How Bengali Muslims Are Invisibilised in Their Own Land ( The Quint )

Paresh Rawal's not-so-subtle slight at Bengali Muslim migrants in Gujarat planted a target on their back.

The dog-whistle against Bengali Muslims has become a constant and recent addition in mainland Indian politics
(Photo: Sourav Dihingia/ The Quint)

When actor and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) politician Paresh Rawal recently commented on fish-eating Bengalis as a not-so-subtle slight at Bengali Muslim migrants in Gujarat, he purposely planted a target on their back – one of either being Bangladeshi illegal migrants or Rohingya refugees.

This dog-whistle against Bengali Muslims has become a constant and recent addition in mainland Indian politics where the bogey of Bangladeshi migrants and Rohingyas is an effective tool to demonise poor Muslims residing in ghettos.

While Gujarat has no paucity of such ghettos as the state’s Disturbed Areas Act allows for such demarcation of communities, Rawal’s comments brought to the fore an important aspect of Indian politics and Bengali identity – one where Bengali Muslims are invisibilised and where they are used as a bogey for illegal migrants.

Bengali Muslim Invisiblisation

Rawal did apologise for his generalisation of Bengalis to his aghast admirers, who happen to be Bengalis, but many did not call out the constant vilification of Bengali Muslims in Indian politics.

From the Assam movement to the CAA-NRC protest, there is a common attempt to claim that all Bengali Muslims are naturally Bangladeshis. The NRC threatened all Muslims in India which prompted months of protests in 2019-20.

Beyond the right-wing dog-whistling, there are examples of many Bengali Hindus refusing to acknowledge the presence of Bengali Muslims, even when the latter has a sizeable presence in West Bengal. A large number of Bengali ethno-nationalists often claim that Muslims cannot be Bengalis.

This is despite the fact that there are more Bengali Muslims than of any religious denomination. This was also visible in the coverage of the 2021 West Bengal state elections where most insights on Muslim politics were limited to Kolkata, a city with a sizeable non-Bengali Muslim population whose first language was Hindustani or dialects of Bihari.

This demarcation of Muslims and Bengalis allows for Rawal to apologise to only Bengali Hindus while maintaining the bigoted statement, claiming that it was meant for Rohingyas and Bangladeshi.

Just a day after the speech became viral on social media, standup comic Abhijit Ganguly posted a video on Twitter from one of his comedy sets where he compared Bengalis and Muslims to be similar.

In the video, he claimed that both Muslims and Bengalis have similarly high meat consumption and are often always living in their own neighbourhoods.

The comic was promptly called out by many on Twitter who informed him that being Muslim and Bengali is not mutually exclusive. The Muslims in Bangladesh are as much Bengalis as those residing in West Bengal.

This story was originally published in Read the full story here

Related Articles