In the history of State-sponsored oppressions in India, there is one custodial death about which the custodians of human rights of the oppressed will never speak out, though that is one death-in-custody which the common people of India have always retained in their memory. We are talking of the mysterious death of Syama Prasad Mukherjee, while held in captivity in Kashmir. Whether that was murder or not is a separate debate (no enquiry commission was ever formed), but here in this article, we shall focus on one striking parallel between Syama Prasad’s statesmanship apropos Kashmir and his concern for Bengal.Syama Prasad is again dying, this time in Mamata Banerjee’s land as West Bengal seems steadily headed the Kashmir way
In 1953, Syama Prasad courted arrest by moving into the territory of Jammu & Kashmir (Indians not allowed, some invisible signs must have existed!). One wonders why he felt so strongly about this issue. He was not a firebrand populist leader known for agitational politics. He was an educationist, served as Vice Chancellor of Calcutta University, came from a family of educationists (his father was the legendary Sir Ashutosh Mukherjee, popularly known as Bengal Tiger, was also the Vice Chancellor of Calcutta University and the institution became synonymous with his name), headed Hindu Mahasabha for a considerable period of time, was Finance Minister in a Coalition Ministry of British Bengal for some time, and after Independence joined Nehru’s all-party Cabinet as Industry Minister. He is, however, remembered only as the founder of Jan Sangh.
We believe he saw a danger lurking there in Kashmir. That he was prophetic in his assessment has been proved by later history: the plight of Kashmiri Hindus will bear testimony to that. But very little is known of Syama Prasad’s stand on Bengal (which, we shall see, molded his concern for Kashmir), the State from where he belonged. The saga began with his resignation from Nehru’s Cabinet in 1950, when he protested against the Liaquat-Nehru Pact.
Before departure, the British wanted a thorough Balkanisation of India. A weak, fragmented India would have served lasting imperial interests better. In weakening this nation, Islamist politics aided the British, and in this regard, a conspiracy to get entire Bengal annexed away from India was of special significance. The premier of British Bengal, Suhrawardy, also known as the Butcher of Calcutta for his role in the Great Calcutta Killings of 1946, which started with what the Muslim League called the Direct Action Day, hatched one such plan where he wanted Bengal to completely secede from India and become independent (so that Partition of India would be tripartite: India, Pakistan and Bengal). Jinnah was elated and was in full support for this plan. Needless to say, this independent Bengal would have been a Muslim majority land, because at that point of time undivided Bengal had 55 per cent Muslims and 45 per cent Hindus. And living under the terror, discrimination and severe humiliation imposed by the Muslim League regime, the Hindus of Bengal knew very well what was there in store for them. Noakhali genocide of 1946 was a fresh memory.
The Communist Party of India supported the plan for secession of Bengal, probably because India’s Balkanisation was also beneficial for Moscow, but most Hindus of Bengal opposed that move tooth and nail, they opposed this conspiracy which wanted to sever an inseparable cultural and historical tie that Bengal has shared with the rest of India since the earliest days of antiquity. Syama Prasad was one of the chief political architects of that resistance (in fairness it must be admitted that Bengal’s Congress too solidly polarised itself on this issue and strived to remain in India). The result was the formation of West Bengal, a Hindu majority province, which by the 1951 census had approximately 15 per cent Muslim population, the rest being Hindus.
Even prior to the debilitating and disastrous Nehruvian misadventure to permanently disintegrate Kashmir to the rest of India (thus, facilitating the colonial design of Balkanisation), Syama Prasad witnessed one such move in his home State, and foiled that. This is why he protested so vehemently against Nehru’s Kashmir policy to the point where he ended up losing his life, because he knew it would spell doom for the Hindus of Kashmir eventually. In India, whoever speaks for the Hindus is dubbed communal, but that did not deter Syama Prasad from standing up for this beleaguered community which for thousands of years has been synonymous with the spirit and essence of India, which is their sacred land.
Let us now go back to Liaquat-Nehru Pact, which basically promised that the respective minorities will be protected by the Governments of India and Pakistan and urged that the Hindu refugees would be brought back to East Pakistan whereas the Muslims who left West Bengal for East Pakistan would be allowed to come back and resettle on Indian soil. Return of Muslims was followed by fresh waves of infiltration to West Bengal, but no Hindu is ever known to have been rehabilitated in East Pakistan. This was another balloon idealism of Nehru, which practically washed off India’s responsibility for protecting the beleaguered Hindu minorities stranded in Pakistan, and it spelt doom for millions of Hindus of East Pakistan, but in order to fully understand why Syama Prasad opposed that pact and resigned from Nehru’s Cabinet (KC Neogy, a Bengali Congressman who was also a Union Minister in Nehru’s Cabinet at that point in time, also resigned in protest against that pact), we need to have a cursory glance at Bengal’s history.
