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Reviewing a stereotype book review by Dammu Ravi of the book Bengal and its Partition

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Taking the help of convenient factual errors is a trait of agenda intellectuals and writers. The latest example is found in the book of Bhaswati Mukherjee titled “Bengal and its Partition”. One Dammu Ravi did the review of the book in ‘The Hindu’ of 5 June 2021. Following is my comments on that review.

Bhaswati Mukherjee, as per Dammu Ravi, traced the root of partition of Bengal to 1757 when last Nawab of Bengal lost to British East India Company in Plessey. She further went on to say that following Plessey, the initiation of discord between British and Indians (both Hindus and Muslims) culminated into the revolt of 1857. But in actual, the revolt of 1857 was an effort by elite Muslim community of India to regain ruling power from British. It had nothing to do with Hindu-Muslim brotherhood or conflict in Bengal. Did Ms Mukherjee try to show a communally peaceful India (including Bengal), so long minority Muslims ruled majority Hindus for 700 hundred years? But that was weird idea.

What Bhaswati Mukherjee did not tell was that before the fall of Nawab of Bengal in 1757, Hindus of Bengal were not allowed to celebrate annual Durga Puja publicly. First public celebration of Durga Puja was done in the palace of Raja Naba Krishna Dev of Calcutta after Plessey victory of Company in 1957. Though in minority, Muslims ruled Bengal for more than 500 years by then. And Hindus of Bengal were natural peaceful subjects of Muslim rulers. This paradox, very strangely, did not disturb Ms Mukherjee.

Next Ms Mukherjee implicated the Permanent Settlement of Lord Cornwallis enacted during 1793. This according to her, reduced about 20 million farmers of Bengal to landless labourers. But Ms Mukherjee did not explain as to how that led to Hindu Muslim discord in Bengal as both poor Hindu and Muslim farmers were equally affected. The Great Bengal Famine of 1943-44, which affected Hindus and Muslims equally, was also used by Ms Mukherjee to justify growing tension between Hindus and Muslims of the then Bengal. That was a blur argument.

In her enthusiasm to add to the list of ‘causes of Hindu Muslim rift’, Ms Mukherjee has strangely implicated the book “History of British India” by James Mill which was published in 1817. The said book divided Indian history on religious line into three parts – Hindu, Muslim and British periods. But larger question was how many common Hindus or Muslims of that period could read that book? Did they at all care for the said book? The unstated assumption of Ms Mukherjee was that so long minority Muslims ruled majority Hindus of Bengal, there was no problem. But, when another smaller minority (British) started ruling the Hindus and Muslims, the rift between the two cropped up in Bengal. That was a stupid logic.

The review does not speak of the reasons and implications of foundation of ‘Indian Muslim League’ in Dhaka of British Bengal during 1906. Muslims were given separate electorate in 1909, but this was wrongly mentioned as 1932 by Ms Mukherjee when other minorities were also included in respective separate electorate. Ms Mukherjee blamed Congress for not opposing separate electorates, but did not criticize the Muslims for supporting it.

Another glaring factual error was the claim of Ms Mukherjee that H.S.Suhrawardy (of Indian Muslim League) was appointed as Chief Minister of Hindu majority Bengal in 1946. Bengal was already a Muslim majority province then. Had Bengal been Hindu majority in 1946, how two-third of Bengal went to Islamic East Pakistan in 1947? In the Provincial Election during 1946 in British India, Muslim League came out as largest party in Bengal and 95% of Muslim seats went to Muslim League. So Suhrawardi was democratically elected as Chief Minister of Bengal after 1946 election.

Too much of stereotype political correctness and mis-information must have made the book unworthy of reading.

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