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Why our Bengal is so Important for The Indian Republic
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Jay Bhattacharjee | Date:01 May , 2021 19 Comments
Jay Bhattacharjee
is an advisor in corporate laws and finance, based in Delhi. His other areas of interest include socio-political issues and military history. He has been a commentator and columnist from the mid-1990s.

It is very likely that the final results of the latest State-level elections in West Bengal will be available soon after this essay is published. The actual election process lasted more than a month and was preceded of course, by almost a year of vigorous (and very often violent) campaigning by the two main electoral alliances. No quarter was asked and none given in this murderous interlude in Indian politics.

The statutory Central Election Commission (CEC), along with its local West Bengal subordinate affiliate, drew flak from all the contenders, and was indeed guilty of numerous sins of omission and commission. Some of them were undoubtedly grievous, although corrective action was taken in many cases. This was done largely because of the public nature of the elections and also because of the power and capability of contemporary information technology.

However, I must clarify that it is not part of the remit of this essay of mine to go into these contentious issues. What I propose to do is to study the critical importance of this election for the Indian Republic as a whole and also for our ancient Indic civilisation. Needless to say, I pen these thoughts not as a Bengali (even an expat one, or a probashi as they say in the Bangla language). To be a member of the homo sapiens group is a valid enough justification.

Good old Byron is the prototype of the person who justified this present intervention of mine when he penned his immortal lines in praise of a fallen and defeated Greece, the cradle of ancient European civilisation:

The isles of Greece! the isles of Greece
Where burning Sappho loved and sung,
Where grew the arts of war and peace,
Where Delos rose, and Phoebus sprung!

The mountains look on Marathon—
And Marathon looks on the sea;
And musing there an hour alone,
I dream’d that Greece might still be free;
For standing on the Persians’ grave,
I could not deem myself a slave.

In our shores also, we have had powerful and epic poems, songs and essays to honour our ancient and glorious past, that was nearly swept away from the human pantheon by successive hordes of invaders from our west. Many of these poems and songs were Bengal’s gift to the rest of India.

Apart from our two national songs, Vande Mataram and Jana Gana Mana, these immortal songs and poems are not even known to the vast majority of our fellow citizens. The one song that resonated with freedom fighters during the first four decades of the last century was Atul Prasad Sen’s moving paean to India’s revival.

Atul Prasad, like many of his fellow-Bangla professionals, lived for a number of  years in Lucknow, where he composed some of his memorable hymns. The main one was  “Bolo bolo bolo shobey, shoto beena benu robey”. Roughly translated into English, it asks the country’s populace to sing in the company of a hundred veenas about the impending rise of India and its return to the centre stage of the world assembly. This resurgent Bharat would be great in religion as well as in deeds,  and when the new day dawns, the old would also rise again.

বল বল   বল সবে শত বীণা বেণু  রবে
ভারত  আবার জগৎ সভায়  শ্রেষ্ট  আসন  লবে
ধর্মে মহান  হবে কর্মে  মহান  হবে…
নব  দিনমনি  উদিবে  আবার  পুরাতন  এ পুরবে

The contribution of undivided Bengal to the Indian freedom struggle was unparalleled. The number of freedom-fighters and revolutionaries from Bengal who were imprisoned in the notorious Cellular Jail in the Andamans was disproportionately much  more than those from the Punjab, UP and Bombay Presidency. (

In a recent disclosure to the Rajya Sabha on the 9th July 2019, the Minister of State for Culture confirmed that 585 revolutionary prisoners were sent to the Andamans between 1909 and 1938, when the British shut down the Cellular Jail. Out of these 585 freedom fighters, no less than 398 were from undivided Bengal. This gives yet another indication of what Bengal gave to the rest of the nation(Government of India, Ministry of Culture, Unstarred Question no. 1756, answered in the Rajya Sabha by the Minister of State for Culture)

In the overall history of the Indian freedom movement, the contribution of undivided Bengal has been assessed in great depth in another study that I found to be most perceptive, because it contains a wealth of data and information. Authored by S. S. Shanmukh and Dikgaj, this piece of research published in 2019 is both empathetic and rigorous.(

The readers will pardon me for providing this detailed historical canvas, since it shows how important Bengal (now dismembered as West Bengal) is for India, even after it has been reduced to a shadow of its former self. This is because Bengal’s intrinsic attributes will always be of immense value for the rest of the Indian Republic. The rest of this essay will concentrate on this theme.

