Arindam Mukherjee

Arindam Mukherjee is a speaker, behavioural trainer, human resource consultant and a writer. After spending a decade in the corporate world, he now divides his time between speaking assignments, HR consultancy, Eurasian political analysis for Heartland Analyst, and travelling.

Melting pots sound incredibly romantic, but on occasions they serve as testimonies to an ugly truth that resides underneath that delicious multicultural clutter – a truth that manifests through the death of such an eclectic ethos. A classic example is Mitteleuropa, that shone briefly in all its brilliance during the 90s and died soon afterwards. This vibrant mix of colours and legacies of many cultures and religions, philosophers and scientists and artists that left their imprints in this land of cobbled streets and quaint cafes disappeared due to the tectonic movement of a universalist culture – Atlanticist West Europe.

What is that truth? And, is there a lesson for us?

Melting pots disappear when they cannot build and/or hold on to their unique identity. They are usually not deterministic in their character owing to their multicultural nature. Societies like these get woven when two or more universalist civilizations (in Central Europe’s case it was Roman Christianity, Orthodox Christianity and, to a small extent, Islam) overlap along areas to result in a vibrant mix. Societies like these survive at the mercy of the same bigger culture(s) that create them. And societies like this die when their creators so decide. Mitteleuropa died when the Atlanticist West consolidated.

India is one such melting pot – one that has fared better than others in terms of its lifespan. Though this fact of its outliving Central Europe does not overrule the truth about the forces that lead to the creation, and eventual disappearance of melting pots. If India has managed to outlive Mitteleuropa, it is only because of its unique geography. While Mitteleuropa was a ‘crush-zone’ in the middle of two expansionist civilizations, India, with mountains and sea along all sides and only one conventional land-route to enter, has managed to exist geographically as a kind of backwater – a lagoon that slows down the waves and creates its unique ecosystem.

West Bengal is a microcosmic reflection of the melting pot that is India. Though an academician friend of mine considers the Bengal Partition a botched-up affair, with substantial proportion of Muslims (19.8%) being allowed to stay back despite having a nation carved out to cater to their demands, the fact remains that this very act was one of the constituents of the identity of West Bengal as a miniature melting pot. And during the second half of the twentieth century, once the ugliness of Noakhali or Direct Action Day settled, there emerged a society that was a vivid mix of a culture that based itself on the substrata of two different religions, art and literature, Colonial influence, and a generous mix of post-independence Subcontinental vision.

This faces an existential threat now.
True to its melting pot identity, West Bengal has remained pluralistic, and remarkably low resolve over the years. Unfortunately, it has also remained beside a geography that is an exemplar of the expansionist ideology of political Islam – the result of an export of Wahhabi cultural imperialism, which stands potent enough to cascade a large degree of chaos in the rest of the subcontinent if it finds a foothold. Political Islam remains a universalist culture with its own prefixed vision and it calls for rejection of existing values and practices across every other ways of life. Expansion through proselytization, immigration, Jihad al Wilada remain highly active till today, triumphing over the efforts that a few Arab leaders put during the 60s-80s, to change for the better by embracing democracy or communism; this conquest over the nascent efforts to suitably modernize achieved by billions of petrodollars and Wahhabism that KSA kept pumping into Eurasia. Political Islam’s agenda to gradually rigidify the behaviour among the already existing large number of its adherents gradually took a hold during the next couple of decades and today in India for example, there are a greater number of women that wear the Arabian burqa than before, and Arab phrases like Ramadan Kareem or Allah Hafeez have replaced the subcontinental Urdu based Ramzaan Mubarak or Khuda Hafeez.

The interesting role in this whole affair was that of USA led West. When presented with this rare opportunity to bring Classical European values to this otherwise backward geography (when the few leaders tried to embrace democracy and rule of modern law), they worked hard to keep the area the way it always was to further their own hydrocarbon interests. They continually supported any and every form of authoritative regimes that played by their rules, or orchestrated toppling of governments to ensure democracy or self determination never reached the shores of the Middle East.

Ossification of one section among a bunch of an all-accommodating population always results in the death of co-existence. In India, this process has begun in West Bengal. This cultural transformation, which would otherwise have taken a lot longer, has been catalyzed by the advent of postmodernism, corporate media propaganda, and corrupt political leadership across spectrum over time. Postmodernism has gripped an ignorant section that remain enamoured by the vacuous appeal of Cultural Marxism; the mainstream media draws its inspiration from political correctness and a genetic hatred for assertive Indian nationalism; and the political leadership remains remarkably nonchalant, callous, and oftentimes encourages this descent for myopic political gains. Across the other end an expansionist political ideology takes advantage of this all to build their consolidative momentum.

A common necessity of resistance to external threats is a great civilization builder. Europe’s existential threat across three occasions – their need to defend their way of life from the Turanics, the Kipchak Hordes, and the Seljuk Turks – made them coalesce into a civilization so great that their ideas and philosophy singlehandedly modernized the entire planet.

And today as we face a devouring expansionist ideology with our walls manned by ‘educated’ youth who are completely ignorant about what Samuel Huntington calls the clash of civilizations, led by politicians that know only how to posture and fight elections, and a media that has probably been bought off a long time ago, I wonder: what is our identity narrative? Why do our stories hide? Without them out there in the field, there would be no cohesion. Without them in the mind, there would be no Indic civilization.

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