Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Why it’s so difficult for some immigrants to assimilate?

I was born in India, spent my teenage and early adulthood there. After living in few other countries, I settled in the US like many of us here. During my younger days in India, I used to hear a lot asking me to change, telling me how I misfit there. It’s not always to demean or demoralize or insult me. Many people used the same expression to save me from future failures and other graver miseries that they predicted for me. They thought I ask too many questions, refused to obey many social and religious dictates (or obligations, as others put it), declined to bow down to the socio-economic hierarchy, refuse to bribe and accept corruption in our daily lives as many do, who consider it just another issue of ‘practical sense’.

I like to mention one example. One director of a famous research institute in New Delhi once told me how grossly I misfit in both Indian society and scientific research. He suggested me to get out of India and join some famous British university, where he can manage almost any prestigious scholarship or fellowship for me. He was the selection committee chairman of many such UK bound scholarship and fellowship selection committees. He assured me of my admission there and also great success if I follow his advice. He went one step further by suggesting how I can be greatly benefited by marrying a woman from families like his, who can "put your (my) career and financial success into the right trajectory", as he described during those early days of post-liberalized India of late 1990s. It confused me even more. That big boss of Indian science, who was 'very close' to the ruling party and the greatest political dynasty India ever had, thought that I’m not fit for Indian science and society, yet the same person thought I’m the right candidate not only to succeed but also to marry someone, who he is closed to or related to. All these interactions started when I asked him, what are we supposed to write in the exam for the class, titled ‘protein structure and function’. That powerful director used to take that class, and we were supposed to appear in an external examination (conducted by Jawaharlal Nehru University) on that subject. Most of the time that director used to be absent due to his frequent foreign tours. And when he was present, he used to arrive in the class about 15-20 minutes late for a 45-minute class. Then he used to tell stories of great German railway, autumn in Japan, awesome Niagara Falls and such exotic stuff. We hardly got much lesson on protein structure and function. I was more interested to know protein structure and function, and was equally worried about the exam we were about to appear. This example has many issues, which cripple Indian society and science alike, embedded in one- like- how to get ‘prestigious’ foreign scholarships/fellowships, how to get one’s career on the ‘right track’, how to become 'highly successful’ and, most importantly, how to fit in Indian society and science.

Many times, I find myself on the wrong side of people. One good example would be people, who use religion to celebrate and demand donations from rest of the society. Most of such celebrations can be too noisy and disruptive for any civilized society. I was not much fond of religion and do not believe in God. But it added an extra layer of anger when you come back from a day’s hard work or when you have a critically ill relative and there is 24x7 loud music, religious sermons, noisy firecrackers to celebrate, public roads are blocked, face local hooligans demanding donation for ‘cultural’ or religious celebration and so on. You would end up in a hotter soup if you remind them that you never asked money or caused any discomfort to anyone when you feel like celebrating. These hooligans, often supported by political parties and administration, expect everyone to oblige them. There are enough reasons for them to be convinced that terrorism does work in lawless societies. We all know that the consequences for not obeying would be really troubling, to say it politely. It’s equally useless to ask state or central administration for help. That might make the situation even worse.

Our birth to any specific country, society, religion, race etc. is merely coincidental. We do not even choose our parents. It’s neither my fault, nor any great virtue that I was born to a specific parent, a specific country, society, race, religion, mother tongue etc. I have no obligation to defend it if that’s not supported by data/fact and logic. In fact, I think it’s better to highlight negative issues so that more informed public opinion can be created to address the issues more effectively. I do not feel any special joy by criticizing any country, society, race, religion; particularly which I’m associated with. Yes, that does hurt. It always feels better to be able to highlight positive aspects of our parents, native country and issues associated with us. But supporting anyone or any issue for wrong reason or based on wrong data not only affect personal credibility but also hurt the honest efforts to address such issues.