The following are the parameters, not necessarily in any order of importance, that define the umbilical links between the two entities. The terms West Bengal and Bengal will be used interchangeably hereafter. Its eastern neighbour will (correctly) be referred to as Bangladesh. The first characteristic of our Bengal is its location. It is the gateway to India’s northern neighbours, a number of north-east Indian states, the Bay of Bengal and the Indian Ocean. The international country groupings of ASEAN and BIMSTEC are logically the strategic backyards of our Bengal. 

We should now look at the major changes that have taken place in West Bengal in recent times under different political dispensations. The starkest change that this state has seen is in its demographic composition. The 2011 Census figures on religious affiliation of India’s population composition were not put up in the public domain till the 2104 national elections were concluded.  In the case of West Bengal, the figures were as follows :

Religion Persons Percentage Males Females
Hindu 64,385,546 70.54 33,046,557 31,338,989
Muslim 24,654,825 27.01 12,640,092 12,014,733
Christian 658,618 0.72 325,986 332,632
Sikh 63,523 0.07 34,168 29,355
Buddhist 282,898 0.31 141,388 141,510
Jain 60,141 0.07 30,718 29,423
Others 942,297 1.03 469,865 472,432
Not Stated 228,267 0.25 120,253 108,014

Source: Census of India : Details of Religion In Main Table C-1- 2011 (India & States/UTs)

The decennial changes in the Muslim population of our Bengal from 1961 was as follows:

Census year % of total population Decadal growth Increase
1961 20%                   36.5%         0.15%
1971 20.46%              29.76%       0.46%
1981 21.51%              29.55%       1.05%
1991 23.61%               36.89%       2.1%
2001 25.25%               25.91%      1.64%
2011 27.01%               21.80%      1.76%

The figures speak for themselves and the readers will be able to grasp the implications of these changes. The only observation that needs to be made is that this change took place under the Congress as well as the Left Front regimes. The TMC’s track-record will only be available after the 2021 Census results are disclosed and that may take another five years or so.

However, a quick summary of Bengal’s demographics will show that in three districts, namely, Murshidabad, Malda and North Dinajpur (all of which are border districts), Muslims outnumber Hindus. Also, in India as a whole, the growth in the Muslim population between 2001 and 2011 was 0.8%, but in West Bengal it was 1.76% (more than double).

On the economic and industrial front, West Bengal’s performance was equally dismal. According to the Economic Survey of 2020-2021, this was how the state performed in recent times.


                                      2012 – 2019 (AVG.)

WEST BENGAL                       5.16

ALL INDIA                                6.95

It must be emphasised that the economic powerhouses like Maharashtra, Gujarat, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka notched up growth rates of 6.88, 9.83, 7.12 and 8.79 % respectively. We should also note that these States recorded these growth rates at base levels that were considerably higher than that of West Bengal. Readers will undoubtedly observe that the period 2012-2019 was one when West Bengal was continuously under the rule of the TMC and Ms. Mamata Banerjee.

What are the other legacies of the current ruling dispensation of our Bengal? The saga of overwhelming corruption and graft of this coterie during the last 10 years is something that all readers of this essay will recall. Scams and scandals like Saradha Chit Fund, the Coal Scam and other ignominious episodes need hardly be recounted in this essay, since they have been extensively documented in the national media. However, as a footnote one should also remember the hilarious episode when the TMC leader’s attempt to award herself a Ph.D. from a non-existent American “university” boomeranged a few years ago. (

To wrap up this essay, all of us should deeply introspect whether our Bengal, with all its heritage, immensely valuable patrimony and strategic importance, should be allowed to be ruled and misruled by  forces that are manifestly venal and dangerous. The Bengali psyche has been so corrupted and distorted by powerful and insidious elements in the last few decades that it should not be surprising to see the same viral elements being returned to power in the next few days.

Will India ever be able to repent appropriately if this happens?

