Sunday, November 12, 2006


Apparently a new book by Stanley Wolpert pushes the case that a sovereign, and undivided Bengal would have been far preferable to the eastern partition of 1947.  Wolpert's book has been quoted by news sources to the effect that "[h]ad Mountbatten followed the advice of Gandhi, Jinnah or Suhrawardy, instead of listening only to Nehru, Punjab and Bengal might have been spared the deadly horrors, and a richly united Bengal, with its capital in Calcutta, would have emerged instead of the fragmented, impoverished Bangladesh born from its eastern half a quarter of a century later."

Is Wolpert really that dense?  That is, the same logic whereby Bengal's Hindu minority should be deemed to form part of a sovereign Bengal because, from the perspective of the Muslim League, Bengal's Muslim majority could not have been expected to remain part of India, inevitably suggests that the partition itself was a bad idea to begin with.  In short: if, per the Muslim League, Muslims in India's Muslim-majority regions could not and should not have been expected to remain part of India, why should Bengal's Hindus (and Punjab's Hindus and Sikhs) have been expected to form part of any Muslim-majority nation-states? 

The mendacity is breathtaking.


Anonymous said...

Mr. Olpert's assertion of an united Bengal with Assam and parts of Bihar indeed would have been a thriving nation, where the Muslim and Hindu population mix would have been roughly of equal proportion.

It is still possible by getting the people of these places calling for a plebiscite and if the political leaders acts boldly without their selfish motives.

Qalandar said...

Anonymous: that logic doesn't get one anywhere, as one could use that to argue against any partition in the first place.

The "problem" is a mindset (pretty nigh universal in the contemporary world) that the state must represent "onself", which immediately raises the specter of a group/identity that is "self" and an identity or identities that is/are "other"... Thus x feels the need to secede because y is in a majority, but secession solves nothing, as now some of y is a minority a state that represents "x." Note that my thought here is not about assigning blame/responsibility to either "x" or "y", and indeed both might be "guilty" of aspiring for a state that represents themselves in some way. My point is that this sort of thing is reflective of a mindset, and that while these divisions APPEAR natural and essential, they are indicative of a mindset and worldview. Thus, for instance, the Hindu/Muslim "split" means different things in different political situations, as does an East Pakistani/West Pakistani "split": consider how different the Hindu/Muslim relation is in Canada, India, Guyana, or how different the East & West Pakistani/Bengali-Punjabi division is depending on whether we are talking about 1971 Dhaka or 2006 London. If these relations were essential they would have been "fixed", and would mean the same across different contexts.