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Bengali Women & Witchcraft: Where the Indian Feminism Went Wrong

In the contemporary world, ‘Witch’ is the woman who fights back for her rights, and ‘witchcraft’ is her ability to succeed.

After a month of Bollywood actor Sushant Singh Rajput’s unfortunate demise, a new revelation has broken the internet that he was the victim of ‘black magic’, done by his ‘Bengali’ girlfriend Rhea Chakraborty. No sooner had the news made it to the headlines, Bengalis faced extreme racial backlashes from the netizens. Social media is overflooding with racist comments. Bengali women are the most disrespected in this hullabaloo. Some people have accused BJP IT cell and Hindi belt for spreading the hatred meticulously all over the country for political gains.

The concern here is not the political agenda behind this ruckus, but the mindset of the 21st-century world. I will start with some examples to connect the dots.

We all must have heard of Joan of Arc. No, she was not a Bengali woman. She was a French woman, still admired as the bravest saint who fought for her country. In return, she was assassinated by her fellow male fighters. But why? Because her intellect and presentation of strength made the men around her insecure. She was trapped, arrested with 70 criminal charges against her. One of them was witchcraft.

To understand why witchcraft was included among other charges against her, we need to go back to the inception of this universe. The story of Adam and Eve in Genesis 2 says that God made Adam from the dust of the ground and then created Eve out of one of Adam’s ribs. According to the Catholic-orthodox community’s belief, women should be at the mercy of the men for this reason. They should be physically, mentally, sexually submissive to the men.

If we go by this age-old belief, Joan of Arc was an exception. She fought for her country, led a battalion, and ensured victory. In short, she did all that was expected from a man. Hence, she was projected as someone who possessed supernatural power.

As per the societal norms, witches are those women who have the desire, magical power to achieve or avenge. Because according to the age-old belief, women are submissive, full of limitations. If a woman successfully breaks this glass ceiling and becomes an achiever, her power should be questioned, because it is beyond explanation. That what cannot be explained, is considered magical, right? And why is it black? Because it is out of the societal rulebook.

Bengal is considered as a hub of educated and progressive mindsets. There is a say that what Bengal thinks today, India thinks tomorrow. Bengal is probably the only state of India which has received innumerable international and national accolades for its worldwide contribution. In every sector, it has left a mark. When the rest of the country is still struggling against gender disparity, Bengal continues to shine bright.

Bengali women are ambitious. They enjoy the equal amount of freedom and liberty that generally, a man enjoys in this country. They have the freedom of choosing their partners from different castes and religions; they can decide their career and future and for that, they do not have to go through the trauma of honor killing. However, this does not mean that Bengal has zero crime record against women, but comparatively has less than other states in India. This sudden outrage against Bengali women, calling them a gold digger is baseless. Bengal has produced achievers. It has given our country the first female physician, Kadambini Ganguly; the first feminist, educationist, writer, Begum Sakhawat Rokeya; the first female Chairman of the State Bank of India, Arundhati Bhattacharya; Jhulan Goswami, the Captain of India National Women’s Cricket team; Sushmita Sen, the first-ever Bengali woman to win Miss Universe title and the list will go on. They have proved that the sky is their limit and broken the age-old glass ceilings.

Yes, they are superhumans in the eyes of society. If their superpower makes them witches and their skills are the witchcrafts, I do not think they are ashamed to be the ones. In India, women are worshiped as Goddess. But the fate of women has not changed much. If you are a female and you want to be an achiever, you must fight. Sometimes, during this process, a woman must be adamant, tough, strict, and aggressive, in a word dominating, exactly the opposite of what a Goddess should be, because a Goddess is proper, ideal, and admired by all. Thus, they survive and rise. So, I feel, if anyone calls a woman a witch irrespective of the community she belongs to, she should be proud. You cannot please everyone in the process of victory. You must let go of the ideal woman’s image. If a man of a top position can be admired as a robust personality, then why the vocabulary of a woman who holds top position changes and becomes a dominating personality? Men are afraid of supernatural powers; they are afraid of witches because they know how to avenge. So, it is better to be a witch than a Goddess. It is a meticulous and collective effort of the society to suppress a woman, who does not follow the societal rulebook, by negatively framing her.

The case of Sushant Singh Rajput is sub judice. Time will decide Rhea Chakraborty’s fate. If she is found guilty, she must be punished. But the logic of black magic and a Bengali woman’s curse cannot be considered as solid evidence in this 21st century.

The conventional idea of witchcraft lacks a scientific background, hence fits for the medieval period. In the contemporary world, ‘Witch’ is the woman who fights back for her rights, and ‘witchcraft’ is her ability to succeed.

We cannot blur the line between crime and ability. Here the Indian Feminism went wrong.

The views and opinions expressed by the writer are personal and do not necessarily reflect the official position of VOM.
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