The land of the Cultural Revolution can profitably learn from the land of many cultures. While Beijing wages pointless ideological warfare against China’s Muslim population, banning the public observance of Ramzan, Indian communists have quietly, unobtrusively profited by embracing their country’s appetite for festivals. The Uighur-dominated province of Xinjian has drawn attention by banning the Ramzan fast and keeping restaurants open. Muslims urging the fast upon others have been detained. The law bans minors from being given religious instruction, and their parents are encouraged to pledge them to atheism.
In contrast, how intelligently gentle communism has been in India. In West Bengal, the party wisely declined to replace the worship of Durga by the cult of Lenin (or Stalin, or Trotsky, or Lin Biao, according to taste). In God’s own country, the deity continued to flourish, unmolested by radical ideology. Party leaders took care not to refresh themselves with the opium of the masses. But they also took care not to deny the public their little follies and pleasures.
Of course, this is India, where absolutely nothing proceeds exactly according to programme. In West Bengal, left-wing goons were soon found to be in charge of organising the neighbourhood Durga Puja celebrations. As industry withdrew from the state, frightened away by militant trade union politics, religious celebration by public subscription became a visibly booming industry, commanding enormous budgets. The Durga Puja is a secular, social event, but it has a religious core. And in its modern, industrial scale avatar, it is the legacy of Indian communism. This seems ironical, but it is hard-headed realpolitik. The lesson of the CPI(M) is quickly digested, like Chinese food. Beijing, fighting an ideological rearguard action in Xinjiang, might be tempted to try some.