Due to Marxist leanings becoming entrenched in its political life together with anti-Hindu acts by a few groups, the general image of Bengalis has taken a beating in the Hindu fold.
Sreejit Datta teaches English and Cultural Studies at the Amrita Vishwa Vidyapeetham University in Mysore. Variously trained in comparative literature, Hindustani music and statistics; Sreejit happens to be an acclaimed vocalist who has been regularly performing across multiple Indian and non-Indian genres. He can be reached at:
[Disclaimer: Unless otherwise mentioned, the term ‘Bengali’ as used in this article refers exclusively to Bengali Hindus. Justification for doing so has been provided in the following paragraphs.]
There’s no need for an introduction here. We may jump straight into the heart of the subject, for we are all too familiar with the malady that is looking us squarely in the eye: that of a headstrong and blind anti-Bengali racial prejudice, displayed (sometimes gleefully and without qualms, and at other times through subtler means) by most Non-Bengali patriotic Indians. The reader would pardon me for putting it so bluntly, but these are desperate times which leave us no scope for sugar-coating the hard truth.
The perversion of anti-Bengali racial prejudice (yes, racial, as we shall explain later in this article) seems to have affected Indians of all hues and colours, of all ages and ideological persuasions; even many expatriate Bengalis living outside of West Bengal/Bangladesh for more than a generation seem to have fallen prey to it. And the worst part of it all is that this prejudice and its purveyors seek not only to target those Bengali individuals who rightly deserve the wrath of patriotic Indians (Bengalis and Non-Bengalis alike), but to indict the Bengali speaking race, all and sundry, of the crimes of treason and treachery, as if those faults of character are somehow imprinted onto the Bengali gene. Perhaps it is true that these days one can come across too many individuals who may boast of their Bengali origins and who, at the same time, would deride anything that is Hindu. And yet, being born to Bengali parents of true East Bengali origin and being brought up in West Bengal, I can assert with some confidence and credibility that there is an equally strong populace of dharmic Bengalis, living in West Bengal, Tripura as well as in Bangladesh, who would flare up at the slightest hint of disrespect shown to any Hindu symbol. At this point, let me also make it very clear that this is no apologia: the Bengali Hindu does not need a certificate of approval for her loyalty to dharma from anyone at any time. Nor is it a warning of any sort. It is more of an account of the struggle for survival carried on by generations of the Bengali Hindu, as it has been ever since the Turk and Afghan marauders of 12th century invaded, plundered and looted her land – the richest and most fertile in all of the Gangetic plains. This is not even a time to boastfully declare how it was the Bengali, along with the Punjabi and Marathi, who risked the most and bled even more profusely to rid their Holy Motherland of Mleccha rule. And so the reader would do well to regard this piece as a tiny fraction of that vast saga of survival, of its trials and triumphs, of the highs and lows, of the comings and goings of glory and ignominy, as any race in the history of mankind is wont to encounter. That, and a little more.
To the Non-Bengali patriot, a word of advice from an insignificant but zealously patriotic Bengali Hindu brother: your prejudice against the Bengali-speaking race, irrespective of whether it sprouted from ignorance or first-hand experience, is an immensely counterproductive force. It serves nobody’s purpose but that of the enemies of dharma. By expressing your ‘informed’ opinion on how Bengali-speaking Indians (majority of whom happen to be Hindu-born) are the most ungrateful and treasonous lot among the Hindus, you betray your own deep-seated racialistic tendencies. By doing this, you’re simply channelizing all the frustration that has over time accumulated inside of you for not being able to effectively target the real culprits who are truly responsible for this psychological and intellectual mess that the Indic people are collectively in. You betray the small-minded proclivity towards infighting that the Hindus have – for centuries – been so notorious for. This you have demonstrated most recently on the occasion of the former Prime Minister Sri Atal Bihari Vajpayee’s demise and the subsequent spewing of venom at the deceased leader by a few nobodies, who perhaps aspire to have no more than their fifteen minutes of online fame, and who, unfortunately enough, also happened to be Bengalis. They deserved your wrath, for being hateful and uninformed, and for being grossly biased against Hindus as well as against any politician who had ever been even remotely sympathetic to the Hindu cause. After what those charlatans pretending to be ‘journalists’/ activists/party spokespersons/whatnot did, it is expected that you would verbally lacerate them with facts and logic. You did so, and more. You could have handed them a wonderful rebuttal by pointing out their hatred and their own ideological bias, but you did not stop at that.
Instead, what did you do?
