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Crisis of Identity of Bangla Speaking Muslims of West Bengal: An Overview

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Of every four persons in West Bengal one is a Bangla speaking Muslim. Despite their numerical density and participation in different socioeconomic activities their identity is basically singular, based only on their religious affiliation. They are
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  Crisis of Identity of “Bangla”  Speaking Muslims of West Bengal: An Overview Dr. Abu Siddik Assistant Professor, Department of English Falakata College, Jalpaiguri Pin: 735211 Mail Id: sidabu01@gmail.com  Mobile: 9734098557 Key words: Bengali Muslim, Language, Identity, Representation, Marginality Abstract: Of every four persons in West Bengal one is a  Bangla  speaking Muslim. Despite their numerical density and participation in different socio-economic activities their identity is basically singular,  based only on their religious affiliation. They are solely “Muslims.” All other identities (Bengali,  professional, educational, economic, residential etc.) are never acknowledged and often suppressed by the Government, popular lazy media, and concocted, unscrupulous religious and  political bigots and even by the Muslims themselves, leading to their marginality, subjugation and voicelessness. And it results in years of dehumanization and denigration in their homeland and beyond. Their crisis of identity basically emerges from two fronts. Firstly, being  shudra - converted, they are treated as impure or “  sherek  ” Muslims  by the Urdu speaking Muslims. And next, their innate Bengali identity is never acknowledged by their co-brethren elite Bengali Hindus. This dichotomy creates a traumatic crisis of identity for Bangla speaking shudra-converted Muslims of West Bengal. And their absence of representation in literature, art, culture, cinema, media together with the harping on their negative stereotypes such as, barbaric, illiterate,  temple destroyers, beef-eaters, women abductors, unhygi enic, polygamists, crude, “  gaiya ” etc. adds further vituperation and vulgarisation to their already ghettoized and intolerably wretched identity. This paper is an attempt to explore the arenas where the plural secular identities of Bengali Muslims are suppressed with a skewed subtlety to fulfill a particular design. It also attempts to challenge Bengali Muslims’ singular “ burqa, topi, dari ” identity which is gnawing at their marrow. Introduction    Na kisee kee aankh ka noor hoon  Na kisee key dil ka qaraar hoon  Jo kisee key kaam na aa sakey  Main v eek musht-e-ghubaar hoon Bahadur Shah Zafar (1775-1862)   Of every four persons in West Bengal one is a  Bangla  speaking Muslim. Despite their numerical density and participation in different socio-economic activities their identity is basically singular,  based only on their religious affiliation. They are solely “Muslims.” All other identities (Bengali,  professional, educational, economic, residential etc.) are never acknowledged and most interestingly often suppressed by the Government, popular lazy media, and concocted, unscrupulous religious and political bigots and even by the Muslims themselves, leading to their abysmal marginality, subjugation and a terrible crisis of identity. And an unperturbed eerie silence and voicelessness on all fronts  —  economic, educational, occupational, etc wrap their manual and menial life. The social and cultural exclusions of Bangla speaking Muslims are taken for granted, as if they are “unwanted” and let them be untouched till the declaration of another  election. This cheap “vote bank”  identity politics and other multiple socio-cultural issues result in their years of dehumanization and denigration in their homeland and beyond. Their crisis of identity, however, basically emerges from two questions and their consequent subsidiaries. Firstly, being  shudra - converted, they are treated as impure or “  sherek  ” Muslims by the Urdu speaking Muslims. And next, their innate Bengali identity is never acknowledged by their co- brethren elite Bengali Hindus. This dichotomy creates a traumatic crisis of identity for Bangla speaking shudra-converted Muslims of West Bengal. And their absence of representation, or their derogatory presence in literature, art, culture, cinema, media together with the harping on their negative stereotypes such as, barbaric, illiterate, temple destroyers, beef-eaters, women abductors, unhygi enic, polygamists, crude, “  gaiya ” etc. adds further vituperation and vulgarisation to their already ghettoized and intolerably wretched identity. This paper is an attempt to explore the arenas where the