Over time, a caricature has developed of Bengali Hindus. A pot-bellied man who spends his mornings at the neighbourhood tea shop arguing with his fellow man about politics over a cup of tea. He loves his fish and passionately advocates the virtues of communism till his throat runs dry. The cause hasn’t been helped by a plethora of Bengalis writing for various media outlets promoting all sorts of degeneracy at the cost of Hindu values. However, that is all it is: a caricature. The average Bengali is not the Bhodrolok who hogs all the limelight for all the wrong reasons and appoints himself as the moral guardian of the society. We are as different from them as any two people can be. In fact, we have a specific name for such people, ‘aantel’ and we treat them with much derision.
Contrary to popular belief, the average Bengali is not obsessed with Communism. Sure, he might not be averse to it but he is definitely not an ideological proponent of it either. We are not religious followers of Communism. Even after Trinamool’s victory over CPI(M) in West Bengal, it did not take much for the communist party’s cadres to switch sides. We love our Gods, we love our tea, we love our passionate debates and yes, we love our fish. But a pathological love for Communism, there is not. The Saffron Party’s victory in the Left bastion of Tripura is a testament to the fact.
There are good reasons why people from other communities perceive Bengalis as religious followers of Communism. The primary reason being our intellectual elite which is overwhelmingly obsessed with Communism. Bengal, after all, is where Naxalism began and indeed, Bengali intellectuals provided the intellectual framework for the movement. But the same cannot be said for the average voter or even the worker of the Party. Unfortunately, it is always the intellectual elite which regarded as the mascot of a community. The average voter in West Bengal then and in Tripura until now did not vote for the Communist parties because they harboured any sense of ideological loyalty, they voted for them simply because they judged them to be the best alternative available to them.
Another perception exists in the minds of people from other states that Bengalis are too secular and often Anti-Hindu. It is as far from the truth as could be. We are a peace-loving people, yes, and sometimes even pathologically so but we have not forgotten our roots or our identity. Even the communist cadres, in Tripura at least, and even West Bengal, are very much Hindu and devoutly so. It is just our intellectuals who come across as enemies of Hinduism. Unfortunately, our intellectuals have managed to influence a lot of our youth and as a consequence, universities in Bengal appear to be the den of anti-nationals. But even among the youth, Hinduism is very much alive and is in fashion again as the political landscape of the country changed.
The Bharatiya Janata Party began its campaign for the polls by highlighting the manner in which the communists at JNU had insulted Maa Durga and leaders of the Communist Party had lent their support to them. The people, quite obviously, did not take kindly to the insults that were meted out to our Goddess. The BJP also highlighted the CPI(M)’s support to the anti-nationals at the JNU and during the episode, Bengalis were angered at the attempt to sow seeds of division in our society. Even though a lot of Bengalis do hold a favourable opinion of Communism, they will not tolerate insults to our Gods and sympathize with anti-national sentiments.
Our intellectual elite is a different breed altogether. We have too many of them actively trying to undermine Hinduism and promoting all sorts of degeneracy in the society and even sympathize with separatist sentiments. But ‘Aantels’ do not represent us, the common folk. Our youth are not represented accurately by those at universities either who love to paint graffiti across university campuses expressing their distaste for the Indian Union. The rise of Hindu Samhati in Bengal led by Tapan Ghosh is evidence of the fact that Hinduism still rules the hearts of Bengalis. For far too long, we have been led astray by the ‘Aantels’ but we never really left the fold either.
In recent times, few Bengali intellectuals on social media, who claim to be staunch Hindus, have attempted to portray that the BJP-RSS and their supporters propagate hatred against Bengalis and other ethnicities outside North India. I feel their opinions are utter rubbish. Every community gets ridiculed for every other reason. The ridicule that Bengalis are subjected to, is it any worse than Bengalis themselves subject people from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar to when they address the region as ‘cow-belt’ and other derogatory terms? I have very friendly relationships with people from all over India on social media. I personally get along much better with people from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar and South India than with a certain section of Bengalis. So when such Aantels whine about the apparent hatred for the Bengali community, I can only laugh.
Sure, not all Bengalis who voted for BJP in Tripura agree with all the cultural agenda that the party espouses. But they are aware of the threat illegal immigration from Bangladesh poses and are proud of their identity. As a Bengali Hindu, I am happy today. I am happy that the saffron party has won in a Bengali dominated state. I am happy about the rise of Hindu Samhati in West Bengal and the consequent rise of the BJP. I can only hope that the BJP will carry forward their victory in Tripura to another state that once was a Left bastion: West Bengal. Gods willing, the red of communism will soon give way to Saffron in the hearts of all Bengalis.