Ever since the advent of the marauder Bakhtiyar Khilji in the western part of Bengal some 800 years ago, there have been steady genocides against the native Bengali population, who were frequently given the “convert or die” choice. Forcible conversions abounded, though our Left-Nehruvian-Macaulavian historians have done their best in erasing that long, dark chapter of aggression from our history books. The Hindus could, then, not build temples as they lived under Sharia rule (hence the practice of idol immersion at the end of puja came into being), and as Kafirs could not live with human dignity, again a fact that is numerously documented in histories written by medieval chroniclers, Muslims and Europeans alike. The last Muslim Nawab of Bengal, Siraj, was defeated by the British and commemorating that event, the Hindus of Bengal began autumnal Durga Puja, jubilant for having become free from the yoke of oppression that lasted for centuries. Again, this is documented history.
What was later to follow was called Hindu Revival and Renaissance by later periods. The Hindus of Bengal emerged as a formidable intellectual force, ushering in a renewal of the tradition of the great Indian sages and savants of antiquity. Bengal was to produce intellectual giants like Bankim Chandra, Vivekananda, Aurobindo and Tagore, all of whom were deeply attached to the project of rejuvenation of the classical heritage of India. Bengal gave birth to armed freedom struggle as a direct result of that nationalist awakening. British imperialism was unsettled, and in their turn, looked for methods to unsettle the Hindus of Bengal. They promoted Communist Party among Bengalis and unleashed the force of Islamists. The rest, as they say, is history.
Throughout 19th century, a silent counter-revolution was taking place in Bengal’s countryside, away from the metropolitan gaze, as Wahabis arrived in Bengal. A movement that called for purification and spread of Islam, it aggressively targeted villagers who practised a harmonious tradition of syncretism, and started bringing them under the aegis of Islam. Titu Mir — whom Karl Marx in one of his writings on India called a Muslim fanatic, and whom our own Leftist historians called a radical freedom fighter — was one such figure who championed a movement that sought to turn India into a Darul Islam (House of Islam) once more. Titu Mir acted by desecrating and vandalising temples, slaughtering cows, raping Hindu women and imposing strict Islamic law in villages of Bengal.
He also declared jehad against the British which resulted in his fatal death. Soon, however, Wahabi movement stopped its tirade against the British, and instead directed its energy towards proselytisation of Bengal’s native population to Islam. Ishwar Gupta, the editor of the first vernacular daily of India, Sambad Prabhakar, recorded the atrocities and rampages of Farabis (a sect of Wahabis) in various districts of eastern Bengal. No detailed study unfortunately has been conducted on this steady demographic shift at the grass-roots level, which made Bengal a Muslim majority land in the last 200 years owing to the rise of Wahabis. Wahabis, in fact, attained a feat which centuries of Turko-Afghan and Mughal rule could not. The first census done by the British in 1871 noted that half of Bengal was Muslim. By the time the British left, Bengal was already a Muslim majority province. This is one historical process which has not been recognised, let alone analysed by our historians.
People are aware of Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda being the children of Western imperialism. Very few people take cognisance of the fact that Islamist politics, as we view in the subcontinent today, was to a large extent facilitated by the British. The rise of Bengal’s Hindus as a political, intellectual and cultural challenge to the British Empire was sought to be counterbalanced by the rise of Muslim politics. With the formation of Muslim League under the aegis of Lord Curzon in 1904 that was soon to become notorious for attempted fragmentation of the territory of Bengal, there was a politically organised force of thugs and goons, which would regularly be let loose on the Hindu populace from now on as a punitive measure. Many such episodes have been suppressed in our historiography. Very few historians record, for example, that immediately after the Chittagong Uprising led by Masterda Surya Sen, Muslim mobs were let loose against the Hindus in the city of Chittagong while the imperial police gleefully looked the other way. This tradition continued in the Great Calcutta Killings of 1946 as well.
