I spent a part of my highschool days in West Bengal. Based on my interaction with friends, based on my reading of Bengali literature, I can say I have always felt Bengali people and society, though materially poor, is reasonably open, fair, and free from many prejudices that affect in other parts of the country. Bengali polity is usually left leaning with many siding with the voiceless, poor and downtrodden. A case in point, West Bengal has stood rock solid in support of minorities during 1984 and 2000 riots. It is still one of the bastions that rampaging BJP has not able to capture. A reading of contemporary magazines may reveal that Bengali society is not a prude when it comes to physical relationship between a man and a woman.
As a result, I was surprisd to read that a couple was thrashed in Kolkata metro rail because it was felt they were cosying up to each other. Search of relevant news articles emerged that it was a crowded train. A Boy and girl were standing close to each other. They were not doing anything obscene or objectionable. Ofcourse, there are alternate versions that say that the couple was engaged in amorous activity in a crowded train that lead to argument and eventual manhandling.
I do not know why are we making so much noise about two people getting cosy in Metro rail or in any other public place. Is it the lynch mob behaviour that we have seen in UP and Rajasthan, spreading to Bengal? Interesting thing is based on discussion on Facebook, many people who are supporting the assault, are not young. They are trying to remind rest of Bengal and Bengali speaking people that :
- A lot of sacrificed was made by Bengali youth in seventies. One cannot let those sacrifice go in vain by todays selfish consumer centric generation.
- Like we do not ease ourselves in public (infact in India many do), we should restrict our love making act to the privacy of our bed rooms.
- If you indulge in obscene act in public you are bound to be reprimanded. If persuation does not work, stick may be the answer.
- Interestingly some suggested rewriting history books to document sacrifices made by seventies generation.
- Why can we not follow our idols and ideals like Ishwarchandra Vidyasagar or Ram Mohan Roy, and fall for imported cultural practices?
Questions that come to my mind are as follows:
There is no denying many young people had embraced left wing revolution in seventies. Many had sacrificed promises of lucrative career, and a cosy life. We must respect their commitment and dedication. It also has to be remembered that in hay days of revolution, many others who did not agree with the ideology. Today, even less number of people follow them. In the past people were made to fall in line using force. Today that nascent tendencies is raising its head.
Can sexual intercourse be equated with act of public urination or defecation? If two people are coming close physically, does it always mean they are engaged in sexual intercourse? Is it not true that definition of decency is not absolute. Standards change with time. By the way, there are many countries that do not frown upon open display of affection. These national and people, thereof, are not doing badly compared to us. Infact, in many of these countries of west, women feel far safer to venture out even at dead of night. In these countries a prostitute is called “Ma’am” by a police officer at the time of arresting her.
We on the other hand, beat up people engaged in open display of affection, but our treatment of women in public life is miserable. Even in culturally progressive West Bengal, pregrant women get raped. A septagenarian nun was sexually assaulted. Minor child gets raped we cannot stop. Sharp objects are inserted in private parts of children. We watch helplessly. But we are angry when a boy and a girl gets cosy! Is it our impotence in all other situations that manifests in the form of blind rage?
Those who do not like certain events in society, why not complain to police. Differences exist in all societies between old and the young. I think old has to give way to young because that is how nature functions. Do not beat up others. In Bengal, people fight on ideological grounds, not on the issue of public display of affection.
On the issue of violence, left leaning progressive Bengali bhadralok is presenting himself in the same league as the much derided cow loving, communal north Indian mass. Intellectual Bengalis are acting and justifying an act of mob violence in the same way right wing lynch mobs that justify killing of Akhlaq or Pehlu Khan? It appears right and left behave in the same manner when it comes to meting out justice and defending it thereafter.
A sign of a progressive society lies in how we accept unpalatable, unfamiliar events without resorting to violence. More we do so better it is for us. Because in a nation where sixty percent population is young, things are bound to be different. It is time, older generation gives way to younger lot.