Colonialism, Politics of Language And Partition Of Bengal PART V
By Nurul Kabir
September 5, 2013
BUT the partition intensely upset the Hindus of Bengal, particularly those belonging to the higher castes, such as landlords, traders, government officials, lawyers and intellectuals, who grew up under the political, commercial and intellectual patronisations of the British East India Company and the government. They disliked the partition of Bengal because, as John R Mclane writes, ‘Many educated Hindus reasonably believed that the partition meant a corresponding decrease in their opportunities.’ [ibid]
Kamruddin Ahmad pointed out some more reasons, with some specific examples, for the Hindu elite’s dissatisfaction over the partition: ‘[T]he Caste Hindus had their “zemindary” in East Bengal but they lived in Calcutta [of West Bengal]. The writers, authors, journalists who originally came from East Bengal could not leave Calcutta though they also depended on their income from East Bengal. The lawyers of the Calcutta High Court had to depend on their clients in East Bengal. The government servants in the secretariat mostly belonged to East Bengal. Apart from these, [due to the partition,] the Bengali Hindus became minority in both Bengals. Even in West Bengal, Biharis and Oriyas became majority. [Kamruddin Ahmad, A Socio Political History of Bengal and the Birth of Bangladesh, Fourth edition, Inside Library, Dhaka, 1975, p 2]
The Hindu elite of Bengal, therefore, resolved to unsettle the partition by way of putting up public resistance against the British regime. The overall political situation of India, particularly the emerging ‘nationalist’ terrorist movement against British colonialism, helped the Hindu elite to unsettle the Bengal partition.
The colonial India began to witness the emergence of ‘terrorist movement’, under the leadership of different clandestine groups of ‘anarchist’ revolutionaries, with the advent of the 20th century. Disappointed by the ‘passage of hundreds of fruitless resolutions against British tyranny and exploitation by the Indian National Congress’ over the years, a section of the English-educated young men started forming clandestine groups to put up armed resistance against the colonialist British regime in different parts of India. In the process, the first such group of the terrorist revolutionaries in Bengal, Anushilon Samity, was formed in 1902. Pramathnath Mitra, a young barrister, was made the president of the group, while Aurobinda Ghosh (1872-1950), a brilliant graduate from England who would finally end up as a Hindu spiritualist, and Chitta Ranjan Das (1870-1925), another westernised lawyer who would eventually organise his own liberal democratic Swaraj Party, were made the vice-presidents of the organisation. [Suprakash Roy, Bharater Jatiyatabadi Baiplabik Sangram: 1893-1947 (National Revolutionary Struggle of India: 1893-1947), Second print, Radical Impression, Kolkata, 2009, p 66.]
Notably, the renowned English-educated caste Hindus like Gurudash Bandapadhya, Surendranath Bandapadhya, Jatindranath Bandapadhya, Bhupendranath Basu, Bhpenndranath Datta and Bipin Chandra Pal were associated with the group. Besides, two foreigners — Margaret Elizabeth Noble, an Irish woman who grew up in the environment of Irish nationalist revolution, who came to be known as Bhagini Nibedita in India, and Okakura, a Japanese professor of painting in Kolkata — had substantive contribution to the growth of terrorist revolutionary movement in Bengal. Nibedita not only intellectually inspired the Indian youths for the struggle for independence but also provided the youths with political literature on guerrilla warfare and trained them to manufacture bombs in the laboratories of two famous Bengali scientists — Jagadish Chandra Bose and Prafulla Chandra Roy. (Aurobinda Ghosh later took over a more radical group called Jugantar Samity, named after a Kolkata-based Bangla daily, Jugantar, propagating the need to secure freedom from British colonialism.)
Anushilan Samity and Jugantar Samity spread their activities across Bengal in general and East Bengal in particular. While Kolkata was the main centre for the policymakers of the movement, Dhaka, Comilla, Chittagong, Mymensingh, etc of East Bengal appeared to be the prime centres for conducting terrorist operations against the British regime. A large section of the middle-class youths, mostly Hindus, got attracted to this ‘heroic struggle’ in Bengal and subsequently many British officials and their Indian collaborators in the public administration, police and judiciary came under the armed attacks of the ‘terrorist revolutionaries’.
