Ramachandra Guha, whom IIMC has feted as a distinguished alumnus, said Bengal never had a vibrant civil society because of the communists and Mamata Banerjee.
The scholar was speaking on civil society movements in India at the inaugural session of the closing ceremony of the golden jubilee celebrations of the Joka institute.
After the 30-minute address, a journalist referred to an article by Guha in The Telegraph in which he had drawn a comparison between Bengal and Bangladesh and concluded that the neighbouring country was ahead in many areas.
“You have written about the dysfunctional healthcare system, malnutrition and the not-so-congenial atmosphere for entrepreneurship in Bengal. How do you assess the performance of chief minister Mamata Banerjee?” Guha was asked.
“Mamata Banerjee is not the story,” he replied. “Bangladesh always had a vibrant and vigorous civil society, instrumental behind its success in microfinance (and) healthcare. But Bengal never had a vibrant civil society because first the communists did not allow the movement to function (and) now, I regret to say, Mamata Banerjee also does not want to let them function.
“....The Trinamul Congress has also this mentality that either you are with us or against us. This is a great mistake.... Civil society has been successful in Maharashtra, Kerala.”
After the programme, Guha was asked if it wasn’t an irony that the civil society that had helped Mamata dislodge the Left is now being cornered.
“Yes, it is. She is now suspecting the same civil society, which once stood by her. In the civil society movement, there are two sides, one is an activist side, the other is constructive side. In Bengal, the activist side came to the fore over the past 10 years. The constructive side never came into being. This is again a puzzle. Now, the activist side is facing sanctions.”