The Stereotyping of Indian Bengalis

I was reading a blog today and came across a comment by somebody in the comments section: "can anybody explain to me why a typical Bengali "intellectual" is so hyper in criticizing Hindus .. ?"

This is not the first time I have come across such comments. In fact, I have often been asked by people whether I am a "socialist/ communist", just because I happen to be a Bengali. Going by this logic, one may assume that all Tamils, Mallus, Telugus and Uttar Pradesh folks are anti-Hindus just because certain people indulge in anti-Hindu, pro-Muslim, pro-Christian and pro-Buddhist rhetoric. Or one may assume that all Tamil Brahmins are racists, because some Tam-Brams do not allow "non-veg" eaters in their vicinity.

And this shows the basic problem with sweeping generalizations - generalization is not a very effective tool unless one has a reasonable sample size which is the foundation of basic empirical investigations.

Some Bengali intellectuals are critical of Hindus, and some are not. It just so happens that it is the former section which gets the "politically correct" media coverage as being "plural" and "secular", while the latter section of intellectuals get relegated to the footnotes, ignored or labeled as "communalists".

Again some people/ intellectuals are socialists, whereas others are thoroughbred capitalists, and again the "politically correct" media reports only the former. And it is not only about media coverage, even in terms of access to facilities, the former group ensures that the latter group always remains disadvantaged, especially visible in the last 40 years under the communist regime, when any "intellectual" or non-intellectual who disagreed to tow the socialist-Marxist-secular party line was treated as a pariah. Hence their voices are not heard.

Non-Bengalis derive their entire opinion about Hindu Bengalis based on the opinion of the first group of intellectuals. However as stated above, these intellectuals form a small group among all Bengali "intellectuals", but still receive excellent press coverage owing to their ideological orientation.

Moreover one must understand how communism got its grip over Bengal. This is a huge topic and I have provided a very brief non-specialist sketch of the events.

Bengal and Punjab have historically been places where the dominion of the Mughal/ Islam rule was the strongest, and places which faced continuous ravages of the 800 year onslaught of invaders. Based on this some people opine that the influence of Islam was so great on Bengal region that Hindu Bengalis have become critical of their own faith. Yet Bengal has produced a large chunk of nationalists be it Rabindranath Tagore (composer of National Anthem of India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka) or Bamkim Chandra Chatterjee (composer of National Song) or Raja Ram Mohun Roy or Subhash Chandra Bose and a host of other  luminaries. In the religious field, it has produced people like Ramakrishna Paramahansa, Swami Vivekananda, Sri Aurobindo and others. If one were to do a survey of India's independence movement, it would emerge that a huge chunk of freedom fighters and revolutionaries were in fact from Bengal and Punjab.

And what did Bengal get in return? A divided motherland and the immense atrocities of partition and "Operation Searchlight" of 70's and a sense of disappointment and disenchantment with the ruling Congress Party, whom they blamed entirely for all that had happened. Congress government in the centre didn't help either with its anti-Bengal actions like freight-equalization among others.

At the very first opportunity, many Bengalis shifted to the only other alternative at that time, the emerging Communist Party, perhaps unaware of the story of Frankenstein. Not everybody supported the communists though. Yet, the Communist party through its populist rhetoric, grass-root "goonda-gardi" and indoctrination, grabbed power and stayed in power for three decades. And it was during this period that the communist mafioso through its muscle power and intimidation tactics spread its tentacles among the colleges and universities by installing party henchmen as deans or principals, and this created a new class of leftist pseudo-secular "intellectuals".

Centres of learning became centres of bomb-making. Scores and scores of traditional Sanskrit "tols" or learning centres were razed to the ground, in the name of "scientific rationalism". Anybody opposed to the pro-Leftist tag line was harassed and gotten rid of. And it was this group of "intellectuals" and their chamchas who became and remained the spokes-person on all Bengalis and espoused their "secular" stand. Finally people got fed up with the communists and chose the lesser evil Trinamool Congress. Again, TMC with its huge minorities backing is eschewing the same so-called secular line. Moreover, a big chunk of people from the CPIM had moved to TMC sensing a change in the air. 

And thus we keep on hearing of the so-called party-affiliated intellectuals mouthing the same inane pseudo-secular drivel, which is extremely unfortunate. But they are not  representative of all Bengali intellectuals let alone all Indian Bengalis.

My main point here is that stereo-typing is an exercise in futility. One can generalize provided the sample size is significant enough, else it would be akin to constructing a house of cards in a windy room.


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