Initially, a section of Muslim youths committed to the independence of India were also attracted to the ‘cult’ of the terrorist movement built upon the colourful notions of ‘pledge, violence and terror’ but they eventually left it particularly after ‘the terrorist movement had started seeking inspiration from Hindu mythology’. The terrorist groups introduced the system of giving the new recruits the ‘oath of secrecy and loyalty to the comrades’ in accordance with Hindu rituals and that too in front of the idols of Kali, perceived by the Bengali Hindus to be goddess of terror. Describing the procedure of baptising a new recruit in the terrorist movement, Suprakash Roy writes: ‘To be baptised as a revolutionary, the newly recruit had to take hobishanya — a specially prepared meal of sunned rice boiled in ghee usually used in a Vedic fire-sacrifice — in the morning and go unfed at night. Next morning, still fasting, he had to take bath and present himself in pure white attire before the political baptiser. The baptiser used to observe certain oblational rites with resins, candles, flowers, sandalwood and other sacrificial offerings on an altar while reciting from Veda and Upanishad. The oblation over, the disciple had to sit on his left knee, like a lion ready to jump on his prey, and the baptiser would stand on his right, put a copy of Geeta on his head, and on the Geeta a sword. Then the disciple would hold the instrument of oath with two hands and read it out before the oblational fire. The oath-taking ceremony used to be finished with the newly recruit bending in obeisance towards the baptiser and the sacrificial fire with his hands folded.’ [ibid, p 76]
Besides, the text of the oath/s that one had to take to be baptised in the movements of the ‘terrorist revolutionary groups’ was also full of Hindu religious idioms. In the first place, they had to take oath in the name of Bhagwan, fire, etc, and that too in front of the idols of Hindu goddess Kali. Notably, Aurobinda Ghosh used to define ‘nationalism’ as a ‘religion’. Things got worse, when, on his release from jail in connection with the Alipur Bomb Case in 1909, Aurobinda perceived Sanatandharma, Hindu religion, as he told Nibedita, to be ‘nationalism’. [Mani Bagchi, ‘Swadeshi Andolone Nibedita and Sree Aurobinda’, in Biswanath Dey (ed.), Aurobinda Smriti (Memories of Aurobinda), Reprint, Sahityam, Kolkata, 1978, p 205]
Moreover, the terrorists accepted Bankim Chandra Chattapadhya as their ideological guru, and used to keep beside the Geeta, Bankim’s novel Anandamath, in which found, as Ahmed Sofa (1943 – 2001) argues, ‘the first fully fledged expression of the dream of a Hindu state.’ [Ahmed Sofa, Shata Barsher Ferari: Bankim Chandra Chattopadhyay (The Fugitive of a Century: Bankim Chandra Chattopadhya), Prachyavidya Prakashani, Dhaka, 1997, p 23] The song Bande Materum, which is the ‘soul of Anandamath’, in which Rabindranath Tagore found certain ‘elements of idolatry’ became the war cry of the terrorist revolutionaries in their ‘nationalist’ struggle against British colonialism. Amalesh Tripathi says that ‘Bankim had a significant contribution to forming the ideology of the extremist [revolutionaries]’. [Amalesh Tripathi, Italir Renaissance, Bangalir Sanskriti, Ananda Publishers Private Limited, Kolkata, 1994, p 69]
Under such circumstances, it was only natural for the Muslim youths that they, however committed to the struggle for independence, would feel dissuaded by such a Hinduised movement.
However, as soon as the British government announced in December 1903 that Bengal would be bifurcated, the Kolkata-based Hindu elite protested against the idea and started submitting dozens of petitions to the government not to go ahead with the plan. The British government, however, did not pay any heed to the appeals of the Bengali Hindu elite, and finally announced the partition on October 16, 1905.
The reaction was immediate and intense. The Hindu elite organised a big public rally in the same afternoon, presided over by Anandamohan Bose, protesting against the partition. Poet Rabindranath Tagore, who had his parental Zamindari in East Bengal, was one of the luminaries present at the rally. The meeting over, they brought out a ‘protest procession’ that paraded through the streets of Kolkata in the evening. Rabindranath Tagore also joined the procession. Moreover, he composed a two-liner in Bangla the same day, Bhai Bhai ek Thain, Bhed nai bhed nai, asserting that the Bengalis of both the eastern and the western regions, Muslims and Hindus of Bengal in other words, are brothers and Bengal is their one indivisible address.
To uphold this spirit of unity among Hindus and Muslims of Bengal, a few days later, Tagore actively introduced Rakhi Bandhan, the festival of tying a piece of thread round the wrist of another to safeguard the latter from any danger. During a protest procession against partition of Bengal in one of those days, Tagore himself tied Rakhi around the wrists of many participants belonging to different faiths. [Sahana Debi, ‘Swadeshi Juguer Smritikotha’ (Memories of the Swadeshi Era) in Biswanath Dey (ed.), Aurobinda Smriti (Memories of Aurobinda), Reprint, Sahityam, Kolkata, 1978, pp 164-165.]
To be continued.
URL of Part 4: http://www.newageislam.com/islam-and-politics/sudhakar-group-and-maulana-muniruzzaman-islamabadi-interpreted-islam-in-bangla-to-‘cleanse-the-faith-of-islam’-from-the-influences-of-hinduism-and-christianity---part-4/d/13639