Bengali-non-Bengali divide arising in West Bengal?

Bengal organisation - 'Bangla Pokkho (On Bengal’s Side)' (Faccebook image/Bangla Pokkho)

West Bengal is witnessing a new social trend. Unlike the intense political rivalries, which it is known for, this time an undercurrent of Bengali-non-Bengali divide is slowly appearing in the state.

The actions of an organisation called Bangla Pokkho (On Bengal’s Side), which claims to be a “non-partisan Bengali nationalist” organisation, have sparked a debate whether the group was trying to intimidate non-Bengali residents.

Apart from demanding that Bengalis should have the first right over jobs, business and land in Bengal, the organisation has been accused of using tactics involving intimidation against non-Bengalis for insulting Bengalis.

Recently, members of Bangla Pokkho arrived at the residence of a Rajpoot youth and demanded that he apologise for making offensive remarks against Bengali women on social media. Similar incidents have taken place in other districts.

Not only was the youth made to apologies but the video of the incident surfaced on social media. Although Garga Chatterjee, a founder member of Bangla Pokkho, said that they have not done “anything illegal.”

“Bangla Pokkho wants to create a situation where any person who is Bengali-hating will think twice before hating Bengal. To create this situation we will never break the law... Anti-Bengali elements are not welcome in Bengal,” Chatterjee, a faculty member of Indian Statistical Institute, told DH.

The development comes at a time when Bengal is witnessing a stellar rise of the BJP in the state following the Lok Sabha elections where it won 18 seats in the state.

While the BJP has been aggressively trying to push its Hindutva agenda in the state, such language-based nationalism as promoted by Bangla Pokkho has emerged as a counter argument.

Bengal and especially Kolkata, known to be a cosmopolitan city, has not witnessed such identity politics earlier.

There was an indication that the situation was changing in the state when soon after the results of the Lok Sabha elections, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee said that those living in Bengal will have to learn to speak Bengali.

Apparently taking a queue from her comment, state BJP president Dilip Ghosh alleged that Bangla Pokkho was serving the interests of the TMC.

"TMC is utilising Bangla Pokkho to incite regionalism in Bengal,” said Ghosh.

The CPM Politburo member Md. Salim has alleged that Bangla Pokkho was in collusion with both the TMC and the BJP.

Denying the allegations, Chatterjee dubbed them as “utterly baseless.”

According to Maidul Islam, political analyst and faculty member of Centre for Studies in Social Sciences, such “nativist politics is arising in Bengal with the steady decline of Left and its class politics.

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