The Hindu Mahasabha (officially Akhil Bhārat Hindū Mahāsabhā or All-India Hindu Grand-Assembly) is a political party in India.
The organisation was formed to protect the rights of the Hindu community, after the formation of the All India Muslim League in 1906 and the British India government’s creation of separate Muslim electorate under the Morley-Minto reforms of 1909.
While the leadership of the party has become questionable over the years, the party was led by stalwarts like Veer Savarkar and Syama Prasad Mookherjee. Without Hindu Mahasabha and their fight for a Hindu Rashtra, West Bengal would have been a part of East Pakistan after the partition. The Bengali Hindu Homeland Movement and the resistance by Mookherjee and company is the reason why Kolkata and West Bengal became a part of the Indian Union.
The Bengali Hindu Homeland Movement
The Bengali Hindu Homeland Movement refers to the movement of the Bengali Hindu people for the Partition of Bengal in 1947 to create a homeland aka West Bengal for themselves within the Indian Union, in the wake of Muslim League’s proposal and campaign to include the entire province of Bengal within Pakistan, which was to be a homeland for the Muslims of British India. The movement began in late 1946, especially after Direct Action Day in Kolkata and the Noakhali riots, gained significant momentum in April 1947 and in the end met with success on 20 June 1947 when the legislators from the Hindu majority areas returned their verdict in the favour of Partition.
In 1905, the first partition in Bengal was implemented as an administrative preference, making governing the two provinces, West and East Bengal, easier. While the partition split the province between West Bengal, in which the majority was Hindu, and the East, where the majority was Muslim, the 1905 partition left considerable minorities of Hindus in East Bengal and Muslims in West Bengal. While the Muslims were in favour of the partition, as they would have their own province, Hindus were not. This controversy led to increased violence and protest and finally, in 1911, the two provinces were once again united.
However, the disagreements between Hindus and Muslims in Bengal which had sparked the Partition of Bengal in 1905 still remained and laws, including the Partition of Bengal in 1947, were implemented to fulfil the political needs of the parties involved.
After it became apparent that the division of India on the basis of the Two-Nation Theory will almost certainly result in the partition of the Bengal province along religious lines, Bengal provincial Muslim League leader Hossain Sahid Suhrawardy came up with a radical plan to create an independent Bengal state that won’t join either Pakistan or India and remain un-partitioned. Suhrawardy realised that if Bengal is partitioned then it will be economically disastrous for east Bengal as all coal mines, all jute mills but two and other industrial plants will certainly go to the western part since these were in an overwhelmingly Hindu majority area. Most important of all, Kolkata, then the largest city in India, an industrial and commercial hub and the largest port will also go to the western part. Suhrawardy floated his idea on 24 April 1947 at a press conference in Delhi.
However, the plan directly ran counter to the Muslim League’s, which was a political party during the period of the British Rule which advocated the creation of a separate Muslim-majority nation, the demand of the creation of a separate Muslim homeland on the basis of the two-nation theory. Initially, Bengal Provincial Muslim League leadership opinion was divided. Barddhaman’s League leader Abul Hashim supported it. On the other hand, Nurul Amin and Mohammad Akram Khan initially opposed it. But Muhammad Ali Jinnah realized the validity of Suhrawardy’s argument and gave his tacit support to the plan. After Jinnah’s approval, Suhrawardy started gathering support for his plan.
The Hindu nationalist party Hindu Mahasabha under the leadership of Dr Shyama Prasad Mookerjee vehemently opposed it. Their opinion was that the plan is nothing but a ploy by Suhrawardy to stop the partition of the state so that the industrially developed western part including the city of Kolkata remains under League control. They also opined that even though the plan asked for a sovereign Bengal state, in practice it will be a virtual Pakistan and the Hindu minority will be at the mercy of the Muslim majority forever.
Towards the end of 1946, the Bengal Partition League was formed by eminent Bengali Hindu intellectuals as an association for the partition of Bengal. The key people among them were Hemanta Kumar Sarkar, Nalinakshya Sanyal, Major General A. C. Chatterjee, Jadab Panja, Dr Syama Prasad Mookerjee, Upendranath Banerjee, Dr Shishir Kumar Banerjee, Subhodh Chandra Mitra and Shailendra Kumar Ghosh. The Bengal Partition League later came to be known as the Bengal Provincial Conference. In February, the Bengal Provincial Hindu Mahasabha constituted a committee for the creation of a separate province for the Hindus of Bengal and began their campaign in the districts. On 29 March, at the annual meeting of the British Indian Association, a proposal was passed for the constitution of a homeland for the Bengali Hindus.
On 1 April, 11 members of the Constituent Assembly from Bengal submitted a memorandum to the Viceroy, in support of the Partition. On 23 April, Syama Prasad Mookerjee met Viceroy Mountbatten and explained that if the Cabinet Mission plan failed and British India was to be partitioned, then Bengal should also be partitioned. On 26 April, both Kiran Shankar Roy and Dr. Bidhan Chandra Roy assured Dr. Syama Prasad Mookerjee, that they would convince the Congress Working Committee of the need of partition of Bengal. On 3 May, two Scheduled Caste representatives of the Constituent Assembly from eastern Bengal met Viceroy Mountbatten at a party and stated that the Scheduled Castes were determined not to be left under the brutal suppression and domination of Muslims. They firmly demanded the partition of Bengal and suggested that the seven million Scheduled Castes should be relocated in the proposed Bengali Hindu homeland in western Bengal.
As per the plan, on 20 June 1947, the members of the Bengal Legislative Assembly cast three separate votes on the proposal to partition Bengal:
- In the joint session of the house, composed of all the members of the Assembly, the division of the joint session of the House stood at 126 votes against and 90 votes for joining the existing Constituent Assembly (i.e., India)
- Then the members of the Muslim-majority areas of Bengal in a separate session passed a motion by 106–35 votes against partitioning Bengal and instead of joining a new Constituent Assembly (i.e., Pakistan) as a whole.
- This was followed by the separate meeting of the members of the non-Muslim-majority areas of Bengal who by a division of 58–21 voted for the partition of the province.
Bengalis must pay homage to Dr. Shyama Prasad Mookerjee, the creator of West Bengal on the foundation day of West Bengal on 20th June every year to respect and recapitulate the philosophy of Dr. Mookerjee to ensure the enshrined rights of Bengali Hindus in West Bengal.