You targeted them for the language they speak. You made their linguistic identity, which is also their ethnic and – however parochial – racial identity, the object of your online blitz. And by doing exactly that, You, O Unthinking Fool, handed them over a great weapon which can and will be aimed back at you. Not only now are you labelled as a racist North/South Indian, whose racialism is so frequently and summarily ‘proved’ by the left-leaning mainstream media by hyperbolizing every stray incident of an attack on someone from the Northeast or Africa, you’re also a supremacist on linguistic accounts, on account of food habit, targeting Bengalis as cepivorous (onion-eating), ichthyophagous (fish-eating), and on account of every other imaginable trait.
In this way, most unwittingly you give free reins to these dangerous beasts of your untrained mind, such as resentment and jealousy, just to give a quick vent to your frustrations for being unable to do enough and stop the venom from pouring. And, what is more dangerous, you let yourself be played at the hand of the enemies of dharma. Already there are platforms coming up, such as this website, where they are consolidating their power by gathering the resentful Bengali Hindus together, fanning their resentment which arises out of a sense of alienation from the larger Hindu society by way of being constantly ridiculed and bashed. These platforms seek to secularize Bengali Hindus, stripping them off their Hindu-ness and filling the empty individual with such misplaced priorities as “Bengali pride” (because, after all, they need something to cling on to, to derive meaning out of it and be able to bear the brunt of existence) What is worse, many of them become more and more indoctrinated in a soft version of Marxism and/or dogmatic Abrahamism. In effect, this results in another individual leaving the dharmic, Hindu fold. And, as Swami Vivekananda had warned us over a century ago: “every man going out of the Hindu pale is not only a man less but an enemy the more.” Therefore I say, go on ridiculing and bashing the Bengali-speaking Hindu at your own peril.
Well, you may ask: don’t we have the right to do some objective criticism as and when faulty – or better still – adharmic behaviour come under observation? Of course you do! Not only have you a right, but more: you are enjoined by dharma to criticise and obliterate it if you can – it's a responsibility. But then, at what point does 'objective criticism' turn into racialism? Why, right at that moment when you start essentializing and homogenizing all individuals belonging to one ethnolinguistic group by making generalized statements about them. And what's worse, you make those crass generalized statements based on the language they speak. And while doing so, you do not take into account the fact that the language that Bangladeshi Muslims (and many Muslims from West Bengal, too) speak is also generally called Bangla or Bengali (and, consequently the Bangladeshi Muslims too are often referred to as 'Bengali') despite the fact that that language is markedly different from the mother tongue of Bengali Hindus. That Bangladeshi language is heavily inflected with Perso-Arabic vocabulary, phrases, and manners of articulating/speaking/greeting. So, at one stroke, you equate the Bengali Hindu with the Bangladeshi Muslims. To be correct, Bengali Hindus are a distinct ethnoreligious-linguistic group, to be distinguished from Muslims of both Bangladesh and West Bengal, in general. It is like diluting the identity of the Sikhs of the historical-linguistic Punjab region with that of the Punjabi-speaking Muslims. The case of Bengali Hindus is even less likely to get confounded with Muslims of the historical-linguistic Bengal region compared to the case of Sikhs vis-à-vis Punjabi-speaking Muslims of Pakistan because the idioms spoken on either side of the Wagah border are hardly distinguishable from one another. That is not the case with the idioms spoken in the Bengal region. Muslims belonging to the Bengal region would say "daawat", "gosal" and "paani" while the Hindus on either side of the border would invariably say "nimontron/nemontonno", "snaan/chaan", and "jol" for each of those words, respectively, at all times. And the latter set of words all happen to have derived from their nearest Sanskrit cognates. Even their spellings match exactly with the Sanskrit equivalents, they only differ in pronunciation. So what’s with "daawat", "gosal" or "paani"? They are either Perso-Arabic in origin, or are used in the Urdu language, which is regarded as the ‘national’ language of Muslims belonging to the Indian Subcontinent. There are thousands of words like these, used by Muslims of Bengal (i.e. of both West Bengal and Bangladesh), which derive from either Arabic or Persian. This highlights that there has been a very conscious effort at Urduizing/Persianizing/Arabicizing the Bengali language by those who wanted a separate nation for Muslims of Bengal. In a way, this has been a boon, for it helps us distinguish the people who are the true inheritors of the legacy of Bengal from those who are not.
