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Colonialism, politics...

Colonialism, politics of language and partition of Bengal 
by Nurul Kabir 
New Age - September/October 2013

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I do not know whether or not a political Pakistan will emerge in India, but what I am sure about is, given the way writers of the Hindu community and the education department have been ignoring the use of the spoken language of the Muslim majority community of Bengal in their literary works and textbooks, a literary Pakistan will be created in Bengal. 
Abul Mansur Ahmed (1898-1978)
[T]he people of eastern and western Bengal did not belong to the same stock and the people of western Bengal, who could not rise above the influence of the Sanskrit language, ridiculed the dialect, accent and customs of the people of eastern Bengal, who also returned the compliments in the same terms. 
Kamruddin Ahmad
Bankim Chandra Chattayapadhya is perhaps mainly responsible for the partition of Bengal. 
Ahmed Sofa (1943-2004)
THE British colonialist politics of partitioning India in 1947 also partitioned Bengal-and that too-on religious communal line. In the process, East Bengal, a Muslim majority area within Bengal, got included in the Muslim-dominated Pakistan, while West Bengal, the Hindu majority region of Bengal, became part of the Hindu-majority India. 
Here, again, along with political, economic and religious reasons, the language, Bangla language in the present case, its different varieties spoken and written in East and West Bengals, domination of Sanskrit and words of Sanskrit origin in the works of the Hindu authors and that of Arabic and Persian words in the works of the Muslim ones, even the different contents of literary works produced by the Hindu and Muslim litterateurs of Bengal, substantially contributed to the political partition of the Bangla-speaking region on communal lines. In fact, the linguistic and literary division among the Muslim and Hindu populaces of Bengal had taken place much before the region faced politico-geographical bifurcation in communal direction in 1947. In that sense, the political division of Bengal just followed its linguistic and literary division.
Notably, Bengal, which was divided by the British colonial regime, came into political existence during the Muslim rule in the 13th century. Durgachandra Sanyal, a social historian of Bengal, rightly points out that the entire Bengal of the day did not came into political existence as one country during the pre-Muslim Hindu rule. He says: 'The [pre-Muslim] Hindu kings of Gowda gradually occupied and established control over five kingdoms of the region - Borendrabhumi, Banga, Mithila, Rar and Bakdip or Bagdi. They used to be called those days penta-kingdoms of the Gauda. Subsequently, the Muslim rulers occupied the penta-kingdoms. Then they incorporated Mithila into Magadha and named it Sube-Bihar; and they combined the rest four kingdoms into one and gave it the name of Sube-Bangala. The nomenclature of Bangala Desh has derived from the word Bangala of Sube Bangala. Then the areas on the northern and eastern frontiers that came under the control of the Muslim rulers had been inducted into Bangala Desh. Thus, Bangala Desh has become a vast country.' [Durgachandra Sanyal, Bangalar Samajik Itihas (Social History of Bangla), Model Publishing House, Kolkata, 1410 (Bangla calendar), (2003 Gregorian calendar), p 18] The Britishers have called this Bangala Desh, Bengal. 

Colonialism, communalism and division of Bengal
THE partition of Bengal in 1947 was an obvious result of the divisive politics of partitioning India on religious lines, sponsored by the colonialist British regimes and their local collaborators, particularly the Kolkata-based Hindu landed gentry that came to be known as the bhadralok class, born out of the Permanent Settlement of Lands, popularly known as the zamindary system, introduced in Bengal by Lord Cornwallis in 1793. 
Some of the prominent Muslim politicians of the Bengal Muslim League, such as Abul Hashim and Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy, both from West Bengal, made efforts with some leaders of the Bengal Congress, such as Sarat Chandra Bose and Kiron Shankor Roy, to keep the province united as a sovereign state. But the high command of the Indian National Congress and the Hindu Mahasabha appeared bent on the division that jeopardised the unity efforts. The Bengal Congress actively opposed the move for keeping Bengal united, independently or within either of the dominions of India and Pakistan. The leaders of the Bengal Muslim League, particularly those hailing from East Bengal, did not appear politically enthusiastic about the anti-partition move either.
However, along with political and economic factors, the language, in the present case Bangla, which was communalised by the colonial European linguists and grammarians much earlier, and accepted and practised by many a Hindu literary genius, stood in the way of the emerging Muslim educated middle class of East Bengal not to put up any active political resistance against the partition of Bengal on religious line.
The partition of Bengal in August 1947 was, in fact, the second of the kind; the first one took place on October 16, 1905, which was eventually annulled on August 20, 1911. The first partition was undone in the face of massive political resistances organised by the Kolkata-based Hindu elite. Ironically, similar resistances organised by the Kolkata-based Hindu elite also ensured the second partition. Both the times, the purpose was the same: Resisting the possibility of communalistic political, economic and cultural dominance of the Hindu elite over the Muslims of Bengal.
Abul Hashim of the erstwhile Bengal Muslim League, one of those well-meaning politicians who unsuccessfully tried to prevent the division of Bengal, writes in his memoirs that the 'united movement of the [Indian National] Congress and the [Hindu] Mahasabha for partition of Bengal greatly influenced the Hindus of West Bengal and the Calcutta dailies supported the movement.' [Abul Hashim, In Retrospect, Bangladesh Book Co-operative Society Ltd, Chittagong, Second edition, 1988, p 156]
Joya Chatterji, an India historian from West Bengal, also writes that 'a large number of Hindus of Bengal, backed up by the provincial branches of the Congress and the Hindu Mahasabha, campaigned intensively in 1947 for the partition of Bengal and for the creation of a separate Hindu province that would remain inside an Indian union.' [Joya Chatterji, Bengal Divided: Hindu Communalism and Partition: 1932-1945, Cambridge University Press, New Delhi, 1996, p 227]
It was not very easy to convince a big section of the Hindus to fight for dividing Bengal on communal lines in the 1940s, because many of them had fought for the annulment of the partition in the first decade of the century on 'patriotic' grounds. The communalist Hindu leaders, therefore, redefined 'patriotism'. NC Chatterjee, a leader of the Mahasabha, told the Bengal Provincial Hindu Conference held at Tarakeswar in the Hoogli district of West Bengal on April 4, 1947: 'It is not patriotism to repeat old slogans and to be slaves of catchwords. The most glorious chapter in the history of Bengal is the agitation against the Partition imposed by British Imperialism...But we shall be guilty of treason to the motherland if we merely quote old slogans without understanding their implications. The Anti-Partition movement in the Swadeshi days was a fight against Imperialism, which wanted to cripple the greatest nationalist force working for the Independence of the country by making the Bengal Hindus minorities in both the provinces. Our demand for partition today is... to prevent the disintegration of the nationalist element and to preserve Bengal's culture and to secure a Homeland for the Hindus of Bengal which will constitute a National State as a part of India.' [NC Chatterjee is cited in Joya Chatterji, ibid, p 241] For the Bengali Hindu elite in question, the duty to preserve 'Bengal's culture' clearly meant the culture of the Hindus alone and 'National State' meant a state solely of the Hindus. They, therefore, projected it to be a 'patriotic duty' of the Bengali Hindus to fight for the partition of Bengal in 1947.
As to why, then, it was the duty of the Bengali Hindus to divide Bengal now, in 1947, NC Chatterjee argued: 'Our demand for partition today is prompted by the same ideal and the same purpose, namely to prevent the disintegration of nationalist element and to preserve Bengal's culture and to secure a Homeland for the Hindus of Bengal which will constitute a National State as a part of India.' [ibid]
Originally, the British colonial forces contemplated the division of India before they left the subcontinent. The Congress and the Muslim League, although fighting for a bigger share of power on communal lines for years, did not initially agreed to the idea of the partition. Abul Hashim writes that 'the British scheme for partition of India' was first 'suggested through [Chakravarti] Rajagopal Achariya, which was rejected by the Congress and the Muslim League.' [Abul Hashim, op-cit, pp 155-156] However, when Rajagopal Achariya [Rajagopal Achariya is also spelt by different authors as Rajgopalachari. Rajagopal Achariya or Rajgopalachari was the Minister for Industries and Supplies in the Interim Government of India in 1946, Governor of East Bengal after independence of India on August 15, 1947, and Governor-General of India after Mountbatten quit the job in June 1948] argued in 1944 that the 'Congress should accept a Pakistan comprising only the Muslim majority districts', Joya Chatterji writes, 'a handful of Calcutta Hindus had welcomed the proposal. Implicit in the Rajagopalachari Formula was the partition of the Punjab and Bengal.' [Joya Chatterji, op-cit, p 231]
Later, in February 1947, 'Lord Mountbatten prevailed upon Dr. Shyama Prasad Mukharjee [of the Hindu Mahasabha] and Sarder Ballav Bhai Patel [of the Congress] and set afoot his diplomatic activities for creating conditions favourable to partition of Bengal and the Punjab and to implement the British plan of Partition of India.' [Abul Hashim, op-cit, p 155]
Shyama Prasad, after meeting the governor of Bengal, Sir Frederick Burrows, on February 22, 1947, made a public statement the next day 'demanding partition of Bengal on communal basis.' The erstwhile president of the Indian National Congress, Acharya Kripalini, publicly supported the Hindu Mahasabha demand. Mohanchand Karamchand Gandhi, who would eventually support the partition of Bengal, however, 'remarked' in February 1947 that 'if Bengal was partitioned the communal problem would be a lasting feature of Eastern India.' [Mohammad HR Talukder (ed.), Memoirs of Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy with a Brief Account of His Life and Work, University Press Limited, Dhaka, 1987, p 29] 
Nevertheless, both the Congress and the Mahasabha resorted to mobilise supports of the Bengali Hindus to back the British colonial plan for dividing Bengal on religious communal line. In May 1947, the two parties 'jointly convened a mammoth public meeting in Calcutta to press for partition [of Bengal], which was presided over by the historian Sir Jadunath Sarkar.' [Joya Chatterji, op-cit, p 250]
It was primarily the Kolkata-based Hindu elite, the 'bhadralok class' in other words, that formed 'the backbone the movement' for the Partition of Bengal, which was governed by the Muslim League at the time. The elite in question had specific political and economic interests in the partition. In this regard, Joya Chatterji writes: 'Frustrated by their loss of power in bhadrolok politics, shaken by the rapid collapse of the zamindary system, bhadralok groups had begun to devote their energies to the defence of their traditional privileges, moving away from the mainstream of nationalist politics in the process. Partition promised, in some measure, to restore their political hold over those parts of the province in which Hindus were in a numerical majority. It was in these areas that the prospects and experience of 'Muslim rule' had caused the fiercest resentment and it was here that the partition movement found its strongest support.' [ibid. p 253]
As regards the economic interests of the Hindu bhadralok caste, Chatterjii notes: 'There was strong calculation of economic self-interest in this campaign, which was not only well orchestrated but also well funded. Businessmen, whether Bengalis or outsiders, in Calcutta and up country, played a prominent role in organizing the campaign [for the partition of Bengal]' [ibid, p 254] Referring to a news report published in the Kolkata-based The Statesman on May 1, 1947, Harun-or-Rashid writes: 'At a representative meeting of various industrial and commercial organisations of Bengali and non-Bengali Hindus in Calcutta, a resolution was passed supporting the demand for separate West Bengal province. An influential committee was formed including, among others, Birla, Goenka, Jalan, Driver and Nalini Ranjan Sarker in order to realize the objective.' [Harun-or-Rashid, The Foreshadowing of Bangladesh: Muslim League and Muslim Politics: 1906-1947, Revised and enlarged edition, Second impression, 2012, The University Press Limited, Dhaka, p 259] 
Besides, the 'Marwari traders from all over the province sent petitions to the all India Congress Committee', claiming that 'business in Bengal under Muslim League ministry was absolutely crippled' and therefore they were 'wholehearted in their support of the move to partition Bengal.' The trade bodies that signed such petitions included the Bengal National Chamber of Commerce, the Eastern Chamber of Commerce, the All-Bengal Traders and Consumers Association, et cetera - all dominated by non-Muslim businessmen. [See footnote number 91 in Joya Chatterji, op-cit, p 254]   
IN THE midst of such campaigns for partition of Bengal on communal lines, some leaders from both the Bengal Muslim League and the Bengal Congress made serious efforts to avert the division of Bengal and keep it as a sovereign state outside India and Pakistan. The prominent politicians of Bengal involved in the efforts included Abul Hashim, former general secretary of the Bengal Muslim League, and Husseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy, Muslim League leader and the erstwhile chief minister of Bengal, and Bengal Congress leader Sarat Chandra Bose and Kiran Shankar Roy - the leader of the Congress's Parliamentary Party in the Bengal Provincial Assembly. 
Abul Hashim had a meeting with Sarat Bose in October 1946 at the latter's residence to discuss his idea about the 'partition of India and to make Bengal an independent and sovereign state' and Sarat Bose 'accepted' the proposition, provided Hashim gets 'it accepted by the leaders of the Indian National Army', founded by Shubhas Chandra Bose, 'at the annual dinner' of the organisation. [Abul Hashim, op-cit, p 152] Hashim writes in his memoirs that he subsequently 'attended the dinner and succeeded in securing unanimous support of the leaders of the INA.' Since then, they worked together to realise the objective. 
Then, at a meeting between them 'in the last week of February, 1947, Abul Hashim and Sarat Chandra Bose discussed the plan for a sovereign, independent Bengal comprised of the Bengali speaking people of eastern India from Purnea in Bihar to Assam in the furthest-east.' [Mohammad HR Talukder, op-cit, pp 28-29] 
Meanwhile, Suhrawardy, the erstwhile chief minister of Bengal, decided against the partition of Bengal and joined the move for a united independent Bengal. He met Mountbatten on April 26, 1947. During the meeting, Suhrawardy told the Viceroy that 'given enough time ... he could get Mr. Jinnah to agree that it (Bengal) need not join Pakistan if it was prepared to remain united.' [Harun-or-Rashid, op-cit, p 272] 
Meanwhile, particularly 'when the Muslim League government of Bengal refused to accept' the Mountbatten's plan for 'partitioning Bengal with Calcutta in West Bengal, 'Jinnah asked Suhrawardy to work for a sovereign, independent Bengal.' [Mohammad HR Talukder, op-cit, p 28] 
Subsequently, Suhrawardy held a press conference in Delhi on April 27, 1947, the day after he met Mountbatten, and proposed and pleaded for a political scheme of 'an independent sovereign state of undivided Bengal', while terming the Hindu Mahasabha and Congress sponsored demand for the partition of Bengal as a 'short-sighted' one, which he found the manifestation of 'a sense of impatient frustration'. Professor Harun-or-Rashid describes the Delhi statement as Suhrawrady's 'official launching' of the scheme of Independent United Bengal. [Harun-or-Rashid, op-cit, p 261]
Earlier, on April 21, 1947, Jogendra Nath Mandal, a prominent Bengali Scheduled Caste leader and a minister of the Interim Government at the centre, made a public statement, saying that 'the Scheduled Castes [of Bengal] are opposed to the proposal for partition of Bengal.' [ibid, p 260] 
However, Suhrawardy returned to Kolkata the same day that he had his press conference in Delhi, and the day after, on April 28, he, along with Abul Hashim, Khawaja Nazimuddin and Fazlur Rahman of the Bengal Muslim League, met Sarat Chandra Bose in Calcutta to discuss the ways of getting the idea of an independent United Bengal materialised.
Subsequently, the Bengal Muslim League constituted a five-member high profile sub-committee headed by Nurul Amin, with the other members being Suhrawardy, Habibullah Bahar, Hamidul Huq Chwodhury and Fazlur Rahman to negotiate with the Hindu leaders such as Surendra Mohan Ghose, the erstwhile president of Bengal Congress, Kiron Sankar Roy and Sarat Bose. 
Later, on May 12, 1947 Abul Hashim and Sarat Bose 'met Gandhi to discuss the Sovereign United Bengal scheme and received his blessings.' [Mohammad HR Talukder, op-cit, p 29] But the day after, on May 13, 1947, the president of the Indian National Congress, JB Kripalini, 'dismissed' in 'unequivocal terms' a plea to 'save the unity of Bengal'. In reply to the plea, made by Ashrafuddin Chowdhuri, a Muslim 'veteran nationalist and peasant leader from Tippera', Kripalini wrote: 'All that the Congress seeks to do today is to rescue as many areas as possible from the threatened domination of the League and Pakistan. It wants to save as much territory for a Free Indian Union as is possible under the circumstances. It therefore insists upon the division of Bengal and Punjab into areas for Hindustan and Pakistan respectively.' [Sugata Bose, Agrarian Bengal: Economy, Social Structure and Politics: 1919-1947, Cambridge University Press, First Indian Edition in association with Orient Longman, Hyderabad, 1987, pp 230-231]
Still, the members of a 'Congress-League joint committee of Bengal formally signed a tentative agreement on May 20 for a Sovereign United Bengal'. [ibid] The salient features of the agreement included: (1) The Muslim League government in Bengal shall continue to hold office, but, in place of Hindu ministers, new nominees of the Bengal Congress shall be appointed immediately. (2) Bengal shall not join India or Pakistan and shall remain free. The question of Bengal joining Pakistan or India, or remaining independent shall be decided by the Constituent Assembly elected on the basis of universal adult franchise. (3) Seats of Muslims, the Hindus, the scheduled castes and other minorities shall be fixed according to their population. (4) Parity shall be maintained in the Council of Ministers. [See footnote no 155, in Mohammad HR Talukder, ibid, p 235]
Meanwhile, to foil the move, a communal section of the Congress leadership of Bengal resorted to a false propaganda that the local Muslim League was distributing money among the members of the Bengal Legislature to vote against the division of Bengal, and that it was nothing more than a trickery on the part of the Muslim League for 'dividing Hindus and Scheduled Caste leaders'. The group pursued the central leadership of the Congress to stick to the division of Bengal on religious communal lines. 
Patel vehemently opposed the scheme of the Sovereign United Bengal and described it as a 'trap' of the Muslims and warned many a Congress leader of Bengal 'not to fall into the trap'. In a letter to Kiran Sankar Roy on May 21, 1947, the day after the agreement was signed between some leaders of Bengal Muslim League and Bengal Congress, Patel warned Roy that 'it is incumbent on all Congressmen to set aside personal predilections and to stand united on the official policy of the Congress' and hoped that 'as a disciplined Congressman', Roy 'will appreciate the advice'. [Harun-or-Rashid, op-cit, p 297] The latent message of Patel's cautionary note was nothing but a threat to take disciplinary measure against Roy, in case the latter went ahead with the United Bengal project. 
Nehru was no different. Earlier, on May 17, in a letter to Kiran Sankar Roy, Nehru wrote that he was 'certain that various proposals put forward by Suhrawardy for a limited Independent Bengal plus joint electorates plus fifty-fifty are dangerous from the point of view of both India and Bengal'. Then he said: Those or similar proposals can only be accepted on the basis on union with India... I am more convinced than ever that we must stick to our guns. If there is no union of Bengal as a whole to India, then there must be a partition of Bengal, and Western Bengal must join the union. ...In the crucial days to come I hope Congressmen in Bengal will hold fast together and stand for this position.' [For Jawaharlal Nehru's letter to Kiran Sankar Roy, see Bangladesh Times, Dhaka, August 11, 1994. The letter was first published in the Kolkata-based Statesman on March 20, 1994.] In the same letter, Nehru assured Roy, in the form of a political predication, that the partition of Bengal and its Western part abutting India 'will surely lead to East Bengal also joining the Union before long.' 
However, opposing the idea of the 'independence of Bengal', Nehru again said in a press interview on May 27, 1947 that 'the independence of Bengal really means in present circumstances the dominance of the Muslim League in Bengal.' [Harun-or-Shahid, op-cit] So, he was opposed to the idea.
Meanwhile, the members of the Bengal Legislative Assembly were scheduled to decide through voting on August 5, 1947 as to which of the two Constituent Assemblies - Hindustan Constituent Assembly and Pakistan Constituent Assembly - the province would join.
Under the circumstance, Sarat Bose wrote to Jinnah on June 9, 1947, requesting the latter to 'kindly'... 'give specific instruction [to the Muslim League members]...to enable Bengal remain united and make her a free and independent state'.[The full text of the letter of Sarat Chandra Bose is cited in Abul Hashim, op-cit, pp 175-176]
The same day, he sent a couple of telegrams to Gandhi on June 9, the same day he had written to Jinnah, and the day after, 'challenging' the allegation of 'trickery' against the Bengal Muslim League and urged Gandhi to persuade Nehru and Patel not to divide Bengal. 
In response, Gandhi in a telegraphic message on June 11, 1947 informed Sarat Bose that he had 'now discussed the scheme [of united Bengal] with Pandit Nehru and Sarder Patel', and found 'both of them are dead against the proposal' [Kamruddin Ahmad, A Socio Political History of Bengal and the Birth of Bangladesh, Fourth edition, Inside Library, Dhaka, 1975, p.82] Then he advised Bose to 'give up the struggle for the unity of Bengal and cease to disturb the atmosphere that has been created for partition of Bengal'. [ibid. Also, in Abul Hashim, op-cit, pp 177-178] Clearly, influenced by Nehru and Patel, Gandhi had revised his original thoughts about the partition.
Jinnah, on the other hand, 'sent instructions to the Muslim Legislators to vote solidly for Pakistan and to vote against partition of Bengal. Mr. Jinnah wanted the whole of Bengal in Pakistan'. [Abul Hashim, In Retrospect, op-cit, p.176] That Jinnah was against the division of Bengal was also evident in his arguments against Louis Mountbatten's plan for division of Bengal and the Punjab. Arguing against the proposed divisions, Jinnah said: '[T]he Punjab is a nation. Bengal is a nation. A man is a Punjabi or a Bengali first before he is a Hindu or a Muslim. If you give us those provinces you must, under no condition, partition them. You will destroy their viability and cause endless bloodshed and trouble.' [Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre, Mountbatten and the Partition of India, Vikas Publishing House Pvt Ltd, New Delhi, 1983, p 63] 
Notably, the Bengal Muslim League was also dead against the division of Bengal in 1947. The mainstream of its leadership, however, did not want a sovereign united Bengal. Rather, in line with the initial aspiration of Jinnah, it wanted undivided Bengal to be incorporated into Pakistan. Maulana Akram Khan, the erstwhile president of the Bengal Muslim League had, therefore, as Sheikh Mujibur Rahman recollects in his memoires, publicly declared: 'Bengal would be split over my dead body. As long as I am alive I will not allow Bengal to be partitioned. The whole of Bengal will become part of Pakistan." [Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, The Unfinished Memoirs, The University Press Limited, Dhaka, 2012, p 78]
However, the erstwhile Bengal Congress led by president Surendra Mohon Ghosh and secretary Kalipada Mookherjee, and its central high command 'wanted half of Bengal in the Indian Union' - the half constituting the Hindu majority West Bengal. Therefore, 'the Congress High Command sent instructions to the Hindu legislators of Bengal to vote for partition of Bengal'. [Abul Hashim, op-cit, p 176] 
Suhrawardy, along with Abul Hashim, the secretary of Bengal Muslim League, and Muhammad Ali, finance minister in Suhrawardy's cabinet in Bengal, met Gandhi on May 11, 1947 'to discuss with him the question of Sovereign Bengal'. The meeting did not went well as Suhrawardy 'lost his temper' after Gandhi had pointed out that the former, as the head of the Bengal administration, was 'morally responsible for every death that occurred in Bengal' during the Hindu-Muslim conflicts and subsequently Suhrawardy accused Gandhi 'of being the author of the whole trouble'. [ibid, pp 167-168] After Suhrawardy left the place, the observation that Gandhi made about the scheme of United Bengal was: 'Hashim, the difficulty is that no one trusts Suhrawardy.' [ibid, p 168]
However, in the wake of intense campaign spearheaded by the Congress and the Hindu Mahasabha for the division of Bengal, a joint meeting of the legislators of Bengal, both the Muslim- and Hindu majority districts, was eventually held at the Assembly Chamber on June 20, 1947. 
The Statesman, a Kolkata-based daily, reported the next day that in the joint meeting, chaired by the speaker of the House, Nurul Amin (1897-1974), 90 members voted for joining the existing Indian Constituent Assembly and 126 members voted for joining the proposed Pakistan Constituent Assembly. 
Then the legislators of the Hindu majority districts of Bengal and those of the Muslim majority ones met separately to decide whether or not the province should be partitioned. Subsequently, of the members of the Hindu majority districts of the Bengal Assembly, who met under the chairmanship of the Maharajadhiraj of Burdwan, 58 legislators voted for the partition and 21 members belonging to the Muslim League voted against. The majority 58 members also resolved that the region/state comprising Hindu majority areas should join the Indian Constituent Assembly.
On the other hand, of the members of the Muslim majority districts, 106 legislators, 100 of them belonging to the Muslim League, voted against the partition of Bengal while 35 voted against. However, as soon as the decisions of the legislators belonging to the Hindu majority districts reached their counterparts of the Muslim majority areas, the latter decided by 107 to 34 votes that the region/state comprising Muslim majority areas should join the proposed Pakistan Constituent Assembly. 
Five legislators representing Scheduled Castes and one representing Indian Christian community supported the Muslim League stance. [The Statesman report of June 21, 1947 is cited in Safar Ali Akanda, Language Movement and the Making of Bangladesh, The University Press Limited, Dhaka, 2013, footnote no 1, p 16.] Notably, along with the legislators of the Bengal National Congress, those belonging to the Bengal unit of the Communist Party of India, which was dominated mostly by those born into Hinduism, voted for the partition of Bengal. [Abul Hashim, op-cit, p 182]
Subsequently, Bengal was bifurcated along the line of Hindu and Muslim majority areas, and East Bengal got incorporated into Pakistan.