Traditionally, mostly the privileged section of Indian society used to go out of India for higher education and job. They are from the so-called 'upper’ caste or upper-class community. These people first time realized the pain of being a minority when they live abroad. The urge to portray India, which is basically ruled by the same people, as a great country is too tempting for them to resist. They also have obvious personal reasons to do that too- to glorify themselves and their ability as socio-political rulers of the country. They do it while interacting with the host society and people there, who have no or limited information about India. On the other hand, the same people also wrongly portray that living and working abroad itself is a great achievement, recognition for personal and professional excellence. 

Then there is the other class, the so-called ‘lower’ caste or minority section in India. They hardly had any power and privilege, which the previous class take for granted. These people experience freedom, equality and, even, professional recognition for the first time when they migrated to a developed country. Unfortunately, many of them gradually develop the same urge and refuse to assimilate to the host society. Being an Indian bring these two classes together, as they find it easier to twist and deform truth to play the same game to two different audiences- one in India and among Indian community abroad, while the other for the host society and people there. It gradually develops a sense of entitlement that we see among the ‘elite’ immigrants and refugees. These immigrants and refugees play the same game, exploiting same ignorance of their audience- but for very different and often totally opposite and contradicting objectives. The same game will again be played, but with totally reversed goal if the same people are either deported or lose job and forced to leave the host country. Then they will loudly sign the patriotic song and spread all sorts of stories to show how bad American or the western host society was. For non-Indian audience, it’s their ignorance about India and/or the specific religion, culture etc.; while for Indian audience it’s lack of exposure and information about America or the other host society that make this tactics work. Very few can maintain a balance and have the courage to accept reality as it is.

Then, there are those so-called 'rice Christians’. The term was invented to indicate those non-Christian Indians, who convert to Christianity, highlight Christian connections mainly for personal benefits- like, escaping poverty and/or racial abuse by upper caste people in India, getting visa/jobs abroad, fulfilling political ambition, and so on. Now the term is not always associated with converted Christians. It’s more broadly used to indicate a specific trait. These folks almost always blame India and their initial religion, culture etc. to get sympathy and also the network of Christian organizations, churches and more successful Christians abroad. They often forget or conveniently ignore that assimilation does not mean accepting the dominance of Christian fundamentalism or ideology over other religions, or white supremacy. 

My living in a foreign country, my not believing in God, selection of my friends and job are the issues that I personally evaluated before accepting. Those are my conscious decisions. Frankly speaking, I left India as I do not feel much associated with that country and culture, in terms of prevailing socio-political condition. At the same time, India is the country that I’m most familiar with. I know that society, its elites and also the people who barely survive with no or false hope that things will be better for them with grace of God or grace of any specific political party or leader. I do not know any other country so well as I know India- not even USA. But I would give similar or same effort for any other country or society if I know it so intimately. 

Many people feel that it’s imperative to live in a country and become part of the system there to have any meaningful impact towards reforming it. That may be true for many, who have the required ability to navigate such a system, ability to compromise on daily basis yet able to oppose, raise voice against socio-political injustices. I tried that route a couple of times, and, always failed. I felt the limitation of that approach and my inability to adjust there. I realized that some people do not have the ability and/or patience to navigate the system in such a semi-feudal and lawless society. Many people feel suffocated there as they cannot talk openly and act reasonably freely with decent honesty, which they feel very essential to start any reform effort. I feel it’s more useful to make myself free from those, mostly, corrupt and morally bankrupt socio-political elites and the system they are so determined to maintain. Now, I can talk openly and act with more honesty. I can have more positive impact on India by staying abroad. It's imperative for me to let underprivileged people know, let general Indians know the reality. Then, it’s up to them to decide their own course of actions- whether to exploit the current situation to promote their own personal interest, or to act to make the situation better. Such immigrants can also help foreign governments, companies, non-profit organizations to deal with such foreign governments and operations in countries like India in a more meaningful way to bring desired outcome in terms of socio-economic development. 

