How a filmmaker couple explored Bengal’s long affair with Hindutva

Hindutva in Bengal
Hindutva and communalism have a long history in West Bengal. Photo: Reuters

The chants of 'Jai Shri Ram' that have been raised across Bengal ubiquitously in the recent past, including in front of mosques, led many to ask how the state has suddenly acquired saffron shades despite a three-decade long rule of the Left Front headed by the CPM.

But Hindutva and communalism have a long history in the region. Nineteenth-century Bengal, which was the theatre of the Indian Renaissance and from where many aspects of modern India originated, was also the birthplace of the idea of Hindutva. The word Hindutva itself was a product of Bengal much before it spread across the country and came to be associated with right-wing groups.

Hindu revivalism, historians point out, emerged in the state in the second half of the 19th century as a reaction to the influence of Western education and culture on the Hindu society during the first half of the century. As the Left began to rule the state, much of the gains of Hindu revivalism began to gather dust. Under Mamata Banerjee, the status quo remained even as Sangh affiliates began eking out a space for Hindutva reassertion.

Then what led to the recent phenomenal growth of Hindu-nationalist politics and communal polarisation in West Bengal? An activist-filmmaker couple finds the answer to this bloom of the lotus in Bengal through a documentary called A Bid for Bengal. The duo shot the documentary between two elections – the national elections of 2019 and the state assembly polls of 2021.

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