AK FAZLUL Huq, then a Muslim League legislator from East Bengal, remained absent during the voting in question for reasons yet to be ascertained by the historians. Huq, however, in a press statement on July 25, 1947, said he 'condemn[ed] the circumstances which have led to the unfortunate division of the province'. [The Kolkata-based English-language daily Star of India published the report on July 26, 1947. See footnote no 300 in Harun-or-Rashid, op-cit, p 305] 
While the 'circumstances' that led to the 'unfortunate division' of Bengal on communal line were created over the decades primarily by the British colonial regimes and their local collaborators, particularly the Hindu political elite and economic interests, certain personal biases of the last British viceroy of India for Jawaharlal Nehru, particularly vis-à-vis Mohammed Ali Jinnah, might have played a role. In addition to the people's will, the particular liking and disliking, inclinations and disinclinations, and biases and non-biases of the crucially important leaders, after all, have influenced the course of history across the world. 
This is now a well-established fact of history that the last British viceroy of India, Lord Louise Mountbatten, who led the process of transfer of power to the politicians of the subcontinent on behalf of the British government, had been friendlier with Nehru than Jinnah. In this regard, British journalist and historian HV Hodson writes, 'Although the Viceroy was careful ...to reserve every right of criticism and opposition towards Nehru's views, it is clear that there developed during the negotiations of April and early May 1947 a closer personal relationship than between the Viceroy and any other political leader, Hindu, Muslim or Sikh.' [HV Hodson, The Great Divide: Britain-India-Pakistan, Hutchinson & Co, Oxford University Press, Karachi, 1969, p 214]
While Mountbatten found Nehru as 'most sincere' of the Indian leaders, [ibid] he described Jinnah as 'rigid, haughty and disdainful' [ibid, p 216] In a 'personal report' to London about the negotiation process, Mountbatten rather disdainfully wrote about Jinnah: 'I am afraid that the only adviser that Jinnah listens to is Jinnah.' [ibid, pp 216-217] Mountbatten also wrote of Jinnah's 'megalomania'. [ibid, p 218]
Hodson writes that Mountbatten 'often felt he had worsted Jinnah in a political argument without yet gaining an inch of ground, to have used his best persuasion yet to have made no headway at all'. [ibid] However, 'when the argument was on legal or constitutional points Jinnah was almost always right ... sometimes to Lord Mounbatten's subsequent discomfiture'. [ibid] Contrary to this, Mountbatten used to feel comfortable with Nehru, probably because, unlike Jinnah, Nehru was hardly reluctant to accept Mountbatten's 'wisdom' on issues of bilateral political interests. Describing a typical trait of Nehru's persona, Hodson says: 'Nehru had always seemed to need a stronger figure to give him confidence, a wiser or more self-assured man whose judgment would guide or confirm his own: in the early days it was his father Motilal Nehru, for most of his life it was Mahatma Gandhi, in Cabinet and in Congress politics in these crucial days it was Sardar Patel ... and now in major affairs it was to be Mountbatten himself.' [ibid, p 215] Mountbatten would confirm Hodson's observation of Nehru's personality trait during a press interview in question a few years later. 
The 'underlying relationship between the two men', Mountbatten and Jinnah, was, as Hodson rightly observes, 'one of contest'. Mountbatten's relationship with Nehru, on the other hand, was one of 'affinity'. Mountbatten did not even care to hide it, when it came to putting forward his opinion about Nehru, especially vis-à-vis Jinnah. 
In the course of the prolonged series of interview that he gave to Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre between 1971 and 1973 on the transfer of power, Mountbatten often appeared affectionate to Nehru and harsh about Jinnah.
When asked whether he was sure about the appearance of Jinnah at a particularly crucial meeting, Mountbatten told Collins and Lapierre: "I had no worry about Jinnah being shown up for the bastard he was. You know he really was.'[Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre, Mountbatten and the Partition of India, Vikas Publishing House Pvt Ltd, New Delhi, 1983, p 69]
In the negotiation process, Mountbatten hardly found a compatible person in Jinnah. Commenting about the personality of Jinnah, Mountbatten said, 'He was ... very reserved and very naughty,' [ibid, p 106] and [h]e never unbent. [ibid, p 107] Jinnah's habit of saying "no" in many a matter during the negotiation process gave Mountbatten a lot of trouble.' 'He was absolutely set on his great cry of "no",' says Mountbatten [ibid, p 64]. The viceroy told his interviewers that during the announcement of his 'partition plan' in June 1947, Jinnah offered him 'probably the most hair-raising moment' of his 'entire life', which he had 'never forgotten'. [ibid, p 67]
The British viceroy, a member of the British royal family, is not expected to feel comfortable in dealing with a politician, Jinnah in the present case, who never bends. Indeed, there was personality clash between Mountbatten and Jinnah.
Nehru, on the other hand, appeared before the Viceroy much compatible. Describing Nehru's persona, Mountbatten told the interviewers in question: '[H]e always came and cried on my shoulder. He wanted someone to go back to...Nehru actually required my presence in order to be able to function, and after Gandhi it was me. He used to go back to Gandhi, and Gandhi was less and less used to him in the end.' [ibid, p 86]
Evidently, for Nehru, Mountbatten was a political guardian in the last days of the British rule of India. That Mountbatten was a political mentor of Nehru, and at times patronising to him, got evident in an encounter between them after the latter got angry over a British proposal for handing over power to the provincial governments. In the words of Mountbatten, Nehru became 'white with rage'. The encounter took place after the proposal was revised, and 'Nehru became overjoyed'. 
During the encounter, Mountbatten told Nehru: 'You're not helping yourself, you're not helping me. You're not improving your image.'
'I can't bear it, I must speak out,' Nehru replied. 
'I know. You're letting off steam, and I understand why. But if you're going to be prime minister without me - while I'm there I can do it for you - if one day you're going to run this place on your own, you've got to control yourself,' Mountbatten advised Nehru. [ibid]
The nature and content of the conversation, indeed, speaks of a mutually dependable relation, in which Mountbatten is a political guardian and mentor. 
The British viceroy had an additional reason to feel comfortable with Nehru - the latter's 'loyalty' to the British Empire. Mountbatten gladly recollected the loyalty that Nehru had displayed while toasting at the party given on the occasion of the handover of power to India on August 15, 1947. Nehru reportedly wished the health of the 'King George the Sixth, not the King of England', in which Mountbatten found Nehru's loyalty to the British Empire. 'It's a crucial difference. He's being a loyal dominion leader,' observed Mountbatten. [ibid, p 117]
The viceroy, on the other hand, had reasons to be upset with Jinnah, for Mountbatten rightly found Nehru and his Congress much more magnanimous than Jinnah and his Muslim League towards his own self. After the Congress had offered Mountbatten the post of governor general of the post-independence India, he also aspired for the same post in Pakistan for some time. But Jinnah stood in the way. He told Mountbatten, 'I'll accept you as Chairman of the [Joint] Defence Council.' [ibid, p 70] Mountbatten recollected that Jinnah's proposal remained valid 'until it finally broke down after the troubles.'
Given the personality clash between Mountbatten and Jinnah, and the former's subsequent disliking for the latter on the one hand, and warm relation between Mountbatten and Nehru, and the resultant better understanding between them on the other, one is free to assume that Mountbatten had gone an extra mile with whatever power he had in his personal capacity as the viceroy of the time for Nehru and his Congress vis-à-vis Jinnah and his League. 
Bengal might have been a victim of Mountbatten's bias for Nehru and the Congress. In case of Bengal, eminent British journalist and historian HV Hodson notes that 'Jinnah even tried to give special concessions' to the 'Hindus in Bengal' in order to keep the province united. In this regard, Hodson also writes that when Lord Mountbatten asked Jinnah on April 26, 1947 the latter's thought 'about keeping Bengal united at the price of its staying out of Pakistan', Jinnah 'without hesitation' replied: 'I should be delighted, what is the use of Bengal without Calcutta? They had much better remain[ed] united and independent: I am sure they would be on friendly terms with Pakistan.' [HV Hodson, The Great Divide: Britain-India-Pakistan, Hutchinson & Co, Oxford University Press, Karachi, 1969, p 246]
But, it is now common knowledge that Nehru and his party wanted the partition of Bengal, while Jinnah and his party was opposed to the idea. Mountbatten, therefore, went with Nehru, arguing that the 'Congress wouldn't accept an independent Bengal, which made perfect sense.' [Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre, op-cit, p 105]
Earlier, on May 16, 1947, Mountbatten categorically told Suhrawardy and Fazlur Rahman of the Muslim League that 'Nehru was not in favour of an independent Bengal.' [Harun-or-Rashid, op-cit, p 290 and the author's footnote no 214, p 290]
Moreover, the British policy of dividing Bengal went well with Nehru and his party's political objectives. It is now a well-known fact that the Britishers had decided on the partition of Bengal in May 1947. A Bangladeshi researcher, Mohammad HR Talukder, writes: 'The British decision to partition Bengal was finalized in mid-May with Mountbatten, in close consultation with V P Menon, the only Indian on the Viceroy's staff, and Congress leaders, especially Pandit Nehru and Sirdar Patel.' [Mohammad HR Talukder (ed), Memoirs of Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy with a Brief Account of His Life and Work, University Press Limited, Dhaka, 1987, p 28]
Talukder also writes that Patel had later 'disclosed' his 'secret deal with Viceroy Mountbatten' and admitted that he 'had agreed to accept the partition of India and the creation of Pakistan on condition that Bengal was partitioned with Calcutta remaining in West Bengal that belonged to India'. [ibid, p 30]

SHEIKH Mujibur Rahman, a young Muslim League activist in Kolkata in the mid-1940s, who would eventually become the founding president of Bangladesh in 1971, also believed that Mountbatten's personal dislike for Jinnah, and his subsequent bias for Nehru, affected adversely the interests of Pakistan in general and East Bengal in particular. Jinnah's refusal to meet Mountbatten's aspiration to become the governor general of Pakistan, writes the Sheikh, 'annoyed Mountbatten so much that he seemed bent on doing harm to the cause of Pakistan.' He wrote: '[T]he Viceroy, Lord Mountbatten, was helping the Congress covertly in all sorts of ways...Even though Radcliff was given the responsibility of demarcating the boundary, many believe that Mountbatten seemed to have secretly worked with the Congress to come up with a map of their own...I doubt if Lord Mountbatten would have done as much as harm to Pakistan if he had become its Governor General.' [Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, The Unfinished Memoirs, (Trans.) Dr Fakhrul Alam, The University Press Limited, Dhaka, 2012, pp 78-79]
Finally, with the partition of India on communal lines in mid-August 1947, Bengal was also split into the Muslim-majority East Bengal and the Hindu-majority West Bengal with Kolkata remaining the capital city of the latter.
Sheikh Mujibur Rahman believed that, out of dislike for Jinnah, Mountbatten not only contributed to India's having Kolkata but also deprived East Bengal of certain Muslim-majority areas. 'Even though Muslims constituted a majority in Nadia, he allotted Krishnanagar and Ranaghat Junction to them (West Bengal of India). Similarly, though there were more Muslims than Hindus in Murshidabad, he gave the entire district to India. In Maldah district there were as many Hindus as there were Muslims and so he divided it into half. But although Dinajpur had a Muslim majority he cut Balurghat into two so that Jalpaiguri and Darjeeling could go to India and Assam could have a direct link with the rest of the country. All these districts should have come to Pakistan. In the east, even though the referendum had been won in favour of Pakistan, the Muslim-majority subdivision of Karimganj went to India. [ibid, p 83]
However, in May 1947, the erstwhile president of the Bengal Muslim League, Moulana Akram Khan, publicly declared that the 'partition of Bengal can be effected only on the corpses of the Muslims of Bengal.' History records that the Bengali Muslims did not want the bifurcation of Bengal, but history also records that they sacrificed 'not a single drop of blood' to resist the division. [Harun-or-Rashid, op-cit, p 306] It is important to find out why the Bengali Muslims did not actively resist the partition of the province. It is equally important to understand why the Bengali Muslims of East Bengal had preferred to leave their Hindu cousins of West Bengal to live with an 'unknown people' living more than a thousand miles away in West Pakistan.
The reasons for Bengali Muslims to remain passive about the partition of Bengal, and prefer to be a part of Pakistan, could be attributed to a number of reasons that include, in addition to the explicitly communal political manoeuvring by the Congress and Mahashabha in the late 1940s to divide Bengal, communalisation of society of Bengal on religious lines due to the Hindu interest-driven movement for the annulment of the partition of Bengal between 1905 and 1911, fresh memory of the Bengal famine of 1943 that hit Bengali Muslims hardest, communal riots of 1946 in which Muslims were the worst victims, and of course the linguistic communalism created by the Kolkata-based literary caste of the Hindu elite.
Under the first partition scheme, a new province was created out of the 'overgrown' Bengal Presidency of the day, and the newly created province was brought to existence consisting of East Bengal and Assam. Dhaka was made capital of the new province. Kolkata remained the capital of West Bengal, with Bihar and Orissa inducted into the province.
The first partition was done under the leadership of British viceroy Lord Curzon for, what his regime argued, a better conducting of the administrative businesses, which, in turn, would specially benefit the people of East Bengal. However, when Lord Curzon opened the discussion of partitioning Bengal in 1902, it concerned the Kolkata-based elite of Hindu bhadralok. The partition for them, as Rafiuddin Ahmed noted, 'would not only mean the division of the Bengali-speaking people into two unequal halves but would pose a threat to the economic survival of the bhadralok'. [Rafiuddin Ahmed, The Bengal Muslims: 1871-1906: A Quest for Identity, Second edition, Oxford University Press, Delhi, 1998, p 180] Besides, the partition would make Bengali Hindus a religious minority in East Bengal and a linguistic minority in West Bengal. They, therefore, opposed the idea. 
Under the circumstances, Lord Curzon toured Dhaka, Chittagong and Mymensingh in the third week of February 1904 to 'mobilise Muslim support to the partition'. While delivering a speech on February 18 at Ahsan Manzil, the Dhaka residence of Nawab Sir Salimullah, Curzon told the audience that Dhaka was only 'a shadow of its former self' and assured them that the government partition 'envisaged the creation of a centre of Muslim power' in Dhaka, 'which would invest in Mahomedans in Eastern Bengal with a unity which they have not enjoyed since the days of the old Mussalman viceroys and kings.' [Lord Curzon is cited in Rafiuddin Ahmed, The Bengal Muslims: 1871-1906: A Quest for Identity, Second edition, Oxford University Press, Delhi, 1998, p 188] Lord Curzon also said, 'The centre and possibly the capital of a new and self-sufficing administration must give to the people of these districts by reason of their numerical strength and their superior culture the prepondering voice in the province so created.' [Lord Curzon cited in Kamruddin Ahmad, A Socio Political History of Bengal and the Birth of Bangladesh, Fourth edition, Inside Library, Dhaka, 1975, p 2. Also, cited in John R, Mclane, 'Partition of Bengal' in Sirajul Islam (ed.), History of Bangladesh: 1704-1971, Volume I (Political History), Asiatic Society of Bangladesh, Dhaka, 1992, p 314] 
Many an analyst, however, asserts that the real British objectives behind the partition in 1906 included, along with dividing the Hindu and Muslim populations for ruling the region comfortably, farther expansion of the repressive state machinery to the rural areas of eastern Bengal and thus establish better administrative control over the people, isolating 'the hinterland' from Kolkata to 'accelerate exploitation'. 
Nevertheless, the Muslim community of East Bengal, particularly its emerging educated sections, was very happy about the partition, as it had created special opportunities for the otherwise backward community to grow in different directions - jobs, education, trades and industries included. 
John R Mclane, an American professor who studied the partition of Bengal, rightly observes, 'The partition [of 1905] was welcomed by educated Muslims because it expanded their educational, economic and political opportunities.' [John R. Mclane, 'Partition of Bengal 1905: A Political Analysis' in Sirajul Islam (ed.), History of Bangladesh: 1704-1971, Volume I (Political History), Asiatic Society of Bangladesh, Dhaka, 1992, p 311]
Eager to bring in social equalities with the Hindu community, the educated Muslims in question were, after all, aware of the fact that in 1901, 'Muslims held only 41 of the "high appointments" under the Government [of Bengal] while the Hindus, who were less than twice as numerous, held 1,235 posts.' [ibid, p 317] Immediately 'after the partition was effected' in 1905, the 'Government found that of the ministerial posts in divisional, district, and sub-divisional offices in Eastern Bengal, Muslims held less than one-sixth of the appointments although they made up two-thirds of the population in the new province ... in the Police Department in Eastern Bengal the Muslim position was even worse. In what was called the Eastern Bengal Range, where Muslims equaled 59 per cent of the population, they held 4 of the 54 inspectorships, 60 of the 484 Sub-Inspectorships, 45 of the 450 head constables and 1,027 of the 4,594 constableships.' [ibid]
John R Mclane writes that such 'Hindu dominance was repeated in the legal class from the touts in the villages to the barristers who appeared before the High Court, in the education system from the village school teachers to the Government Secretariat where textbooks were chosen that emphasized Hindu history, myths and values, and in the land system from the village kachari where Hindu clerks received Muslim tenants' rents to the head kachari at the rajbari (palace) of the zamindar and the district land record office.' [ibid, p 318] Under these circumstances, the creation of East Bengal and Assam province, with Dhaka its capital, promised the potentials for gradually earning the Muslim equality with its Hindu counterparts. The educated sections of the marginalised Muslim community, therefore, were happy about the partition of Bengal.

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 bhagawan, 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 Chattopadhya (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 zamindary 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.] 

THE great poet, however, realised later that mere tying of rakhi couldn't unite two communities that had drifted away from each other over a period of more than a century primarily because of the politically dominant Hindu community's mistreatment of the politically weaker Muslim community. Tagore wrote in an article, 'Byadhi O Pratikar', in 1907: 'We know in many places of Bengal Hindus and Muslims do not sit on the same carpet - when a Muslim enters a Hindu household, a side of the carpet is being folded out.' Tagore then put forward his analysis about Muslim indifference towards the Sawdeshi movement: 'Suddenly when the English-literate city dwellers go to the illiterate villagers to say that "we are brothers", the rural poor fellows cannot understand the meaning of the word "brother". We have always treated these villagers as "rustics", their sorrows and happiness have hardly mattered to us, we still need to take the help of official statistics to know their conditions and we have never visited them in their difficulties. Now, while protesting against the British, if we suddenly call upon those people, in the name of brotherhood, to purchase essential commodities at a higher price and to be exposed to police torture, it is only natural for them to be suspicious about our intentions. And, that they did. I have heard from a famous Sawdeshi propagandist that after hearing the Swadeshi speeches, the Muslims of East Bengal talked to each other that the 'Babus must have been exposed to difficulties.' [Rabindranath Tagore, in Bhuiyan Iqbal, Rabindranath O Muslim Samaj (Rabindranath and Muslim Soceity), Second edition, Prathama Prakashan, Dhaka, 2012, p 217-218.]
Meanwhile, Gopal Krishna Gokhale (1866-1915), who took over the presidency of the Indian National Congress in late 1905, went to England 'to place the grievances of India before the English people, especially with regard to the rule of Lord Curzon', who was instrumental behind the 'partition of the province of Bengal'. [John S Hayland, Gopal Krishna Gokhale: His Life and Speeches, Rupa & Co, New Delhi, 2003, pp 147-148.] 
However, the Kolkata-based protesters of the partition of Bengal projected it to be a 'British conspiracy of dividing nationalist forces', and announced the 'boycott of foreign goods', the British products in particular, to press home their demand for annulment of the partition. The movement came to be known in the political history of Bengal as Swadeshi movement.
The Swadeshi movement got huge momentum with the partition of Bengal in 1905. [Suprakash Roy, op-cit, p 68.] Synchronising with the civil unrest, the 'terrorist revolutionaries' continued to put up violent resistance against the British regime, killing and injuring a significant number of civil servants, police officers and members of the judiciary. Both the movements, spearheaded by Caste Hindus, demanded the annulment of the partition of Bengal. 
The Muslims of Bengal in general, and those of East Bengal in particular, did not like the movements because, as Nirad C Chaudhuri, admittedly a devoted orthodox Hindu himself, observed in his memoirs, 'The Swadeshi movement of 1905 was mainly an assertion of the nationalism of the new Hindu school.' [Nirad C Chaudhuri, The Autobiography of an Unknown Indian, Eighth Impression, Jacob Publishing House, Bombay, 1988, p 439.]
Nevertheless, the British regime, headed by governor general Lord Harding, eventually succumbed to the Sawdeshi 'terrorist revolutionaries' and annulled the partition on August 20, 1911. Moreover, the Britishers shifted their capital from Kolkata to Delhi in 1912.
However, the anti-colonial nationalist 'movement in Bengal almost came to halt with the annulment of the Bengal partition' in August 1911 [Suprakash Roy, p 144] leaving an impression that the movement, both civil and terrorist, although organised in the name of 'nationalism', were meant for the annulment of the partition of Bengal aimed at securing the political and economic interests of the Hindus in general and the Caste Hindus in particular. 
Understandably, the so-called Swadeshi movement did not contain the political essence of 'nationalism' as such, which is supposed to be inherently secular. Instead, it divided the 'nation' in Bengal along religious lines further. Nirad Chowdhury rightly observes: 'The nationalist movement brought about an accentuation of the difference [between Hindus and Muslims]. Theoretically it preached Hindu-Muslim Unity ... But against that unconvincing preaching was to be set the definite inculcation of an anti-Muslim doctrine.' [Nirad C Chaudhuri, The Autobiography of an Unknown Indian, Eighth Impression, Jacob Publishing House, Bombay, 1988, p 237.] Then Chaudhuri, quoting Bepin Chandra Pal, says, '[I]t gradually awoke, at least in a section of the nationalists, the ...ambition of once more re-establishing either a single Hindu state or a confederacy of Hindu states in India.' [ibid]
There was more to it. Nirad Chaudhuri points out: '[T]he more dangerous form of the aggravation of Hindu-Muslim antagonism by the Swadeshi movement was that this hostility was now brought down from the historical to the contemporary plane, and converted from a retrospective hatred to a current hatred.' [ibid] 
Chaudhuri provides us with a vivid description of how the Swadeshi movement brought in a communal division among the schoolboys of a small township of Kishoreganj in East Bengal: 'A very large number of our school-fellows were Muslims, and in the whole school there were at least as many Muslim boys as Hindu. We worked, talked and played with them quite naturally...
'But the change inevitably came, and came very early. It was from the end of 1906 that we became conscious of a new kind of hatred for the Muslims, which sprang out of the present and showed signs of poisoning our personal relations with our Muslim neighbours and schoolfellows. ...Nawab Salimullah of Dacca, the protagonist of the Muslim League and new Muslim politics, became our particular bête noire - and we contemptuously called him "The One-eyed'.' [ibid]
Notably, the All-India Muslim League came to be born in Dhaka 'in the end of 1906' and the nawab of Dhaka, Sir Salimullah, had hosted the conference of the Muslim leaders of the subcontinent, who were behind the formation of the party. While the Muslim League leaders of India had a general political objective to represent Muslim interests separately, independently of the Indian National Congress, Nawab Salimullah had, along with the general objective, an additional one - the consolidation and expansion of the new opportunities for the local Muslims, particularly its elite, in the newly created Muslim-majority province of East Bengal. Hence, the Hindus of East Bengal were 'contemptuous' particularly about Salimullah and found him to be the 'bête noire' - the 'black beast'. 
Chaudhuri also provides us with a specific example of the intensity of communal hatred that the Swadeshi movement, largely disliked by the Muslims, had generated even in the young hearts of the schoolboys in his hometown of East Bengal: 'A cold dislike for the Muslim settled down in our hearts, putting an end to all real intimacy of relationship. Curiously enough, with us, the boys of Kishorganj, it found visible expression in the division of our class into two sections, one composed purely of the Hindus and the other of Muslims...Whether or not the Muslim boys had also expressed unwillingness to sit with us, for some time past we, the Hindu boys had been clamouring that we did not want to sit with the Muslim boys because they smelt of onions.' [ibid, p 242] 
The 'cold dislike for the Muslims' that 'settled down in the hearts' of the Hindus of Kishoreganj, in fact, represents the situation of entire Bengal of the time. With the annulment of the partition of Bengal in 1911 might have reduced the level of Hindu dislike for the Muslims, but it definitely deepened the Muslim dislike, particularly that of the Muslim elite, for the Hindus of Bengal in general, for the annulment robbed the Muslim elite of East Bengal of certain benefits that it had started enjoying due to the partition. 