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19 thoughts on “Why our Bengal is so Important for The Indian Republic

  1. Very interesting article. All the states of India have paid their contribution towards fighting for freedom. All contributions are comparable. e.g. Saurashtra was having 100+ kingsley states. But the factors to bring public awareness was a large. It was a period of Renaissance in literature and social reforms. Their protest was much more refined and matured. Any way the British Rule had brought poverty everywhere in India in more and less proportion. Southern and Eastern states made more poor, and that is why they still have to go Mumbai and Gujarat. Why Mumbai? Mumbai has been made a small India and further it was founded and developed by Gujaratis who are least regional. Gujaratis also go to other places. But they go there to create jobs, and not to occupy job.
    The recent elections in West Bengal have tarnished the glorified image of West Bengal. Mamata must be prosecuted and sent to jail.

  2. An insightful article supported by data. I am sure 2021 Census will come out with more revealing data of demographic growth. And ingress from across the border goes on unabetted. They are vote banks and were patronized by Jyoti Basu as well as the present dispensation.
    Post election violence all over the state and more so in Birbhum district have witnessed how Hindus were specially targeted. I would hate to mix religion with politics but unfortunately that is the reality which started in modern India since Khilafat movement and of all the people JInnah cautioned against it.
    Decay and fall of such an illustrious state which once upon a time acted like a beacon to rest of India is pitiful. Renaissance in Bengal in 19th century fanned towards rest of India. What happens in Bengal has a deep impact on rest of India. Is it Chakravat paribartante sukhani dukhani cha ?
    Will some day West Bengal regain its past glory? Let’s look at the 2021 census and take a calculative and pragmatic view. But never loose hope.

  3. The West Bengal results have fully borne out the dire predictions of the author in this moving and perceptive article. The apprehensions he expressed have turned out to be so prophetic.

    The so-called Bengali intelligentsia is now witnessing the truth that lies behind the facade of the self-designated secular forces. How will they now react? By voting with their feet, I suppose. They should truly contemplate re-location – because the mullahs in their mosques will soon have little use for these bhadralog. “Useful idiots” in Stalinist terminology.

  4. This piece has now been proven correct, It means more mobilization of BJP camera for all round the year deployment to West Bengal.

    More work needs to be done, this analysis contains the answers too we only need to find it when Jay da points to the 70% Hindu population all is not yet lost.
    The leadership has to find a fiery leader from within its ranks to galvanize and unite the 70%

    This situation reminds me of India before 2009 my friend said Bipin BJP is finished I replied . the BJP has an Ideology, Caders and sufficient leadership a party like that cannot be finished. the same holds good for Bengal today.

    In Bengal we have done exceedingly well and it’s for us to find the Modi Ji of Bengal.
    I am more worried about Kerala and Tamilnadu than West Bengal.

  5. A very deep and insightful article but where are the answers?
    Do we ever hope to get answers under the present situation ?
    Will action be taken in the positive direction?
    If so when?
    And by whom?

    Now that the election results are out one can see starting on the very day itself, the terrible attacks on the Hindus of Bengal.
    What lies in store for our Nation at large is again a question that needs to be answered but who will???
    Bengal gave to Bharat great people – artists ,poets, philosophers ,thinkers ,educationists and social reformers.
    What happened ? And what is still continuing to happen ???

    Will we ever see during our lifetime Light at the end of this very very dark tunnel???

    Ya devi sarvabhooteshu Matri roopena samsthitha
    namastasyai namastasyai namastasyai namo namaha II
    dugrgaam deveem sharanamaham prapaddhye

    May her SHAKTI pervade this land to wipe out ALL the negativities.
    May good sense prevail !
    Durga durgati nashini – durga mangala sarva mangala II

  6. When we watch, from distant shores, the events unfolding in India, our initial reaction is one of dismay. The Bengal election results are particularly painful. Then I came across this deeply moving essay written just before the election results.

    Like all his earlier essays (written much too rarely, in my opinion), the author displays an insight and empathy that is so rare in the English media in India. Every word in his article resonated with me personally, as with other NRIs with whom I shared this piece. My thanks to the editorial team in Indian Defence Review for making this article available to us.

  7. As a member of the global Indian diaspora and as an old Calcutta resident, I was immensely moved by this essay. Not only is it incisive and analytical, it also touches the most sensitive chords in our minds.