I personally do not give much importance to religion and other superstitions in the name of culture and tradition. Truth and science is far more important. At the same time, I do recognize that these are great forces for many, if not most, people in most of the countries in the world. People can die or kill to uphold such ideology or ‘ways of life’. My only request to them- please do not come to a foreign country and society when you do not accept or believe the ways of lives in such more democratic and free societies. No one is preventing such people to practice whatever they believe and make their countries/race/religion better, far better than any other, particularly whom they do not like or aggressively oppose. Let them show the rest of the world that their political or religious and cultural faith are compatible with great scientific achievements, compatible with the vision of a peaceful, prosperous developed country and society that they dream of. Ultimately, their development, becoming more prosperous and peaceful, would help everyone else, including USA. 

The first criterion to solve any problem is to acknowledge it. Everything else comes next. All talk of policy and governance would not make much difference if we fail to take that first step. I'm reasonably confident that many Indians like me left India as they associate themselves more closely in more open and secular democracies like USA, without having any hesitation to accept that USA is no way the perfect society. It would be very counterproductive to support or allow such Indians to try to bring all those issues, which many like me left India for, wishing to impose on it on the host society- USA in this case. They are better off in India to help developing India into a better country, better than USA, than trying to convert USA into India.

I'm sure many well-meaning non-resident Indians (NRIs), Indian origin Americans, the citizen of other host countries (by naturalization) and even foreigners would definitely help them in such noble effort- not only because it’s ideologically right and the right thing to do, but also to allow US and such host countries to strengthen/maintain its open society and secular democracy. It’s true for other people too- like those Hindutva forces (which is different from Hinduism that I know), Islamic extremists, Christian fundamentalists and other religious fanatic or so-called patriotic people. I do not think it’s at all possible to have sharia law, madrasa or gurukul education and other religious rituals and yet build a modern, peaceful and prosperous country. I do not believe that anyone can ban cow slaughter, ban pork or beef eating, imposing public inconveniences due to religious extravaganza, having faith on religious mumbo-jumbo and yet develop a peaceful, prosperous country. If anyone thinks otherwise, then they need to prove that in their native countries than migrating and then trying to impose those practices on few remaining 'civilized' or developed part of the world, which is still livable for many people like me.

It’s for the same reason we are still decades, if not centuries, away from having visa free international travel, open border immigration policy or borderless world. For that we need to understand and accept few core values and definition about truth, justice and democracy. 

Wednesday, November 09, 2016

Why almost every pundit failed to predict and then to prevent Trump presidency in USA? What lesson we have here?

Trump won US presidential election last night. Every, yes every, political pundit, poll strategy analysts, expensive data analysis with extravagant technology and machines proved to be wrong. It’s not just media or Democrat but Republican party itself is surprised. Hillary had a far ‘better’ preparation, ‘war rooms’ in every state, spend five times more money than Trump. Yet we all know the result now and that’s what matter. There is no point to get into postmortem of Trump as a person or a leader. Is that not indicating something more serious, systemic issue in our societies and democracies? Surprisingly, I am not that sad or frustrated as I thought I would be. I just went out, observed other people, talked to few of them. Everything seems to be pretty normal, in fact little calmer than usual.

One thing I am reasonably convinced- it’s not just Trump or USA specific incident. Arab Spring has come to western and other civilized, functional secular democracies. That include USA, India, UK, France, Germany, The Netherlands, Sweden and many more. 

One major reason is social science and anything related to people and society are very different than just data, its analysis and (core) science where two plus two is always four- irrespective of whether a white or black or Asian or Muslim or Mexican or women is doing that calculation. Surely that human behavior and interaction does follow some sort of logic, but we are yet to fully grasp it. One major reason is people do not always talk what they think, do not behave the way they think and do not react as they should be in ‘perfect’ world. Nonetheless they have their issues, their grudges and so on. It all has consequences. Sometimes very unexpected- like this American election and many more that include, but not limited to win of Modi in India, Brexit, rise of far right political parties in Western democracies, growing public frustration in countries which are far more organized, more civil and open society, where law still seem to work. 

In last 30 odd years, American rural and semi-urban population are marginalized. It’s median income decreased by about 10 percent. Social mobility is reduced significantly. Yet USA is importing more than 80,000 foreign workers even for high paying jobs than many local jobs like police, firefighters, school teachers, small business and so on, which provide more than 85 percent of income of American households. Many of such jobs for which foreign workers are imported, does not need much talent and can be easily trainable. 

