On December 27, 1963, a holy relic was stolen from the Hazratbal shrine in Jammu and Kashmir. The incident led to violent protests in West Bengal and in then East Pakistan till it was recovered ‘mysteriously’ on January 4, 1964. Miles away in Kolkata, 'Tatha', a young student of civil engineering in Bengal Engineering College at Shibpur in Howrah, was very upset. Then, he came across a few who ‘cheated death’ and survived the communal clashes after the theft of the holy relic.
The tale of horrific communal violence, bloodbath and plight of refugees drew him towards the nearest Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) shakha in Bengal and a samarpit (dedicated) activist of Hindutva was born.
Meet Tathagata Roy, the former governor of Meghalaya who is set to retire on Wednesday evening (August 19, 2020).
A descendant of a prosperous family from what is now Bangladesh, Roy, who was born in Kolkata, has grown up on stories of affluence: large tracts of cultivable land, unadulterated milk, ghee, and other by-products from their dairy farm, fresh fish from the large household pond, and respect for the family name that stems from more than a century of being part of the landed gentry.
He grew up with tales of his grandparents forced to leave behind everything in erstwhile East Bengal, which became East Pakistan after Partition and, subsequently, Bangladesh. He grew up with the pain and agony of refugees and their stories that made their way across the border as a part of the single largest migration in human history in 1947, and then in 1971.
While Tatha was deeply influenced by the Sangh as a saviour of Hindus refugees, his younger brother Saugata Roy, presently a Trinamool Congress MP, grew up with stories of communist oppression in Bengal and believed in the Gandhian ideology.
Both were mentored by Pramatha Nath Bishi - an Indian author, educationist, and parliamentarian from West Bengal. He was a member of the West Bengal legislative council from 1962 to 1968 and a nominated member of the Rajya Sabha from 1972 to 1978. However, Tathagata and Saugata chose different ideologies in their lives.
Speaking exclusively to News18.com from Meghalaya, Tathagata Roy said, “Yes, you are absolutely right. We both were mentored by Pramatha Nath Bishi. Bishi sir was an intensely anti-Left person and extremely Gandhian. Saugata got one part of his thinking and I got another part. To be precise, Saugata started believing in Gandhian ideology and I got the anti-Left part from Bishi sir. But the Hindu ideology is my personal acquisition.”
The Hazratbal shrine incident in Jammu and Kashmir drew his attention towards the RSS and BJP, Roy confirmed. "Then people were killed and some students escaped and got admitted to our college. They narrated the ordeal they passed through. I was upset with the atrocities faced by the refugees. Later, I joined the Indian Railways, but in 1990 I quit the job and joined the BJP because the plight of refugees refused to go away from my mind. In the BJP, I progressed gradually and I also faced inner-party problems. It happens everywhere and I had my share too. In 1999, I had gone to Ranchi and stayed their three weeks for the RSS’s ‘Sikhsha Varga’. It was arduous and the training was tough. I had to wake up at 4 in the morning. There were parades, lessons, exercise and that gave me a lot of insight into the RSS. The ‘Sikhsha Varga’ was supposed to be for three years but before I could get any further chance, I was made the BJP Bengal president in 2002. I was the state BJP president till 2006 and at that time the BJP did not have any stake in Bengal because the politics was polarised,” he added.
Explaining his journey (in the context of Saugata Roy) from "brothers in arms" to "Ram Lakhan", though it may be "Ram" for one and may not "Lakhan" for the other, Tathagata laughed and said, “Yes, we do have different ideologies but we do interact with each other. We don’t get time to interact frequently but yes we do talk – mostly over the telephone. Most of the time he is busy and so am I. When we meet or talk over the phone, we discuss political theories, history and we exchange ideas of Chinese and Pakistani menace and NRI influence in Indian politics. He asked me about my books and writings.”
In the context of his brother, Tathagata Roy had once said that he would make sure that "our paths don’t cross in Kolkata". Does he still have the same feelings? “He is an MP and Bengal is going to witness assembly elections in 2021. So how could our paths cross?” he said.
When asked if there are any suggestions that he would like to share with the state BJP leadership or any areas where the state BJP needs to pay more attention to plug loopholes, he said, “Yes, there are areas but I don’t want to discuss it right now. Despite a remarkable performance in the last Lok Sabha election, we lost three bypoll seats in a row. This includes Dilip Ghosh's own constituency.”
And what would his role be ahead of the 2021 assembly polls in Bengal? “I don’t know. I have to talk to the party. I have to speak to the leaders to decide where I can fit in.”
Speaking about the chemistry he shares with his wife Anuradha, and two daughters Malini and Madhura, Roy said, “My wife is not at all interested in politics. She is into English literature and we discuss literature during spare time, and my daughters invariably don’t forget to remind me that I've put on weight and are happy to see me doing morning walks.”
Tathagata Roy was born on September 14, 1945. He was governor of Tripura from 2015 to 2018 and governor of Meghalaya from August 2018 to the end of his term on August 19, 2020.
He was a member of the BJP national executive, the party’s central policy-making body, from 2002 until 2015.
Roy briefly had additional charge of the office of governor of Arunachal Pradesh from July 2016 till August 2016, during which he handled the ouster of chief minister Kalikho Pul following a Supreme Court judgement, and swore in Pema Khandu as the new chief minister.
His younger brother Saugata Roy is the Lok Sabha MP representing Dum Dum constituency. He is a senior member of the TMC and he was union minister of state for urban development in the Manmohan Singh government.
Time will decide the roles that will be played by the ‘Roy brothers’ in Bengal politics, but presently Tathagata is eager for a ‘ghar wapsi’ to play a crucial innings in Mamata Banerjee’s bastion