The Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) between member states of the World Trade Organization (WTO) defines “geographical indicators” (GIs) as “indications which identify a good as being from the territory of a [WTO] member, or a region or locality of that territory, where a particular quality, reputation or other characteristic of the property is essentially attributable to its geographical origin. GIs are used to endorse the value and brand of an item and protect it from copycats and thieves.

In the Geographical Indications Register of the GoI Ministry of Trade and Industry, for example, ‘champagne’ was registered by the Comité interprofessionnel du vin de Champagne (CIVC), a group representing winegrowers, cooperatives and merchants from the Champagne province in northeastern France. . Because of the GI, any sparkling white wine sold under the name “champagne” in India – whether it is Dom Pérignon or Taittinger – can only come from Champagne.

Similarly, after the Indian Patent Office registered ‘basmati’ as the long grain rice grown only in Punjab, Haryana, Himachal Pradesh, Uttarakhand, Western Uttar Pradesh and Jammu and Kashmir in 2017, India applied to the European Union for protected GI status for basmati in 2020. If and when it is registered by the EU – which Pakistan has contested – any other variety of rice sold as “basmati” in the world will be illegal.

Very cleverly India’s GI Registry – after many hard fights between Odisha and West Bengal over the place of origin of rasogolla/rasagola/rasgulla – granted West Bengal GI status for ‘Banglar Rasogolla’ in 2017, and Odisha for ‘Odisha Rasagola’ in 2019, leaving the generic candy free to be made and sold in Punjabi kitchens in Delhi’s Gol market and elsewhere.

GI allows parties to claim credit for their products and protect them from intruders. But a new form of geographical indication has appeared. Geographies are “labeled” by their perceived negative qualities and bad reputation.

Rudyard Kipling referring to late 19th century Lahore as “the dreadful city of night” – not Calcutta, as many auto-racist Bengalis tend to think – and more recently Donald Trump describing Haiti, El El Salvador and African countries as “shitholes”. , are bound by patent leather racism. But now we have Indians doing GI-based abuse of regions in India.

Mamata Banerjee, like many other gentlemen of her state, for example, appears to have been identified by the GI in Uttar Pradesh for rape. Rape in any other state like Bengal is just not believable. Speaking at the inauguration ceremony of state government brand Bishwa Bangla (Global Bengal) Mela on Tuesday, West Bengal CM criticized the way the media covered the case of a 14-year-old victim of a gang rape in Nadia district – not Noida – on April 4 and die the next day. One of the defendants, arrested five days later, is the son of Trinamool Congress bloc chairman Samar Goala.

When Didi – remarkably ‘older sister’ in both Bengali and Hindi – cried out in full view of VIPs and the public, ‘Would you call that ‘raped’? Or call her “pregnant”? Or call it “love stories” (sic)? I had asked the police”, as if he was recounting an exchange between Hamlet and Polonius to find out if a cloud had the shape of a camel, or a weasel, or a whale.

“The incident is bad, the arrest has been made. But the boy apparently had an affair (sic) with the girl, I heard… If a boy and a girl have an affair, I can’t stop it. It is not in Uttar Pradesh that I will do the ‘love jihad’. In saying this, Banerjee argued that such an arrest “does not happen in Madhya Pradesh, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan or Delhi”. It only happens in Bengal.

Banerjee geographically identified the “Hindi heartland” as a strip where rape occurs in spades, with little legal or social consequences. This is a shrewd GI branding administrative and cultural disgrace that no one else can claim.

The fact that this week alone two other rape cases – that of a teenage girl found hanging from a tree in Bankura, and that of a woman in her 40s in southern 24 Parganas – have not been recorded in Unnao or Hathras “over there”, but in Shonar Bangla no one should distract from what Didi said: rape is labeled GI in “north India”, making rape “unlikely” of a minor by the son of a party employee. Because the ubiquitous mark of Bengal is “love stories”.

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