US higher education now dominated by foreign born students while, even, upper middle class American struggle to attend college and university. More than 56% of PhD students and 82% of Postdocs in USA are foreign born. The actual number varies significantly based on subject and universities. The percentage increased in more lucrative courses.  It's also alleged that American universities do prefer such foreign students as they bring more money to the University than local students. It's generally acknowledged that income of a family or person increases with a college degree. Many, if not most, underprivileged local people see these foreigners as burden who are here in the USA only to exploit it financially. They are known to have least socio-political contribution, even though might have good economic contribution. 

Then comes, “way of life”, which is a huge issue in any country. If someone comes to my house and then demand that I need to change the way I live, the way I decorate by drawing room and other places, then I surely would not be happy. It will have consequences, even though I may not be downright rude and prefer to remain politically correct and remain likable. 

People may not have education, may not have well-paying or any job, or even hope for better future for themselves and, more importantly, for their children. But they do have vote and that’s exactly why we invented democracy in the first place. The worst part, is people losing trust on each other and also on our core institutions of democracy, as they know those entities did not work to protect them. 

Our political pundits, scientists, professionals and other ‘intellectuals’ are increasingly coming from privileged section of the society. They hardly face or even know the world that these disenfranchised people live. Most such frustrated and many angry people hardly used to go to the polling stations. They accepted that their vote would not change anything. They strongly believed and still believe that the “system is rigged” against them. Traditionally these marginalized people used to avoid casting their ballots. But Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders, as  'outsiders', seem to have infused hope and successfully changed that habit, at least for now. Now they voted more than in last many elections. Surely many, if not most, of them do not know the way out, how to make our society more inclusive, more emphasis on shared prosperity. They are also not much interested to debate if Trump's policies, whatever they might know, can solve it or not. But Trump's and Sander's promises they did believe. 

Surprisingly, when you talk to few remaining actual intellectuals and thinkers like Joseph Stiglitz, we know that what these people think is actually a reality- as society and country. The difference is- these common folks do not know how to address it, how to express it in a non-confrontational and polite way, or in a way that our privileged ‘intellectual’ class understand. Many of them also do feel that educated people are not that good to solve real world problems, as many of such educated leaders, professionals etc. publicly asserted them of better future, showed them rosy dreams. Soon they realise nothing much had changed for them. That's why when Trump ridiculed professionals, intellectuals, media, such people find solace and, may be,  supported Trump too. That's one of the reasons why Hillary got about 10-12 percent less vote among non-whites as well, as compared to Obama. Total number and also percentage of total population of such people are growing rapidly as information is more readily accessible with declining social mobility and income inequality- in almost every democracy- be it USA or India or other such countries. 

We all must understand that political correctness never saved politics and it must not do that either. It’s high time to wake up and remain truthful to ourselves and our cause, become logical with not just bookish or 'professional' but real world experience that involve real human beings around us. No one said that better than Rabindra Nath Tagore and he said it long ago. “যারে তুমি নীচে ফেল সে তোমারে বাঁধিবে যে নীচেপশ্চাতে রেখেছ যারে সে তোমারে পশ্চাতে টানিছে” (roughly translated into- whom you are trying to pull back, will drag you down too).

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Why did Bengal produce so many socio-political leaders, renaissance originate in Bengal and not anywhere else in India?

I hear a lot and also had to explain a lot why Bengal produced so many socio-political leaders, intellectuals, great writers, artists and so on. Many non-Bengalis refute it as 'Bengal/ Bengali superiority' complex, while others seem to be confused in their search for a rational explanation. But almost everyone agrees that there was a renaissance in Bengal, which was not much present in any other part of India.

Many assign the credit for Bengal renaissance to British education. That is surely a major reason. But not the only or probably the main reason. British and other European powers established many schools, colleges and universities not only in Bengal but also in many other places as well1.

