On March 21, Trinamool Congress leader Derek O’Brien attacked Home Minister Amit Shah by calling him an ‘outsider’. In a tweet, he said, “A resident of Gujarat with a resident of Madhya Pradesh by his (right) side, releases a manifesto and then makes a full speech in Hindi to create a #ShonarBangla.”
The TMC leaders often mock the BJP leaders by calling them ‘tourist gang’. Though O’Brien is in full attack mode by calling BJP leaders non-Bengalis, he seems to have forgotten where his ancestors came from.
The Irish ancestors of Derek O’Brien
On several occasions, TMC leader Derek O’Brien has talked about his Irish ancestors. In August 2012, he published a blog post titled “The O’Briens of India and Pakistan” where he talked about his father’s paternal grandmother Nellie Bella O’Brien. According to his post, Nellie Bella, who was a Hindu, married a second-generation Irish settler O’Brien. Her first-born Patrick stayed in Pakistan after partition in 1947. Interestingly, Patrick had a large family in Pakistan. His brother was a fighter pilot in Pakistan Air Force. His essay was also published in Indian Express in 2013.
In 2018, on 50th death anniversary of Nellie Bella, he wrote, “Fondly remembering my paternal great grandmother Nellie Bella on her 50th death anniversary. A Bengali who married an Irish settler (O’Brien), she built our family home in #Kolkata . Widowed early, she became a doctor. To my innocent eyes she seemed to stand for Mother India.”
Fondly remembering my paternal great grandmother Nellie Bella on her 50th death anniversary. A Bengali who married an Irish settler (O’Brien), she built our family home in #Kolkata . Widowed early, she became a doctor. To my innocent eyes she seemed to stand for Mother India— Derek O’Brien | ডেরেক ও’ব্রায়েন (@derekobrienmp) November 12, 2018
During the discussion of the Citizen Amendment Bill (now Act) in Rajya Sabha in 2019, O’Brien narrated the same story. At around 10 minutes, he said, “Sometimes the best stories are the personal stories. This is my personal story. My great grandfather was an Irish Christian. He was married to a Bengali Hindu. My grandfather and his youngest brother stayed back in India. His eldest brother was in Pakistan. So we have O’Briens of India and O’Briens of Pakistan.” He further added that the O’Briens in Pakistan either moved to England or Canada or married to Muslim women and converted to Islam. Notably, O’Brien also attacked HM Shah for speaking Hindi and not Bengali. However, O’Brien himself was not fluent in Bengali during his speech in Rajya Sabha.
Former NDTV employee Nidhi Razdhan in her book ‘Left Right and Centre’ included an essay by O’Brien. In the essay, he talked about his father’s paternal grandmother Nellie Bella Biswas—or Nellie Bella O’Brien as she became on marrying the descendant of an Irish settler in India—symbolized history.
In 2012, while replying to a tweet, O’Brien said, “My great grand father was Irish.”
@NaMaAstee My great grand father was Irish— Derek O’Brien | ডেরেক ও’ব্রায়েন (@derekobrienmp) March 11, 2012
The Bengali vs outsider issue raised by TMC leaders including people like O’Brien and Mamata Banerjee only shows how deeprooted the hate for people of other parts of India is. Especially Gujarat. A Gujarati has as much right to be in Bengal as O’Brien with his Irish ancestry has.