Religion and the Public Sphere

Communalisation of Politics in West Bengal

The growing saffronisation of the Bengali public sphere, evident from the violent celebrations of Ram Navami and Hanuman Jayanti in West Bengal, has raised the possibility of a murky manoeuvring of communal politics before the 2019 general elections. With the left and liberal public spaces having failed at addressing crucial socio-religious questions and the far right misappropriating and usurping these spaces, comprehensive critical engagement with the growing presence of religion in the public sphere is necessary.

Of late, West Bengal, along with Bihar, has been in the news for communal flare-ups in some districts where different communities have been living in relative harmony for long. With the left being a pale shadow of its former self in the state, the political void, caused by the virtual decimation of the “Left Hemisphere” (Keucheyan 2013), has been hijacked by shrill and belligerent voices on the right, hell-bent on hegemonising the Bengali “mindset” by using new icons of religious nationalism and a politics of the majoritarian culture.

Consequently, one can see the growing saffronisation of the Bengali public sphere with Ram Navami and Hanuman Jayanti celebrations being organised amidst violent political fanfare across different districts. This was seldom witnessed earlier in the state. This phenomenon of rabid politicisation of popular mytho-religious figures and symbols by the state unit of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) began as a calculated electoral strategy in 2017 to galvanise the Hindu vote in West Bengal. This year’s Ram Navami celebration turned into a completely political arena where political parties vied with each other to claim greater allegiance to lord Ram.

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Updated On : 23rd Apr, 2018

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