(The book Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and Bangladesh: The Quest for a State 1937-1971) by Afsan Chowdhury. This is the seventh episode as being serialized by newsnextbd.com )
The Two Nation theory of Muslim League (ML) was a product of convenience just as the One Nation theory of Congress was. After 1947, the (West) Pakistanis insisted that all were one Nation identified as Muslims and used it to dominate over East Pakistani Muslims. As for Hindus in East Pakistan, they were always proxy Indians never to be trusted by Pakistan. Hindus were not marginalized but excluded from every space in the state of Pakistan. They essentially had no history of participation in “Pakistan’s state making so it was mutually exclusive.
The scheduled caste political groups who were against the Congress and influenced by Baba Ambedkar were allied to ML before 1947 but later discarded the alliance (Basu, Independent Schedule Caste Party). In 1971, the Hindu ethnic cleaning policy and selective killing of Hindus reflected what Hindus meant to Pakistan ruling class as a people with the shared identity of Pakistan’s main enemy.
There was no ambiguity in the Lahore Resolution and it helped everyone to come together to form a united front to battle Indian Congress. All Indian Muslim League seemed to have been a party of convenience that lived in a variety of historical experiences which could be used as a tool to counter the dominant elite community. This was fine as a strategy of the weaker aspirant particularly as the colonial power was willing to go along to play one against the other.
However, insisting on One Muslim Indian identity was arbitrary as the India geographical spread was wide and nor did all Muslims experience the same history. A religious marker can be one of the elements of cluster making chemistry. But the Pakistan leadership by excluding all other markers in search of centralized control killed its own state after 1946 by changing the resolution and later in 1947 after Pakistan was born. Neither the Pakistan of the Lahore of 1940 nor the Delhi Resolution of 1946 survived.
The fight between Bengal Congress and leaders from other parts of India was also high. The claim of Congress to represent all of India could hardly sit well with the Muslims of Bengal, a disparate group of elite and marginalized whose vision for the future also differed from their own then representative party, All Indian Muslim League.
A zonal conflict was also obvious with multiple identities alive among other contesting elements. Just as there was a Hindu-Muslim conflict, so was a upper class and lower class one. Within Hindus, the upper and lower caste conflict was high and in Bengal a section of them that supported the ML at one time was also included in their ministry for a short while before and after 1947 (Banerjee, Mandol, Jogendranath). Neither politics nor parties had monopoly representation and claims to sole representation were opportunistic, not historical experience based. Insistence on a single universal representation instead of an alliance became a major destructive force of history. As it reached the final days in the 40s politics shifted even more from the concept of an alliance to one of a monolith.
Bengal politics suffered due to divisions within but both Bengal Congress and Bengal Muslim League also faced political domination from Delhi. Bengal has always been ruled from North India and after a spell of a century and half saw that return. Kolkata had basked under the glory of the Bengal renaissance but the Hindu peasantry of Bengal suffered and without resistance. The Muslim aristocracy resisted colonialism because of their own interest. They used the Muslim peasants to further their own cause but in the process the community’s lower class found a political space over time which birthed a new state. But this was accidental not intended.
None of the politics, of pre-colonial and colonial zamindars and babus were sourced in the historical Margin. That was with the peasant and their state was not realized in 1947. By ignoring the power of the alliance, the established colonial elite lost their status as the Centre of Bengal. (To be continued…)