The second type is only interested in usurping the names Bengal and Bengali, while they have no allegiance to the roots of Bengal – a land which had been graced by the birth of Sri Chaitanya Mahaprabhu, a spiritual giant revered by Bengalis as an Avatar of Lord Vishnu or Sri Krishna. It can be said with some confidence that Sri Chaitanya single-handedly shaped and oriented the cultural destiny of Bengali Hindus (and indeed that of the majority of Hindus from Eastern India, up to as far as Manipur) for centuries to come. And it is his influence that gives the Bengali Hindu her cultural identity as it is found today. Few would know that it is a typical Vaishnava kirtan melody, the kind that Sri Chaitanya had popularised through his nagar-sankirtan-s, which has sneaked into the final line of Jana Gana Mana, India’s national anthem. Next time when you sing/hear it, remember that you are merely repeating the melody of “Hori Bol, Hori Bol, Hori Bol!” – that rallying cry of the Bengali Hindu in all his ups and downs through life – in birth, action, battle, death, and epiphany. Do not forget that it was a Bengali gentleman after all – a bhadralok – named Chandranath Basu who had first coined the term ‘Hindutva’; and who had also expounded on the concept of Hindu-ness in an 1892 Bangla tract bearing that title. Even Tagore himself uses the word ‘Hindutva’ in the sense of Hindu-ness alternatively with another (then) popular Bangla coinage called ‘Hinduani’ which also has the same connotation as ‘Hindutva’, in several of his essays written in Bangla (e.g. in “Brahman” which is included in the anthology Bharatvarsha, published in 1905). Both these references to Hindutva and the discussions on it which I have mentioned here had appeared decades before Savarkar published his views on Hindutva in 1923. Where would today’s Hindutva draw its inspiration, legitimacy, and credibility, if not from Swami Vivekananda, Nivedita and Sri Aurobindo? Who would you identify to be the very last specimen of the now-extinct clan of Kshatriyas, in the most authentic sense of the term, if not for (yet another Bengali bhadralok) Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, who was the only politician to challenge M.K. Gandhi’s hegemony in Indian National Congress’s politics and the only factor that caused tremor in the heart of the British Lion? Who else would the Hindus and other Indic people of our times rally behind for championing their cause, for accomplishing their purpose – their survival, continued civilizational existence and thriving? Do you really believe that without reinvigorating and re-integrating such a race, which has produced these veritable titans and nurtured them in its cradle, the Hindu/Indic civilisation could ever fulfill its destiny that the Bharata-Bhagya-Vidhata has determined for Bharatavarsha?
Hence I issue this unsolicited counsel to you: please do not continue this bashing of Bengalis taken as a whole, as a linguistic/cultural group, as a race. Target the ideology of an individual or a group, but not the identity of an entire culture, because these are people who are as much an inheritor to the legacy of the Indic Civilisation as you are. Show them the right way if they falter, and if you think you can help them in that regard. Stop the hate from flowing – for the sake of your own good and more for the good of the fish-eating, smug-looking, geekish Bengali lot. Bengali Hindus need you now at their hour of trial and forever, as much as you need them now and for the times to come. Stay together. Teach them if they falter, and learn a few things from them in exchange. You can go on nitpicking at other times but now, for heaven’s sake, for the sake of saving your gods and temples from desecration-demolition, your holy lands from disintegrating further and further, and for the sake of preserving your hoary civilisation, do not allow the Bengali Hindus to be turned into another example of E.T.O.L. – Exiled in Their Own Land – like the Kashmiri Pandits are.
And if you cannot do that, then do a favour: do nothing about them. Leave them alone. Let them be. Your curses and abuses are anyway the last thing that are going to help them; so save those niceties and thus save your own energy. Try and do this at least, if you could do nothing better, nothing that would be meaningful and productive for the entire Indic family. In this regard, remembering another Indic Giant may help. He was not from Bengal though, instead he was from the other side of the Subcontinent. (Is it a coincidence that both these extreme Eastern and Western flanks of the Subcontinent had to face the worst at the hand of the marauding mlecchas of all kinds?) He fought the Mughal Emperor for the existence of his people in Kashmir, in Delhi, in Punjab, and in Rajasthan, for safeguarding Dharma, and lost his entire family in doing so. Finally, he got betrayed by those same people he had given his everything to; and died alone, in exile, away from his home and his own people. But he never once resented his sacrifice; not a single curse, not a single damning utterance escaped his lips that may be directed to his people who had betrayed him so utterly and so completely. The Best of all Bengali Bards, Tagore, has wholeheartedly sung the glory of this Indic Hero in his Bangla ballads. He was none other than the tenth and last Guru of the Sikhs, Guru Gobind Singh.
 Prabuddha Bharata, April 1899, Complete Works of Swami Vivekananda, Volume V, Interviews, “On the Bounds of Hinduism”