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Garga Chatterjee and the ‘Gutkha Pill’: A reaction to the rise of Hindutva in West Bengal

What does Gutkha Pill advocate? At its core, it appears to have very little to do with Bengali Nationalism and more to do with a virulent hatred towards people from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.

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K Bhattacharjee
Black Coffee Enthusiast. Post Graduate in Psychology. Bengali.

In Politics, there are many ‘pills’, a fancy metaphor for a set of perspectives that promises to radically alter a person’s worldview forever. There is the ‘Red Pill’, the gift of the Matrix Trilogy to the world of politics. There’s the ‘Saffron Pill’ which became popular in Indian social media circles post-2014. Then, there’s the ‘Black Pill’ which is essentially nihilism and pessimism and the resolute view that the world is doomed. Now, thanks to Garga Chatterjee, a self-proclaimed ‘Bengali Nationalist’ and allegedly a Brain Scientist, we have the ‘Gutkha Pill’.

The ‘Red Pill’, as envisaged by the neo-reactionaries, advocated that the USA is basically a one-party state. The ‘Saffron Pill’ essentially advocates that India would be better off as a Hindu Rashtra and the ‘Black Pill’ says we should all just give up and die. Alright, that might be stretching things a bit but the ‘Black Pillers’ can really be very pessimistic.

Now, what does Gutkha Pill advocate? At its core, it appears to have very little to do with Bengali Nationalism and more to do with a virulent hatred towards people from Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. Garga Chatterjee uses ‘Gutkha’ as a racist slur against Biharis and people from Uttar Pradesh. For Gujaratis, he uses ‘Dhokla’ because obviously, why not? Nobody could ever accuse Garga of being creative or imaginative.

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Garga Chatterjee is absolutely obsessed with Gutkha. In fact, it can be legitimately argued that his twitter feed is an unpaid advertisement for Gutkha companies. If an owner of some Gutkha company came across his Twitter profile, I am pretty sure he would praise Garga Chatterjee for doing the Lord’s work. Here is just a small sample of what you get if you search Garga Chatterjee’s profile on Twitter for Gutkha.

Thus, the ‘Gutkha Pill’ is basically an attempt by Garga Chatterjee and his coterie to introduce Dravidianist Lemurian politics in West Bengal. The Gutkha Pill brigade employs the same tactics as Lemurians and cries about ‘Hindi imposition’ for political gains. Needless to say, it won’t succeed in Bengal because of obvious reasons.

Bengali Nationalism based on linguistic chauvinism has no scope of succeeding because the sort of nationalism that was advocated by the icons of Bengali culture is deeply tied into Hindu Nationalism. Swami Vivekananda, Paramhans Ramakrishna, Sri Aurobindo, Shyama Prasad Mukherjee, Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, Swami Prabhupada all of these stalwarts of Bengali culture spoke in a voice that appealed to an Indian consciousness at large and never limited their vision of cultural renaissance to just Bengalis alone. Even Rabindranath Tagore, whom the Bengali ‘Bhadralok’ loves to quote as a rebuttal to nationalism, was clearly of the opinion that Hinduism is superior to Christianity and Islam.

Therefore, if linguistic chauvinism were to succeed in Bengal, Bengalis will basically have to abandon the legacies of every single Bengali cultural stalwart to have ever lived. However, that doesn’t appear to deter Garga Chatterjee from peddling his Gutkha Pill. And it’s really not a surprise that he receives the most vicious of abuses from Bengalis themselves. One just needs to visit his profile on Facebook to see what Bengalis think of him. And needless to say, it’s not something Garga Chatterjee would like.

Garga Chatterjee has launched another tirade against one of his favourite targets, Yogi Adityanath, the Chief Minister of Uttar Pradesh, for apparently instructing his Police to take action against illegal infiltrators in the state.

It’s an interesting phenomenon here and quite a dangerous one. The Uttar Pradesh government has reportedly instructed its Police to identify Bangladeshis and other foreigners who have settled in the state illegally. The UP government has spoken nothing about Bengalis who are Indian citizens at all. It’s quite troubling that the peddler of the Gutkha Pill should react in such a manner but there’s a good reason for this.

A dangerous game is at play here. Attempts are being made to foment a pan-Bengali nationalism that does not differentiate between Bangladeshis and Bengalis. Attempts are underway to create a false sense of unity between Bangladeshi Muslims and Bengali Hindus and create a false convergence between the two. The reality, of course, couldn’t be further from the truth.

Simultaneously, people from North India are being blamed for the current state of turmoil in West Bengal. Of course, it’s a tactic to prevent the BJP’s rise in the state. But in their bid to prevent the BJP’s rise to power in Bengal, they are sowing the seeds of enmity between Indians while trying to create an alliance with Bangladeshis.

From the violence to the decrepit state of infrastructure to pretty much everything under the Sun, Gutkha Pill peddlers accuse North Indians of being the cause of it. Such regional chauvinists ignore the fact that the governments that have ruled in Bengal thus far are solely responsible for the state of affairs in West Bengal. And unfortunately for them, the BJP has never ruled in Bengal.

There’s nothing wrong with campaigning against a political party. It’s a democratic right. However, when activism against a particular political party devolves into xenophobia against our own countrymen while trying to create an alliance with foreigners, it should give us all plenty of cause to worry.

Amusingly enough, no one knows why or how Garga Chatterjee got famous. His rise to popularity was pretty much like a meme. And in many ways, he is a meme on social media. It’s because everyone sees him as a joke that no one bothers to take even his clear incitement to violence seriously enough. If a viral video on social media is to be believed, he did try once to pull off one of his stunts in public. But unfortunately for him, he had to beat a hasty retreat after facing some tough resistance from local shopkeepers.

One wonders why he even gets invited to news channels. It’s not like he has the capability to make any profound observations. He is one of the most uncouth persons on social media. Every mainstream news channel which provides him with a platform to share his profound wisdom without giving proper insight into his background shares some responsibility for spreading his malicious agenda. He should not be deplatformed but the audience should be provided with some authentic facts about his background.

Garga Chatterjee’s rise to popularity clearly shows that he has the backing from certain political quarters. The Gutkha Pill is a nefarious tactic to foment faultlines within the country for political gains. The Gutkha Pill might even succeed in preventing BJP’s victory in the 2021 Assembly Elections in West Bengal but at what cost? It has the potential to wreak havoc in the state. It must be nipped in the bud.

The only silver lining to the cloud is the Gutkha Pill is achieving very little success in tackling the rise of Hindutva in Bengal. Bengalis, by and large, are coming around under the umbrella of Hindutva. The results of the 2019 Lok Sabha elections in West Bengal was evidence of that.

The Saffron Pill was a reaction to the ‘Blue Pill’ and the Gutkha Pill, in turn, was a reaction to a milder version of the Saffron Pill. The Gutkha Pill is the last-ditch effort by certain quarters to retain their power in the state. And although it has the potential to cause immense damage, the victory of the Gutkha Pill seems highly unlikely at this point.

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K Bhattacharjee
Black Coffee Enthusiast. Post Graduate in Psychology. Bengali.

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