and the Noakhaillas
thanks for the piece "On Being a Noakhalia" by
Joe D'Silva which is remarkable for the intellectual potentials
it holds and presents possibilities of exploring 'skin racism'
-generally exogamous and perceived along colour lines -
to this type of 'ethnic' racism which is much more endemic
and affects almost all societies but especially South Asia.
are the most well known "negatively" stereotyped
people- cunning, clannish, uncouth etc- within Bengal but
in the whole of South Asia, Bangalis are treated just as
N's are treated within Bengal. I am sometimes a bit embarrassed
at the venom of the hatred of non-Bengalis towards Bangalis
when in Bharat. In India, both Bangali and Bangladeshi are
thought of as the "Other' in the typical anthropological
sense. In fact, some people are willing to tolerate Bangladeshis
more than those coming from Kolkata land. But this is universal
and we are also part of the mindset, which look down upon
Biharis who are derided by all.
a Bihari is to be "filthy, illiterate and a congenital
criminal " - my Harijan cab driver said it in one word
-"kachra"- and this is epitomised by Laloo Prasad
Yadav who on behalf of entire South Asia reinforces that
racism. This is in the dominant North Indian imagination
and really needs to be explored considering that Bihar is
where 'Indian civilisation' developed or began if you will.
Similarly Nepalis - Laicchavis of ancient India- are also
trashed as darwans although in the Buddhist period they
were so powerful that they challenged and nearly ended the
Magadhan supremacy, later the Imperial dynastic Indian history.
History is about employment status it would appear, the
secular counterpart of caste.
of Bangalis can be - at least partially- traced to the fanning
out of these people to various parts of India after the
Brits came and took over the richest part of India while
introducing education to generate clerks and lawyers. But
once local wealth dried up Bangalis as usual never in charge
of their commerce took to spreading the Babu culture - read
taking over the white collar job industry wherever possible-
because Bengal under the Brits couldn't hire so many educated
Bangalis. Thus Uttar Pardesh, Orissa and Bihar - later Burma
too- bore the brunt of the Bangali demographic expansion.
Teachers, clerks and lawyerships were the dominant domains
of employment. The Permanent Settlement of land revenue
or zamindary system was introduced in 1789 which generated
a lot of litigation and Bangalis took to law like ducks
take to the proverbial pond which again helped the livelihood
took the jobs and livelihoods here and far away and because
they were migrants they worked extra hard because home meant
no income. And they brought their cousins and nephews and
became communities, which gave them a new identity and cause
to hate them more. This dislike is still very alive in India
today but doesn't interfere too much with the running of
India one presumes especially when Bengal is a 'bemaru'
or underdeveloped state. History has provided the fodder
of revenge. The babu state is an impoverished state, a go-nowhere
state compared to the once despised Marwari and Bhangra
people have an interesting history. These coastal areas-
east and south Bengal- were outside the pale of most Delhi
influence and were considered too backward to be considered
worth any imperial interest. They were probably followers
of totemic /tribal culture ethnically and of course outside
the Aryan circle, the 'Aryabarta". The swampy part
of Bengal was 'outsidered' in the imperial imagination of
whoever ruled 'India". The last point of imperial civilisation
was Pundrabardhan or the present North Bengal which under
Pala rule even tried to take over Delhi but was defeated
though they held Kannauj for a very short period. No doubt
they were held back by the Aricha ferry jam to venture beyond.
In way this divided the Ghati (West) from and Bangal (Southeast)
Mughals came they found a civilisation at least as developed
as the central Asian one and were soon influenced by the
culture of the people who resisted them the most, the Rajputs.
It's interesting that present day Indians also only recognise
the Pakistanis as equals -culturally and emotionally- and
that's the one zone which resists/fights them, the Pakistanis.
Both ignore the rest of South Asia. Enmity is a great creator
Rajputs truly looked down on Bangalis, partly because the
Bengali Hindus ate fish and that is sort of no-no in Rajput
culture. Bangalis pass Vishnu's vehicle through their posterior
is a common abuse of Bangalis - See Nirad Chowdhuri's book
"Hinduism book- for greater details. Vishnu travelled
on a giant fish and Bangalis or 'Bongs' according to the
common description of all Indian Bangalis ate the vehicle
of a god. Rajput aristocracy was vegetarian -non-fish eating-
and racist. Mughlas were meat -non-fish eating -racist and
even today vegetarians are considered curiously non-. Muslim
by many and vegetables are rarely served in grand Muslim
gatherings. Fish is not part of the Indian Muslim's imagination
of celebration but meat is. Ilish mach on Eid day?
so great was this racism that Mughals refused to convert
people beyond Jamuna and Mirza Nathan in Bahiristan-e- Ghaibi
mentions how a Mughal officer was punished for that crime.
