In India, the West Bengal Legislative Assembly election is going on in full swing with fanfare. The eight-phase election began on March 27 and will end on April 29. And the vote will be counted on May 2.
India being our neighbouring country, the election bears special importance to us. West Bengal is more important to us in the sense that both Bangladesh and West Bengal share strong similarities in terms of language and culture. Many people of our country keep in touch with their relatives living in West Bengal.
As a result, we are much involved with West Bengal. Bangladeshi people also contribute a lot to West Bengal in many ways. Every year tens of thousands of people visit India for various purposes, from travelling to medical cases to shopping.
I have lots of academic friends who live in West Bengal. As academicians we require cooperation on many fronts. We need a common space to share it. It can be a political space where we can have a scope for political cooperation. I believe the scope for cooperation still exists in West Bengal now.
However, it is sad that when you apply for a tourist visa in India, the chance is that you will get it without much hassle. But when it comes to a conference visa, the case is not that straight forward. For instance, we have to face lots of questions at the immigration. It seems that tourism is encouraged while academic cooperation is not.
Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the ruling central government, does not appear to be much cooperative in this respect. Many of my friends who live in India say that they are under pressure and they cannot write what they want to write.
If BJP comes to power in West Bengal, the impact will be felt in Bangladesh too. The way BJP uses religion in politics will be of great concern to us.
If BJP take the politics to a level of hate speech, the people of Bangladesh, predominantly a Muslim-majority country, will definitely show reaction. People will protest. We have to think of it.
I am concerned that if BJP grabs power in West Bengal, it will apply Hindutva ideology and the subsequent ramifications will be felt in Bangladesh too. When they took up the citizenship act, for instance, it was discriminatory against Muslim people in India.
Some experts, on the other hand, dismiss the idea that there will be any impact in Bangladesh saying it is India's domestic affair. It might prove to be true on the government-to-government level. However, on the people-to-people level, there will be impact. This is well demonstrated by the fact that when Hindu minorities are assaulted in Bangladesh reactions come from India.
This time the central government said that there would be discussions over not only the Teesta issue but also all the rivers. Moreover, they wanted water from Feni river. The foreign minister of India said they would talk to all stakeholders. Even if the power changes, we will have to wait and see what happens. But if Mamata Banerjee stays in power, we will not get Teesta water. We have this experience.
BJP comes to power, there is scope of concern as it will impact on the popular psyche and popular perception.
Again, BJP alleges that All India Trinamool Congress (TMC) promote Muslim fundamentalism on many times in the past. I believe this is a political rhetoric as politics of vote is involved here. I do not think there is any Islamist fundamentalism.
Dr Amena Mohsin is a professor of International Relations, Dhaka University.