The paper is part of a larger thesis that caste in Bengal is an impossibility that can only be explored and problematized, not resolved into a near linear narrative of hardening or relaxing hierarchical boundaries. It explores overlapping modes of social control in nineteenth century Bengal for particular attention. It moves back and forth between long term The first section studies two contending modes of social control in early nineteenth century Bengal. The second section focuses on a specific case, to show that these two modes were often enough combined, separated and inadequate. The third section proceeds to consider two more modes of social control in late nineteenth century, arguing again that these two too were often combined and mutually distinct within and across concrete events, instances and processes of relational exchanges, and excesses, across categories of analysis. The fourth section is an overview of caste discourses in Bengal following the no holds barred emergence of print(s), public(s) and a new public sphere in late nineteenth century. The fifth and the sixth section addresses some specific queries and conversations moving across this conditionally open and slippery terrain, leading to the new caste imaginaries among intermediate castes, of which I explore the most prominent. The paper concludes that popular discourses on caste in Bengal existed, indeed thrived, both within and outside the discursive frames which centre on the emergence of modernity in colonial societies, and continue to do so.