Confusing The Confused?

'1905 Bengal Bifurcation'

Farooque Chowdhury

The imperialist British bifurcated Bengal in 1905. The controversial British move, no doubt, had ulterior motive: seeding hatred, sectarianism, communalism. Mr Badruddin Umar rightly said in his article, '1905 Partition and Bangladesh' (Frontier, vol. 53, no. 42, Apr 18-24, 2021, Kolkata), that "[t]here is little doubt that the 1905 partition of Bengal was a British conspiracy. Through this scheme the British wanted to draw a new schism between the Hindus and the Muslims and incite the old division".

But, strangely, Mr Umar takes the same position, as he writes: "Conditions prevailing in current day Bangladesh makes one wonder if the 1905 plan of a separate province of East Bengal and Assam would have been a better arrangement in all aspects". It can't be claimed that he stands for the 1905-bifurcation or opposes annulment of the bifurcation. However, he wonders. Is it a retrospect or confusion?

In real sense, his wondering is his position—keeping hope for a better on a communal move by imperialist masters. He has not looked at other forces that make advancement in a society. Is his wondering his stand—standing for the Bengal bifurcation? Whose position was this—of the well-off sub-section of a section in a part of Bengal?

Mr Umar's seemingly confusion or wondering turns clear, as he writes: "Firstly, that would ensure growth and development of a Muslim middle class under the British which could not occur until 1947". The basis of his hope is the "growth and development of a Muslim middle class under the British"! The components of this basis are "a Muslim middle class", and "under the British". It's the middle class, and, even, not the whole middle class, but a part of the middle class, and that part is communally defined! Therefore, Mr Umar's hope lies not on class struggle, not on development of capital, not on democratic struggle of people that comprises the toilers, and most of the middle class, but on a sub-section of the middle class defined along sectarian line.

The imagination reaches near to no-limit as Mr Umar writes: "If that were the case then the communalism that pervaded the whole of Bengal in the 1940s could have been averted." Would it have been impossible to create communalism, and exploit it in both parts—the west and the east even if the bifurcation was not annulled—by the imperialist masters and their local hirelings had the bifurcation not been annulled? Members of both the communities were living in both of the parts—Muslims in the west part and Hindus in the east. Was communalism absent in post-1947 scene as Bengal was actually ramified? Was there any assurance, not verbal, but factors in socio-economic life that the dominating classes in both of the parts would not have exploited communalism to cement respective positions in respective parts?

Mr Umar correctly identifies the British conspiracy behind the 1905-Bengal bifurcation. Then, strangely, he shows his confusion regarding the 1947-India-partion, as he writes: "[I]n the 1940s, the Muslims of Bengal would not have backed the demand for the creation of Pakistan with as much vigor as they did." Would the vigor have been less! Was the entire British imperialist design entirely dependent on "much vigor" or "less vigor" of the Muslims of Bengal? A confusing analysis by Mr Umar. A careful look at imperialist moves will provide the answer.

His confusion thickens, as he writes: "It would mean that Bengal would not have been the bastion of support for Pakistan." What would have happened had Bengal wouldn't have been the bastion of support for Pakistan? Were the British rulers and their compradors solely dependent on the support of Bengal? What do moves of those partitonwallas tell? Haven't Maulana Abul Kalam Azad and other politicians and political historians exposed that plan? They—the imperialist masters and their compradors were bent on partition. Anyhow, they would have performed that "holy" job. Their plan was not solely dependent on Bengal's partition.

Mr Umar finds, as he writes, "Therefore, the conditions that favoured the division of India in 1947 would have been largely absent." It's not the factor of absence of "large" or "little". How was it found "largely"—is there any study/comparative study of all the factors playing, or is it purely a subjective judgment?

All confusions go away, and Mr Umar's position comes out clearly, as he writes: "The annulment of 1905 partition of Bengal may be considered as harmful if one takes into consideration the conditions in today's Bangladesh." Shall solely banking on that annulment be logical for considering condition of today's Bangladesh? Isn't the entire development being evaluated based on a single incident—that annulment? Rather, shouldn't other factors like role of classes/its factions be considered? For example, the War for Liberation that the Bangladesh people initiated, and the economic and political struggles the people carried on over the years—Mid-August of 1947-March of 1971—are to be considered. In these struggles and the liberation war, classes had respective roles. So, isn't it difficult to draw such a conclusion based on a blanket argument—that annulment?

The other point—first generation, etc.—is more interesting. Source of the claim—"In broad terms it may be stated that 85 percent of them were of first generation, 10 percent were of second generation and 5 percent were of more than two generations"—is needed for entering into discussion on the issue of generation. Looking forward to that source.

However, the article is interesting, as it helps expose a position on the 1905 Bengal bifurcation and its annulment.

[Farooque Chowdhury writes from Dhaka, Bangladesh]

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Vol. 54, No. 5, Aug 1 - 7, 2021