Video Editor: Deepthi Ramdas
The tragic death of actor Sushant Singh Rajput saw news channels as well as netizens turn experts on the plausible causes of his death. One conspiracy theory was that Sushant's rumoured girlfriend, Rhea Chakraborty, like all Bengali women, of course, did some kind of “jadoo tona” (black magic) on the late actor.
The exact statement, we believe was – “Jadoo tona karke apne vash mein kar liya tha.”
(She enticed him and took over his soul with the help of black magic).
Anyway, so suddenly we figured that the internet hates Bengali women as statements like these started storming Twitter.
Now honestly, as Bengalis, people have mostly told us amazing things, like how intelligent Bengalis are, how they have a political opinion, lots of talent, amazing skin, amazing food and beautiful cities.
So this whole "vash mein karlena" nonsense was a little new to most of us. Take a look at this particular, by a certain Barkha Trehan, that went especially viral.
“They know how to make guys fall for them,” says Ms Trehan.
Yes, Ms Trehan, but have you considered that that may just be because we have confidence and well, generally charming personalities?
Then she says, “They catch big fish and good-looking highly paid guys.”
Kakima, shotti bolchi, you had us at big fish!
We catch big fish, small fish, chingri fish, ilish fish, everything. And if you find any community in India that advertises for “not good-looking”, “low paid men”, let us know!
The genesis of this problem though, lies in the first line of Trehan’s tweet, where she says that “Bengali girls are dominating”.
Some others said that we are “chalu,” “gold diggers,” and “controller of all decisions.” In other words, the usual insults meted out to any independent woman.
Now, Bengal is known to have strong female characters in our history and our tradition. We have grown up learning about Aruna Asaf Ali, Ashapurna Devi, Kalpana Datta, and more.
All of these women were revolutionaries at a time when revolution was an idea alien to women, and even men, in other parts of the country.
This means that Bengali women were standing up to Bengali and other men, way before women in the rest of the country had started with it.
This coupled with the access to education, again something that Bengali women had access to before women in other parts of country, deeply threatened the notion of patriarchy.
The vilification of the educated, independent and empowered woman that was started by higher caste Bengali bhadraloks during the Renaissance period, gathered steam and led to this.
So, the kala jadoo that Bengali women apparently use to entice men, is education, empowered thoughts, and just the general confidence to live life away from the shadow of these very men.
Also, since we are talking about history, there’s a specific school of thought that believes that this black-magic spewing, hypnotisers image of Bengali women also extends to the rest of eastern India. One of the plausible reasons for this is that a lot of societies in northeast India are matrilineal, which means that property is passed down from the mother to the daughter and so on. As a result, men often used the excuse of “witches” to oust women from their rightfully earned property, and which is why this stereotype came about.
These superstitions were also perpetuated by news reports like this one, which at 6 minutes kept claiming that it will tell us the sachhai behind this viral spiel but never really got to it.
Maybe because the only sachhai behind this is how a tragic death was sensationalised by a patriarchal, misogynistic ecosystem. And that's that.
Also remember, we wouldn't need to know black magic to drag anyone to court for spreading misinformation.