Bengalis were not considered worthy of Islam and this was
a perception that is strong even till date amongst the non-Bangla
speaking Muslims of India and Pakistan.
the demand for goods produced were so high and
running the empire had become so costly that by the 16th
century, Mughlas happily responded to the demand by European
markets by converting and colonising. Thus began mass conversion
and mass clearing of jungles, swamps and land for wet agriculture
and textiles. It could be done using religion - cutting
the cost of military actions and we see the dramatic rise
of Muslims in number and curiously the first area to become
Muslim was Noakhali. (See Eaton on the Frontiers of Islam
the professional Muslim cleric - the Noakhali mullah - was
a fact of history and the Mughal strategy worked as different
parts of the fertile area became producing areas linked
to Imperial India through religion and supply of goods.
Mughal racism was won over by economic needs. Interestingly,
the 'chapra' mosque and the mollah were a cheap but effective
strategy where faith and power had the same imperial branding
and produced the desired result. But the theology was not
impressed upon- that was not the objective, cheap labour
was- and read Nabi Banghso for an authentic description
of that period showing how labour gathering became organised
and sophisticated in the name of faith.
Noakhali people had a long history of being "mollahs"
but also being short of land couldn't sustain agriculture
for long so they too fanned out to other parts of Bengal
and even further later on selling whatever could be sold,
religion or any other products. And later when education
came they did a "Bengali" and took jobs and networked
and 'clanned' up and in the end were hated just as Bengalis
were hated in India at large.
'Royal District' is the microcosm of the Bengal province.
The source of conflict lies in the livelihood takes over.
Culture emerges as indicators of that resentment whether
in Dhaka, Patna or Manchester.
racial hatred doesn't disappear in history and the Pakistanis
in 1947 tolerated Bengali Muslims because they were so many-politics
of over-population- and provided the vote ballast which
'elected 'Pakistan in the 1946 referendum. M.A. Jinnah himself
was confused about the identity of Bengali Muslims as is
noted in so many speeches. He refers to Muslims and Bengalis
in one speech as two different people, which still exists
in many non-Bengali, mind. Indian diplomat and author recently
told me that the problem is "you have not been able
to decide whether you want to be a Bengali or a Muslim nation."
The conflict between central and provincial Bengal Muslim
league led by steadfast Abul Hashim, not so certain Fazlul
Haq or Suhrawardy or a militant Sk.Mujib is well documented.
(Foreshadowing of Bangladesh by H.rashid is a good analysis)
It shows how identity and the crisis of self-imaging has
become the major Otherizer, for ourselves and for others.
a great source of Pakistani dislike of Bengalis can be traced
to the Aligarh leader Sir Syed Ahmed Khan whose furious
anti-Bengali speeches are some of the most racist utterances
made by anyone. In fact, the Upper India Landowners Association
which he founded with the Hindu Raja of Rampur (?) shows
how religion was weak compared to linguistic ethnic rivalry.
(Anil Seal's "Emergence of Indian nationalism"
is a good read on this) .
however hasn't prevented people from hating everyone else
from all other districts - a typical example is the description
of the 'lazy Rangpur person, the wily man from Comilla or
the flat nosed tribals from Chittagong'. Indigenous People
are considered inferior commonly all over Bangladesh and
Bengal though they have not taken over livelihoods. Having
a flat nose id in itself an ethnic crime in south asia,
a sign of inferiority, a view shared by central Asian Muslims
and Hindu Aryans.
on, hate on but the answers are in history and biology of
livelihoods and memories of exogamy left over from the hunting
gathering stages of history. Since Bangladeshis celebrate
lack of knowledge this is a great opportunity to celebrate
By the way, my father comes from Noakhali (hated in Bengal)
who grew up in Kolkata hated by local Hindus, a mother who
is a Ghati from Hooghly(hated in BD for being a Ghati).
She grew up in Shillong (hated as a Bengali by the Meghalayans)
and they all came to live in Bangladesh that many find difficult
to tolerate along with the rest of the world.