cash from various government schemes and contracts. 

  • Most of these people are from relatively rich peasant households who earlier lost land due to the Left Front’s land reforms but eventually were positioned in places of power — first in the CPI(M) and thereafter in the TMC.

Crisis of Governance Narrative

  • It snapped because the equation flipped with Mallick’s arrest and Sheikh’s absence from the scene. 

  • As the media focused on Sandeshkhali, the locals found enough courage to open their mouths.

  • They made two specific allegations: 

  • That the TMC leaders like Hazra and Sardar illegally seized their farmland and turned them into private fisheries without any compensation.

  • And the TMC workers routinely called women from the village to the party office late in the night and sexually abused them. 

  • The first is a classic case of the reversal of land reforms in which the Left Front in the late 1970s and early 1980s had distributed privately held agricultural land above a fixed amount among the landless and the land-poor peasants

  • The second is a typical demonstration of monstrous masculine power by activists of a political party bereft of any binding ideological-moral discipline.

  • Predictably, the TMC now attempts to distance itself from the Sheikh, Hazra and Sardar

  • And the Bharatiya Janata Party is on an overdrive to paint it as exploitation of Hindu women by Muslim goons


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Learnerz IAS | Concept oriented UPSC Classes in Malayalam: Sandeshkhali UPSC NOTE
Sandeshkhali UPSC NOTE
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