THAT the partition of Bengal in 1905 benefited the people of Eastern Bengal, particularly its majority Muslim population, at least in the field of education, was evident in an official statement by the viceroy, Lord Harding, to a Muslim delegation in 1912, a year after the annulment of the partition in 1911. 
Providing statistics, Lord Harding said: 'Since 1906 it (Eastern Bengal and Assam) has made great strides forward. In that year there were 1698 collegiate students in Eastern Bengal and Assam, and expenditure on college education was Rs. 1,54,358. Today with the same number of institutions the corresponding figures are 2560 students and Rs. 3,83,619. Nor has the improvement been confined to colleges. Educational classes and schemes were formed with reference to local conditions. From 1905 to 1910-1911 the number of pupils in public institutions rose from 6,99,051 to 9,36,653 and the expenditure from provincial revenues rose from [Rs.] 11,06,510 to Rs. 22,05,339 while local expenditure, direct and indirect, rose from [Rs.] 47,81,833 to Rs 73,05,260.' [MA Rahim, The History of the University of Dhaka, University of Dhaka, Reprint 1992 (1981), p 4.] The statistics provides a clue to why the Muslims of East Bengal welcomed the creation of the Muslim majority new province by partitioning Bengal into two. 
The Hindu elite of Bengal, as it appeared before its Muslim counterpart, continued to display enmity towards the Muslims of East Bengal even after the annulment of the partition in 1911. Aware of the Muslim dissatisfaction over the annulment of the partition, the British regime arranged for a 'splendid imperial compensation' for the annulment by way of setting up of a university in Dhaka. [Lord Lytton, the erstwhile governor of Bengal, disclosed in his convocation speech in Dhaka University in 1922 that the university was planned as a 'splendid imperial compensation' for the annulment of the Eastern Bengal-Assam province; see, M A Rahim, The History of the University of Dhaka, Reprint, University of Dhaka, Dhaka, 1992 (1981), p 1.]
To this effect, the government published a communiqué on February 2, 1912, stating the decision of the government to set up Dhaka University. But the Kolkata-based Hindu elite made all-out efforts to undo the project. In this regard, a historian of Dhaka University, Professor MA Rahim, writes: 'The Hindu leaders were opposed to the plan of setting up of a university at Dacca. They voiced their disapprobation in press and platform. On February 16, 1912 a delegation headed by Dr. Rash Behary Ghose waited upon the Viceroy and expressed apprehension that the creation of a separate university at Dacca would be in the nature of "an internal partition of Bengal". They also contended that the Muslims of Eastern Bengal were in large majority cultivators and they would benefit in no way by the foundation of a University.' [MA Rahim, The History of the University of Dhaka, Reprint, University of Dhaka, Dhaka, 1992 (1981), p 5.] 
The government, however, did not succumb to the Hindu pressure. In a letter on April 4, 1912, the government of India invited the government of Bengal to submit a complete scheme with a financial estimate for the proposed university. The letter drew attention of the government to 'the desirability of making accessible to the Mussalmans of Eastern Bengal a university in which they could have a voice.' [ibid, p 7] Notably, in 1912, there were only six Muslim members on the Calcutta University Senate out of a total of 100, and that too excluding the ex-officio members. 
The University of Dhaka was eventually founded in July 1921. In the initial decades, the vast majority of the teachers and students of the university was Hindu. Still, the Kolkata-based Hindu elite used to contemptuously call the Dhaka University 'Mecca University', hinting obliquely that the institution was meant exclusively for the Muslims - the university, which would, in fact, become the centre of secular democratic political thoughts of East Bengal in two decades and guide all secular democratic students movements in the next two decades, contributing substantially towards the emergence of secular-democratic Bangladesh in 1971. 
The same Hindu elite that successfully spearheaded the civil and terrorist movements in 1905 to annul the partition of Bengal in its parochial communal interests went all out to divide Bengal in 1947, the same Hindu elite that continuously displayed multidimensional dislike for the Muslims in the following decades, the same self-seeking communal Hindu elite went all out to divide Bengal in 1947, again to safeguard the same communal interests of its own. Nirad C Chaudhuri also corroborates the proposition: 'The same class of Hindu Bengalis who opposed Lord Curzon's partition of Bengal have now themselves brought about a second partition of their country...' [Nirad C Chaudhuri, The Autobiography of an Unknown Indian, Eighth Impression, Jacob Publishing House, Bombay, 1988, p 227]
Joya Chatterji, who has academically studied the politics of the division of Bengal with reference to 'Hindu communalism' between 1932 and 1947, also subscribes to the view. Tracing the growing 'unwillingness' among 'many Hindu Bengalis' to be permanently 'subjected to the rule of Muslim majority'in Bengal, which 'they regarded as their own province', back to the preceding decades, Chatterji writes: 'Now, in late 1946 and early 1947, this reluctance hardened into a determination that Bengal must be divided and that Hindus must crave out for themselves a Hindu-majority province. Here was a determination clearly derived from the internal dynamics of Bengali Hindu politics; and yet its success ...depended critically on the support of the Congress centre.' [Chatterji, p 222] The Congress leadership in Delhi, as we have already seen, did actively support the political struggle of the Bengal's Hindu elite for the communal partition of the province. Joya Chatterji rightly notes, 'It was this symbiotic relationship between provincial bhadralok politics and the priorities of the Congress High command that shaped the partition of Bengal in 1947.'[ibid]
It is now an established fact that in both the times, first in 1905 and then in 1947, the Hindu elite of Bengal used the Hindu-dominated Indian National Congress and the extremely communalist Hindu Mahasabha to achieve its communal objectives.
 Under such circumstances, it was only natural that the Muslims of East Bengal would not enthusiastically face martyrdom to keep Bengal united. Driven by several decades of bitter experiences, they rather found it better to explore their collective future independently of the hegemonic Hindu elite in East Bengal within the framework of Pakistan.
Dr Muhammad Kudrat-E-Khuda, one of those Bengali Muslims who enjoyed the affection of Tagore, asked the latter in 1936: 'Why don't you write more on the Hindu-Muslim friendship, which is essential for the independence of the country?' 
In reply, Tagore said: 'Hindu-Muslim friendship is impossible. You do not know Hindu society as much as I do.'
An anxious Khuda asked Tagore: What's the solution, then? 
Tagore said: 'Independence will come only when the entire country will become Hindu or Muslim.' [Muhammad Kudrat-e-Khuda, 'Kabi Smriti', in Bhuiyan Iqbal, Rabindranath O Muslim Samaj (Rabindranath and Muslim Soceity), Second edition, Prathama Prakashan, Dhaka, 2012, p 361.]
Neither Khuda nor Tagore elaborated on the issue for a better understanding of what the latter really meant by the observation that he used to understand the Hindus of the time better. Be that as it may, Tagore's prediction came true. The independence came to the subcontinent by way of creating two separate homelands for the Hindus and Muslims, Hindu-majority India and Muslim-majority Pakistan, which, again, resulted in the partition of Bengal into Muslim-majority East Bengal and Hindu-majority West Bengal.

THERE were at least four other factors, other than political, which generated in the collective consciousness of the Muslims of East Bengal a sense of distrust about their Hindu counterparts that might have dissuaded the former to put up any decisive resistance against the partition of Bengal. The factors included the traumatic experience of communal riots in Kolkata spearheaded by the Hindu Mahasabha and the Congress in August 1946, the bitter memory of the Bengal famine of 1943, general socio-economic discriminations prevailing in Bengal for several generations, and of course, the linguistic division artificially imposed on the Bengali middle class by the unholy axis of the Kolkata-based English-Hindu educated elite. In all the four cases, the Muslims of Bengal were at the receiving end, and therefore proved to be the primary victims of the phenomena. Under the circumstance, their collective political wisdom persuaded them to try their luck in their own domain in East Bengal, independently of the irrational interference of the Kolkata-based Hindu elite. Hence, they refused to be 'corpses', as previously announced by Moulana Akram Khan, for keeping the Bengal united against the political and diplomatic machinations of the Hindu elite to split Bengal.

Communal killings
The horrible communal riot began in Kolkata, which left in Kolkata at least 5,000 people killed and 15,000 injured, of whom majority were Muslims, began on August 16, 1946 - the day the Muslim League observed 'Direct Action Day' against the British rulers of India. The riot, which was virtually discovered to be a deliberately organised act of violence against the Kolkata Muslims, continued in full swing for five days, till August 20, The objective studies of the riot primarily blame the Hindu Mahasabha and the Congress for the horrible communal conflict, while they do not absolve the responsibility of a section of the Muslim League leadership for the carnage. 
The convention of the All India Muslim League, held in Bombay on July 19, 1946, adopted the fatal resolution of observing Direct Action Day against the British government on August 16 to press home its demand for the creation of Pakistan. 
The programme was planned in the wake of influential Congress leader Sardar Ballabhbhai Patel's repeated public statement that the British would quit India after transferring power to the Indian National Congress. The then British viceroy in India, Lord Wavell, who was negotiating with Muslim League on the Pakistan issue as well, kept silent on Patel's claim, which Jinnah suspected was a 'double cross' by the British regime. Meanwhile, the viceroy called Nehru to form an interim government in Delhi, and accordingly Nehru formed the cabinet, with himself as the prime minister, on August 8, 1946. 
An enraged Jinnah resolved to demonstrate Muslim grievances against the regime and called for Direct Action Day. Moreover, asking the Muslim League's Working Committee to prepare a plan of 'direct action', Jinnah proclaimed: 'Never have we in the whole history of the League done anything except by constitutional means and by constitutionalism. But now we are obliged and forced into this position. This day we bid goodbye to constitutional methods.' [HV Hodson, The Great Divide: Britain-India-Pakistan, Hutchinson & Co, Oxford University Press, Karachi, 1969, p 166.] 
In Kolkata, the secretary of the city unit of the Muslim League, Mr Osman,  called a general strike for the day. [Abul Hashim, In Retrospect, Bangladesh Book Co-operative Society Ltd, Chittagong, Second edition, 1988. p 131.] But the chief minister of Bengal, Shaheed Suhrawardy, declared 'direct action day' a 'public holiday'. Abul Hasim called it a 'great blunder' [ibid., p 133] 
Abul Hashim writes that 'complete hartal and general strike in all spheres of civic, commercial and industrial life, save and except in essential services of water works, hospitals, clinics, maternity centres, electricity, gas and postal services' were observed. Describing the success, he writes that 'processions with bands starting from every area converged' at the meeting venue at the foot of the Ochtorloney Monument at Maidan in the afternoon. 
As soon as the public meeting commenced, 'news started pouring in the venue that the Muslims in different parts of the city such as Behala, Kalighat, Metiaburuj, Maniktala and Shambazar have been exposed to severe attacks by the Hindu and many a Muslim has already been killed and injured,' writes Abul Mansur Ahmed, who was present in the front row of the audience at the meeting venue. 'Soon after, the processions of people in blood-soaked attires started coming in with injured victims on their shoulders and blood-soaked flags in their hands. They were complaining that the Hindus had attacked the Maidan-bound peaceful processions of the Muslims without any provocation. Enraged by the unprovoked attacks, they appeared crazy to seek vengeance against the Hindus,' writes Mansur Ahmed. [Abul Mansur Ahmed, Amar Dekha Rajnitir Panchas Bachhar (Fifty years of politics that I have seen), Khoshroj Kitab Mahal, Eighth edition, Dhaka, 1999, p 198.]
Meanwhile, Khawaja Nazimuddin Ahmed said in his speech at the rally that 'our movement is not directed against the government of India, but against the Hindus.' [Abul Hashim, In Retrospect, p 133; also, Abul Mansur Ahmed, Amar Dekha Rajnitir Panchash Bachhar, op-cit., p 197.] Abul Hashim, who was present on the dais, instantly 'pushed him back from the microphone and pointing his fingers to the Fort William', he said that the struggle of the Muslim League was 'not against any people of India', rather it was 'against the Fort William' that represents the colonial British regime. [Abul Hashim, ibid, p 133] 
However, the riot erupted in Kolkata and continued for several days, displaying the extent of the 
capacity of human beings to get dehumanised when it comes to religious conflicts.
Abul Hashim, the erstwhile general secretary of the Bengal Muslim League, pleaded the Muslim League's complete innocence of its hand in the riot. He writes that 'the Muslim League had no knowledge, no apprehension and no anticipation as to the unprecedented violence that started in the morning and continued in the afternoon of the 16th of August when we were all in the midst of the meeting held at the foot of Ochtorlony Monument.' [Ibid., p 132.]
In support of his claim, Hashim put forward formidable evidence: 'Men may lie but circumstances never lie. I brought from Burdwan with me two sons. Badruddin Mohammad Umar, a boy of 15, and Shahabuddin Mohammad Ali, a boy of 8 [,] to show them the great gathering that was expected on the occasion at Calcutta. I took my sons to the Maidan and Lalmiah of Faridpur took his grandson aged six or seven. If we apprehended any danger we would not have taken our sons and grandsons to the Maidan.' [ibid]
Abul Hashim, who is well known for his secular political views within and beyond the Muslim League and his proactive role for keeping Bengal united and independent, was unlikely to have been personally involved in, even aware of, any machination of communal conflict between Hindus and Muslims. But it is very difficult to completely exonerate the entire leadership of the Bengal Muslim League of the responsibility for the riot, particularly after the declaration of August 16 as a 'public holiday' by Suhrawardy, which Hashim himself found to be a 'great blunder' and Khawaja Nazimuddin's declaration on the same day that their 'struggle is against the Congress and the Hindus'.
Abul Mansur Ahmed believes that the 'primary responsibility' of the riot goes to the Muslim League. [Abul Mansur Ahmed, Amar Dekha Rajnitir Panchas Bachar, op-cit., p. 197] He argues that Jinnah's 'ambiguous programme' of the 'direct action day' and Suhrawardy's explicit announcement of 'public holiday' on the day in West Bengal acted as provocations against the Kolkata Hindus. Suhrawardy's announcement of public holiday on a partisan cause, Mansur Ahmed argues, 'made the Hindus logically and justifiably apprehended that the Hindus would be forced to observe the Muslim League's programme and therefore got prepared beforehand, which got evident on the fatal day'. [Ibid., p. 198]  
Mansur Ahmed's allegation of 'ambiguity' about the nature of the 'direct action day' programme, however, ultimately does not stand, for the initial ambiguity was eventually removed two weeks before the observance of the day on August 16. True that there were some initial 'misgivings' about 'direct action', but 'to remove them', the working committee of the All-India Muslim League met again at Bombay on August 2, 1946 and unambiguously called upon the Muslims of India 'to suspend all business on August 16, 1946, and observe complete hartal'. [M. A. H. Ispahani, Qaid-E-Azam Jinnah: As I Knew Him, Forward Publications Trust, Karachi, 1966, p. 191]      
Under the circumstance, Hodson finds Suhrawardy's attitude 'more bellicose' than Jinnah's and describes the former's role to be a provocative one for the Kolkata carnage. He writes: "In Calcutta the League Ministry under Mr. Suhrawardy, who had adopted a much more bellicose attitude than Mr. Jinnah, declared 16th August a public holiday, an extremely dangerous thing to do when communal passions were inflamed, Satan would find work for idle hands to do, and any gathering or group in a crowded city might invite reactions from hostile bystanders." [H V Hodson, The Great Divide: Britain - India - Pakistan, Hutchinson & Co, Oxford University Press, Karachi, 1969, p. 166]  
In this regards, Joya Chatterji writes, the '[Hindu] Mahashabha volunteers were ready and eager to act upon their leader's advice, even if bamboo staves, knives and crude country pistols had to do service for cavalry and artillery. Hindus, as much as Muslims, were prepared for battle on 16 August; both sides were armed and Hindus appeared to have had bigger battalions'. [Joya Chaterjii, Bengal Divided, op-cit., p.238]
Analyzing the composition of the rioting elements, Chatterji writes: "While Muslim rioters consisted mainly of up-country migrants, a surprisingly large number of bhadralok Hindus were arrested on charge of rioting. ...Bengali Hindu students and other professional or middle class elements were active...a large portion of the crowed which killed Dr Jamal Mohammad, an eminent eye specialist, consisted of educated youths'. [Ibid., p.239]
Also involved on the Hindu side were 'released' INA soldiers and Marwari businessmen. Chatterji's study shows that 'it was this ...alliance between students, professional men, businessmen and ex-officers, Congressmen, Mahasabhaites, shopkeepers and neighbourhood bully boys, that led the Hindu crowed to its bloody victory in the streets of Calcutta in 1946'. [Ibid.] Subsequently, "more Muslims than Hindus died in the fighting, and in characteristically chilling style, Patel summed up the hideous affair with the comment; 'Hindus had the best of it'." [Ibid., p. 233]
As to why the members of the bhadralok, Hindu elite in other words, rioted against Muslims, Dr Mahendranath Sarker, a prominent physician from Burdwan, who was 'arrested for hurling a bomb into a Muslim crowed in the unrest that continued after the Killing, provided an answer: "I am now a Congressman. I was previously a member of the Hindu Mahasabha. I joined the movement favouring the partition of Bengal."  [Ibid.]  
The Hindu cruelty towards the Muslims got so brutal during the riot that many a right thinking Hindu was exposed to psychological breakdown, In this regard, Mansur Ahmed mentions a Brahmin young munsef of Alipur court who, after witnessing the mindless actions of the Hindu fanatics, was forced to receive treatments in a mental hospital for quite some time. The young man saw the 'highly educated and culturally accomplished Hindus, like retired judges and senior lawyers, killing with swords and machetes the slum-dwelling Muslim men, women and children of the neigbourhood'. [Abul Mansur Ahmed, Amar Dekha Rajnitir Panchas Bachar, op-cit., p. 196]        
The Muslim fanatics also did not lag behind in the display of cruelty against the Hindus. Describing Muslim cruelty, Abul Mansur Ahmed said: "May be a Hindu cobbler was fixing the shoes of a Muslim or a Hindu barber dressing the hairs of his Muslim client in my own neigbourhood. Suddenly a group of Muslim assassins appeared in the scene with sharp-edged iron rods or javelins in their hands and hit the Hindu man on his head, or stabbed through his throat or belly, leaving him dead within no time. The murder over, the killers chanted slogans of victory and rushed towards another direction for other preys." [Ibid.]
The whole environment got perverse. The situation got so perverse that a Muslim 'friend' of Mansur Ahmed, whom the latter knew as 'a kind-hearted humanist', once charged him in the following language: 'How many Hindus have you killed? Your proclaimed commitment towards Muslim interests is nothing but mere rhetoric'. [Ibid.]   