There are few issues that worked for Bengal, which started long before the Europeans, including the British, arrived there. In fact, the Europeans arrived India via southern or western coast. The first European, Portuguese Vasco da Gama arrived in Calicut, Kerala in 1498. The first British trading ship, the Hector, commanded by William Hawkins, landed in Surat, Gujarat, in 1608, during the reign of Mughal emperor, Jahangir. But the main impact of European as a whole and British in particular was unfolded in Bengal and not in Southern or Western part of India. 

Here we need to keep in mind that Bengal was not fully under Delhi and Mughal rule at any time in history. People in that part of India never witnessed repeated invasion and war violence that was a regular affair in northern and western India. The drastic socio-political change imposed by Muslim rulers, who came from central and middle east Asia, was restricted to fewer places and was less dominant in Bengal.

Bengal has a very unique distinction to have among the first democratically elected kings in Asia, Gopala around 755 AD. It traditionally had a very pluralistic, more open society. Had a history of institutionalized education, that include the famous Nalanda University and educational institutions in Gauḍa (currently. Malda), Nabadwip, the place where Chaitanya Mahaprabhu (1486-1553 CE), the spiritual leader of Baishnab sect was born and spent a significant part of his life, and current HQ of globally famous ISKCON. 

Bengal had a vibrant trading history long before the Europeans arrived and the Europeans took advantage of it. Many people there used to be very entrepreneurial risk takers, unlike what we see today. Bengal retained one of the most important trading and business centers during British rule and early part of independent India as well. 

These were among the reasons for which the British, initially East India Company, established its capital in Bengal. But the British was little apprehensive about other European powers, mainly the French, who was a global threat to British empire. We also need to keep in mind that all this was before that famous Paris treaty (1763), which was signed after ‘seven years war’ to settle the its dispute with the French (along with Spain and Portugal) in Europe, North America, Africa and Asia. The French had a long history of cooperation with local rulers in India as a whole and Bengal in particular. In case of Bengal it was Nawab Siraj ud-Daulah, head quartered in Musheerabad, about hundred miles north of Kolkata (Calcutta). So the British East India Company established Calcutta (by Job Charnock around 1692) and gradually strengthened it. The suspicion against the French was not unfounded. Siraj ud-Daulah, attacked the British to capture its biggest fort, Fort William in Kolkata, at the instigation of the French. This led to the Battle of Plassey (1757). There the British decisively defeated the Nawab and his French allies, resulting in the extension of British power over the entire province of Bengal and, in every practical sense, in India too. 

During British rule, Bengal Presidency included present day West Bengal, Bangladesh, Assam, Bihar, Jharkhand, Orissa, part of Tripura and Burma. Once the Europeans arrived, they initiated concerted efforts to develop local manpower, mainly to do many of the lower grade jobs in administration, judiciary, law enforcement etc. British needed a lot of trained and skilled manpower to rule over this huge colony. One of the places where such effort took its deepest root was Kolkata. Here we need to remember that British gave similar efforts in other parts of India too but its impact was not so profound. Renaissance did not much happen in those places. 

Kolkata was the capital of India till the new capital in New Delhi was inaugurated and became functional in 1931. During this period many Bengali professionals, scholars and thinkers got the opportunity to know British culture, politics, justice system, science, education and, most importantly, modern democracy. We also need to remember that many of the famous Bengali intellectuals who ushered renaissance there got higher education and exposure in Great Britain as well. Not many of the great thinkers and scholars, for which India is still feel proud, originated from Muslim era madrasas or traditional ‘Hindu’ gurukul education.

Besides Britain, few other European powers have its impact on Bengal. It includes the French, Portuguese and Dutch. It gave Bengalis a competitive advantage and a separate yardstick to understand British culture and education. A rather large region around Kolkata was known as ‘Little Europe’ and currently being promoted by West Bengal State Government for tourism.

As British education and socio-cultural evolution gained ground in Bengal, many of its renaissance people were taking shape in almost every field of life- started from education, science and technology, socio-religious reform and most importantly, in freedom struggle, mostly via violent means. Most Bengali freedom fighters, like Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, seemingly had far more impact on British rule than even MK Gandhi and Jawaharlal Nehru, as we are now learning from recently declassified documents by the British government and from other sources in other countries like South Africa. The same sentiment was echoed by many contemporary Indian scholars and freedom fighters like BR Ambedkar. 

