It would appear odd that there is something common between bull fighting, a gory Spanish sport, and the beliefs and practices of a political party in West Bengal. The common element is the colour red. The matador enrages the bull in the ring with a red cloth; the Trinamul Congress cannot bear the sight of the colour red. The TMC’s loathing of red grows presumably from its almost visceral hostility towards the Communist Party of India (Marxist), which, like all communist parties across the world, has red as the colour of its flag. The red flag is almost synonymous with communist parties and the communist movement. In Europe, since the 19th century, red has been perceived to be the colour of protest. But long before this association, red has been linked at a more elemental level with blood and therefore with life. There are also associations with marriage — sindur on the parting of a woman’s hair. The sentiments expressed by the TMC only show how narrow-minded its views are and how driven its politics is by tokenism.
The CPI(M) has a lot to answer for in West Bengal. It has done serious harm to the state. But that terrible legacy will not be removed by charging blindly against the colour that represents it. Nothing will be altered by changing the colours of things — be they carpets or buildings. In fact, the TMC is doing exactly what the CPI(M) did when the latter decided that the colonial history of Calcutta could be eradicated by removing statues of British officers, by changing the names of streets and, finally, by changing the name of the city itself. Changing names, labels, colours does not bring about change. It only pays lip-service to it. The TMC came to power with the slogan of paribartan or change. But it will be fooling itself and the people of West Bengal if it believes that making the colour red into green will alter the reality of West Bengal.
Neither politics nor social attitudes can be determined by the hatred or the love of any particular colour. Colour is a symbol, it is not a substance of anything. There are so many things that are ineradicably associated with the colour red; and these associations have nothing to do with the CPI(M). The very soil of a large part of West Bengal — rarhbhumi — is red. The building from which the state is governed is painted red, and it has had this colour as long as memory serves, even perhaps from its very inception. The city’s principal Hindu deity is also linked to both red and black. Can these associations ever be erased? Should they be erased? The obsessive loathing of the colour red is nothing more than a gimmick that attempts to deflect attention from the real and serious issues facing West Bengal. The project of change needs more than the colour of carpets as its focus. Colour is not what West Bengal needs for its revival. Investment is colourless.