HOWEVER, after the outbreak of the riot, the Kolkata police, which were extremely dominated by Hindu officers and constables, did not show much enthusiasm to quell the situation. Instead, many of them allegedly sided with, some psychologically and others physically, their Hindu co-religionists. Notably, in the Kolkata city of six million people at that time, there was 'only a 1,200-man police force, of whom only 63 were Muslims.' Besides, '[o]f the officers, with the exception of one Deputy Commissioner and one Officer-in-Charge, the remainder were Hindus.' [Mohammad HR Talukder (ed), Memoirs of Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy with a Brief Account of His Life and Work, University Press Limited, Dhaka, 1987, p 25.]
The sequence of events suggests that the Suhrawardy and his ministry were not adequately aware of the Hindu preparedness to begin a riot against the Muslims, or face one if imposed on the Hindus. The inspector general of police, an Englishman, reportedly told chief minister Suhrawardy that he himself was unaware of the preparation of the riot by the extremist Hindu forces as 'all the Intelligence Branches of the police were manned by only Hindus' and 'they betrayed the government'.  [Kamrudin Ahmad, p 71] Later, Sir Francis Tuker, a member of the 'Calcutta Riot Enquiry Commission', wrote in his memoirs, While Memory Serves, 'Hindu Mahasabha was at the root [of the riot], but Hindu police dominated the Intelligence Branch and Criminal Investigation Branch of the police who kept the government in darkness.' [Tuker is cited in Kamrudin Ahmad, ibid, p 72]
However, in order to contain the situation, Suhrawardy sat in the control room of the police headquarters round the clock and 'despatched truck loads of armed constables but they never reached their destination'. Forced by the circumstance, even in the face of protests from the Hindu leaders and initial reluctance of the office of the British governor, he 'recruited 1,200 trained Muslim Panjabi Sepahis to keep a balance in the police force', which eventually quelled the riot in Kolkata.
Suhrawardy must have hired the Muslim constables, keeping in mind the horrible consequences of the 'anti-Muslim riot' that took place in India in 1926, in which the Muslims of Kolkata were slaughtered allegedly due to the inaction against the Hindu rioters by the armed police 'manned almost entirely' by the Hindus. [The anti-Muslim riot of 1926 broke out in Lahore, and subsequently spread out all over India, after a judge of the Lahore High Court, Justice Kunwar Daleep Singh, acquitted a Muslim who allegedly murdered a Hindu writer, Rajpal, for his book Rangila Rasool. While writing on the problems of polygamy, Rajpal contemptuously referred to the life of the Prophet of Islam, hurting the religious sentiments of the Muslims of India.] 
However, the Hindu elite in general, and the leaders of the Bengal Congress and the Hindu Mahasabha in particular, squarely blamed Suhrawardy and the Muslim League for the communal riot in Kolkata in 1946. Suhrawardy did not mention anything about the Hindu allegations against him in his memoirs, but history records that two of his Bengal Muslim League colleagues, otherwise his bitter critics, defended him against the allegations. 
MA Hassan Ispahani, an erstwhile member of the Bengal Legislative Assembly from the Muslim League, told the House 'soon after' the communal carnage: 'I would have been the first person to advocate the public hanging of Mr. Suhrawardy, the Chief Minister of Bengal, if it was his intention to bring about the killing of a few Hindus and to sacrifice thousands of Muslims (sic) women and children in their homes in return. Only a fool and not Suhrawardy could have completed such a move.' [MAH Ispahani, Qaid-E-Azam Jinnah: As I Knew Him, Forward Publications Trust, Karachi, 1966, p 193.] Ispahani rather praised Suhrawardy's role in quelling the riot in Kolkata. He writes, 'I have not seen a man work so hard and act so swiftly to try and control a conflagration as Suhrawardy did.' [ibid] In this regard, he accused 'the Congress and Hindu Mahasabha leadership' of non-cooperation with Suhrawardy to contain the communal conflict, for the latter 'at first...had refused to give ear to Suhrawardy's appeal to join hands with him and the Muslim League in an effort to bring human passions, which had run riot, under control.' [ibid]
Abul Hashim of the Bengal Muslim League, who was also not an admirer of Suhrawardy, recognised that the latter 'risking his life, moved round the city in his car by day and by night.' [Abul Hashim, op-cit, p 134]
Be that as it may, the Muslims living in the Kolkata had undergone the most painful experiences during the communal riots. British historian Hodson rightly points out, 'If the Muslims gave the provocation and started the holocaust, they were certainly its worst victims, for they were in minority in the city.' [HV Hodson, The Great Divide: Britain-India-Pakistan, Hutchinson & Co, Oxford University Press, Karachi, 1969, p 167.] Notably, the Muslims constituted only 24 per cent of total population of Kolkata those days. 
The Kolkata killings had its repercussion in East Bengal. Kamruddin Ahmed writes, 'in an anti-Hindu riot [in Noakhali] on August 29, eighty-six Hindus including a family of a local Hindu zemindar were killed.' [Kamruddin Ahmad, A Socio Political History of Bengal and the Birth of Bangladesh, Fourth edition, Inside Library, Dhaka, 1975, p 73.] The attacks on Hindus continued for a couple of days more, causing more deaths of Hindus in Noakhali.
Kamruddin Ahmad writes that this was an unfortunate 'reaction to mass killing of Noalkhali Dock Workers in Khidirpur' of West Bengal during the Kolkata riots. In this regard, Suhrawardy writes that the 'Hindus had invaded Muslim mosques and killed the congregation at their prayers, including the imams and muezzins who came from the district of Noalkhali', and as a result, 'the Muslims of Noakhali burned a number of Hindu villages, about 282 people were killed and four women were abducted of whom three were subsequently restored'. 
The Kolkata-based communalist Hindu press projected the tragic Noakhali massacre in so many exaggerated ways, and that too, mixing imaginary stories with the facts, that it provoked widespread killing of Muslims by the Hindus in Patna of Bihar. Suhrawardy writes in his memoirs: 'The Amrita Bazar Patrika and other Congress [news]papers flashed a statement by the secretary of the Bengal Provincial Committee that 50,000 Hindus had been killed and numberless women abducted. Excited by such reports, the Hindus massacred and humiliated the Muslims in Garmukhteswar in the United Provinces and throughout the province of Bihar where they are believed to have been killed as many as 100,000 Muslims - men, women and children - with unbelievable savagery. The Hindu mobs in Bihar roamed the countryside for four days, killing, burning, looting, raping, mutilating, in the apparently justified believe that the Government of Bihar and the Hindu police were behind them.' [Suhrawardy in Mohammad HR Talukder (ed.), Memoirs of Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy with a Brief Account of His Life and Work, University Press Limited, Dhaka, 1987, p 105] 
Meanwhile, Gandhi had started from Delhi to visit Noakhali to establish peace there. He was told about the Bihar carnage in Kolkata and urged by a group of 'young Muslim men' to visit Bihar first. Gandhi refused to do so, on the ground that 'when he left Delhi for Noakhali there was no riot in Bihar and he could not change his mind midway'. [ibid] Kamruddin Ahmad writes that on his refusal to go to Bihar, the young Muslim group in question indirectly accused Gandhi of 'hypocrisy' for they believed that 'he was trying to divert the attention of the world from the Bihar killing' to that of Noakhali. Gandhi's 'smiling' response to the accusation was that 'history, rather than those young men, would judge my action'. Gandhi, along with his secretary Mahadev Desai, granddaughter Munni Gandhi and his granddaughter-in-law Abha Gandhi, reached Dattapara of Noakhali on November 14, 1946 and stayed there as 'guests of the government of Bengal'. Abul Hashim writes that Gandhi 'walked from village to village and revived the morale of the Hindus'. He, however, was upset with the fact that Gandhi did not visit Kolkata and Patna. In this regard, Hashim writes with a note of anguish: 'Mr. Gandhi's visit to Noakhali focused world attention on atrocities committed by the Muslims of Noakhali and Comilla on the Hindu minorities of the two districts. In Calcutta and Bihar riots, the majority of the victims were Muslims. Mr. Gandhi did not visit Calcutta and Patna.' [Abul Hashim, In Retrospect, p 136]

MANY Muslims, particularly the young political activists of the Bengal Muslim League who had struggled to save the Muslims of Kolkata and Patna from the wraths of rioting Hindus, got upset Gandhi for his reluctance to visit the two cities during the communal conflicts. Of such unhappy youths, one was Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, then a young Muslim League activist, who would eventually become the most influential politician in East Bengal, now Bangladesh, to wrestle out its independence from Pakistan in 1971.
However, history records that Gandhi, with the active support of Suhrawardy, made a lot of successful efforts to restore communal harmony in the post-riot Kolkata. During one of those days, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and his photographer friend gave Gandhi, who was staying Narkeldanga area of the Kolkata city, quite a suggestive 'present' on the Eid day - a wrapped packet of photographs of some Muslim victims of riots in Kolkata and Patna. The photographs included, in the words of the Sheikh, 'some of Muslim women whose breasts had been cut off, little babies who had been beheaded, mosques burning, corpses lying in the streets and many such gruesome scenes from the riot.' Explaining the purpose of giving Gandhi such a 'present', the Sheikh writes in his memoirs, 'We wanted the Mahatma to see how his people had been guilty of such crimes and how they had killed innocents.' [Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, The Unfinished Memoirs, (Trans.) Dr Fakhrul Alam, The University Press Limited, Dhaka, 2012, p 86.]
However, what is rather more important to note in this regard is that Jinnah visited neither Noakhali nor Kolkata nor Patna. Instead, when the report of Bihar killing reached him, Jinnah remarked in 'cold blood', '[T]he blood of the innocent Muslims could not go in vain and the world would now be convinced that the partition was the only solution of the Indian problem.' [See footnote number 2 in Kamruddin Ahmad, ibid, p 73. Also, Abul Hashim, ibid, p 137.]
Nehru rather proved different. He not only visited Bihar, but also took the risk of his life there to stop further killing of the Muslims. Suhrawardy writes in his memoirs: 'It will remain to the credit of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru that he had the courage to face howling Hindu mob in Bihar and order them to stop rioting; otherwise he would have them shot.' [Mohammad HR Talukder (ed.), Memoirs of Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy with a Brief Account of His Life and Work, University Press Limited, Dhaka, 1987, pp 105-106.] 
Nevertheless, the Kolkata killing left a deep scar on the minds of the Muslims of East Bengal, generating in their political consciousness a sense of separation with their Hindu cousins of West Bengal that stopped them from fighting against the joint efforts of the Hindu Mahasabha and the Congress to divide Bengal on religious communal line in 1947. 

Bitter memories of famine
Again, the bitter memories of the killer famine of 1943,the worst victim of which was the poor Muslims of East Bengal, played a role behind the reluctance of the Muslim multitude concerned to put up any significant resistance against the Kolkata-based Hindu elite's political scheme to divide Bengal on religious lines. The famine, which came to be known in history as the Great Bengal Famine, affected in different ways and degrees at least 'two-thirds of the total population' of the erstwhile Bengal. The report of the official Famine Inquiry Commission, published by the government in 1945, said the famine had killed 'about 1.5 million' people in Bengal. But a member of the commission, WR Aykroid, later admitted that the figure was a result of underestimation of the victims, because the commission 'took little account of roadside deaths' caused by the famine. [WR Aykroidis cited in Amartya Sen, Poverty and Famines: An Essay on Entitlement and Deprivation, Tenth Impression, Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 2006, p 52.] However, a report prepared on the basis of a 'sample survey' by the anthropology department of the Calcutta University, which was published on February 21, 1944, revealed that the famine of 1943 had killed 'well over three and half millions' in Bengal. [See Appendix D-2 in Amartya Sen, Poverty and Famines: An Essay on Entitlement and Deprivation, Tenth Impression, Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 2006, p 197.]
Sugata Bose, a historian of agrarian Bengal, writes: 'Between 1942 and 1945, the peasantry of east Bengal suffered privation on a scale unknown in recent history without showing much disposition to collective protest... In early 1943, the first symptoms of famine were detected in the eastern districts of the Chittagong division. Brahmanbaria, Sadar and Chandpur subdivisions in Tippera, and Sadar and Feni subdivisions of Noakhali were the regions most severely affected by the famine. In these grain deficit districts, while the mass of landless and land-poor peasants starved. ...from April 1943 they began to die in millions.' [Sugata Bose, Agrarian Bengal: Economy, Social Structure and Politics: 1919-1947, Cambridge University Press, First Indian Edition in association with Orient Longman, Hyderabad, 1987, p 218.] Understandably, the victims were mostly poor Muslims, for like many other historians, Sugata Bose also points out that 'the peasantry [of East Bengal] was predominantly Muslim'. [ibid, p 187]
Amartya Sen, who especially studied the Bengal famine, says: 'The Bengal famine was essentially a rural phenomenon. Urban areas, especially Calcutta, substantially insulated from rising food prices by subsidized distribution schemes, saw it mainly in the form of influx of rural destitutes.' [Amartya Sen, Poverty and Famines: An Essay on Entitlement and Deprivation, Tenth Impression, Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 2006, p 63.]
'The number of starving and sick destitutes in Calcutta was estimated to be "at least 100,000" in October [1943]. A decision was taken by the end of the month to remove the destitutes from the city. The Bengal Destitute Persons (Repatriation and Relief) Ordinance, passed on October 28, was a rather controversial piece of legislation, since it was alleged that "repatriation" was rather more firmly achieved than "relief" in the many "destitute homes" and "camps" set up outside Calcutta.' [Amartya Sen, ibid, p 57]
While there were more reasons than one for the famine, including crops failure and subsequent shortage of food grains as well as loss of purchasing capacity of the people, the man-made problem of transportation and distribution of food grains in the deficit areas created havoc on the poor people of East Bengal - thanks particularly to certain anti-people measures of the colonial and colonised governments in Delhi and Kolkata in the wake of Japanese invasion of neighbouring Burma during Second World War. 
Japan occupied Rangoon on March 10, 1942. Subsequently, apprehensive of a Japanese invasion of India thorough Cox's Bazar of East Bengal, the British colonial government in Delhi asked the Muslim League government of Bengal to adopted the 'scorched-earth policy' to resist the possible Japanese advance by way of disrupting the physical communication systems in Bengal. The erstwhile government of Bengal complied with the dictates of Delhi that fatally affected the food-supply chains in East Bengal causing deaths of millions. 
MA Hassan Ispahani, an erstwhile Muslim League leader and a member of the Bengal Provincial Assembly, wrote: 'The war was being waged with increasing intensity and Japan had gone through South-East Asia as does a hot knife through butter, and having placed Burma under her heels, was knocking at the very gates of India from Cox['s] Bazar on one side and Imphal on the other.' [MAH Ispahani, Qaid-E-Azam Jinnah: As I Knew Him, Forward Publications Trust, Karachi, 1966, p 91.]
Under the circumstance, the British government in Delhi asked the provincial government of Bengal 'to make as little available to the enemy as possible' in case of an invasion. Subsequently, 'boats, the main means of transportation in East Bengal, were burnt or broken up [in thousands], resulting in a major dislocation of the principal means of transportation and communication in the Province'. [ibid, p 92]
Besides, as Sheikh Mujibur Rahman recalled the time later, in December 1969, the 'soldiers stationed in various parts of Bengal had priority call on the foodgrains and on supplementary foods like eggs, chickens, bananas, coconuts, vegetables and pulses.' [Sheikh Mujibur Rahman recalled the period on the occasion of writing on Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy, who was civil supply minister of Bengal during the famine. Mujibur Rahman's article, My Leader: A Messenger of Peace, was published in the special supplement published on Shaheed Suhrawardy of the Karachi-based Morning News on December 5, 1969. The Sheikh is cited in Mohammad HR Talukdar, op-cit, p 19.]
Mujibur Rahman also blamed the 'hostility' of the Congressite food minister of the central government, 'Sree Nivas, who had just succeeded Sir Azizul Huq', towards the provincial government of Muslim League 'to procure food for the civil population'. He wrote that 'foodgrain was not available, even for money'. Ispahani argued that the situation 'created by the British Indian Government out of fear of a Japanese invasion brought into being famine in some areas, to begin with, and, later, in the entire province'. [MAH Ispahani, op-cit, p 92]

IN THIS circumstance, the government also failed to provide the people with food grains. Explaining the reasons for the failure, Ispahani writes: 'Conditions were so bad and the food shortage in the Province so great that nothing less than heavy imports from outside the Province and from abroad and their quick distribution could bring relief to the sufferers and to the dying. Help from other parts of India was both slow in coming and meager. War conditions and lack of safety at sea made speedy outside assistance almost impossible. The South-Asian granaries, which were close to Bengal, were occupied by Japan. And aid, even ships escaped Japan's attack, from far-off countries, was as bad as having no aid at all. East Bengal being a deltaic region and the main means of transportation being boats which had been destroyed in thousands in compliance with the Centre's scorched earth policy, the speed of distribution was naturally slow.' [MAH Ispahani, Qaid-E-Azam Jinnah: As I Knew Him, Forward Publications Trust, Karachi, 1966, p 93]
The result was obvious. Referring to official reports, Amartay Sen writes that 'the wholesale price of rice, which had been between Rs. 13 and Rs. 14 per 'maund' (about 82.3 lbs.) on 11 December 1942, rose to Rs. 21 by March 1943 and to above Rs. 30 by 21 May; by 20 August it had risen to Rs. 37. [Amarya Sen, op-cit, p 54]
Sen argues that the price of rice practically went up much higher than what the official reports have cited. Quoting a news report published in the November 5, 1943 issue of The Statesman, he says that the price, particularly in the retail markets, went up much higher, such as in October 1943 'rice was being sold in Chittagong at Rs 80 per maund.' [ibid, p 55] The food prices were, therefore, went much beyond the capacity of the rural poor, most of them Muslims, to buy. The only option they were left with was to starve to death.
Recollecting the 'horrifying situation' arising out of famine, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, who was a young Muslim League activist in Kolkata and was engaged in relief work those days, wrote in his memoirs: 'Hundreds of thousands of people were swarming to the cities in search of food. But there was no food or clothing left for them. The British had confiscated all naval vessels for the war effort. They had stockpiled rice and wheat to feed their soldiers. Whatever was left had been appropriated by businessmen. This led to a horrifying situation. Businessmen began to sell rice that would normally sell at ten takas a maund at forty or even fifty takas. Not a day went by without people dying in the city streets.' [Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, The Unfinished Memoirs, (Trans.) Dr. Fakhrul Alam, The University Press Limited, Dhaka, 2012, p 17]
Mujibur Rahman went on to recollect: 'I saw ...mothers dying in the streets while their babies still suckled; dogs competing with people foe leftovers in garbage dumps; children abandoned by their mothers who had run away or sold them driven by hunger. At times they failed to do even that since there would be no buyers. They would knock on doors and cry out: "Give us some food, I am dying and can't go on; at the very least give me some of the water that you have strained off the boiled rice". She would often die even as she uttered these words.' [ibid, p 18]
However, the Hindu leadership of the Bengal Congress publicly accused the provincial Muslim League government of Khawaja Nazimuddin Ahmed and the Ispahanis of 'creating the famine' and failing to feed the people during the calamity. Notably, the Ispahanis were the Bengal's leading rice merchants those days and their firm, M.M. Ispahani Limited, was assigned by 'the Governor and his Cabinet' of Bengal to purchase rice from food surplus areas of Bihar and Orissa to cover the shortfall of the government stock of food grains to be distributed among the people. Ispahani Limited charged the government some amount of 'commission' for the procurement of rice.
Hassan Ispahani, however, rejects the allegation, calling it 'too absurd for any sensible man to believe' and asserts that the Ispahanis rather 'helped' the people in the 'hour of agony'. He says that the total purchase of Ispahanis on behalf of the government amounted to 'an insignificant fraction of the total shortage of [food grains] of well over million tons' and the 'commission' charged was 'nominal'. He also claims that the Congress had indulged in politicking about the famine. 'Even Hindu political leaders like Dr. [Shamaprasad] Mukharjee and Mr. Sarat Chandra Bose admitted in private that they were fighting a political battle with no restriction on the choice of weapons,' writes Hassan Ispahani. [MAH Ispahani, Qaid-E-Azam Jinnah: As I Knew Him, Forward Publications Trust, Karachi, 1966, p 95] He alleges that their unjust criticism made in the public sphere caused him 'nervous breakdown' during the famine. In this regard, he, however, expresses his gratitude to Dr Bidhan Chandra Roy, a famous physician and industrialist who became chief minister of West Bengal after the partition, for 'saving' his 'life' by way of treating the 'nervous breakdown'. 
Be that as it may, the famine took lives of more than three million people, mostly poor Muslims of agrarian East Bengal, due to the scarcity of food in general and rice in particular. Even the conventional food habit of the rural poor contributed to the increased deaths. Reports have it that the rice-eating population of Bengal, particularly East Bengal, did not even know about wheat those days, let alone prepare chapatis or gruel with wheat forming the base. When 'served gruel' to the uprooted starving villagers in the gruel kitchens, run in the towns by the private charities and government authorities during the famine, many of them, particularly the younger ones, 'fell victims to acute digestive and stomach troubles and died'.
That the Muslims of Bengal were the worst victims of the famine could also be surmised from a famine-time communally worried communication of Hassan Ispahani to the Muslim League supremo Mohammad Ali Jinnah. In a letter written on September 20, 1943, Ispahani urged him to convince the governments of allied forces 'to sit up and take serious note' of famine in Bengal, the 'first line of defence against the Japanese', and 'release freight space for the carriage of food grains in large quantities, from countries that have surplus.' Finally, he cautioned Jinnah: 'Unless those who can help and in them I include the Government of India...help without delay, Bengal will be turned into a graveyard and it should not then surprise anyone if the Muslim majority in the province turns into a minority when the next census is taken.' [Hassan Ispahani, Ibid, p 97]
The Muslims did not become minority in Bengal due to famine, but the bitter experience that the community had undergone during the famine generated in their minds a sense of communal grievances against their Hindu counterparts. 
The Hindus for various historical and political reasons were economically better off than the Muslims and, therefore, less affected by the famine than their Muslim counterparts. Portraying the social stratification of the colonial Bengal, Abul Mansur Ahmed said, 'Zaminders of Bengal are Hindu and the tenants Muslims, Bengal's moneylenders are Hindu and borrowers Muslims, physicians Hindu and patients Muslims, judges Hindu and accused Muslims, players Hindu and spectators Muslims, jailors Hindu and jailed Muslims, so on and so forth.' [Abul Mansur Ahmed, Amar Dekha Rajnitir Panchas Bachar, op-cit, p 125]
The underdeveloped political consciousness of the Muslim multitude of Bengal, particularly East Bengal, could hardly look at the phenomenon from the historical perspective. They rather found themselves as the victims of communal exploitation by the visibly well-off Hindu landowning as well as professional classes around them, ignoring the fact that the poor classes of the Hindu community underwent similar, if not the same, difficulties during the famine. The result was obvious: further deterioration of Hindu-Muslim relation. Sugata Bose rightly points out that 'during the wartime subsistence crisis communal relations [between Hindus and Muslims] had become more embittered.' [Sugata Bose, Agrarian Bengal: Economy, Social Structure and Politics: 1919-1947, Cambridge University Press, First Indian Edition in association with Orient Longman, Hyderabad, 1987, p 221]
The Muslim League, 'at a time of unprecedented material distress and psychological uncertainty of the peasant masses', most of whom were Muslims, 'was able to consolidate its position', as it became easy for the League "to give the poor Muslim peasants" discontent a communal coloring.' The Muslim peasants not only voted the Muslim League to power in Bengal in the elections held in 1946, they also got least bothered about the joint call made by a section of the non-communal League-Congress leadership to resist the partition of Bengal on communal line.
The underprivileged Muslim multitude of Bengal must have aspired for changing their fate for better as a community in their own Muslim state without any Hindu competition, if not opposition, that they have empirically experienced for about two hundred years.