plural secular identities of Bengali Muslims are suppressed with a skewed subtlety to fulfill a particular design. It also attempts to challenge Bengali Muslims’ singular “ burqa, topi, dari ” identity which is gnawing at their marrow. The Invariable Fallacy Amartya Sen penetrates with conviction the global problem of identity politics and its vicious aftermath on our thought processes thus:   Indeed, many of the conflicts and barbarities in the world are sustained through the illusion of a unique and choiceless identity. The art of constructing hatred takes the form of invoking the magical power of some allegedly predominant identity that drowns other affiliations and in a conveniently bellicose form can also overpower any human sympathy or natural kindness that we may normally   have. The result can be homespun elemental violence, or globally artful violence and terrorism. In fact, a major source of potential conflict in the contemporary world is the presumption that people can be uniquely categorized based on religion or culture. The implicit belief in the overarching power of a singular classification can make the world thoroughly inflammable. A uniquely divisive view goes not only against the old-fashioned belief that all human beings are much the same but also against the less discussed and much more plausible understanding that we are diversely different. The world is frequently taken to be a collection of religions ( or of “civilizations” or “cultures”), ignoring the other identities that people have and value, involving class, gender, profession, language, science, morals, and  politics. This unique divisiveness is much more confrontational than the universe of plural and diverse classifications that shape the world in which we actually live. The reductionism of high theory can make a major contribution, often inadvertently, to the violence of low politics. 1  The overemphasis on the religious identity of Bangla speaking Muslims of West Bengal “drowns” their several other important identiti es  —  Bengali, residential, economic, professional,  physical, sartorial, education, and many other. Indeed, continuous harping on their religious or cultural identity has been a much recognized phenomenon. On and off some promises of “ madrasas ”, “  Imam Bhatas, ” “Urdu Academies,”   and “Haj Houses” are doled out to them . By the use of such religious tokenism no material progress of Bengali Muslims has been done. And 1  Sen, Amartya. ( 2006). “The Preface”. Identity and Violence: The Illusion of Destiny (penguin Books) [Kindle Edition]. Retrieved from Amazon.com  it is guaranteed that their “ nun ante panta furai” or “ din ana din khaoya ” lives will never have a materialistic fillip by indulging in such burqua-topi-dari line of thoughts. Though the treatment of Bengali Muslims as solely “Muslims” and nothing else has not yet resulted in any form of violence, it has certainly jeopardized their potency of excellence in different walks of life. The act of foregrounding their singular religious identity by downplaying their other plural heterogeneous identities is itself a gross violence and misappropriation of truth and reasoning and the exactitude of their hard and harsh existential life. Na Gharka Na Ghatka The crisis of identity of Bangla speaking Muslims of West Bengal srcinates firstly from the prevalent contested confusion of their srcin. Bengali Muslims are often alleged to be the descendents of marauding foreign central Asian Muslims. This allegation bereft of any truth is an imposed burdensome onslaught on the root of indigenous Muslims of Bengal. Being  shudra -converted, they are trea ted as impure or “  sherek  ” Muslims by the  urban Urdu speaking Muslims and the majority Hindus. They are “ name mussolman . ”  They are “ roja namaj na koriya ” (qtd. in “Bongosahitye Hindu - Mussolman” ) Muslims. 2  Choudhury humourously equates non-Bengali Muslims as caste Hindus and the “ deshi ” Muslims like  Jola, Gola, Kosai, Potuya, Tirkor ,  Kabari e tc. as Hindu shudras, belonging to the lowest rung of the societal ladder. So both among the non-Bengali Muslims and the Bengali Hindus there has been a sustained and amazingly agreed belief in the “low” status of Bangla speaki ng Muslims. Bengali Muslims cannot speak Urdu or Arabic, commonly considered to be the sacred medium of Muslim cultural ethos and ideologies. They are, thus, assumed with a certain certitude that their cultural wells have dried 2   Choudhury, Promoth. (1331 bangla sal). “Bongosahitye Hindu - Mussolman”.  Masik Bosumoti . N list programme, Falakata College, Accessed 13   Dec. 2016. <http// www.southasiaarchive.com/Content/sarf.120001/200026/010>. Web.
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