From the Viewsroom

Lalan’s soldiers at Plassey

Poornima Joshi | Updated on April 06, 2021

Some voices of dissent to Bengal’s communal-driven elections

In the mercenary contest for votes on religious lines in West Bengal, efforts of a few citizens groups to rekindle harmony are not entirely lost even if they remain largely obscure. In Nadia, a district bordering Bangladesh, the BJP’s CAA outreach is as much about underlining dignity for the Matuas, a Scheduled Caste Bangladeshi migrant group that is believed to be influential in approximately 40 Assembly seats, as alienating the Muslims. The strategic combination of the BJP’s communal and caste calculus derives its validation from the ruling Trinamool Congress’s ostensible “appeasement” politics. But there are pockets where remnants of Bengal’s majestic spiritual past are still relevant in countering this dominant narrative. At Kadamkhali grounds in Assanagar village stands the shrine of the greatest among the Bauls, Lalan Shah Fakir. Bauls follow the Bhakti-Sufi tradition of a syncretic culture that blossomed in Bengal between the 17th and 19th centuries due to the creative genius of wandering ascetics like Chaitanya Mahaprabhu and Lalan Fakir who was born around here. Around Kadamkhali, village-folk sing Lalan’s songs in response to whether they support the CAA, OBC reservation or citizenship to Matuas. “Sab loke koye Lalan ki jaat sansare, Lalan bhabhe jater ki rup dekhlam na eyi nazare. Sab bole Lalan Fakir Hindu ki jaban, Lalan bole amar ami na jani sandhan… Eis kia jab karkhane, jaat gelo, jaat gelo bole (“Everyone asks, what is Lalan’s caste? But Lalan has never seen caste. Everyone asks whether Lalan is Hindu or Muslim. But Lalan says he does not see the difference),” sings Santosh Biswas of Kadamkhali.

The sentiment is captured by young men who organised under the NRC Virodhi Nagrik Manch last year and led a prolonged dharna at the historical grounds in Plassey where the British defeated the Nawab of Bengal Siraj-ud-Daulah in 1757. Sheshadri Roy, a local activist, recalls the crowd’s ecstatic response to him invoking Lalan: “I said Amon manab samaj, kakego srijan hobe. Jebon Hindu Mussalman, Budho, Christan, jati, gotra, nahi kobe (When will that day come when our society will not have divisions of religion, caste, gotra).” These are a few voices of reason in a campaign of innuendoes.

Published on April 06, 2021

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