Politics of language and literature
BANGLA has been developed over several centuries with its organic practice by both Muslims and Hindus of Bengal, while the Muslim rulers of Bengal, particularly those of the Sultani era, substantially contributed to the development of Bangla literature.
The Buddhist Pal dynasty ruled Bangladesh for four hundred years since the 8th century. Then, the Hindu Sen dynasty took over in the 12th century. It ruled the country for a hundred years.
The Pal kings, although Buddhists, accepted the cultural hegemony of the Hindu Brahmanism; therefore, the language of the Brahmins, Sanskrit, remained the official language. Still, under the Pal dynasty, people used to compose fairytale, ballad, etc in Bangla and read out to the kings. But, under the Sen dynasty, people did not dare enter royal palaces with songs composed in Bangla. The Sen kings used to patronise Sanskrit literature and substantially obstructed the progress of Bangla language and literature. During the Sen rule, the Brahmins issued religious decree to the effect that 'those who would even hear the religious texts in Bangla would suffer the eternal fire of Rourab - the worst of hells.' The language spoken by the ordinary Bengalis, Buddhists or 'lower caste' Hindus or Muslims, was to be hated and, therefore, got expelled from 'standard' literature of the 12th-century Bengal.
Things started changing after the Sen dynasty had fallen at Nadiya in the Rajshahi district of Bengal to an invasion by a Muslim Turk - Ikhtiaruddin Muhammad Bakhtiar Khilji - in 1201. Dr Enamul Huq says the dethronement of Hindu king Lakshman Sen, and subsequent occupation of Bengal by Muslim rulers, 'stood in the way of the practice of Sanskrit' and 'paved the way for that of Bangla in Bengal'. [Dr Enamul Huq, Muslim Bangla Sahitya, Pakistan Publications, Dhaka, first print, 1957, p 13]
However, throughout the Muslim rule, Persian had been the official language, and both Muslim and Hindu communities widely used Persian. While the Pal dynasty encouraged Bangla language, despite retaining Sanskrit as the official language, the Muslim dynasties helped Bangla language and literature flourish although Persian remained the official language.
Bengal came under the Sultan dynasty when Sultan Shamshuddin Ilias Shah conquered Gouda, Borendri, Samatat and Banga regions one after another, and completed the Muslim conquest of Bengal after conquering Sonargaon in 1352. Shamshuddin Ilias Shah took the name of 'Shahe Bangalian' and his successors ruled the country independently for more than two hundred years.
The Sultan dynasty made serious efforts 'to understand the Hindu population and secure their sympathy' for both ensuring good governance in Bengal and defending its independence from the rulers in Delhi. The Sultans, therefore, as Dr. Muhammad Shahidullah says, 'inspired and patronised local literature. Bengali poet Chandidas appeared during this period. Side by side with the Hindus, the Muslims also entered the realm of Bangla literature.' [(Dr) Muhammad Shahidullah, Bangla Sahityer Katha, Volume II, op-cit, p 11] 
Probhatkumar Bondopadhay also believes 'Bangla took shape as a language after the arrival of Islam in India, with the touch of Persian language and literature'. [Probhatkumar Bondopadhay, 'Rammohan O Tatkaleen Samaj O Sahitya', Bidyasagar Lecture delivered at Kolikata University in 1965, Biswabharoti, Reprint 1394 Bangla calendar (Gregorian calendar 1987), Kolkata, India, p 4] Bondopadhay rightly says Bangla found literary expression during this period, in the 12th century, in Padabali Keerton, in the composition of Charitraleelamrita as well as in the translations of Ramayana and Mahabharata.
Dinesh Chandra Sen finds the Muslim rule in Bengal of crucial importance in terms of the flourishing of Bangla language and literature. Explaining the significance of the Muslim rule in this regard, Dinesh Sen writes: 'Before the arrival of Muslims, Bangla was living in the rural huts of Bengal as the poor peasant women in humble attires did...The Brahmin pundits used to consider Bangla as the language of the lower classes of people and drove it away from their lives...Unacceptable to the gentlemen class, Bangla was an object of its hatred, disaffection and indifference...' [Dinesh Chandra Sen, 'Bangabhashar Upar Musalmaner Probhab' (Influence of Muslims on Bangla Language), in Dr Humayun Azad (ed.), Bangla Bhasha: Bangla Bhashabishayak Prabandhasankalan (The Bengali Language: A Collection of Linguistic Essays on the Bengali Language), Volume II, Second edition, Agamee Prakashani, Dhaka, 2001, p 597] 
Dinesh Sen then asserts that it was the Muslim conquest of Bengal that enabled Bangla to come out of the rural huts to the highway of literature. He says, 'Bangla was there in this country since long, even during the time of Buddha... But it would not be an overstatement to say that Bangla literature, in a way, is the creation of the Muslims.' [ibid, p 598] This is now an established fact of history that Sultan Nasrat Shah, his military commander Paragal Khan and the latter's son Chunti Khan got certain episodes of Mahabharata translated into Bangla from Sanskrit. Besides, Shamshuddin Yusuf, aka Goonraj Khangot, had certain chapters of Srimad Bhagawat Gita translated into Bangla.
Dinesh Sen says the 'Afghan Kings in Bengal really turned themselves to be Bengalis' and 'their deeds of agreements were being written at times in Bangla'. For the Afghan kings, 'Sanskrit was inaccessible, while Bangla was the day-to-day language that they found comfortable to read.' [Dinesh Chandra Sen, Brihat Banga, Second Volume, Dey's Publishing, Kolkata, First Edition (1935), Third Print, 2006, p 657]
Thus, modern historical researches clearly suggest that there was tremendous growth and development of Bangla during the Sultani era, beginning from the conquest of Bengal by Ikhtiaruddin in 1201 to the defeat and murder of Sultan Daud Khan Karrani by the Mughals in 1576. In this period, writes Aniruddha Roy, 'Bangla got developed by the influence of Persian. The reason may be, after the establishment of Sultani regime, Sanskrit was ousted from the administrative affairs; mixing with Persian, Bangla gradually made inroad to the affairs of local administration, and consequently developed itself as a full-fledged language.' [Aniruddha Roy, 'Sultani Amole Bangla: Prasanga Misra Sangskriti' (Bangla during Sultani Era: On mixed culture) in Shamshul Hossain (ed.), Abdul Karim Commemorative Volume, Adorn Publication, Dhaka, 2008, p 142]
The Delhi-based Mughals took complete control of Bengal in 1612. However, under the Muslim rulers, Pathan or Mughal, Bengali Muslims and Bengali Hindus had lived in harmony. The situation started changing with the British taking over Bengal in the mid-18th century. Gopal Halder, a reputed historian of Bangla literature, rightly points out: 'The nature of the relationship between Bengali Muslims and Bengali Hindus had always been different than that of the Muslims and Hindus elsewhere in India, because they not only spoke the same language, Bangla, but their lifestyle was also similar. This remained unchanged under both the Pathan and the Mughal regimes. The non-Bengali ruling classes of those days had never objected to the Bengali lifestyle of the Muslims of Bengal. Rather, in the 18th century, the upper-class Bengali Hindus came closer to the upper-class Muslims by way of adopting the latter's lifestyle, while the ordinary Hindus and Muslims of the rural societies got cordial among themselves much before that. The "process" of this Bengali nationalism was rather obstructed in 1757, thanks to the takeover of power by a third force.' [Gopal Halder, Bangla Sahityer Rup-Rekha (Outline of Bangla Literature), Second Volume, Aruna Prakashani, Kolkata, Fifth print, 1415 Bangla calendar, p 24]
The 'third force' in this case was the British East India Company that took over Bengal between 1757 and 1765, and almost the whole of India by 1857, and gradually created social, political and linguistic walls between the Muslim and Hindu communities of Bengal and beyond. With the inauguration of the British rule, Bengal's Muslim aristocracy lost power while the upper class Hindus got closer to the new rulers. The changeover contributed to the growth of political animosity between Muslim and Hindu aristocracies that eventually spilled over into ordinary Muslims and Hindus across Bengal. The British, on the other hand, not only deliberately nurtured the animosity between Muslims and Hindus, but also sharpened the divide between the two religious communities by way of distributing political and economic favours among Hindus and depriving Muslims. 

THE Hindu-Muslim social, political and economic divide and subsequent discriminatory growth of the two communities of the same populace led to mutual animosity, which helped the British to perpetuate colonial rule in India for 190 years. Moreover, British linguistic ventures in Bengal profoundly influenced the development of Bangla, particularly its prose, on two religious-cultural lines that found expression in two distinct styles of the prose - one Sanskritised created by the Hindu writers and the other Persianised created by the Muslim ones. The linguistic division, again, facilitated political division further between the two religious communities, eventually contributing to the geographical division of Bengal. The Hindavi/Hindustani was made to grow into two languages, Hindi and Urdu, with two scripts, Devnagri and Persian, identifying themselves with Hindu and Muslim populations in the rest of India. Similarly, in Bengal, Bangla was made to grow into two varieties, Sanskritised and Persianised, although with the same script. As Hindi and Urdu influenced the partition of India, Sanskritised and Persianised Bangla influenced the partition of Bengal.
The people of Bengal used to communicate among themselves through spoken prose for centuries, but Bengali litterateurs expressed their thoughts only through poetic means until Ramram Basu published his prose work, Raja Pratap Aditya Charitra, in 1801.
Earlier, Portuguese Catholic missionaries, who arrived in Bengal in the 16th Century, learnt Bangla and wrote Bangla prose for preaching Christianity in East Bengal. They are said to have written in, or translated into, Bangla at least two books before the end of the 16th century, 'marking the beginning of the public manifestation of the written form of the Bangla prose'.
Later, Dom Antonio, a Bengali from Bhushna of East Bengal, who grew up with a Portuguese Christian missionary and eventually baptised into Christianity, and Manoel-da-Assumpsam, another Portuguese missionary living in Bhawal of Dhaka, wrote two books in Bangla prose, Brahmin-Roman Catholic Sangbad and Kripar Shashrer Arthabhed respectively, in the early 18th century. Assumpsam also wrote a book on Bangla grammar in Portuguese, and compiled a book of Bangla-Portuguese vocabulary, which was eventually printed in Lisbon in Roman script in 1743. The metal type of Bangla script was not made until 1778.
An important point to note here is that the Bangla words that Manoel-da-Assumpsam had compiled in his book were mostly the ones used by ordinary Bengalis in their day-to-day lives. Besides, the form of Bangla prose that the Portuguese missionaries used to preach Christianity in Bengal was the one spoken by ordinary Bengalis. Gopal Halder notes that 'the Portuguese, while writing Bangla prose, did not maintain the Sadhu form of the language...it had the touch of East Bengal's colloquial Bangla, and they used a lot of Arabic and Persian words in their Bangla prose.' [Gopal Halder, ibid, pp 67-68]
The Portuguese missionaries, however, could not advance and influence Bangla prose the way, and to the extent, the British missionaries did.
The British Christian missionaries started coming to Bengal in the 1780s. They set up a Baptist mission and a printing press in the village of Srirampur of West Bengal, a place of Danish settlement those days, in January 1800 with a view to spreading Christianity among ordinary Bengalis. The group that set up the Christian church consisted of four missionaries - John Thomas, William Carey, William Ward and Joshua Marshman. They published the Bangla translation of Gospel of St Mathew, under the title of Mangal Samachar Matiur Rachita, in May 1800. Then they translated Bible into Bangla. They published the entire New Testament and the first part of the Old Testament in February 1801. 
William Carey (1761-1834), had played the most important role behind the publications while Ramram Basu, a non-Brahmin Hindu who was hired by the missionaries in question as a munshi, a writer that is, substantially helped Carey in his efforts to preach Christianity in Bangla and thus develop Bangla prose. Carey also published a Bangla grammar in English in 1801. Earlier, A Upjohn published an Engraji-Bangali Vocabulary, English-Bangla lexicon in other words, in 1793. Later, Henry Pits Forster (1761-1815), an official of East India Company in Kolkata, prepared two volumes of Bangla-English lexicon, Vocabulary, which were published in 1799 and 1802 respectively. Carey is said to have depended a lot on Forster's lexicon while preparing his own Bangla-English dictionary. 
Earlier, in 1768, the British East India Company shifted the centre of power from the Muslim aristocracy-dominated Murshidabad to Kolkata, which would eventually be the centre of a new Hindu elite to be created by the colonial regime in a few decades. The company, meanwhile, resolved to get its English officers and employees trained in Bangla to ensure direct interaction with Bengalis concerned, independently of local intermediaries. Accordingly, Nathaniel Brassey Halhed, an official of the company, wrote a book on Bangla grammar in English and published it in 1778.
The British, then, set up the College of Fort William in Kolkata, primarily for English civilians to learn local languages, in May 1800; William Carey was appointed head of Bangla department. Carey hired two Sanskrit pundits including Mrityunjay Vidyalankar (1762-1819), a Brahmin hailing from Medinipur, a remote district of Orissa of the time, who had punditry in, and a passionate bias for, Sanskrit. Carey also recruited six associates including Ramram Basu (1757-1813), a non-Brahmin Hindu from Bengal having expertise in chalita or popular Bangla and Persian, to write textbooks in Bangla prose for English civilians. 
William Carey published two books in Bangla - Kothopokothan in 1801 and Itihasmala in 1812, the first one a bilingual text to 'help the English officials to learn the Bengal language' and the second a collection of 150 stories. Meanwhile, Carey's prose style underwent a significant change. The words and syntax used in works in question became quite different from those used in the first edition of his Bangla translation of the Bible. The Bangla prose of the translated Bible was lucid, for Carey's target population for religious conversion was ordinary Bengalis.
The Fort William College changed the scenario. The target group this time was British civilians, while writing Bangla textbooks for them, and that too with the help of Sanskrit pundits, Carey's Bangla no longer remained lucid. The change was even reflected in his later Bangla editions of the Bible. In this regard, Sukumar Sen writes: 'The words used in the Bangla translation [of the Bible] were predominantly tadbhaba [that are derived from Sanskrit], colloquial and simple ... Although the syntax of the prose was often inconsistent with that of Bangla, the language was quite lucid - thanks to the abundance of tadbhaba words - compared to the later editions of the works that gradually got Sanskritised.' [Sukumar Sen, Bangla Sahitye Gadya (Prose in Bangla Literature), First Ananada edition, Ananda Publishers Private Limited, Kolkata, 1998, p 22]
In fact, the change of his associates as well as his workplace profoundly changed William Carey, the man who laid the foundation of modern Bangla prose, and those changes virtually changed the syntax and semantics of Bangla. It got more and more Sanskritised. In this regard, Professor Serajul Islam Chowdhury says: 'When Carey got the assignment of teaching English civilians Bangla, he was no longer a resident of rural Bengal, nor was he a priest anymore, rather he became a professor residing in the city of Kolkata. All the natives that he used to mix with in the Kolkata city were Sanskrit pundits, not the ordinary people of rural Bengal. Munshi Ramram Basu got away from him. He rather drew closer Pundit Mrityunjay Vidyalankar, a Brahmin from Orissa having passionate liking for Sanskrit. Consequently, tatsama words increased in the two [later] volumes of the [Bangla-English] dictionary that he published in 1818 and 1825." [Serajul Islam Chowdhury, op-cit, pp 21-22]
There is a clear pattern in the gradual increase of the use of Sanskrit words in Bangla prose. In this regard, Zeenat Imtiaj Ali, a researcher of Bangla spelling, points out: 'Of the two thousand words of Charyapada, the most ancient sample of Bangla language, the original tatsama words - words that are same as that in Sanskrit - were only one hundred, which is only five per cent. Later, in Srikrisna Kirton, the percentage of Sanskrit words increased. Still, it did not exceed 12.5 per cent.' [Zeenat Imtiaj Ali's essay, 'Bangla Banan: Tatsama Shobdo', is cited in Serajul Islam Chowdhury, Bangalir Jatiyatabad, University Press Limited, Dhaka, 2000, p 18] 
The use of tatsama words in Bangla prose increased substantially in the 19th century, with the direct intervention of the Brahmin pundits. It eventually reached 80 per cent. William Kerry, the professor of Bangla and Sanskrit at the College of Fort William, Kolkata, wrote in 1818, 'The Bengalee may be considered as more nearly allied to Sanskrit than any of the other languages of India ...four-fifths of the words in the language are pure Sanskrit.' [Sajanikanta Das, Bangla Goddo Sahityer Itihas. Quoted in Serajul Islam Chowdhury, ibid] The same William Kerry wrote in 1801 that in 'pure' Bangla, although originating from Sanskrit, 'multitudes of words originally Persian are constantly employed in common conversation, which perhaps ought to be considered helping rather than corrupting the language.' [ibid]
Meanwhile, a section of the Hindus who politically collaborated with the English colonial rulers and became rich out of East India Company's policies and patronages, and started learning the language of power, English, managed to develop themselves to be the new elite of colonial Bengal. Some members of this English-literate Hindu elite, such as Raja Rammohan Roy (1774-1833), Ramkamal Sen (1783-1844), Radhakanta Dev (1784-1867), Bhabanicharan Bandyopadhyay (1787-1848) Debendranath Thakur (1817-1905) and Akshoykumar Dutta (1820-1886), came forward in the first half of the 19th century to develop the Bangla prose. 
History records that one of the major motivations of these great Bengalis to create 'modern' Bangla prose was to bring in reforms of Hinduism, particularly to combat a newly developed trend among the educated Hindu youths to get converted into Christianity those days, thanks to the active proselytisation of enthusiastic Christian missionaries on the one hand and the natural charm of the monotheistic Christianity's apparent egalitarianism compared to the idolatry- and caste-ridden polytheistic Hinduism on the other.
Notably, a group of Evangelical Christians was out in the late 18th century on a mission to convert Indians into the Christian faith, but the administration of East India Company was opposed to the idea for fear that such proselytisation would have negative political impact in India. The British administration was so careful about the political sensitivity involved in the proselytisation efforts that it denied the Christian missionaries the permission to operate from Kolkata, forcing the latter to be stationed in the Danish settlement of Srirampur. Moreover, as Shibnath Shasri writes, 'when Srirampur-based missionaries published a booklet in Persian in 1807, projecting superiority of Christianity over Islam, the English rulers in Kolkata got so afraid of the political repercussions that they wrote to the Danish administration, requesting the latter to stop distributing the booklets.' [Shibnath Shasri, Ramtanu Lahiri O Tatkalin Bangasamaj, (ed.) Biswajit Ghosh, Nabajug Prakashani, Dhaka, 2012, p 85] Subsequently, 'the Danish authorities seized some 1,700/1,800 copies of the booklets from the Christian missionaries like Kerry and others, and handed over them to the Kolkata based council of the British governor general.' [ibid]

HOWEVER, the Christian missionaries in question, particularly those belonging to Clapham Sect, had continuously been demanding government permission for proselytisation 'in order to rescue the Indians from moral degradation' and 'civilise the savage India'. 
In the process, Joshua Marshman (1760-1837), another Christian missionary, published a booklet, Advantages of Christianity in Promoting the Establishment and the Prosperity of the British Government in India, in 1813, arguing that he was 'fully convinced that one of the most effectual means of perpetrating the British dominion in India will be the calm and silent, but steady and constant, diffusion of Christian light among the natives.' [Joshua Marshman is cited in Amiya Kumar Samanta, Vidyasagar: Oupanibeshik Samaje Vidyasagarer Abasthan Samparke Alochana, Second edition, Progressive Publishers, Kolkata, 2012, p 203] Marshman explained: 'Every converted Hindu or Mussalman is necessarily the cordial friend of the British, on the ground of his own interest and security, for on the continuance of their empire in India, his very existence.' [ibid]
The colonialist British administration in London appeared to have been convinced by Marshman's argument and, therefore, removed the bar for the Christian missionaries to initiate the proselytisation process in India the same year. Besides, the government resolved to introduce 'proper education' in the colony for the 'religious and moral improvement' of the Indians.
In the process, the famous Hindu College was founded in Kolkata in January 1817 with a view to providing education to the 'sons of respectable Hindus, in the English and Indian languages and in the literature and science of Europe and Asia'. [Banglapedia: National Encyclopaedia of Bangladesh, Volume V, Asiatic Society of Bangladesh, Dhaka, 2003, Sub Verbo: Hindu College] Many a student of the Hindu College came under the charming intellectual influence of a secularist Anglo-Indian teacher, Henry Louise Vivian Derozio (1809-1831), and subsequently formed a group called the Young Bengal, the members of which used to denounce Hinduism publicly. While some members of the Young Bengal left Hinduism for Christianity, the case of Krishna Mohan Banerjee (1813-1885) being a famous one, the others publicly disregarded various Hindu religious practices, for example, removal of 'sacred thread' by Rantanu Lahiri (1838-1898), refusal to 'swear by the holy Ganges water' by Rasik Krisna Mallic (1810-1858), rejection of 'marrying child bride' by Radhanath Sikdar (1813-1870), so on and so forth. Krishna Mohan Banerjee declared, 'We have attacked Hinduism and will preserve in attacking it until we seal our triumph.' [Krishna Mohan is cited in Amalesh Tripathi, Italir Reneiscience, Bangalir Sanskriti, Ananda Publishers Private Limited, Kolkata, 1994, p 52] In this regard, Shibnath Shasri (1847-1919) recollects that Madhab Chandra Mallic, another disciple of Derozio, wrote in a monthly called Athenium: 'If there is anything that we hate from the bottom of our heart, it is Hinduism.' [Shibnath Shasri, Ramtanu Lahiri O Tatkalin Bangasamaj, (ed.) Biswajit Ghosh, Nabajug Prakashani, Dhaka, 2012, p 95] Besides, consumption of alcohol, a sin in the eyes of Hinduism, appeared to be a means of visible protest against the Hindu orthodoxy. Shastri, who was a student of the Hindu college, says, 'The one who could publicly drink alcohol defying the established social and religious norms used to be considered as the vanguards of the reformists those days. [ibid, p 94] Moreover, many an ordinary Hindu in and around Kolkata those days started getting converted to Christianity, due to the religious efforts of the Christian missionaries. 
The orthodox sections of the Hindu elite reacted sharply to the phenomenon, while the thinking sections of the same elite resolved to stand in the way of the trend of conversions by way of introducing reforms into their own religion. They, therefore, not only took up the responsibility of translating the 'holy' books of Hinduism from Sanskrit to the intelligible languages, but also made efforts to interpret Hinduism in the modern light and make them accessible to the general Hindu public. For that to happen they needed a language suitable to the Hindu public - English literate and non-English literate alike. Hence came the initiative for creating a modern Bangla prose from the English literate Hindu elite, Raja Rammuhan Roy being the pioneer. 
Rammuhan Roy, who had written grammar of Bangla in English in 1836 to teach the Europeans Bangla, now wrote the Gouriya Baykoron, grammar of Bangla in Bangla in 1833, which came to be known as the first grammar book based on the inert nature of the Bangla language.
Ramkamal Sen (1783-1844), an English-educated devoted Hindu, who rose to become the secretary of the Asiatic Society of Bengal, compiled a Bangla-English dictionary in 1825. Earlier, in 1820, he wrote a textbook, Hitopodesh, 'sermons' in other words, for the Hindu schoolchildren to pursue the young boys to remain committed to Hindu religion and morality. Later, while on the managing committee of the Hindu College, Sen managed to oust Derozio from the educational institution. However, his Bangla-English dictionary substantially contributed to the development of Bangla prose.
That the orthodox section of the English literate Hindu elite was out to save its youths from the increasing threat of proselytisation, was also evident in the intellectual activism of Ramkamal Sen's contemporary, Raja Radhakanta Dev (1784-1867), who was also actively involved with the management of the Hindu college for three decades. Professor Muhammad Abdul Hai writes that Radhakanta Dev 'made various efforts to save the members of the Young Bengal from the influence of Christian missionaries'. [Muhammad Abdul Hai and Syed Ali Ahsan, Bangla Sahityer Itibritto: Adhunik Jug (History of Bengali Literature: Modern Period), Ahmed Publishing House, Dhaka, Eleventh print, 2010, p 59] In a bid to regenerate traditional morality among the Hindu Bengalis, Dev, while on the Kolkata School Book Society in 1818, published Nitikotha, a compilation of 31 stories on morality, in Bangla. Besides, he also published Bangla Shikhkha Grantha, a book on Bangla, in 1821. Moreover, he founded Gauriya Samaj in 1823 to work towards the development of the Bangla language.
While Radhakanta Dev's intellectual efforts to save the Hindu youths from proselytisation to Christianity helped develop the modern Bangla prose, it is important to note that he was opposed to the idea of reforming Hindu religion as was desired by Rammuhan Roy. Instead, Radhakanta Dev founded an association of orthodox Hindus, Dharma Sabha, to oppose the liberal religious reforms preached by Brahma Samaj that Rammuhan Roy founded in 1828 as a monotheistic Hindu reforms movement. It was Radhakanta Dev and his Dharma Sabha that appealed to the British House of Commons, unsuccessfully though, for repealing of the ordinance that barred the Hindu rite of burning alive the Satis. [Krishna Kripalini, Dwarkanath Thakur: Bismrita Pathikrit, National Book Trust - India, New Delhi, 1984, p 46] Understandably, despite Dev's significant contributions to the development of the Bangla prose, his language remained highly Sanskritised, for he also 'did a lot for the expansion of Sanskrit education' those days. He compiled and published a seven-volume Sanskrit dictionary, Shabdakalpadrum, between 1818 and 1851. 
However, Raja Rammuhan Roy wrote and published as many as 30 books and pamphlets in Bangla. Except the Bangla grammar, all his books, particularly including Vedanta Grantha and Vedanta Sar published in 1815, were dedicated to the interpretation of, and polemics on, various aspects of Hindu philosophy. In his efforts to reform Hinduism, Roy wrote many a pamphlet on the 'irrationalities' of certain inhumane Hindu practices of the day, such as burning alive the widows along with their expired husbands. 
Besides, in order to arrest the growing influence of Christianity among the educated Hindu youths, he wrote a few pamphlets, such as Precepts of Jesus, attacking the Trinity theory of Christianity. Rammuhan's critique of the Trinity theory not only made many an English-literate Hindu youth think twice before getting converted into Christianity, but also made one of his English friends, William Adam, convert to the monotheistic belief system, which, in turn, exposed Rammuhan to the wraths of the Srirampur-based Baptist missionaries believing in the Trinity.
Rammuhan wrote most of his pamphlets, as mentioned earlier, in Bangla. In carrying out his religious reforms programme, particularly by way of presenting monotheistic interpretations of Hinduism before the people, Rammuhan Roy undertook the painstaking job of developing the 'yet-unformed' Bangla prose. In this regard, Rabindranath Tagore observed in an English language article in 1928: 'Ram Mohun had to hew out the way, in strenuous struggle, across the unexplored region of Bengali prose, when he was engaged in developing the potentialities of his own language for the self-expression of the people of Bengal. When eager to illuminate the Bengali mind with the philosophy of spirit, he did not shrink from difficult endeavour of expounding the Vedanta in the yet-unformed Bengali prose to a reading public, some of whose learned men ventured to scoff at the Upanishads as spurious and considered Mahanirvana Tantra to be a scripture fabricated by Ram Mohun Roy himself." [Rabindranath Tagore, 'Ram Mohun Roy', Rabindra Oeuvre, Rabindrasamagra (Complete Works of Rabindranath Tagore), Volume 20, Pathak Shamabesh, Dhaka, 2013, p 1212] Besides, 'reading of Veda, worshiping of and prayers to Brahma and religious preaching at the Samaj were being conducted in the Bangla language.' [It was Dwarkanath Thakur who 'advised' Rammuhan Roy to conduct worships, prayers and preaching at Brahma Samaj in Bangla. See, Krishna Kripalini, Dwarkanath Thakur: Bismrita Pathikrit, National Book Trust - India, New Delhi, 1984, p 43] In the process, Roy not only 'infused significant amount of gravity into the Bangla language, enabling it to contain serious thoughts and polemical ideas', but also 'brought to the fore, inadequately though, the language's natural rhythm by using various punctuation marks.' [Muhammad Abdul Hai and Syed Ali Ahsan, Bangla Sahityer Itibritto: Adhunik Jug (History of Bengali Literature: Modern Period), Ahmed Publishing House, Dhaka, Eleventh print, 2010, p 57] Evidently, Rammuhan Roy produced a huge amount of polemical religious and philosophical literature in the Bangla language, but perhaps due to the fact that he analysed a lot of Hindu religious philosophy written in Sanskrit, his Bangla remained heavily Sanskritised.
That Rammuhan Roy's Brahma Samaj movement, or in other words, the process of re-interpretation of Hinduism in Bangla with special emphasis on the inherent monotheism of ancient Hindu religious tradition, had significantly served the religious purpose of halting the wave of conversion of the English-educated Hindu youths to Christianity, and their tendency to disrespect Hinduism, gets evident in an observation made by Rabindranath Tagore in 1889. Tagore writes: 
'With the first touch of English education, the Bengali youth started getting extremely anti-national. They found it to be moral responsibility to eat beef, and considered the followers of the ancient Hindu religion to be synonymous with the four-footed animals. Meanwhile, the Brahma faith propagated by great Rammuhan Roy slowly started spreading roots in the country. The subsequently revealed fact that a pure monotheism had existed in our country in the ancient times became the prime inspiration for [the English-educated youths] to respect the national past.' [Rabindranath Tagore, 'Nabyabanger Andolan' (The neo-Bengal movement), Rabindrashamagra (Complete Works of Rabindranath Tagore), Volume 17, Pathak Shamabesh, Dhaka, 2013, p 466] 