Following the division of Bengal into East Pakistan and West Bengal, Syama Prasad wanted a population transfer between eastern and western parts of Bengal, which was, however, an anathema for Nehru, even though Syama Prasad supported his view with a number of international precedents and with one precedent closer home, that of Punjab. But not only Nehru refused to listen; he signed the Nehru-Liaquat Pact, adding insult to injury. 1950 was the year in which unprecedentedly gory pogroms against the Hindus of East Pakistan attained such a level (it is said that 10,000 Hindus were killed in one night in Barisal city alone), that a Hindu Minister of Pakistan Union Cabinet, Jogendra Nath Mandal (who was a close aide of Jinnah, and an architect of Dalit-Muslim unity) had to flee to India for his life and send his resignation from Kolkata. In that very year came the Nehru-Liaquat Pact.
In 1951, the eastern side of Bengal had 27 per cent Hindus (the figure stood at 35 per cent in 1941 census), and the western part (much smaller in size and still less populous) had approximately 15 per cent Muslims. Today the eastern side of Bengal, known as Bangladesh is an officially Islamic country, its Constitution begins with the utterance Bismillah, and it has less than 6 per cent Hindus, a result of a long process of ethnic cleansing (no jhola-clad radical who expresses solidarity with Palestinian struggle would ever care to shed a teardrop for our dead, mutilated, molested and ousted brothers and sisters from Bangladesh). The western side constituting the Indian State of West Bengal has around 30 per cent Muslims today, a sharp rise from 24 per cent in 2001 census. The rise is almost exponential to any layman’s eyes.
Syama Prasad recognised that Hindus cannot live with dignity and peace under Muslim rule and indeed this was a view supported by history. The Indian breed of Marxist historiography has always suppressed the issue of Islamic oppression on the non-Muslims in India and elsewhere in the world; not only that, the Marxists have actively colluded with the Kashmiri separatists whose hands have soaked in Pandit blood. But quite interestingly Karl Marx observed the same in his 1854 article, titled “On the Eastern Question”.
Marx was, in fact, a far better observer of history in this regard (we’ve already seen that his evaluation of Titu Mir’s Wahabi movement was remarkably to the point). Kashmir, in the last decades of the 20th century, has corroborated the substance of Marx’s evaluation regarding the threat of Islam to non-Muslims owing to the aggressive nature of Islam’s ideology, which demands that the non-believer must submit to its doctrine, or perish. It remains to be seen whether our homegrown Marxists would prefer to call Marx a fundamentalist and a rabid communalist for criticising Islamist aggression.
Today, Bengal cannot offer any refuge for the rebel Bangladeshi writer Taslima Nasrin, who is ousted by the then Left Front Government, following a rampage by Islamist mobs on the streets of Kolkata, demanding death penalty for Taslima. Mamata Banerjee has outsmarted the Left in appeasement politics and this State is now practically controlled by Islamists, who did not allow Salman Rushdie to come to Kolkata Book Fair in recent past. Today, most border districts (and West Bengal is mostly comprised border districts as a simple glance at its map will tell us; it is an elongated stretch of land where most districts directly face Bangladesh) have turned into Muslim majority areas owing to what we may call State-sponsored infiltration. From many such areas of West Bengal, Hindus are forced to evacuate as they face threats to their security and dignity. It is learnt that the Islamist marauders often say: Goru rakhbi campe, taka rakhbi banke, bou rakhbi kothay? loosely translated as, you may keep the cattle in the camps run by BSF (cows being smuggle to Bangladesh for slaughter is a serious jeopardy to border security, and BSF in order to prevent theft and robbery of cattle runs protected camps), you may keep your money in your bank, but where are you going to keep your wife? Rape has served as a weapon for the spread of terror among non-Muslims worldwide for centuries since the inception of Islamic creed, and the pattern is no different on the ground in Bengal today.
A few days ago, there was an organised mob attack (consisting of plunder, pillage, arson and loot) on the Hindus at a place called Usthi in South 24 Parganas, not very far from Kolkata. South 24 Parganas’ Canning saw one such attack a few years ago, and North 24 Parganas Deganga witnessed one such attack in 2010. These are ominous signs. A study of the demographic data tells us that Hindus might become a minority in near future (in another two-three decades), and one can safely assume that the plight of the Kashmiri Hindus will be replicated once more by their Bengali counterparts.
In Islamabad, they say that Kashmir is a part of Pakistan. We want to point out that a greater Islamic Bangladesh is in the making on the grounds of West Bengal. Syama Prasad is dying once again today, this time in Mamata Banerjee’s prison as West Bengal is steadily going the Kashmir way. (Both Anish Gupta and Tamal Das Gupta are founder members of Shoptodina Foundation, and they teach Economics and English respectively at Delhi University)
Source: The Pioneer