Friday, July 7, 2017

"Being Hindu in Borkhaland"

***Please don't go by the title. Read a little further.***

The Bengali text in the image above loosely translates to "Don't know if north Bengal will become Gorkhaland but the remaining portion is on its way to becoming Borkhaland." Borkha? This is Bengal. Our tendency to 'O'lter everything makes even a burqa a borkha.

This WhatsApp forward (the Bengali portion that is, the English additions are mine) is the in-thing with the Hindu Muslim riots currently engulfing the Bangladesh bordering areas of Basirhat and Baduria of West Bengal. As per this forward, the Hindu community in West Bengal is supposedly being besieged by radical Muslims and will soon turn into a slave Caliphate.

I will come to my opinion on this soon but a couple of clarifications are in order before I begin. 

The intention of this post is NOT to underplay the real terror that the Hindus affected by the riots must be feeling. When there is a Muslim mob running through your streets, the primary sentiment is NOT "Muslims are also peaceful people just like us". But the same terror holds true for a Muslim family living in a majority Hindu neighbourhood at the time of riots. This is the primary reason why riots are a bad idea. It makes normal people fear each other and kill each other under the understanding that if you don't kill "them", "they" will kill you.

The intention of this post is also NOT to ignore the fact that it is downright evil that there can be such large scale violence on the basis of a Facebook post by a 11th grade student. No matter how precious your Book or your Prophet or your Holy Land is, you have to put up with people who think otherwise. Call them stupid, call them instigators, call them whatever but you have no right to resort to physical harm as a solution. I personally think even arresting someone for a Facebook post is ridiculous. Why should there be an arrest? If he is making a public proclamation of his idiocy, give him the freedom to do so. Let him be publicly idiotic and you continue on your ways.

Coming then to the intention of this post. The intention of this post is to discuss how right wing shitheads are using this opportunity to create further divisions. Also, why West Bengal is not exactly the India hating, Islam worshipping, Hindu enslaving land that the Internet Hindus will have you believe.

We had a fridge technician visit our house a day after the riots. He lives in Bongaon, the last railway stop on the Bangladesh border and the train he takes everyday crosses the riot affected areas. His story to a fellow Hindu (namely me), in between working on the fridge, went like this "... These guys (for some reason he is afraid to use the word Muslims) started protesting after a boy posted content criticizing a terrorist leader... yesterday a mob of 2 lakh people had formed, today they have a mob of 10 lakh people... look, today these guys have blocked the railway routes as well, how will I reach home safely... this is an ideal time for terrorists to sneak into our borders... this was due to happen, successive governments have long appeased them..." and so on.

Let's analyze the key elements of his story really quickly.

1. The "terrorism" element = Complete lie. The problem post was about so-called offence to a religious site, still no justification for violence but a completely different thing to supporting terrorist leaders. But it all fits well in the poisoned minds of the Internet Hindu, the logic goes that Muslim = Terrorist. They have no need to question or doubt. Anything bad about Muslim mobs must be true. Why 10 lakh, even 1 crore Muslims might have been part of the mob? When faking information, why not dream big?

2. The "blocked the railway routes" element = Actually... it was the BJP which blocked the rail routes the next day. Not that it mattered to Mr. Muslims-be-so-evil. For him, any and all problems in his life and his country's future (and past) can be traced to Muslims.

3. The "appeasement" element = Come on now, you sickular anti-national, admit that this is true. I read it on Quora all the time. The question would be on the lines of why is West Bengal so backward and the most upvoted answer would summarize as because West Bengal was not Internet Hindu enough. Ladies and gentlemen, let me stress and restress and re-restress that this is the most fucked up, non sequitur, baseless reason that could ever be given.

West Bengal had 99 problems but religious strife wasn't one of them. Until now.

We've had our bloody share of it in the past though. Hindu Muslim riots were an essential part of the landscape until gradually it dawned on us that this was a ridiculous thing to do. The rise of the irreligious Left had a little to do with it for sure and for some strange reason, Bengalis saw reason in not killing each other over outdated documentation. 

Busy with our addas and biryani aloos, we couldn't make sense of all this hoo-ha over mandirs and masjids. Our bad. Because the cauldron was brewing. The Left with its worker unions stagnated industry and money left West Bengal like a reverse tsunami towards the western states. Intellectual debates are central to our existence but keeping jobs here wouldn't have hurt as well. 

So when the time came for the blame game, secularism and education found themselves caught up in the accusations thrown at corruption and inefficiency. Supposed anti-nationalism spread like a cancer through students of exemplary universities like Jadavpur and Presidency. Outright lies like the "aarti at Kalighat Temple is banned by Mamata Begum" began to circulate on social media. Hmm... how mysterious? Who could be behind such activities? So so so difficult to guess!