Overwhelming majority of the prisoners in the notorious cellular jail in Andaman, where the most violent and feared (by the British rulers) freedom fighters were kept, were Bengalis. One can check the list of names of the prisoners, still maintained there in the jail. 

Formal education in Bengal probably was not that different than many other parts of India, e.g Tamil Nadu (Madras), Maharashtra (Bombay), where students excelled to become clerks or servants for their European masters. But it’s the socio-political evolution that made Bengal the hotspot of leaders in almost every field. We mostly know about Bengal’s politicians, freedom fighters and few rare mixtures of violent freedom fighters who later became great spiritual leaders like Aurobindo Ghosh, later known as Sri Aurobindo. After renouncing violence, he established the famous ashram in Pondicherry.

All the three major national level political parties in today’s India find its roots in Bengal. Womesh Chunder Bonnerjee was the first president of Indian National Congress. Syama Prasad Mukherjee was the founder of Bharatiya Jana Sangh, which later became Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP). Manabendra Nath Roy was the founder of Communist Party of India, which initiated communist movement in India and also abroad. He was also the founder of Mexican Communist Party.

Bengal had a rich history of religious diversity, rebellion and reform. Buddhism was one of the dominant religions of Bengal since the days of emperor Ashoka (304—232 BC). It continued to thrive till 12th century. It reached the pinnacle  around 750 AD and 1150 AD, mainly under the guidance of Pala Kings initiated by Gopala, arguably the among the first democratically elected kings in the world. It started its decline as Hindu Sena dynasty came to power and crushed Buddhism. Surviving Buddhists retreated to the Chittagong area, bordering Myanmar. The Muslim invaders put the death nail by destroying Buddhist monasteries in Bengal, as they did in other parts of India under its rule. 

Religious reformers like Chaitanya Mahaprabhu started raising voice against Brahmin and upper caste domination and caste based hatred among Hindus. He is also credited to prevent rampant conversion of Hindus, mainly ‘lower’ caste Hindus to Islam, slowing down the fast spread of Islam in contemporary society. There were many other unorthodox Hindu preachers who denied ‘sanatan Hindu dharma’ and its rituals.

Traditionally non-Brahmins and non-Kshatriyas dominated Bengal. Sen, Ghosh, Dutta, Bose, Pal (Paul) used to be the major players. The traditional upper caste dominance was almost non-existent in Bengal till very late when Ballal Sen of Sena dynasty imported some Brahmins from Kannauj area in present day Uttar Pradesh. Some think he merely revived, while others think he introduced caste based social hierarchy in Bengal. Here we need to keep in mind that his son, Lakshman Sen (1178-1206 CE) was the last Hindu king of Bengal. He was defeated by Muhammad bin Bakhtiyar Khilji, the same person who destroyed the famous Nalanda University, to start Muslim rule in Bengal.

Religious (Hindu) preachers like Ramakrishna and his famous disciple, Swami Vivekananda preached against caste division among Hindus. Both had a very different interpretation of Hinduism, in stark contrast to that of Adi Shankara. Swami Vivekananda went one step further and prescribed not only non-veg but also beef eating among Hindus. Vivekananda was quoted saying, “When his disciple Chakravarti asked his opinion about consuming non-vegetarian food, Swami Vivekananda ordered him to eat fish and meat as much possible to become healthy and courageous. He once proudly recalled of ancient Hindu society of beef eating Brahmins and advised the youths of India to be strong so that they could understand Gita better, with biceps". 

Bengal did and still do not have much presence of Kshatriyas, the warrior or the king class, unlike many other parts of India. Folklore and mythology assign that credit to saint Parashuram, who vowed to get rid of Kshatriyas. Such historical facts set the stage for subsequent socio-political leaders to take advantage of with their more educated and liberal mind enriched with western democracy.

