Author: Garga Chatterjee

Brain scientist. Columnist. Bengali. He received his PhD from Harvard and is a faculty at the Indian Statistical Institute, Kolkata.
November 25, 2016 /

After the anti-Hindu communal attacks in Bangladesh’s Brahmonbaria in end October, social media was abuzz with it as its “breaking” news. This news competed with Bangladesh’s victory against England in a cricket match. News of such things alerts a section of West Bengal’s populace more than anywhere else beyond the People’s Republic of Bangladesh. On my Facebook page there was a discussion about the minority situation – with participants from both Bengals, both Hindus and Muslims on both sides. It was in no way representative and that’s not the story here. I just wanted to share one of the most beautiful conversations I have had in Facebook where I was confronted with such a richness of understanding and compassion, weaving in stories of the Hindu in Bangladesh to something much wider, pointing to forms of inner demons in all of us.

November 12, 2016 /

Garga Chatterjee looks at what is wrong with the proposed amendments to the Citizenship Bill. BJP’s proposals are communally discriminatory and the issue of illegal migrants fleeing neighbouring nations due to human rights violations can be addressed by religion-blind, case-specific human rights abuse clauses. Anxieties around demographic changes and economic pressures are real and how this is not simply due to migrations across international borders but also migration across state borders. Expanding state government control of residency rights, property ownership, entry and settling rules is the need of the hour.

August 27, 2016 /

Last month, the judges of the Calcutta High Court in Kolkata rejected the Union cabinet decision to the change the name of the first high court in South Asia to Kolkata High Court. The Union cabinet had decided to change the names of Bombay and Madras High Court too, to Mumbai and Chennai High Courts. The Union cabinet decision was made on 5th July. Thereafter, on 11th July, judges of the “Calcutta” High Court unanimously opposed the name change idea. Nevertheless, the Union government went ahead and moved the bill in the Lok Sabha – the the High Courts (Alteration of Names) Bill. For Kolkata, it proposed that the ‘High Court of Judicature at Calcutta’ is renamed to ‘High Court of Judicature at Kolkata’. Symbolism aside, names have meanings. So do name changes and the names to which they are changed.

June 27, 2016 /

For a significant period of my youth, I used to live in the United States of America. While I was there, I, a Bengali from West Bengal, was exposed for the first time to real people from East Bengal, as opposed to their caricature that I was exposed to when I was growing up. The eastern part of Bengal, whose political form is the People’s Republic of Bangladesh, is where a greater proportion of my people live. A significant minority lives in West Bengal. While I interacted with “them”, I became close very fast, for, to be accepted and welcomed, I did not have to participate in Diwali (quite an alien thing to Bengalis in West Bengal), Holi (another such alien thing), Hindi antaksharis or be conversant with the latest Bollywood films in a distant language, their heroes-heroines or contort myself in other ways into something I was not. I felt strangely liberated.

March 18, 2016 /

Delhi, for all its self-righteousness over us “regionals” and with its moody earnestness, wont fight our battles. The fact that solidarity in and from Delhi matters in the “national narrative” is part of the problem and not part of the solution. Delhi and its ideologies represent, what we in Bangla call, the ghost in the mustard.

December 14, 2015 /

Nepal is a land-locked nation. It is disproportionately dependent and ‘close’ to the Indian Union due to its geographical location and the presence of the Himalayas that, for now, limits smooth connectivity between Nepal and China. Delhi’s influence on Nepal is largely borne out of this unfortunate geography – an influence that sometimes is no different from political blackmail.

December 2, 2015 /

Buying local is not about economic benefit alone. Its also about empowering communities in a real sense, beyond slick and shameless NGO-partnered “CSR” initiatives about street-children and “women”. Its about changing the paradigm of economic activity and getting the stake of the people back and putting one’s own surrounding first.

October 15, 2015 /

Is Babri and Dadri really an anomaly in the “idea of India”? The Dadri lynching has given the recently dethroned faction of the “idea of India” establishment an opportunity to denounce the “idea of India” faction that is in power now. What is the politics of this 2-way mockfight and what other possibilities of politics does it want to suppress?