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regular-article-logo Saturday, 13 July 2024

Mamata Banerjee warns saffron camp against forcing her to bring up history, accuses BJP of demonising Siraj ud-Daulah

Mamata brought up Siraj and Nadia feudal lord Krishnachandra Roy, whom she did not name, in context of recent telephonic conversation between BJP’s Krishnanagar candidate Amrita Roy and Narendra Modi

Meghdeep Bhattacharyya Calcutta Published 01.04.24, 10:04 AM
Mamata Banerjee at the Dhubulia rally on Sunday

Mamata Banerjee at the Dhubulia rally on Sunday Picture by Pranab Debnath  

Mamata Banerjee on Sunday warned the saffron camp against forcing her to bring up history as she mounted an offensive on the BJP over its frequent attempts to demonise Siraj ud-Daulah, the last independent Nawab of Bengal.

The chief minister, at a Dhubulia rally on Sunday afternoon, brought up Siraj and Nadia feudal lord Krishnachandra Roy, whom she did not name, in the context of a recent telephonic conversation between the BJP’s Krishnanagar candidate Amrita Roy and Narendra Modi. An audio clip of the recorded call between Modi and the candidate — the wife of a descendant of Krishnachandra Roy — has been released by the BJP.

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“The BJP candidate here has said some things. During the (1757) war with the British, the people of Bengal supported Siraj ud-Daulah and not Mir Jafar. The person who stood against Siraj ud-Daulah — I am not going into whether he was good or bad… the person who stood (against Siraj) as Lord (Robert) Clive’s friend to finish Bengal’s war of Independence… that name is being brought up now,” she said. “Modibabu, did you forget history?”

Since the telephonic conversation was made public, the legacies of 18th century figures Siraj and Roy have started featuring prominently in the political discourse of Bengal this poll season.

Roy had controversially sided with Mir Jafar and others to help the British colonisers by betraying Siraj in the pivotal Battle of Plassey.

In the conversation, Amrita Roy (still referred to as Rani by some in Krishnanagar) hailed her husband’s forefather for his role in 1757. She did not mention Roy’s alliance with Mir Jafar, and attributed the betrayal to his desire to “save the Sanatan dharma” in Bengal. Modi seemed to agree.

Historically, Siraj is widely regarded as having been sinned against, rather than as a sinner, and has gained iconic status as a hero.

He was known for not communally discriminating between his subjects and died at 24 trying to resist imperial aggression from a formidable foreign foe. More importantly, Hindu or Muslim nationalism, fomented by the British as part of their contentious Divide and Rule doctrine, did not emerge in the subcontinent till after the Indian Rebellion of 1857.

“Do not take the shelter of lies. If you do that, I will be forced to flip through the pages of history (for a fact-check), and if that happens, there will be no space for you. The people will reject them outright in sheer disgust. Everyone must be aware of history,” said the Trinamul chief, campaigning for her candidate Mahua Moitra in Krishnanagar on Sunday.

Mamata was clearly referring to the historical fact of Roy having sided in 1757 with the Mir Jafar-led coterie of traitors, including the likes of Rai Durlabh, Yar Lutuf Khan, and Omichund. Together, they aided the Clive-led East India Company forces in defeating Siraj, and ended up helping the British cause of colonising.

The chief minister also mocked the BJP for hailing Amrita Roy as a royal.

“Also, they are saying Raj Mata (Queen Mother)? From where did a Mata (Mother) or a Raj (Royal) happen? In our democracy now everyone is a Raja, or a Raj Mata…. Those who still consider themselves monarchs should stay inside their palaces,” she said.

In response, the BJP candidate ended up calling the Murshidabad-born Siraj and even the Mughals “outsiders” – in tune with the contentious Sangh Parivar perspective, which insists India was under “foreign, colonial” rule since the 12th century (advent of Islamic rulers after the arrival of Muhammad of Ghor from what is now Afghanistan).

“They are talking without knowledge of history…. Totally saying these things for their own, self-serving objectives…. Siraj was one of the bohiragawto Mughals. Why are you going so over the top over him? Who is he to you?” asked Amrita Roy, adding that as chief minister, Mamata should be aware of Krishnachandra Roy’s contributions.

“Instead of dragging in things from two-three centuries ago, why not address current issues such as corruption, Sandeshkhali, arrested ministers…," she added, apparently forgetting that she was the one to bring the legacy of her husband’s ancestor to the table in the poll campaign.

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