HOWEVER, in carrying forward the reforms movement of Brahma Samaj, Rammuhan Roy got multi-dimensional support of Dwarkanath Thakur (1794-1846) and his son Debendranath Thakur (1817-1905), who in 1839 formed Tattwaranjini Sabha, later renamed Tattwabodhini Sabha, to 'disseminate the knowledge of Upanishads and promotion of religious inquiry' in society. The largest and most influential cultural organisation of the educated Hindus of Bengal, until it was defunct in 1854, Tattwabodhini Sabha attracted many rich, educated, and influential Hindus as its members. Along with running a Tattwabodhini Pathshala (school) and compiling as well as distributing religious scriptures, the Sabha used to publish a monthly, Tattwabodhini Patrika, which became the 'principal organ' of Brahma Samaj. [The Tattwabodhini Patrika used to be published in five languages from different centres of India - in Bangla from Kolkata, in Tamil and English from Madras and in Hindi and Urdu from Bareilly.] Influential contemporary reformist intellectuals of the Hindu community, such as Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar (1820-1891), Rajendra Lal Mitra (1824-1891) and Rajnarayan Basu (1826-1899) were associated with Tattwabodhini Patrika, edited by Akshmay Kumar Datta (1820-1886), since its inception in 1843. The prime objective of the Patrika was, in the words of Debendranath Thakur, the 'nestor of the Brahma Samaj', 'the propagation of the Vedic literature and preaching of the worship of Param Brahma'. Besides, the Patrika used to oppose the Christian practice of conversion of the Hindus by the missionaries. For example, it 'condemned the conversion of Umesh Chandra Sarkar and his wife' in 1845.[http://www.thebrahmosamaj.net/founders/debendranath.html, accessed on July 7, 2013] Moreover, the Patrika used to write 'articles supporting female education, widow-remarriage, against intemperance, denouncing polygamy', et cetera. The contents of the Patrika also included articles on contemporary science and philosophy.
Thus, in the process of combating proselytisation and propagating the monotheistic Brahma Dharma to protect Hinduism from the onslaught of Christianity, those associated with Tattwabodhini Patrika played a substantive role in developing the Bangla prose. 
Editor of the Patrika for 12 years, Akshay Kumar Datta wrote quite a good number of books on moral philosophy, philology and science in Bangla. In his two volumes of Bahjyabastur Sahit Manab Prakrtir Sambandha, Datta discussed the relations of external components with the human nature, while his Dharmaniti discussed the principled way of leading human life. In his two volumes of Bharatvarsiya Upasak Sampraday, Datta offered sociological analysis on the histories of all categories of Aryan societies, Indo-European and Indo-Iranian and Indian included, and showed that the linguistic and religious emotions plays the determining role in shaping the social thoughts of any populace. Besides, his three volumes of Charupath, textbooks for schoolchildren, are said to have contributed to the spread of scientific knowledge in the society of Bengal. 
Understandably, the Bangla prose started getting capable of handling various subjects ranging from history to science to ethics to linguistics in the hands of Akshay Kumar Datta. But, again, his prose remained Sanskritised. 
In this phase of the history of the development of Bangla prose appeared Ishwar Chandra Sharma, popularly known as Vidyasagar, the ocean of knowledge, with his multi-dimensional social and intellectual commitments. The most principled reformist among the English-educated Hindus of his time, Ishwar Chandra was a middle-roader, with the radical Young Bengal group on the one side and the orthodox Hindu elite on the other. Born into a Brahmin family and personally an agnostic [Amiya Kumar Samanta, Vidyasagar: Oupanibeshik Samaje Vidyasagarer Abasthan Samparke Alochana, Second edition, Progressive Publishers, Kolkata, 2012, p 272], Ishwar Chandra cared little for Hinduism's age-old dogmas. He fought vehemently against many dogmatic practices of his contemporary Hindu society, such as multi-marriages of the Brahmins, burning of the Hindu widows alive along with their dead husbands and the custom of barring re-marriage of Hindu widows. Orthodox Hindus kept such anti-human practices in vogue in the name of various scriptures of the dogmatic versions of Hinduism. While fighting against such practices, Ishwar Chandra, who had scholarly command over Sanskrit language and literature, interpreted and re-interpreted the Hindu religious texts in Bangla to refute the orthodox arguments 'supporting' the inhuman practices in the name of religious doctrines. In the process, he wrote a large number of books, pamphlets, essays and articles in Bangla to mobilise informed public opinion against the Hindu religious dogmas. 
The reformist social and intellectual activism of the great man contributed not only decisively to the abolition of such inhuman social and religious practices, but also greatly to the progress of Bangla, as he infused 'literary dynamism' into its prose. Before Bankim Chandra Chattapadhya (1838-1894) and Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941), it was Ishwar Chandra Sharma who brought in profoundly qualitative changes in the forms and contents of the Bangla language and literature. In this regard, Professor Abdul Hai writes that 'Bangla language remains Vidyasagar's best of contributions', for 'it was his single-handed efforts that gave Bangla prose its dynamic lucidity and transformed it to an easy-flowing literary language'. [Muhammad Abdul Hai and Syed Ali Ahsan, Bangla Sahityer Itibritto: Adhunik Jug (History of Bengali Literature: Modern Period), Ahmed Publishing House, Dhaka, Eleventh print, 2010, p 68]
Ishwar Chandra wrote a large number of essays, articles, satires on religious issues affecting social lives of the time, and published as well as edited more than forty books, including school textbooks on subjects ranging from history to language, literature, ethics and biographies. Besides, he wrote plays in light of the famous works of English and Sanskrit playwrights, Shakespeare and Kalidas for instance, composed poems and compiled a lexicon of Bangla words - Shabdamanjuri. In the process of his literary works, Ishwar Chandra was the first one to use the almost proper punctuation marks in Bangla sentences and introduce indigenous idioms into the language. Thus, as Sukumar Sen observes, 'Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar upgraded the road of Bangla prose, constructed through translations, polemics and textbooks, to the highway of Bangla literature'.[Sukumar Sen, Bangala Sahityer Itihas (History of Bangla Literature), Volume III, Ninth impression, Ananda Publishers, Kolkata, 1418 (Bangla calendar), p 34] 
Rabindranath Tagore poetically termed Ishwar Chandra in 1938 the 'morning lustre that brought in the first ray of hope' in the Bangla language and literature, and observed that it was Ishwar Chandra who 'inscribed the first emblem of triumph on the forehead of Bengal', for he freed the language from the 'captivity of darkness' and thus, 'with the inauguration of a new chapter' of the language, 'delighted the woods of the eastern horizon of an overwhelmed sky.' [Rabindranath Tagore, Rabindrashamagra (Complete Works of Rabindranath Tagore), Volume 18, Pathak Samabesh, Dhaka, 2012, p 13. Tagore composed the poem, Ishwarchandra Vidyasagar, in 1936. The lines of the poem quoted here is the paraphrase of the poetic work.] Tagore also observed that 'Vidhyasagar softened' the Bangla language 'to some extent'. [Rabindranath Tagore, letter to Bijoychandra Majumder, Rabindrashamagra (Complete Works of Rabindranath Tagore), Volume 16, Pathak Samabesh, Dhaka, 2012, p 414] 
Despite so much contributions made by Ishwar Chandra into the progress of the Bangla language and literature, his prose with a lot of tatsama words, and his syntax based on Sanskrit grammar, remained Sanskritised. However, a non-practising Brahmin, Iswar Chandra never in his life displayed any contempt against any religion, nor did he hurt the religious sentiment of the people of any faith, let alone the Islamic one. Professor Serajul Islam Chowdhury rightly observes, 'There was no malice in Vidyasagar against the Muslims. He was beyond religious communalism.' [Serajul Islam Chowdhury, Unish Shataker Bangla Gadyer Samajik Baykaran (Social grammar of Bangla prose in the Nineteenth century), Dhaka University, Dhaka, 1982, p 37] 
It is now quite clear that the Bangla prose developed in the 19th century by the English-educated Hindu elite, mainly through the path of social and religious reform movements, forced upon them primarily by the European missionaries enthusiastic about converting Hindus of India to Christianity. The Bangla prose, developed in the hands of the great reformers in question, was, therefore, bound to remain influenced by the Sanskrit language and grammar, because the Hindu religious texts that the Bangla prose writers interpreted and reinterpreted were written in Sanskrit.
The Muslims were quite late, compared to their Hindu counterparts, to start writing Bangla prose under the colonial rule of the British. Thanks to the mutual political mistrust between the British colonial rulers and the Muslim elite of Bengal, the latter stayed away from English education for almost a century in the first place, which, in turn, kept the Muslims unaware about the English prose that flourished through contemporary essays and novels dealing with social, political and cultural concerns of the English middle classes of the time. Secondly, the initial proselytisation attempts of the Christian missionaries in Bengal did not receive any significant response, as they did from the Hindus, from the Muslim communities for various reasons - the impact of a couple of socio-politico-religious reformist movements of the Muslims, such as Faraizi and Wahabi movements, in the same century being a major one. Muslim writers, therefore, did not require those days to write polemical books and pamphlets to defend Islam, as the Hindu reformist required to defend their religion, against the religious aggression of Christianity.
However, the Christian missionaries started making inroads into Muslim society in the last decades of the 19th century. Professor Abdul Hai says, 'During the last decades of the nineteenth century, Muslims started getting converted themselves into Christianity in different districts of Bangladesh. Lack of education, inadequacy of conviction in Islam and temptations for material interests motivated the Muslims in question to accept the rulers' religion.' [Muhammad Abdul Hai and Syed Ali Ahsan, Bangla Sahityer Itibritto: Adhunik Jug (History of Bengali Literature: Modern Period), Eleventh print,Ahmed Publishing House, Dhaka, 2010, p 99]
Under such circumstances, when Hindus were exposed to proselytisation in the beginning of the 19th century, Raja Rammuhan Roy came forward with the interpretation and re-interpretation of Hindu religious texts in Bangla to protect Hinduism from the onslaught of Christianity in Bengal. In the last decades of the century, came forward Munshi Mohammad Meherullah (1861-1907], a self-educated devoted Muslim from Jessore of East Bengal, to combat the religious aggression of the Christian missionaries. 
Munshi Meherullah appeared as 'saviour of Islam in Bengal' in 1893 with a long researched essay, Isayee Ba Khristani Dhoka Bhanjan (Solving the Christian puzzle), refuting the content of an article, 'Asal Qur'an Kothai?' (Where is the original Quran?), by a Muslim-turned-Christian clergyman, Padri Jamiruddin, published in 1892. Padri Jamiruddin ultimately got defeated in the polemics with Munshi Meherullah, and subsequently re-embraced Islam and became Munshi Jamiruddin. [Munshi Mohammad Jamiruddin (1870-1930) was born into Islam, but he got converted to Christianity at the age of 17 by a Christian clergyman in 1887 and came to be known as Padri Jamiruddin. Reconverted to Islam by Munshi Meherullah, he published a book, Shresthanabi Hazrat Mohammad (SM) O Padrir Dhonka Bhanjan (The greatest prophet Mohammad and refuting deception of the Christian clergy), in 1917.] Later, he devoted his life in preaching Islam together with his religious guru Munshi Meherullah.
Munshi Meherullah wrote at least 10 books between 1886 and 1908, [The list of Munshi Meherullah's books include, 1. Isayee Ba Khristani Dhoka Bhanjan, 2. Khrishtiya Dharmer Asarata (Hollowness of Christianity), 3. Meherul Islam, 4. Bidhaba Ganjana O Bishad Bhandar (Pains and humiliations of the widows), 5. Pandenama, 6. Hindu Dharma Rahasya O Devlila (Mystery of Hinduism and Deva's Lila), 7. Khristan-Musalman Tarkajuddha (Debates between Christians and Muslims), 8. Rodde Khrishtian O Dlaliul Islam, 9. Babu Ishanchandra Mandal and Charles French er Eslam Grahan (Embracing of Islam by Babu Ishanchandra Mandal and Charles French), and 10. Slokmala (Compilation of verses)], most of them glorifying Islam and critiquing Christianity, in order to rejuvenate the spirit of Islam among the Muslims of Bengal and foil the European missionaries' attempt to convert them to Christianity. The language of his texts on religious discourses were reported to have been very lucid, easy for the ordinary Muslim villagers having hardly any formal education to understand, while he used many Arabic and Persian words that he had learnt in the process of his self-education about Islam. 

THE means that Munshi Meherullah and his converted disciple Munshi Jamiruddin primarily adopted to achieve the objective was oratory - public oratory. He did not have any other alternative; most of the Muslims in rural Bengal, who had earlier been converted to Islam from the lowest rank of the caste-ridden Hinduism, obviously for respite from indignity and caste oppression, had continued to remain poor and, therefore, uneducated, even under several hundred years of Muslim rule of Bengal. The conditions of the lower castes of the Hindus were no different under British rule. Not surprisingly, thus, the-then director of the Public Instruction in Bengal 'expressed doubts in 1871' if there really were 'much differences regarding education between the two great sections', Hindu and Muslim 'cultivators', of the region. Rafiuddin Ahmed says 'just as the cultivating classes of Hindus - the Namasudras, Pods and Rajbansis - could not afford any education, neither could the Muslim peasant.' [Rafiuddin Ahmed, The Bengal Muslims (1871-1906): A Quest for Identity, Second edition, Oxford University Press, New York, 1988, p 139] The poor rural Muslims had hardly any command over any written language - Bangla, Arabic or Persian, let alone English. Munshi Meherullah and his disciple, therefore, would visit villages after villages in different districts of Bengal and sermonised ordinary Muslims in public gatherings, thereby achieving tremendous successes in stopping Muslims from being proselytised to Christianity. Professor Abdul Hai, writes: 'Meherullah proved to be the Rammuhan of the Muslims of Bengal - Rammuhan saved the Hindus from being converted to Christianity in the early Nineteenth century and Meherullah saved the Muslims from being proselytised to Christianity in the late Nineteenth century.' [Muhammad Abdul Hai and Syed Ali Ahsan, Bangla Sahityer Itibritto: Adhunik Jug (History of Bengali Literature: Modern Period), Eleventh print, Ahmed Publishing House, Dhaka, 2010, p 13 and 99]
Munshi Meherullah, like Rammuhan Roy in the case of Hinduism, was the pioneer in rejuvenating the Islamic spirit among the Muslims of Bengal. However, it took organised intellectual efforts by others as well, to stop the wave of Muslims being converted by Christian missionaries. In case of the Hindus, it was Tattwabodhini Patrika of Debendranath Thakur and a group of writers associated with the periodical, which contributed to the development of Bangla in the process of their intellectual struggle against the influence of Christianity. In case of the Muslims, it was Sudhakar, a Bangla weekly published in 1889, which made the organised intellectual efforts in Bangla to defend Islam by way of interpreting its philosophy on the one hand and propagating the glory of Islam on the other. In the process, the Muslim writers were shaping a different kind of Bangla prose, Arabicised-Persianised, which was different from the Sanskritised prose written by the Hindu intellectuals.
Literature for the Sudhakar group was a means of infusing a sense of confidence in the Muslim society of Bengal about the inherent strength of Islam, enlightening the Bengali Muslims about the great contributions that Islam has made in the development of human civilisation and inspiring them to create their own literature in their own mother tongue - Bangla. In order to achieve their cherished objectives, members and sympathisers of the Shudhakar group not only projected in their literary works the great contributions of the Muslim thinkers in the progress of human civilisation, but also made intellectual efforts to refute the demeaning propaganda against Islam and its followers by the rival religious communities of Bengal, such as the Christian missionaries and the orthodox Hindu revivalists. The organisers of the group included, among others, Sheikh Abdur Rahim (1859-1931), who was the founder publisher and editor of Sudhakar, Moulvi Meyorajuddin Ahmad, who was a professor of Arabic and Persian at the Kolkata Saint Javier's College, Pundit Reajuddin Ahmad Mashhadi (1859-1918) who used to teach Bangla and Sanskrit at the Kolkata Aliya Madrassah, and Munshi Mohammad Reajuddin Ahmed (1862-1933), who edited a good number of periodicals of the time.
Sheikh Abdur Rahim came to be known in the Muslim society as the 'light in the darkness of the Muslim Bangla literature in the Nineteenth century'. Rahim wrote, side by side with editing periodicals, a number of books, including a huge one, Hazrat Mohammader Jiboncharita O Dharmaniti, elaborating on the life and religious principles of the prophet of Islam in 1887. His major literary works include two volumes of Islam Itibritta (History of Islam) in 1910, two volumes of Islamniti (Principles of Islam) in 1925 and 1927 respectively, Eslam Tatwa (Theory of Islam) in 1939. Besides, he published many other books on various obligations of Islamic life, such as Namaz, Roja, Hajj, etc and the right ways to meet the obligations.
Pundit Reajuddin Ahmad Mashhadi wrote several books on issues related to the social, political and religious interests of the Muslims in general and Muslims of Bengal in particular. His first printed book Samaj O Sangskarak (Society and Reformer), published in 1889, was about the life, ideas and activism of anti-colonial Islamic thinker of global reputation Jamaluddin Afghani. Explaining the objective behind writing Samaj O Sangskarak, Pundit Mashhadi wrote at the beginning of the book: 'The rival communities of Islam are out these days to demean the Muslim community by way of distorting history. The Muslims have been portrayed as coward, anarchist, ignorant, incapable rational thinking about the present, extravagant, etc, thanks to the deliberate propaganda... Following years of thoughts, I have decided to publish the life and works of a great Muslim reformist in order to rescue the Muslims from such attacks, to narrate objectively the present conditions of the Muslims and caution them about their possible danger.' [Reajuddin Ahmad Mashhadi is cited in Wakil Ahmed, Unish Shatake Bangali Mussalmaner Chinta O Chetanar Dhara (The thoughts and ideas of Bengali Muslims in the 19th century), Bangla Academy, Dhaka, 1997, p 254] The British rulers were always afraid of Jamaluddin Afghani's anti-colonialist intellectual activism, and banned Mashhadi's book on the moulana's thoughts and ideas.
Mashhadi wrote another book, Agnikukkut (Fireball) the same year, which was a critique of a literary piece of Mir Musharaf Husain that pleaded for Muslim tolerance towards angry Hindu reaction to cow slaughtering. In Agnikukkut, Mashhadi showed that the Hindu reaction to cow slaughtering by Muslims was rather irrational, for the Hindus of the Vedic period used to slaughter cows to entertain guests and religious saints. In this regard, he accused Musharaf Husain of 'appeasing the Hindu readers'. 
Munshi Reajuddin Ahmed, who was an associate of Sheikh Abdur Rahim of the Shudhakar group, also wrote a few books on Islam, glorifying the life and works of its prophet and projecting the successes of Muslim rulers. He published Hazrat Mohammad Mostafar Jibancharita (Life of Hazrat Mohammad Mostafa) in 1927. Earlier, he published two volumes of Greece-Turaska Juddho (War between Greece and Turkey) in 1899 and 1909 respectively, glorifying the heroism of Turkish king Sultan Gazi Abdul Hamid Khan who defeated Greece in the war. Reajuddin Ahmed also edited for some time the periodicals called Musalman, Naba-Sudhakar and Soltan. 

