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Is West Bengal Espousing Casteism?

The latest decision by the Mamata Banerjee government to form two separate welfare boards for the people belonging to the Matua and Namasudra communities, has triggered this apprehension


Is West Bengal, hitherto famous for leaving casteism in the backyard for generations, slowly espousing a caste-based social milieu?

The latest decision by the Mamata Banerjee government to form two separate welfare boards for the people belonging to the Matua and Namasudra communities, has triggered this apprehension, with the opposition CPIM and BJP coming down heavily on the government for trying to sow seeds of division along the caste line among the communities.

The aim of forming two separate boards for the twin communities,  according to chief minister Mamata Banerjee, is to deliver more effectively the fruits of various developmental and welfare programmes of the state government to the people of these communities.

However, the speed with which the announcement was made, took everybody by surprise. “ This is Mamata Banerjee’s gimmick before the coming Lok Sabha polls; she is scared of the vote bank of the Matuas and Namasudra people. Hence the hurry in declaring the boards,” CPI(M) Legislature party chief  Sujan Chakraborty alleged.

“ She(Mamata Banerjee) is not only sowing seeds of division in Bengal that has not so far seen such division in the name of caste, but the chief minister is also breaking the basic fabric of Bengal to garner votes before the Lok Sabha polls,” Chakraborty fumed.

Since the assumption of power in 2011, the Mamata Banerjee government has been on a spree of forming government-sponsored development boards for tribals and non-tribals in various parts of the state. Darjeeling Hills alone saw the formation of as many as 15 development boards besides the one  Transgender Development board which was announced after the Supreme Court verdict on LGBT.

According to state BJP president Dilip Ghosh, Matuas themselves belong to the Namasudra community and hence, there is no point behind framing a separate board for the Namasudras.

This apart, the saffron brigade has recently made deep inroads in the Matua community,  considered a Trinamool Congress stronghold. The community comprising 1.5 crore people has been a major TMC vote bank. But with the BJP succeeding in penetrating into this votebank, the TMC central leadership has pressed the panic button.

The dwindling influence, political observers feel, must have prompted the TMC leadership to look for an urgent measure to regain the party’s lost ground. People belonging to the Matua and Namasudra, are spread over at least five districts of the state and can make or mar the electoral swing of a political party.

“ They determine the electoral fortune of as many as 65 candidates in as many assembly seats which is why the Mamata Banerjee government can’t possibly ignore the community in view of the general elections slated next year,” observed a political analyst on a condition of anonymity.