Mamata Banerjee, the chief minister of West Bengal, has slammed the state unit of the BJP for allegedly distorting her comments on the Rajbanshi community.
Banerjee is in Mumbai at present to take part in the two-day meeting of the INDIA opposition alliance; it was slated to kick-start on Thursday.
In a lengthy post on X, in which she slammed the saffron party, Banerjee said, “My love & respect for the Rajbanshi culture reflects in our vision & work for upliftment of the community. Shame on the traitors of Bengal who inject their hatred into my statements of love, unity, & profound respect for our people. By deliberately misinterpreting my figure of speech, the BJP has exposed its own casteist mentality and divisive politics. INDIA will teach them a lesson!”
On the foundation day of the Trinamool Chhatra Parishad (the students’ wing of the Trinamool Congress), while addressing a rally, the West Bengal chief minister had said that while Hindus and Muslims were her hands, the Matuas and Rajbanshis were her legs.
Suvendu Adhikari, leader of the opposition in the West Bengal assembly, on Wednesday launched a scathing attack on Banerjee over her statement. Adhikari opined that Banerjee had insulted the Rajbanshis by comparing them with her legs. The Rajbanshis, as the name suggests, have royal lineage, according to Adhikari.
“Comparing people of any community with the legs can never be any complementary speech. She could have compared the Rajbanshis with her other body parts like heart or eyelids. Her comments were so insulting for the people,” he said.
The Rajbanshi, also Rajbongshi and Koch-Rajbongshi, are people from Lower Assam, North Bengal, eastern Bihar, Terai region of eastern Nepal, Rangpur division of North Bangladesh and Bhutan, who have in the past sought an association with the Koch dynasty. The community is categorized as OBC in Assam, SC in West Bengal, and ST in Meghalaya. They are the largest Scheduled Caste community of West Bengal.
In 2020, Kamatapur Autonomous Council has been created for socio-economic development and political rights of Koch-Rajbongshi community.
They are related to the ethnic Koch people found in Meghalaya but are distinguished from them as well as from the Hindu caste called Koch in Upper Assam that receives converts from different tribes. Rajbanshi (of royal lineage) alludes to the community’s claimed connection with the Koch dynasty.
The Rajbanshi (literal meaning: of royal lineage) community gave itself this name after 1891, following a movement to distance itself from an ethnic identity and acquire the higher social status of Kshatriya Hindu varna instead. The kshatriya identity was established by linking the community to the Koch dynasty. The Rajbanshis were officially recorded as Koch till the 1901 census. The name Rajbanshi is a 19th century neologism.
Worldwide, there are an estimated 11-12 million Rajbanshi people. According to 1971 Census figures, 80% of the North Bengal population was once of the Rajbanshi tribe. As per 2011 census, it has been estimated that it came down to mere 30%. The un-checked infiltration along the Indo-Bangladesh border and intrusion of Biharis caused a lot of demographic change over time.
In ancient times, the land which the Rajbanshi inhabited was called Kamarupa. Its inhabitants spoke Tibeto-Burman languages.