The Linguistic ATM: A divisive investment

Bengali linguistic chauvinists have taken a leaf out of the book of their Kannada and Tamil counterparts and are trying to foment linguistic chauvinism in West Bengal as a last-ditch effort to prevent Hindu consolidation in the country.

On Saturday, Minister of Railways Piyush Goyal congratulated the people of Kolkata for the City Metro’s decision of including information in Bengali in its smart cards.

Self-proclaimed “Didi fanboi” and “Typical Aantel” Agnivo Niyogi reacted to Union Minister Piyush Goyal’s congratulatory tweet on Kolkata Metro including Bengali in its smart cards with a jibe at ‘Hindi imperialism’. According to him, Piyush Goyal’s tweet reeked of it.

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Another vocal supporter of Trinamool Congress, Garga Chatterjee, interpreted the tweet as the ‘Hindi imperial centre’ sensing the power of ‘Bengali resistance’.

From the tweets, the resentment that is festering within the hearts and minds of such people becomes quite apparent. One wonders where was the ‘Bengali resistance’ all this time that the BJP wasn’t in power. And if the purpose of this resistance is served merely by including Bangla in the smart cards of the city’s metro, then are the goals of the resistance really worthwhile? Over the course of history, ‘resistance’ has always meant a tiny bunch of the oppressed standing up to the tyrannies that rob their people of the necessities of life. It is 2018, however, and a certain bunch of people with an irresistible urge to appear heroic without suffering any of the miseries that come along with it, are inventing trouble where none exist so that their baser urges might be satisfied.

Bengalis have always been proud of their culture and there have been movements in the past, notably the one led by Sunil Gangopadhyay, which have sought to restore the presence of Bangla in the fast-changing landscape of Kolkata. However, the recent phenomenon that has surfaced with vengeful people trying to cloak their personal agendas under the garb of linguistic pride and nefarious regionalism, has manifested itself in vitriolic rhetoric that could go a long way in fostering unsubstantiated hatred along linguistic lines.

Kolkata has always been a melting pot of cultures where one of the most influential strands of the Indian Independence Movement was born. Heroes of this land whom Bengalis adore and cherish have always harboured and inculcated a pan-Indian outlook that is not limited by narrow linguistic barriers. Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose’s Indian National Army itself inducted men from all across India and most of the recruits were Sikhs who presumably never spoke Bengali. And here we have, Twitter Linguistic chauvinists who disgrace one of the greatest heroes of this country by promoting enmity between communities based on the language they speak. Netaji’s primary allegiance was to India, not hindered by his linguistic identity, and here we have these people using our great Bangla language to divide Indians along linguistic lines.

The objective of this rather futile exercise is to malign a section of the political spectrum among Bengalis. Of course, such a move could very well succeed but at what cost? It has to be kept in mind that linguistic chauvinists in Bengal politics represent a fringe of the fringe but it is so not for a lack of effort. As 2019 gets closer and closer, we will witness more of such divisive rhetoric to influence the General Election results. It might prove beneficial for certain political parties in the short run but in the long term, it could pose a grave threat to the unity and integrity of the Indian union.

As I have said before on several occasions, we are living in an age of chaos. Provocations even by inconsequential people could lead to grave consequences. Under such circumstances, it is imperative for people in the public eye to conduct themselves more responsibly. They might be under the impression that their current endeavours will earn them great benefits in the future but Chaos is an unforgiving mistress and people often discover that the fruits of their actions are not what they envisioned them to be.

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