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THE mouse is out. It is to be seen, which cat would prey on it. This is another matter whether the timing reflects a selective approach of rattling.
Prof Amartya Sen’s Pratichi Institute, along with Social Network for Assistance to People and Guidance Guild, released “Living reality of Muslims in West Bengal: A Report” on 14 February.
How dependable is a report on a vast population depends on its sampling appropriateness. This report, based on an initial survey of 97,000 families in proportion to population ratio between village and urban areas in West Bengal, and a final survey of 8,000 families can easily be considered trustworthy for its sampling adequacy and representativeness.
The time span of the past two years, when Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s claim of magical Muslim development gradually reached its crescendo is significant. The report speaks of gulf of difference between CM’s claims and the reality of Muslim presence in government jobs. It also shows the pathetic condition of educational backwardness among Bengal Muslims.
How does this reflect in minority politics in poll-bound West Bengal? Let us advance alphabetically.
Trinamool is seemingly at the receiving end as its Muslim support base nurtured through high rhetoric, finds the development reality to be different. They would certainly weigh contradictory claims of the Trinamool and the Muslim report card by contextualising on their real-life experiences.
What are these experiences? Nobody can deny that Mamata government has managed fund from various Central government schemes and projects to provide decent roads and several types of freebies in villages. It also facilitated compensation for disasters to land-holding farmers thrice during these five years rule.
But when it comes to marginal farmers, Trinamool government has failed to protect them from crisis of non-profitable agriculture. It is unlikely that the government freebies and different types of allowances for muezzins, folk artists, and others, would make the marginal farmers forget the deprivation they have suffered.
BJP might try to reach out to voters utilising the report to back the kind of political policy they propagate. That, through exclusivity of welfare and development measures for a religious minority, the community cannot advance much, has been a common refrain of the BJP.
BJP might now appeal to Muslim voters to support them for equal chances of welfare and development of all by showcasing the minority development trends in Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh over the past ten years.
Next comes the Congress, and then, the Left. As their electoral combine for Bengal elections is almost final, it is prudent to consider their take as one.
Pratichi Institute report would be wielded by them as a proof of Mamata Banerjee’s hypocrisy. But it is doubtful whether such a stance would bring voters to their side as the Congress and the Left’s failure in improving minority condition through the six decades since Independence is an undeniable fact.
Five years is too short a time to erase that memory, especially, when Trinamool has ensured that the Left is discredited amongst the minorities with clinical precision by means of its near 5-year sustained campaign carried out by human and mass media at every given opportunity.
Trinamool picked up this lesson on campaigning because of the effectiveness of a sustained Left campaign for two decades from 1978 to discredit the Congress by reminding people of the atrocities by the Congress regime of Siddhartha Sankar Roy in the 1970s.
Pratichi Report does not reflect on another issue, which is of great importance to assess power of a community in rural Bengal. Land transfer in villages and acquisition of properties by people belonging to different denominations over the past two years might have thrown very interesting light on real dimension of Muslim progress.
(Biplob LohoChoudhury is a professor of journalism at Visva-Bharati. He lives in Santiniketan, Birbhum. Click here to read his previous articles.)
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