Many on social media have been trending June 20th as West Bengal Day. Not many had heard of this day or the concept of having “West Bengal Day” for the better part of our informed lives. The state is an old one, not a newly formed that it will have a formation day, like Telengana, and celebrate the same. Then what is it that netizens are trending?
#WestBengalDay— Rati #ProtectWithPen (@ratihegde) June 20, 2020
The State of West Bengal has given us Gurus, Philosophers, Patriots, Poets, Reformers and more.
On #WestBengal formation day, I bow down to the soil which gave birth to such great people.
May we all rise once more at the feet of MAA and work towards greatness. pic.twitter.com/cHvSa7EEbF
What is West Bengal Day?
To understand this, we must revisit the pre-Independence times when proposals of the partition were tabled. It was on 20th June 1947, when the Bengal Legislative Assembly held a meeting to decide if the Bengal Presidency would stay united with Pakistan, or with India, or be divided and the Hindu majority districts would stay with India as West Bengal and the Muslim majority areas would form East Pakistan. After heated debates and hours of deliberation, the House proceedings concluded to bifurcate Bengal and set the foundation of West Bengal.
Shyama Prasad Mukherjee: The unsung savior
Although it reads as an easy decision arrived at, there were months of relentless efforts and initiatives spearheaded by Dr Shyama Prasad Mukherjee, joined by distinguished stalwarts like Dr Meghnad Saha, Dr Ramesh Chandra Mazumdar, Dr Suniti Kumar Chatterjee and Dr Jadunath Sarkar. Always an ardent advocate of the integrity of India, Mukherjee was never one to speak in favour of its partition.
But as the formation of Pakistan by dividing India became inevitable, he realized preserving homes of millions of Bengali Hindus (whose existence would be threatened if the entire Bengal merged to form East Pakistan under the Muslim League) was imperative. It has been over 70 years but thousands of Bengali Hindus from Bangladesh continue to knock on the doors of West Bengal seeking refuge after facing religious persecution in Bangladesh.
Turbulent political timeline
In these 70 years, West Bengal has been through a lot of highs and lows. Known for its high voltage political drama, the state has come under President’s rule five times. But the most volatile years could inarguably be the 35-years-long rule of the CPI(M) party. Under the communists, people of West Bengal had seen it all: The Sain bari killings, where a mother was made to eat rice smeared with the blood of her murdered sons, the Ananda Margi saints’ massacre that killed 16 monks and a nun, the Marichjhapi massacre in which tens of thousands of refugees from Bangladesh were allegedly gunned down, the political rape of Anita Desai, Nonoor massacre and the Nandigram violence.
The eternal state of Joy
But residents of the state haven’t given up; known for their relaxed attitude, Bengalis have learned the craft of fishing happiness even in the face of adversaries. Turning back at Rabindranath Tagore’s portrait hanging on the old wall acts as a stimulant always.
Good music, literature, cinema keeps Bengalis motivated. No wonder the state has produced icons like Kishore Kumar, R D Burman, Rakhi, Sharmila Tagore, Basu Chatterjee, and the Oscar-winning, Satyajit Ray Bengalis can’t pride themselves on enough.
Regardless of the gloom saturating the atmosphere, the City of Joy, and the state surrounding it is wrapped in elaborate decorations, gleaming in strings of colorful ornamental lightings invite tourists from all over the world, on Durga Pooja every year. You don’t have to belong to any particular faith to revel in this grand celebration; you may frolic irrespective of and despite your background.
Bengal boasts some of the most delectable dishes in the world, and no cuisine can measure up to the fish preparations of an average Bengali kitchen made mostly from freshwater fish. The Bengali Doi-maachh, Fish Kobiraji, Sorshe-Hilsa, Rui-Kalia, Prawn malai curry - my mouth is watering already - make for the perfect luncheon you can think of. A generous serving with steamed rice is all you need to make a sumptuous meal. Round it up with Mishti-doi, Sandesh or Roshogolla.
Roshogolla, the sweetmeat that had sent the calm people of Bengal in a state of bitter wrestle with the good neighbor, Odisha. Yes, West Bengal is that possessive about its sweetmeat. Even during the lockdown, the state CM urged on keeping the sweet shops open. Knock on any Bengali door any time of the year; you will always be welcomed with a plate of mishti.