Bengal’s open culture affected religious minorities too, mainly the Muslims, who were mostly the converts from lower caste Hindus. Many Bengali Muslims and Christians were revolutionary in their teaching, writing and vision- e.g Lalon phokir, Kazi Nazrul Islam, Michael Madhusudan Dutta. Attachment towards Bengali language, culture and much liberal interpretation of religion among Bengalis played an important role during liberation war (Mukti Yudha) in East Pakistan around early 1970s, to create independent Bangladesh. Language Movement (Bhasha Andolôn) in East Pakistan during mid 1950s helped making the ground for liberation war later.

Raja Ram Mohan Roy almost single handedly able to convince the British rulers to legally ban burning of widows and allowing remarriage of Hindu widows. That earned him the title ‘the father of the Indian renaissance’. Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar (reconstructed the Bengali alphabet, reformed Bengali typography into an alphabet and promoted widow re-marriage), Sir Ashutosh Mukherjee and his wife Basanti Devi, parents of BJP founder Shyama Prasad Mukherjee (for literacy, mainly for local people in local language and for girls), Acharya Prafulla Chandar Roy (against caste division, promoting science education among Hindus and cultivating wealth creation by objective scientific research and entrepreneurship), writers like Rabindranath Tagore, Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay, Bibhutibhushan Bandopadhyay, Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay and many more contributed immensely to that cause of breaking socio-religious superstitions, bigotry and socio-political reform to establish a more just and democratic society and wealth creation from within. These are few reasons why Bengali literature is so rich and also equally matured, even in global standard. The only noble prize in literature, in India, went to a Bengali, Rabindra Nath Tagore, who was far more than just a romantic and a critical writer who touched almost every issue of human life there in Bengal. 

Many talented people from other parts of India were also immensely influenced while staying and working in Bengal. The notable example would be CV Raman, the first and so far, the only Indian scientists to get Noble Prize. He got the prize in 1930 while working in Calcutta University with many other equally talented scientists. Then comes the RSS founder Keshav Baliram Hedgewar. His life and later socio-political activities was hugely influenced by his stay in Kolkata as a medical student, where he got to know and interacted with many Bengali intellectuals and freedom fighters like Pulin Bihari Das, Aurobindo Ghose. 

It’s unfortunate that people who sacrificed the most during freedom struggle, knew the country, its people and its culture much better, were sidelined during the last part of Indian freedom movement and in independent India. That ignorance and immaturity is still continuing and also reflected in many colonial era laws, irrelevant public policy in present day India that include caste based reservation, separate laws for different religion. It would not be unfair to say that we failed to a great extent in our goal to make India a vibrant, prosperous democracy with rule of law, equal and democratic law, for every citizen with unbiased law enforcement.

We still say 'Bengal renaissance'. It easily could have been 'Indian renaissance which started in Bengal', just like European renaissance started in Italy and then spread almost all over Europe. A society or country develops when it duly acknowledges its past, learn its lesson from its history but do not enjoy living in the past or bask in past glories. Understanding and accepting our past is very important to build more productive future, a better future. And it must be based on facts and logic, not just some manufactured narrative to suit personal or political agenda or other form of utopia of ‘Ram Rajya’. 

"Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it" and most unlikely to prosper in the future. India as a whole and Bengal in particular lost and keep on losing the people who have wisdom and courage to swim against the tide, stand up against the herd mentality that is being perpetuated in the name of culture, tradition, religion, politics or, even, peace.

Annexure 1: 

These are the oldest colleges/universities in India- Serampore College (1818), Indian Institute of Technology, Roorkee (1847), University of Mumbai (1857), University of Madras (1857), University of Calcutta (1857), Aligarh Muslim University (1875), Allahabad University (1875). 

Some of the oldest medical colleges in India are- École de Médicine de Pondichérry (1823, currently known as Jawaharlal Institute of Postgraduate Medical Education and Research, Pondicherry), Calcutta medical College, Kolkata (1835), Madras Medical College, Chennai (1835), Escola Médico-Cirúrgica de (Nova) Goa (1842, currently known as Goa Medical College), Grant Medical College, Mumbai (1845), Christian Medical College, Vellore (1900), King George's Medical University, Lucknow (1911), Patna Medical College, Patna (1925). 

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