BESIDES the Sudhakar group, there were some other Islamic pundits, such as Moulana Muniruzzaman Islamabadi (1875-1950), who engaged themselves in analysing as well as interpreting Islamic faith in the mother tongue to 'cleanse the faith of Islam' from the influences of Hinduism and Christianity.
Muniruzzaman Islamabadi was a highly politicised moulana, who was active in the anti-colonial movement led by the Indian National Congress [Moulana Muniruzzaman came from Chittagong, once known as Islamabad. Hence, he is known as Islamabadi, which has nothing to do with Pakistan's capital Islamabad.]. He was also associated with the Pan-Islamic Khelafat movement of India, and founded the Bengal chapter of Jamiyate Olamae Hind. [The Jamiyate Olamae Hind had resolved in its Kolkata conference in 1925 that the 'Muslims have to continue to fight for independence, even if the non-Muslim communities abandon the demand for Swaraj.]
Islamabadi devoted his intellectual energy, side by side with politically fighting against British colonialism, to combat the deliberate demonisation of Muslim rule in India by Western historians and their local Hindu collaborators, and thus provide the readers with the 'correct narratives' of history, vis-à-vis the 'incorrect' versions provided by the communalist Hindu authors, in Bangla. In this regard, Islamabadi's book, Bharate Musalman Sabhyata (Muslim civilisation in India) published in 1914, still remains a testament of his intellectual efforts in Bangla.
The moulana's objective to project the past glory of Islam, its contributions to the progress of human civilisation and thus inspiring the Muslims of Bengal to change their lots got manifested in publications like Bhugol Shastre Musalman (Muslim contributions in geographical science), Khagol Shastre Musalman (Muslim contributions in astronomy), Korane Swadhinatar Bani (Messages of freedom in the Qur'an), Moslem Birangana (Heroic Muslim women), Bharate Islam Prachar (Spreading of Islam in India), Musalman Amale Hindur Adhikar (Rights of the Hindus in Muslim Rule), Turashker Sultan (Sultan of Turkey), Aurangzeb, Nejamuddin Aulia, etc. 
The moulana concludes his Bhugol Shastre Musalman by saying: 'The Muslim readers! Would you now, on reading the essay, shed one or two drops of tears after realising the devotion of your predecessors [towards knowledge]? We are so worthless children of our predecessors that we are now shameless enough to beg for invaluable knowledge achieved by our predecessors that we had once handed over to the others out of ignorance.' [Moulana Muniruzzaman Islamabadi, 'Bhugol Shastre Musalman', Moulana Muniruzzaman Islamabadi Rachanavali (Works of Moulana Muniruzzaman Islamabadi), Volume I, (ed.) Moniruzzaman, Bangla Academy, Dhaka, 1993, p 131]
Referring to the uneducated mullahs' reservation about learning geography on the baseless ground that the subject was created by the 'Kafir English', Islamabadi writes: 'We wouldn't be able to change our conditions, let alone make progress, until we would take the trouble to review out history and acquire essential knowledge about geography, science, industry, commerce and agriculture, et cetera.' [ibid]
Moulana Islamabadi used to inspire Muslim youths to work for the 'national independence' from the British colonial rule, arguing that patriotism is a very important component of Islamic faith. Addressing a youth conference in Chittagong in April 1930, the moulana said: 'The [Muslim] youths must work towards generating patriotism in society. Islam has inspired all to love their motherlands, while the pious Muslim scholars have observed that the love for motherland is an inherent component of the Islamic faith.' [See Moulana Muniruzzaman Islamabadi's presidential address at the Chattagram Moslem Juba-Sammilani on April 21, 1930, ibid, p 317.] Not surprisingly, Moulana Islamabadi enjoyed the affection of the leaders of the Sudhakar group.
The brief almanac of the intellectual activism of the Sudhakar group clearly shows that the writers and journalists in question had a couple of clear objectives: defending Islam against its demonisation by the colonialist European Christian historians and the vilification of the Muslims by the local communalist Hindu intellectuals, and, in the process, enlightening the contemporary Muslims of Bengal with Islamic principles and inducing in them a sense of pride about the glorious tradition and inherent strength of Islam, and thus saving them from being converted to Christianity by the European missionaries. To meet the objectives, all these authors wrote books, pamphlets, essays and articles on Islamic philosophy, Islamic history and traditions, etc in Bangla. Thus was created a huge body of Islamic literature in Bangla since mid-18th century.
Not only books, the contents of the journals published and edited by the Kolkata-based Muslims in the last quarter of the 19th century shows that the Muslim writers of Bengal mostly concentrated on Islam and its glories in West Asia and India. Rafiuddin Ahmed notes, 'Of the articles published in the major Bengali Muslim journals between 1873 and 1900 about 29 per cent dealt with Islam in the Middle East, another seven per cent with the glories of Islam in India and 32 percent with related subjects; only six per cent had any reference to Bengali language and culture.' [Rafiuddin Ahmed, op-cit, p 111] The 'remaining 26 per cent, or so, were concerned with general subjects, without any particular reference to local or religious issues'. [ibid, Endnote number 23, p 222]
However, none of the munshis and moulanas who came forward in the 19th century to write books in Bangla with a view to defending Islam and saving Muslims from being converted to Christianity was English-educated. The most of them were pundits in Arabic and Persian language and literature. Subsequently, the Bangla prose they had written was bound to be different from the one written by the Hindu authors. While the prose of the Hindu writers got generally Sanskritised and free from even the familiar words of Arabic and Persian origin, the prose of the Muslim writers became generally Arabicised and Persianised, with a clear tendency of avoiding words of Sanskrit origin as much as possible. Thus, in terms of its syntax, semantics as well as contents, the Bangla prose evolved in the 19th century through two distinct paths - Hinduised and Islamised - contributing towards making the political and economic wall taller between the Hindus and Muslims of Bengal. The 19th century trend of the communal linguistic division of Bangla language and literature continued to get stronger in the 20th century.
Linguistic and literary activism for Hindu political revivalism
WHILE Raja Rammuhan Roy's Brahma-ism and the Tattabodhini group's supplementary literary intellectual activism succeeded to a significant extent to stop conversion of Hindus into Christianity, which in turn substantially contributed to the development of the modern Bangla prose, the literary activism of Bankim Chandra Chattapadhya (1838-1894) ushered in a socio-political movement for Hindu revivalism in Bengal on the one hand and ensured a qualitative change towards the progress of the Bangla prose on the other. 
In his efforts to develop the Bangla prose, Bankim Chandra started from the point where Ishwar Chandra Sharma had left off. Sukumar Sen aptly notes that 'Bankim started his journey of developing Bangla prose along the paths of [Ishwar Chandra] Vidyasagar', which implies, along with other things, the use of a lot of tatsama, i.e. Sanskrit words, use of compound words, and syntax based on Sanskrit grammar. [Sukumar Sen, Bangala Sahitey Gadya, Ananda Publishers, Kolkata, 1998, p 77]

IN HIS long linguistic and literary journey, Bankim evolved his own style, with equilibrium in the use of tatsama, i.e. Sanskrit words, and tadbhaba, i.e. words derived from Sanskrit, the use of reduced number of compound words, and syntax consistent with the standard colloquial practised in and around Kolkata. [Sukumar Sen, Bangala Sahitye Gadya, Ananda Publishers, Kolkata, 1998, p 109] 
'Successful' Bangla novels written in English fashion remains one of Bankim's fundamental contributions to the development of the Bangla language and literature. He took Bangla, particularly its prose, to an unprecedented height. In fact, Bankim remains the most important literary figure in the history of Bangla prose between Ishwar Chandra Sharma and Rabindranath Tagore. Giving a poetic 'ovation' to Bankim in 1936, Tagore rightly observed that he 'would continue to live as long as Bengal exists on earth', for in Bankim's possession was the literary ingredients of the new era to come, while he provided the Bangla language and literature with the 'torch' it required 'to proceed through the darkness of night' and 'removed the inertia' of the language'. [Rabindranath Tagore, Rabindrashamagra (Complete Works of Rabindranath Tagore), Volume 18, Pathak Samabesh, Dhaka, 2012, p 13. Tagore composed the poem, Bankimchandra, in 1936. The lines of the poem quoted here is the paraphrase of the poetic work.] In praise of Bankim, Kazi Nazrul Islam (1899-1976), famous among the Bengalis as the 'rebel poet', wrote in an article: 'If Rabindranath [Tagore] is the sun of our Indian sky, inflicted with the darkness of misfortune, Bankim Chandra appeared as the hope of the dawn - the morning star.' [Kazi Nazrul Islam, 'Bankimchandra', Nazrul Rachanabali (Collected works of Kazi Nazrul Islam), Volume XI, Nazrul Birth Centenary edition, Bangla Academy, Dhaka, 2012, p 291]
Ahmed Sofa says that Bankim is 'one of the greatest children of Bangla, for it was in his hands that Bangla prose reached its maturity, became lucid and dynamic enough to contain multidimensional human feelings.' [Ahmed Sofa, 'Banglar Sahityadarsha (Literary ideology of Bengal) in Morshed Shafiul Hasan (ed.), Ahmad Sofa: Nirbachita Prabandha, (Selected essays of Ahmed Sofa), Maola Brothers, Dhaka, 2002, p 84] 
Bankim's linguistic and literary exercises not only developed the Bangla language and literature but also substantively contributed to shape the politics of India in general, and that of Bengal in particular for decades to come. The philosophical direction of those developments, literary and political, unfortunately, was communalistic that helped divide the populace in question on religious lines. His literary and political influence continues to deeply affect the democratic polity of India. In this regard, it is worth noting that Bankim is equally respected, and his works idealised, by north Indian leaders and activists of Hindu fundamentalist politics today, as they were by the Hinduised 'anti-colonial terrorist movements' of Bengal in the early 20th century.
In the course of modernising the Bangla language and literature, Bankim found it important to express one's thoughts and feelings in clear and unambiguous terms. Again, to express 'clearly and completely' in Bangla, he rightly felt the importance to increase the vocabulary of the language, by way of liberally accepting words from different foreign languages. In his famous essay on Bangla, 'Bangala Bhasha', Bankim wrote in 1878: 'Things to be said have to be said clearly, and completely. To say clearly and completely, accept words from any language - English, Persian, Arabic, Sanskrit, rustic or sylvan, unless they are vulgar.'[Bankim Chandra Chattapadhya, 'Bangala Bhasha: Likhibar Bhasha' (Bangla: the written form), Bankim Rachanabali: Sahitya Samagra (Collected Works of Bankim: Collection of Essays), First Tuli-Kalam edition, Tuli- Kalam, Kolkata, 1393 BS (I986 Gregorian calendar), p 373]
Bankim apparently sounded liberal when he talked about accepting 'words from any language'. But, in reality, he was not, for he had particular preferences for Sanskrit. In the same essay, Bankim writes: 'Bangla is still an undeveloped language. It would, therefore, be necessary at times to borrow words from other languages. In that case, it is essential to borrow from the all-time lender Sanskrit. Sanskrit, in the first place, is the richest lender, which can provide form its rich vocabularies any word one needs. Secondly, Sanskrit words gel better with Bangla, for Bangla's bone, marrow, blood and flesh are made of Sanskrit.' [ibid, p 372] It is worth mentioning here that linguists, even Bengali linguists, are divided over the philological root of Bangla.
That Bankim, in the last instance, is opposed to the idea of borrowing even the naturalised words of Arabic and Persian origin found clear expression in his remark of appreciation for the language of Mir Musharaf Hossen - a contemporary Muslim litterateur, the syntax and semantics of whose Bangla prose was Sanskritised.
In praise of the prose style in Mir Mosharraf Hossain's Jamidar Drapan, published in 1873, Bankim said, 'there was no trace of Mussalmani Bangla in it, and the Bangla language of this Muslim author is purer than that of many a Hindu writer.' [Bankim Chandra Chattopadhya is cited in Serajul Islam Chowdhury, Bangaleer Jatiyatabad (Bengalis' Nationalism), The University Press Limited, Dhaka, 2000, p 28] Notably, Muslim prose writers of Bengal then used a large number of Arabic and Persian words getting naturalised in the Muslim societies over the period of a few centuries. But, for Bankim, the Bangla language is 'purer' when there was 'no trace of' anything 'Mussalmani' in it.
Understandably, Bankim did not accept the linguistic notion that the concept of 'purity' or 'impurity' of words/languages is fundamentally flawed. Syamacharan Gangapadhya/Ganguli, a linguist of Bengal, pointed out in an essay in 1887: 'Purism is radically unsound, and has its origin in a spirit of narrowness. In the free commingling of nations, there must be borrowing and giving. Can anything be more absurd than to think of keeping language pure, when blood itself cannot be kept pure? No human language has ever been perfectly pure. Infusion of foreign elements does, in the long run, enrich languages... Seeing then that languages, as men speak them, must be mixed, impure, heterogeneous; to reject words like garib (Ar. garib) and dag (Ar. dag) from books, on account of their foreign lineage would be most unreasonable. Current words of Persian and Arabic origin connect us Hindus of Bengal with Moosalman Bengalis, with the entire Hindustani speaking of population of India, and even with Persian and Arabs. Is it wise to speak to diminish points of contact with a large section of our fellow countrymen, and with kindred and neighbouring races, with whom we must have intercourse, in order that we may draw closer to our Sanskrit speaking ancestors? [Shyamcharan Gangapadhya, 'Bengali, Spoken and Written', in E. Lethbridge (ed.) Calcutta Review, Volume LXV, 1877, pp 405-406. Also reprinted in Annadashankar Roy and others (ed.), Akademi Patrika, Third issue, Pashchim Bangla Akademi, Pashchimbanga Sarkar, Kolkata, May, 1999, pp 22-23]
Still, many people make efforts to 'diminish contacts' with living 'fellow countrymen' in order to 'draw closer' the ancestors. Shyamcharan Gangapadhya has an explanation for the Hindu behaviour in this regard: 
'Human happiness would seem to be better promoted by increased points of contact with living men than by increased point of contacts with remote ancestors. But men are very often swayed in these matters by sentiment more than by reason. The feeling that impels Bengali Hindus towards Sanskrit is perfectly intelligible. With Sanskrit are associated the days of India's greatest glory, with Persian and Arabic the days of her defeat, humiliation, and bondage. The budding patriotism of Hindus everywhere would therefore naturally eschew Persian and Arabic words as badges of slavery.' [ibid, p 23] 
Bankim was well aware of Shyamcharan Gangapadhya's forceful linguistic argument but his 'budding patriotism' not only stood in the way of his accepting Arabicised/Persianised Mussalmani words but also inspired him to use his extraordinary literary talents to revive Hindutwa politics even at the cost of isolating the majority Muslim population of Bengal from its Hindu neighbours. [That Bankim was aware of Shyamcharan Gangapadhya's argument gets evident in the fact that he quoted the latter in his own famous essay on Bangla, 'Bangala Bhasha', published in 1878. See, Bankim Chandra Chattopadhya, 'Bangala Bhasha', Bankim Rachanabali: Sahitya Samagra (Collected Works of Bankim: Collection of Essays), First Tuli-Kalam edition, Tuli- Kalam, Kolkata, 1393 BS (I986 Gregorian calendar), p 371]
The Hinduised contents of Bankim's prose works, particularly his so-called historical novels, played the gravest literary role in politically dividing Bengal on religious communal lines. Bankim used the literary form of modern novel to advance his politico-philosophical conviction of creating a Hindu state in India, excluding the Muslims. For that to happen, Bankim needed to demonise the Muslim rule of India by distorting history, glorify the British colonisers by underplaying their multidimensional exploitations and vilify the Muslims in general by depicting them subjectively. He did all these in his so-called history based novels, such as Anandamath, Devi Chowdhurani, Sitaram, and Raj Shingha.
In the novels in question Bankim appeared to be the political prophet of visualising a Hindu state in India; his Anandamath became the political 'manifesto' of the Hindutwa movement. The Muslims had hardly any respectable place in the Hindu state and society that Bankim aspired for.
Anandamath is a novel claimed to have been based on the anti-colonial peasants' revolts in Bengal in the third quarter of the 18th century. India had witnessed a series of peasants' revolts during the English colonial rule. Of those, some taking place in Bengal and Bihar provinces between 1763 and 1800 came to be known in history as Sannyasi and Fakir revolts against the British colonial administration based in Kolkata. Bankim based his Anandamath on these revolts, organised and participated by both Muslim fakirs and Hindu sannyasis. However, in the novel, he projected the revolts in question not only to be a political rebellion solely of the Hindu sannyasis, excluding the participation and sacrifices of Muslim fakirs but also a struggle primarily against the oppressive Muslim rulers of Bengal. History says Muslims were not ruling Bengal at the time of Fakir and Hindu Sannyasi rebellion. Even Bankim himself says twice in the novel that Warren Hastings was already the governor general of India. [Bankim Chandra Chattapadhaya, Upannyassamagra (Collection of novels), Khan Brothers & Company, Dhaka, 2013, p 761 and p 785. Warren Hastings served as the first governor general of Bengal from 1772 to 1785]
Again, the 'enemy soldiers', who came to fight against the Hindu rebels of Anandamath, or Santans as they are called in the novel, comprised 'Tailangi, Muslims, Hindustani and Europeans' [ibid, p 777] and were led by an Irish captain called Thomas. But the war cry that the Hindu rebels used as they fought back the 'enemy soldiers' was mar mar, nere mar (kill, kill, kill the neres). [ibid, p 772. Bankim has used derogatory words like nere, yaban, mleccha to identify Muslims in all his historical novels including Anandamath.] Besides, while killing the Muslims, some Hindu rebels are found eagerly asking one another, 'Brother, won't a day come when we would be able to build the temples of Radhamadhab on the debris of the mosques?' [ibid] In the midst of all this, a leader of the Hindu rebels, Bhabananda, is seen approaching the European captain of the enemy soldiers, Thomas, to say: 'Mr Captain, we will not kill you. The English is not our enemy. Why have you come here in support of the Muslims? Come, we grant you life, you are just a prisoner of war for the time being. Let the English be victorious, we are your friends.' [ibid, p 776]

TO UNDERSTAND the degree of the politically motivated distortion of history by the novelist, one should look at the narratives of history first. Suprakash Roy, an Indian researcher and historian commanding respect of the educated sections of both the Hindu and Muslim communities of Bengal, writes that there were sections of wandering sanyasis and fakirs, in other words Hindu and Muslim ascetics, who started settling in different parts of India since the middle of the Mughal era on the lands occupied by, or granted to, them by the Mughal authorities. These sanyasis and fakirs gradually became full-fledged peasants. Still, they would wear old-fashioned attires befitting sanyasis and fakirs, and in keeping with their old tradition they would go out on pilgrimages in groups on various occasions.
During the same period, a large number of such sanyasis and fakirs also settled in different parts of Bengal and Bihar. They also became peasants while continuing with their traditional attires and occasional pilgrimages. However, the British rulers enraged these fakirs and sanyasis by imposing increasing amount of taxes on peasants in general and fresh taxes on pilgrims. "They were peasants on the one hand and fakirs and sanyasis on the other, and thus victims of double taxations. They, therefore, were left with no option but to revolt against the British regime for protecting their livelihood and religions.' [Suprakash Roy, Bharater Krishak Bidroha O Ganatantrik Sangram (The Peasant Revolts and Democratic Movements of India), Third edition, Book World, Kolkata, 1990, p 21]
Subsequently, the fakirs and sanyasis put up organised resistance, at times armed ones, against the British in different regions of Bengal and Bihar and stopped paying taxes of any kind to the authorities. In some cases Muslim fakirs and Hindu sanyasis led the movements separately; in the others, they jointly resisted the oppressive British. Subrata Barua writes that Majnu Shah, Musha Shah, Bhabani Pathak and Devi Chowdhurany stood together against Devi Singha, East India Company's leasehold of northern Bengal, who used to violently exploit the peasants of the region. [Subrata Barua, Itihase Bangladesh (A history of Bangladesh), Dibyaprakash, Dhaka, 2005, p 59] In the process, Majnu Shah, Musha Shah, Cherag Ali and Nurul Mohammad among the Muslim fakirs, and Bhabani Pathak, Devi Chowdhurany, Kripanath, Petambar, Anupanarayan and Srinibash among the Hindu sanyasis came to be known as great leaders of the peasants' revolts. 
Bankim was well aware of history, but he deliberately 'killed the history' of the Muslim participation in the revolts in order to intellectually legitimise his political project of creating a Hindu state in India. In the words of Ahmed Sofa, 'out of the sanyasi revolt against the British rulers', Bankim 'aspired for paving the way for the emergence of an ideal Hindu state'. [Ahmed Sofa, Shata Barsher Ferari: Bankim Chandra Chattopadhya (The fugitive of a century: Bankim Chandra Chattopadhya), Prachyavidya Prakashani, Dhaka, 1997, p 44]
Bankim's Devi Chowdhurany was set in the context of a period when, as Bhabani Pathak, the main character of the novel, informs the readers, 'Muslims rulers have ceased to exist' and the 'British are just coming in'. [Bankim Chandra Chattapadhaya, Bankimchandra Chattapadhya: Upannyassamagra (Collection of novels), Khan Brothers & Company, Dhaka, 2013, p 828] In the novel, Bankim used the names of some Hindu leaders, such as Bhabani Pathak and Devi Chowdhurany, who organised and led various revolts against the British authorities. But his communal political project stood in his way, as Ahmed Sofa rightly points out, of even a mention of the name of the greatest leader of those revolts - Fakir Majnu Shah. 
Who was this Majnu Shah? Historian Suprakash Roy writes: 'Majnu Shah aka Majnu Fakir made fundamentally special contributions to the peasants' revolts in question. ...We at times find him as an organiser of the solders, at times as the commander of the revolts and at times we find him busy uniting the separate groups of rebels spread over of Bengal and Bihar regions against the British exploitation. There are a lot of evidences that he made all-out efforts to unite various classes of people with those of peasants and artisans, and thus build up an indivisible force against the colonial British regime. He was the soul of these revolts, chief organiser and prime hero.' [Suprakash Roy, Bharater Krishak Bidroha O Ganatantrik Sangram (The Peasant Revolts and Democratic Movements of India), Third edition, Book World, Kolkata, 1990, pp 28-29]
Bankim Chandra simply erased the historical character of Majnu Shah from his so-called 'history'-based novel Devi Chowdhurany.
Earlier, in Anandamath, he projected the Muslims as enemies although the British had already started ruling Bengal. Bankim's dishonest treatment of history in his literary works could only be explained by his political aspiration for a moral and cultural atmosphere in which the politics of Hindu nationalism could flourish. Bankim, after all, was, as Nirad C Chowdhury observes, 'the creator of Hindu nationalism'. [Nirad C Chaudhuri, The Autobiography of an Unknown Indian, Eighth Impression, Jacob Publishing House, Bombay, 1988, p 434]
However, Bankim Chandra believed that for the political materialisation of his Hindu nationalism in India, the subcontinent had to undergo a transition period of the British colonial rule and, therefore, deemed it important for the Hindus to cooperate with colonial regimes. He asserted that the political proposition in question in the closing episode of his Anandamath, through the final utterances of a mysterious holy man of the Hindu faith who appears before Satyananda Thakur, the prime leader of successful revolt of the Hindu 'Santans' against the Muslim forces. 
The holy man tells Satyananda: 'You have done your job. The Muslim rule has been destroyed. You have no work to do now.'
Unhappy with the instruction, Satyananda says: 'True that the Muslim rule is over, but Hindu kingdom has not yet been established, Kolkata is still under the control of the British.'
The holy man replies: 'There will be no Hindu kingdom at the moment... The British will rule now.'
The reply upsets Satyananda. The holy man says: 'The British rule is a precondition for the revival of Hinduism... So, we will make the British the ruler of this country.'
Still unhappy, Satyananda asks: 'If establishing the British rule was the intention, if the British raj was good for the country, then what was this bloody war for?'
The holy man explains: 'The British are traders at the moment, busy with making money. They are reluctant to take the responsibility of running the country. Thanks to the Santan-rebellion, the British will now be forced to takeover, for money making is not possible without political power.'
Satyananda then asks for blessings of the holy man so that his deep love for the country, which he visualises in the image of a mother goddess, remains unchanged. The holy man says: 'The sacred vow has been fulfilled - service has been done to the mother goddess - the Kingdom of the English has been established. Now leave the war, let the people work in the agricultural fields, earth be fertile and people prosper.'
An enthused Satyananda says, 'We will make the earth fertile by soaking it in the blood of the enemy.' But the holy man says: 'Who is the enemy? There is no longer any enemy. The British is the friendly king.' [Bankim Chandra Chattapadhaya, Bankimchandra Chattapadhya: Upannyassamagra (Collection of novels), Khan Brothers & Company, Dhaka, 2013, pp 793-794]
The readers see the similar, if not the same, conclusion of the novel Devi Chawdhrani, when they see Bhabani Pathak, the leader of a clandestine armed group of spiritually trained Hindus fighting against the 'oppressive rule' in Bengal, willingly surrendering to the government, for 'the English has taken over, and the country has come to be governed well.' [ibid, p 884]
Bankim's claim that with the takeover by the English the country came to be 'governed well' is absolutely unfounded, for history records that people of Bengal had witnessed its first horrible famine in less than three years of the British rule of Bengal. Immediately, the British secured the 'Dewani certificate' from the Mughal administration in Delhi in 1765 to manage the territories of Bengal, Orissa and Bihar and asked local zamindars to increase revenue, while the latter resorted to various kinds of repressive means to force their tenants, Muslims and Hindus alike, to pay increased amount of revenues. The ruthless practice continued against the hapless poor peasants despite the loss of crops due to severe drought in 1768 and 1769. The result was obvious. Shibnath Shastri writes: 'The country was exposed to a horrible famine, which the people of the region have never witnessed in the past. ...Some ten million people died of starvation in eight months between January and August of 1770, while as many as 76,000 people have died in the Kolkata city alone in two months between July 15 and September 15 the same year.' [Shibnath Shastri, Ramtanu Lahiri O Tatkalin Bangasamaj, (ed.) Biswajit Ghosh, Nabajug Prakashani, Dhaka, 2012, p 34] Giving a 'heart breaking' description of the result of the unprecedented famine, Shastri says: 'The bodies of the people were found lying on the roadsides, in the streets, in the market places and in the dungeons [of the Kolkata city]; it was difficult to find out people to remove those bodies.' Then he writes: 'What is surprising is that the newly established British administration did not take any measure to contain the tragedy.' [ibid]
Not only the newly established British authorities, headed by governor Warren Hasings, refrained from taking any measure to save the lives of the famine victims, it rather continued to apply violent means in post-famine years to make sure that the amount of revenue does not fall despite the 'deaths of the one-third of the tenants' of Bengal due to the famine. Notably, the British authorities in Kolkata sent to London the amounts of Tk 15,254,856 and Tk 13,149,148 in revenue in the1768-1769 and 1769-1770 financial years respectively. In 1770-1771, the year of famine, the Kolkata office sent to London Tk 14,006,030 in revenue and in 1771-1772, the post-famine year, sent Tk 15,726,576 in revenue. [ibid, p 99]
How did the Kolkata-based British authorities manage to keep up the pace of revenue collection, particularly when 'one third of the tenants' died of the devastating famine? In this regard, Shibnath Shastri quotes a letter that Warren Hastings wrote to the British authorities in London on November 3, 1772: 'It was naturally to be expected that the diminution of the revenue should have kept an equal pace with the other consequences of so great a calamity. That it did not was owing to its being violently kept up to its former standard.' [ibid] The records reveal that the British administration determined the amount of tax on the basis of 'assessment upon the actual inhabitants of every inferior descriptions of lands to make up for the loss sustained in the rents of their neighbours, who are either dead or fled from the country' due to the famine. It was, indeed, a cruelty of the highest order.

