ABSTRACT

The politics of Matua Mahasangha, therefore, I shall argue in this chapter, has introduced ‘a new politics of caste’ (Sinharay 2012) in

contemporary West Bengal – the state where the institution of caste had otherwise been treated either as an ‘irrelevant’ or a ‘pre-modern’ category since the post-Partition days, both by the Congress and then by the decades-long ruling Left. Although primarily a religious organisation that challenges the basic tenets of Hinduism, the Matua Mahasangha, on the one hand, I intend to show, gained prominence in the state’s politics strictly on political grounds by being the mediator of the bulk of Dalit refugees. On the other hand, the organisation has undertaken the task of building up the Harichand-Guruchand movement in order to recreate the alternative spiritual and cultural space once initiated by its preceptors. The Mahasangha today aims to mobilise the Namasudras under its aegis on the grounds of caste loyalty by rejuvenating their collective self as a distinct non-Hindu political subject. The following study shall therefore try to conceptually understand the politics of the Matua Mahasangha and its role as a community organisation in the popular politics of contemporary West Bengal.