Before secularism could react, there were sword rallies on Ram Navami and non native Hindu festivals being borrowed by the dozens. Hindu pride is being restored, we were told. That we were not ashamed of being Hindu in the first place (we were proud Hindus even before we needed to display swag with brandishing swords riding motorcycles) is not something easily understood by the Internet Hindus. 

That to bring back industry and jobs and growth to our state, "Mandir wahin banayengey" is completely unrelated and possibly detrimental to that cause. Industry wahin banayengey (but environment kaa bhi dhyaan rakhnaa please) is more like it but mandir is first you see, it is the "will of the people". 

Education and planning could take a hike. Primary to development was sentiment, Hindu sentiment to be precise. In the land of exemplary Hindu Muslim cross-cultural bonding, the land of Lalan Fakir and baul sangeet and Swami Vivekanand and Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose, after long trials & repeated failures had finally established their base - the cow-Nazis.

In a completely unrelated coincidence (sarcasm fully intended 1), in the political vacuum created by a toothless and completely clueless Left, there came the rise in West Bengal of a party named the Bharatiya Janta Party.

It is hard to support a Chief Minister who would rather hold a press conference about how the Governor of our state was rude to her than focus on the obviously worsening situation. It is equally hard to favour a Governor who picked up the phone to scold her only after meeting representatives of well established neutral peaceful (sarcasm fully intended 2) organizations like the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad.

That said, is hardline Islam and pockets of their dominance a problem? Most definitely. They are not nice people, unscientific, evil and even 'un'nicer they are to non Muslims. These people are an absolute threat to the nation and yes, some of them have political patronage from TMC. Is the area I live in, a heavily Muslim area, filled with these angry ISIS types? Nope. The guy who sells me my groceries has a huge ass Islamic beard on his face and actually smiles at me as if I give him everyday business. Actually I do... but then I think he doesn't hate me for being Hindu either. Oh dear me and my delusions, when will I see, what these Muslims be? The Internet Hindus insist that I club all Muslims into one giant we'll-kill-or-convert-you-all ball.

Hard for me then, to make you, you the reader, realize the point of this post. I'll try nonetheless.


Talk to your nearest Bengali. Why does he hate Hindus and India? OMG, he just said he doesn't. Really, how can this be? Talk to your nearest Bengali Hindu friend. Ask him how he feels about being a slave to Islamist forces and being forced to recite the kalma 101 times a day. Look at his laughing face. 

Stop with the fear mongering and keep the peace. Come to Bengal and help us become great again. But please leave your religion at the door. We have enough problems already. I promise you that at least the food will be good. And no, despite everything that I just said, I am not sharing my biryani aloo with you. It's mine... alllll mine.


Sunday, July 2, 2017

Rainy runs

For we lived for the rains. Not that cricket on the terrace was not fun any other time of the year but the monsoon twist was its ultimate variation. The fundamental "fun"ness of football in the rain is frequently referred to but rain & cricket do not sound like compatible partners. Yet if the grass and the mud is left out of the party by having a concrete "ground" on top of apartment buildings, who's to stop magic from happening?
The "stadiums" at Gayatri Flats had good drainage for the most part barring the little mossy puddles at the corners. A sprint to those parts of the arena usually ended with a skid and a thud but when juveniles wilfully courted physical damage, a burst of stomach straining collective laughter was all the medicine needed. The long straights of the terrace A-1, the perfect symmetry of B-4 and the long square boundaries of A-3 - everyone had their favourite grounds 4 storeys further above the already quiet roads of (then) small town Bharuch.
Past these terraces, only a 10 minute walk beyond, the waters of the Narmada were already turning muddy under the influence of silt borne out of lands Madhya Pradesh onwards by the rain. The Arabian Sea was close enough to Bharuch and the river could have easily chosen to not make so much of a fuss about this rain. But it would still manage to swell with flood waters every year. Me thinks it did that only to provide entertainment for fellow citizens of Bharuch, who would dutifully gather at the edges and gaze on its turbulence as if they planned to stare it down into normalcy sometime soon.
True that the river absorbed most of the rain but we did our bit too. Soaked to the bone, shivering half in cold and half in anticipation of that one-tip-one-hand catch that could seal the match, we were unmindful of the grumbling clouds and their steady deposit. Washed clean as it were of any other roles responsibilities and requirements, we fought, we focussed. A cheap bat and a rubber ball, conquerors of syllabi & tuitions & time tables, architects of concrete memories.