    Today’s preliminary results of the Bengal elections are heartrending. They substantiate the fears that Mr. Bhattacharjee articulated so eloquently in his essay. Clearly, a segment of the bhadralok vote bank as well as the electorate that goes by the inflammatory announcements from the mosques have prevailed over the voices of reason.

    I weep for our Bengal and for the Indian Republic.

  8. I do agree with you and definitely feel the Bengal demography change is very very detrimental to Bengal as well as our entire Nation. If this growth is not stopped the entire Nation will then come under a Caliphate rule. Yes, not Mughal rule but the Caliphate rule. This is going to be far worse than the Mughals.
    It is therefore very important that Hindus realise this, sooner the better, and act on this basis. Whether its voting or propogating Sanatan Dharm or battling the Marxist media or opposing vehemently the conversions, whether to Muslim or Christianity.
    Rising together to oppose and throw out the Breaking India forces, joining hands for Sanatanis, forgetting secularism, are the need of the day

  9. My dear friend,
    Thank you for this informative essay. If I may, please allow me to get to the last part of your essay. Although it has relevance in this context, we must not entertain the question of repentance. India has splintered more than it should. When it does, it falls in the hands of people who hate Hindus. I believe we can do something. It may be radical, or it may be benevolent. However, we must put our heads together and solve the problem of reclaiming Bengal.
    So, let us, for the next three months, draw up some solutions and then see how we can make the masses agree to them.

  10. Very insightful. Knew about Bengali leadership and massive contribution to the freedom struggle but this throws lost more of light on the suffering of Bengali patriots. The detrimental changes in the recent past are evident to us but it will indeed be a pity of the forces that have wrought so much evil and devastated the basic fabric and intrinsic character of the Bengali people, will be returned to power through an election! Am not taking the side of any political party as I tend to get throroughly disillusioned with most, but cannot resist asking:”What more tragic consequence can a so called democratic election bring about?

  11. This is a seminal essay on a critically important subject. The writer has brought out the salient aspects of the theme in a very empathetic and perceptive manner. Our Bengal (or West Bengal) is a key component of the Indian Republic in so many ways, as this essay demonstrates so lucidly. Thank you, IDR for this article.

    P.S. My earlier comments posted a few hours ago seem to have disappeared in cyber space.

  12. Therefore ,in essence , you want to state that Muslim population in Bengal today threatens India?
    If so and I think that is the import of your article, the reader would have gained had you suggested how one can control the Muslim population to safeguard India against the threat of West Bengal Muslims.

    As for economic growth, as per GDP figures , isn’t West Bengal ranked sixth?

    And Sir, all States ahead of West Bengal have not suffered the pangs of partition . Had partition not taken place , united Bengal would have contributed to nearly 25% of India’s GDP.

    For isn’t it true that Bengal contributed to nearly or over 30% of total revenue collected by the Mughals and over 25% of the East India Company and later to the British Government in India’s coffers.
    The uniqueness of Bengal and its culture is inclusiveness , tolerance and progressiveness. It epitomizes the essence of Sanathan Dharma .
    But all one gained in your learned and well informed discourse here is that West Bengal needs to vote in a particular manner so that its Muslim population is stymied and reduced .

    Bengal sacrificed over 2000 of its sons in the freedom struggle. Is it any way comparable to any of the States ahead of West Bengal in GDP? The political party which you are suggesting , though having roots to 1922, didn’t even participate in the freedom struggle, in any form.
    Deeply disappointed .Indians, who swear by the Constitution do not definitely express such divisive thoughts .

    • This is a highly confusing and intellectually dishonest post. You make meaningless statements, e,g, that Bengal “sacrificed over 2000” of its sons in the freedom struggle. Surely, you missed out on a few digits here. The rest of your input is bizarre and disjointed. You clearly need to put on your thinking cap before you participate in a serious discussion.

  13. This is truly a seminal essay in the current context. As the nation awaits the results of the just-concluded West Bengal elections, the author has analysed the entire scenario so cogently and perceptively. Bengal’s importance for India cannot be over-emphasised. Unfortunately, there is now a real possibility that West Bengal may be fractured and splintered by deadly forces in certain parts of the world.

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