CONTRARY to the British practices in the times of difficulties of the peasants, the Mughal rulers, as Subrata Barua writes, were sympathetic to the tenants: 'In case of the loss of crops, the rayats used to get some respite during the Mughal rule, at times they were being exempted from taxes and granted loans called taqavi [for recovery of losses].' [Subrata Barua, Itihase Bangladesh (A History of Bangladesh), Dibyaprakash, Dhaka, 2005, p 59]Yet, for Bankim Chandra, the 'country came to be governed well with the British takeover'!
Bankim Chandra successfully represented in his novels like Ananadamath and Devi Chowdhurany a political thought long shared by a significant section of the Hindu elite that welcomed the British colonial occupation of India, and cooperated with them to disempower the Muslims at large, with a view to paving the way for setting up a Hindu state in the region. Moreover, Bankim offered a political and philosophical outline of the Hindu state that a significant section of the English-educated Hindu elite aspired would emerge in India. Members of the Hindu elite had always considered the rise of British power on the debris of the Mughal's a positive development, while Bankim Chandra tried to provide theoretical legitimacy to the proposition. He wrote in Dharmatatwa in 1888: 'Swadhinata is not a local idea; it has been imported from England, in the translated form of liberty. Liberty does not necessarily suggest that the king has to be a local one. A local king might at times be an enemy of liberty, while a foreign king could well be a friend of liberty.' [Bankim Chandra Chattapadhaya, 'Dharmatatwa', Bankim Rachanabali: Sahitya Samagra (Collection of literary works), Tuli-Kalam, Kolkata, 1393 Bangla calendar, p 609] Bankim, the most influential intellectual representative of the anti-Muslim Hindu elite of the time, therefore, admits without hesitation: 'When the British became the king after the Muslims, the Hindus remained silent. In fact, it was the Hindus who invited the British to be the ruler. The Hindu soldiers fought [against the Muslims] on behalf the English. The soldiers won their own Hindu kingdom and handed it over to the English, because the Hindus have no malice against the English for the latter's foreign identity. India continues to remain absolutely loyal to the English rule.' [ibid, pp 650-651] Bankim put the same the statement earlier in the mouth of the 'holy' man appearing before Satyananda of Anandamath: 'The British is the friendly king.'
There was many a taker of such colonialist political proposition among the English-educated Hindu elite of Bengal for decades to come, Jadunath Sarkar being an eminent one. Jadunath Sarkar, a well-known Indian historian of the Hindu faith, wrote even after the independence of India in 1947: 'Today the historian, looking backward over the two centuries that have passed since then, knows that it was the beginning, slow and unperceived, of a glorious dawn, the like of which the history of the world has not seen elsewhere. On 23rd June, 1757, the middle ages of India ended and her modern age began.' [Jadunath Sarkar (ed.), 'Muslim Period: 1200-1757', The History of Bengal, Volume II, Third impression, University of Dacca, Dacca, 1976, p 497] 
Sarkar asserts that Bengal 'in the Mughal times' was 'a hell well-stocked with bread'. [ibid, p 498] Then he argued that Bengal 'entered a great new world' with Lord Clive defeating the Muslim nawab of Bengal in Plassy in June 1757, which eventually led to Indian freedom from both the Mughals and the British in August 1948. He wrote, 'In June, 1757, we crossed the frontier and entered into a great new world to which a strange destiny had led Bengal. Today, in October 1947, we stand on the threshold of the temple of Freedom just open to us.' [ibid, p 499] 
That Jadunath Sarkar's understanding of the impact of British colonial rule in Bengal is grossly wrong is evident in the analysis of the phenomenon by Jawaharlal Nehru, the Westernised non-Bengali leader of the Indian independence movement. Nehru wrote in 1944, three years before Jadunath Sarkar glorified the British rule of Bengal: 'Bengal certainly was a very rich and prosperous province before the British came...Bengal, once so rich and flourishing, after 187 years of British rule, accompanied, as we told, by strenuous attempts on the part of the British to improve its condition and to teach its people the art of self-government, is today a miserable mass of poverty-stricken and dying people.'[Jawaharlal Nehru, The Discovery of India, Penguin Books, New Delhi, 2004, p 322] 
Explaining the reason, Nehru said, 'Bengal had the first full experience of British rule in India. That rule began with outright plunder and a land revenue system which extracted the uttermost farthing not only from the living but also from the dead cultivators. ...It was pure loot. The "Pagoda tree" was shaken again and again till the most terrible famines ravaged Bengal. This process was called trade later on but that made little difference. Government was this so-called trade, and trade was plunder. There are few instances in history of anything like it. And it must be remembered that this lasted, under various names and under different forms, not for a few years but for generations. The outright plunder gradually took the shape of legalised exploitation, which, though not so obvious, was in reality worse. The corruption, venality, nepotism, violence, and greed of money of these early generations of British rule in India is something which passes comprehension... The result of all these, even in early stages, was the famine of 1770, which swept away over a third of the population of Bengal and Bihar.' [ibid, pp 322-323]
In Nehru's analysis, 'those parts of India which have been longest under British rule are the poorest today'. 
But obsessed with the dream of a Hindu state, Jadunath Sarkar and the like did not bother to trace the adverse impact of colonial rule in the subcontinent, and, therefore, failed to realise that the morning sun of June 23, 1757 did not bring in any 'glorious dawn' to India; it was rather a 'false dawn', for it did not provide the subcontinent with the 'sunshine' required to transform its traditional agricultural economy into a modern capitalism independent of colonial exploitation. The colonisers, after all, are inherently incapable of playing any 'liberating role' in the colonies. 
Rabindranath Tagore, who was a much liberal political mind, too, initially had tremendous confidence in the 'liberating ability' of the Western civilisation. He eventually got disillusioned in his old age about the self-seeking British colonial objectives in India. Tagore recorded the process of his illusion and disillusionment in an article in 1933: 'The dynamic force of European thoughts struck our static mind the way rain heavily pours down on earth from the distant sky, enters into its barren heart, instils inspiration for fertility, resulting in the germination of life in multidimensional directions. ... Under the new rule [of the British], there was a great message: The crime is a crime whoever commits it. No matter whether a Brahmin kills a Sudra, or Sudra a Brahmin, the law is equally applicable to the killer - no directives from a religious saint would influence the sense of justice.'[Rabindranath Tagore, 'Kalantar', Rabindrashamagra (Complete Works of Rabindranath Tagore), Volume 12, Pathak Samabesh, Dhaka, 2012, p 538]
Tagore continues on the same note: 'When we were first exposed to English literature, we not only got the taste of new aesthetic beauty, but we also got inspired to remove injustice committed by man against man, heard of political ideologies about emancipation of all human beings and saw efforts against transforming human beings to mere commodities in the world of commerce.' [ibid, p 539]
Then the poet, already septuagenarian, writes about his experienced realisation of the colonial British rule in India. 
'It gradually appeared that the torch of the European civilisation was not meant for enlightening the world beyond Europe, rather it was meant for setting ablaze the non-European regions. So, one day, the balls of canon fire and pouches of opium hit the heart of China. No such pervasive destructions have ever taken place anywhere on earth, except when the civilised Europe had completely destroyed, by force and intrigue, the unique Maya civilisation of America in order to grab the gold of the new world.' [ibid, p 541]
Tagore's final disillusionment about the British rule was manifested in his open 'reply to a letter from a British lawmaker, Miss Rathbone', in which he accused the British rulers of betrayal of a 'great trust'. Explaining why the British 'found no place in our hearts', Tagore wrote to Rathbone, '[W]hile pretending to be trustees of our welfare, they have betrayed the great trust and have sacrificed the happiness of millions in India to bloat the pockets of a few capitalists at home.' [Tagore is cited in Salimullah Khan, 'Paradhanatantra O Sharifniti', Shadhinota Beboshai (ed.) Abul Kashem Mohahammad Atikuzzaman, Agamee Prakashani, Dhaka, 2011, p 127. Tagore's 'open letter' was first published in the Calcutta Municipal Gazette: Tagore Memorial Special Supplement, in September 1941.]
However, any serious reader of Bankim can easily understand that the latter was acquainted with the works of many a Western philosopher, ranging from Stuart Mill to Jean-Jacques Rousseau to Karl Marx. But the humanist ideology of the Westerners in question did not touch him. He rather embraced the ideology of religious communalism. In the process, an English educated Bengali literary genius like him turned out to be a devoted Hindu communalist. 
Ahmed Sofa rightly points out: 'He (Bankim) could not think of anything but the Hindus and the Hinduism. He released his power of imagination like a ball of canon fire for the sake of the welfare of his own [religious] community... He thought distortion of history would serve his community, so he distorted history. After reading the political thoughts of Mill, Bentham, Voltaire, Rousseau and other Western thinkers, he got inspired to write Krishnacharita. The biggest difference between Bankim and his Western gurus remains in the fact that the latter tended to disown both the Bible and Christianity, while the former accepted religion and religious texts to be the absolute truth of life.' [Ahmed Sofa, 'Banglar Sahityadarsha' (Literary ideology of Bengal) in Morshed Shafiul Hasan (ed.), Ahmad Sofa: Nirbachita Prabandha, (Selected essays of Ahmed Sofa), Maola Brothers, Dhaka, 2002, p 85]
Bankim even distorted the English history, and that of the Arabs, to inspire the Hindus to work for the materialisation of a Hindu state in India. In order to create the Hindu state, Bankim finds it important to propagate what he believes the essence of Hindu religion, Bhakti - religious piety of Hinduism. Bankim in his Dharmatatwa, written in the form of dialogue between a guru and a disciple, makes the guru assure the disciple, 'The Hindus would soon emerge very powerful, as did the Cromwell's English contemporaries or Muhammad's Arab contemporaries, by way of getting regenerated through the propagation of pure Bhakti.' [Bankim Chandra Chattapadhaya, 'Dharmatatwa', Bankim Rachanabali: Sahitya Samagra (Collection of literary works), Tuli-Kalam, Kolkata, 1393 Bangla calendar, p 647] Evidently, Bankim presented a distorted view of both Oliver Cromwell and Prophet Muhammad. The fact of history remains that neither Oliver Cromwell (1599-1658) nor Prophet Muhammad (570-632) depended on the religions that they were born into, as did Bankim, to implement their political thoughts in their respective regions. While it is common knowledge that Prophet Muhammad fought against his forefathers' pagan belief system to establish his monotheistic Islam, Cromwell was intolerant towards Catholicism. 
Christopher Hill, a modern biographer of Cromwell, writes: 'The political radicals whose leader Oliver Cromwell had become were very often also the religious radicals, and with them he was in obvious agreement.' [Christopher Hill, God's Englishman: Oliver Cromwell and the English Revolution, Penguin Books, London, Reprinted in 1990, p 73] It was, after all, Oliver Cromwell who attacked in the House of Commons the 'great revenues of bishops' in February 1641, drafted along with others the Root and Branch Bill proposing the extirpation of Episcopal government in May and moved the ejection of bishops from the House of Lords in August the same year. It is true that there are talks of religious tolerance about Cromwell but 'the tolerance which is so striking a feature of his religious thought of course applied only to Protestants, to those with the root of the matter in them, to God's children'. [ibid, p 116]

BANKIM Chandra's political project of Hindu state is also present in his last novel, Sitaram, which was first published in 1887. Writing about the novel in question Bankim Chandra himself said, 'Sitaram is a historical character. But the historicity of Sitaram has not been maintained in the novel. [The propagation of] historicity is not the objective of the book.' [Bankim Chandra Chattapadhya is cited in Dr Bishnu Basu, introduction to Bankimchandra Chattapadhya: Upannyassamagra (Collection of novels by Bankimchandra), Khan Brothers & Company, Dhaka, 2013, p XVI] 

The apparent objective of Sitaram is nothing but propagation of political Hinduism in order to create a Hindu state in India. In the novel, readers find Sitaram founding a 'Hindu kingdom' in Shyampur, near Bhushna city of East Bengal, 'on the bank of the river Madhumati'. [Bankim Chandra Chattapadhya, Bankimchandra Chattapadhya: Upannyassamagra (Collection of novels by Bankimchandra), Khan Brothers & Company, Dhaka, 2013, p 899] Readers also find Chandrachur Tarkalankar, once a rioter against Muslim villagers and later adviser to Sitram for planning and financial affairs, persuading the latter to fight Torab Khan, an official of the Mughal emperor in Bhushna, to 'save the Hindus from the Muslims' and thus ensure 'revival of Hinduism'. [ibid, p 932] 
Earlier, readers found Bankim's efforts to inspire Hindu nationalism against Muslims, when Sree, the abandoned wife of Sitaram, persuades the latter to save her brother from 'injustice' inflicted on him by a 'notorious' Muslim fakir and an 'unjust' local Muslim quazi, arguing that 'who would save Hindus but the Hindus?' [ibid, p 888] Sitaram agrees to Sree's proposition, and comes forward to save Sree's brother from the clutches of the 'notorious' and 'unjust' Muslims. In the process, readers find Sree organising a Hindu mob against the fakir and the quazi, calling upon the Hindus around to 'Mar! Mar! Shatru mar, debater shatru, manusher shatru, Hindur shatru, amar shatru, mar! Shatru mar! (Kill! Kill, Kill the enemy, the enemy of gods, the enemy of human beings, the enemy of Hindus, my enemy, kill! Kill the enemies!) [ibid, p 894] This is the same war cry that one finds in Anandamath. Again, Roma, one of Sitaram's wives, find Muslims to be 'dacoits, thieves, beef-eaters and the enemy'. [ibid, p 911] In the irrational way that Bankim portrayed Muslim characters in the novel, any ordinary non-Muslim reader would find a 'rationale' to hate and fight Muslims in general.
Most of his so-called historical novels, despite their high literary standard, are poisoned with religious communalism that breeds political hatred against Muslims; a recollection of Nirad Chaudhuri might prove the proposition. He writes: 'The historical romances of Bankim Chatterji and Ramesh Chandra Dutt glorified Hindu rebellion against Muslim rule and showed the Muslims in a correspondingly poor light. Chatterji was positively and fiercely anti-Muslim. We were eager readers of these romances and we readily absorbed their spirit.' [Nirad C Chaudhuri, The Autobiography of an Unknown Indian, Eighth Impression, Jacob Publishing House, Bombay, 1988, p 235]
The political consciousness that Bankim Chandra generated in society was extremely contradictory with that of the liberal humanist as well as reformist literary works of Rammuhan Ray and Ishwar Chandra Vidyasagar had provided. Binoy Ghosh rightly observes, 'The liberal humanist movement of the Hindu society gradually took the shape of the Hindu revivalist movement. The love for the Hindus turned to be the love for Hinduism and then it further deviated to Hindu communalism. The age of reason and liberalism, presided over by Rammuhan, Young Bengal and Vidyasagar, came to an end. Traditional piety took the place of reason, superstition replaced reforms, in the place of liberalism came parochiality, and communalism replaced humanity. [Binoy Ghosh, Banglar Bidvat Samaj (Intellectuals of Bengal), Fourth edition, Prakash Bhaban, Kolkata, 2000, p 27]
Bankim Chandra's novels gained enormous popularity among a significantly large section of readers then. Sukumar Sen, a renowned historian of Bangla language and literature, writes that 'Anandamath ...received great appreciation from the general readership'. [Sukumar Sen, Bangala Sahityer Itihas (History of Bangla Literature), Third Volume, Seventh Print, Ananda Publishers, Kolkata, 1416 Bangla calendar, p 191] Sen made similar observations about Devi Chowdhurany. He says, 'Devi Chowdhurany was the most well received of Bankim Chandra's novels during his lifetime.' It took only one and half a year for every edition to be sold out. [ibid, p 192]
Sen, however, fails to realise that the novels in question could not have been well received by 'readers in general', particularly Muslim readers, for these so-called historical novels were in many ways political hate campaigns against Muslims on the one hand and political propaganda for creating a Hindu state in India on the other. Bankim's novels were, in fact, well received exclusively by the communally-oriented sections of the Hindu readership, and for many Hindu literary historians of Bengal, like Sukumar Sen, 'Bengali readership' and 'Bengali Hindus' were synonymous.
That many Muslim readers did not, and still do not, appreciate the communal contents of the novels is evident in the abusive comments written on the margins of Bankim's publications in question.
Ahmed Sofa (1943- 2004) 'noticed in his school days' that 'readers of Bankim Chandra would write on the margins of his novels, such as Sitaram, Rajshingha, Devi Chowdhurany and Anandamath, shala Bankim, malaun Bankim and other such derogatory remarks, particularly on the sides of passages where he makes cruel remarks about the Muslims'. [Ahmed Sofa, Shata Barsher Ferari: Bankim Chandra Chattopadhya (The Fugitive of a Century: Bankim Chandra Chattopadhya), Prachyavidya Prakashani, Dhaka, 1997, p 12]
The readers that Sofa refers to must have been Muslims of rural Chittagong where he had schooling. Sofa had similar experiences with Bankim's books procured from the Dhaka University library many years after he had left his school in rural Chittagong. He found similar abusive remarks on the margins. The only difference was that 'the remarks made by rural schoolboys were vulgar and those made by university students were indecent'. However, notwithstanding the quality of their remarks, 'vulgar' or 'indecent', Muslim students of Bengal had obvious reasons to be critical about Bankim's politically motivated literary works. It is for no reason that Ahmed Sofa observes, 'Bankim Chandra Chattopadhya is perhaps mainly responsible for the partition of Bengal.' [Ahmed Sofa, 'Banglar Sahityadarsha' (Literary Ideology of Bengal) in Morshed Shafiul Hasan (ed.), Ahmad Sofa: Nirbachita Prabandha, (Selected essays of Ahmed Sofa), Maola Brothers, Dhaka, 2002, p 86] Such a critical observation, however, could not stand in Sofa's way to respectfully recognise Bankim as 'one of the greatest children of the Bangla language'.
Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay (1876-1938), another genius of Bangla language and literature, 'had once appealed to the Muslim students, with his hands folded, not to write on the margins of his books abusive words like shala as they do on those of Bankim's books.'  [Ahmed Sofa, Shata Barsher Ferari: Bankim Chandra Chattopadhya (The fugitive of a century: Bankim Chandra Chattopadhya), Prachyavidya Prakashani, Dhaka, 1997, p 13] He had legitimate reasons to be apprehensive of the hatred of Muslim students of Bengal for his Hindu chauvinism occasionally reflected in his literary works and political speeches.
For instance, in Sreekanta, otherwise a great autobiographical novel, Sarat Chandra referred to a 'football match played between Bengali and Muslim students.' [Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay, Sarat Sahitya Samagra (Collected Works of Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay), Volume I, Sukumar Sen (ed.), Ananda Publishers Limited, Kolkata, 1393 Bangla calendar, p 268]
In this regard, one also needs to note that many Kolkata-based educated Muslims of the late 19th century used to feel constrained to identify themselves as Bengalis. An exceptional educated Muslim of Bengal, Maulvi Yaquinuddin Ahmed, 'ruefully' observed in 1896: 'In Calcutta the Hindus are called Bengalees by every Mohamedan who has never travelled beyond the Mahratta Ditch, as if such Mohamedans, by the fact of their professing the faith of the Great Arabian Prophet, have a right to be non-Bengalees.' [Maulvi Yaquinuddin Ahmed is cited in Rafiuddin Ahmed, op-cit, p 112] 
Be that as it may, while addressing the Bengal Provincial Conference in 1926, Sarat Chandra observed: 'It is difficult to imagine as to what could be a greater hoax than the Muslims ever saying that they want to unite with the Hindus. The Muslims had once entered India only to plunder the country, not to establish a kingdom. They those days did not even stop after plundering India, they destroyed temples, demolished idols and violated women; in fact they unhesitatingly did everything possible to insult humanity and humiliate the people of other faith ... it seems today that the habit has become an inherent component of Muslim life [in India].' [Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay, "Bartaman Hindu-Mussalman Samasya", Sarat Sahitya Samagra (Collected Works of Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay), Volume - II, Sukumar Sen (ed.), Ananda Publishers Limited, Kolkata, 1393 Bangla calendar, pp. 2134-2135]
The observation made by Sarat Chandra is over-generalised; such a historically unfounded statement about Muslim rulers only suggests that he was a prisoner of the colonialist historiography, which is perversely biased against Indian Muslims - both the rulers and the ruled. Bhudeb Mukhapadhaya (1827-1894) rightly observed in his Samajik Prabandha in 1892: 'There is another stronger reason for sustenance and further growth of animosity between the Hindus and Muslims. Many English writers perpetually propagates, sometimes directly and sometimes obliquely, that the Muslims as rulers had terribly persecuted the Hindus. Thus, the English writers have been vitiating the minds of the Hindus against the Muslims.' [Bhudeb Mukhapadhaya is cited in Dr Panchanon Saha, Hindu-Mussalman Samparka: Notun Bhabna (Hindu-Muslim relations: New thoughts), Jatiya Grantha Prakashan, Dhaka, 2001, p 129] Since Sarat Chandra not only shared the deliberately constructed anti-Muslim views of the colonialist British historians but also publicly propagated such a-historical views, it was only natural for educated Muslims to find in him a local Hindu collaborator of the colonialist British, who needed to deliberately demonise the Muslim rulers in order to legitimise the British colonial takeover of the subcontinent.
In terms of cultural attitude towards life, Sarat Chandra was quite different from Bankim Chandra; the latter was very conservative and the former quite liberal. While Bankim Chandra used his literary talents for the sustenance of Hindu orthodoxy and revival of political Hinduism, Sharat Chandra fought against the inherent inhumanness of the conservative Hindu society - his literary works like Pallisamaj and Narir Mulya being a couple of obvious example. But to the Muslim society, liberal or conservative, both of them were allergic, although at varying degrees: Bankim Chandra was cruel and Sarat Chandra was unsympathetic.
Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941), the most Bengali litterateur of international repute, who continues to influence the minds of the millions of Bengalis more than seven decades after his death, made the highest individual contribution to the development of Bangla language and literature. Primarily a poet, Tagore made fundamental contributions to many other branches of Bangla literature, such as essays, linguistics, short stories, novels, plays and songs. In the process, he created hundreds of new words and introduced them into the Bangla literature, both in poetry and prose. 
Besides, Tagore popularised the chalita form of Bangla prose, using innumerable ordinary words used in the daily life of the ordinary Bengalis living in and around Kolkata, replacing the so-called sadhu or pure form initially introduced by the Sanskritised pundits. It is in Tagore's hand that Bangla prose finally descended to the dusty world of ordinary people from the high ivory tower of the pundits, and thus brought Bangla literature to the doorsteps of the average Bengalis. Sukumar Sen rightly remarks that 'Rabindranath [Tagore] has singlehandedly infused so much strength, and generated so much potential, into the Bangla language that no other single writer of the world has been able to do so to any language on earth'. [Sukumar Sen, Bangala Sahityer Itihas (History of Bangla Literature), Third Volume, Seventh Print, Ananda Publishers, Kolkata, 1416 Bangla calendar, p 124]

Rabindranath Tagore was born into Brahmaism, a monotheistic belief system within the fold of traditional Hinduism. However, he was never a typical Brahma, let alone a typical Hindu. He was, as the poems of his Gitanjali and other theological writings suggest, a believer - a believer in a pervasive impersonal God, to whom he was ever ready to surrender, in his own special way. But he never believed in any religious dogma, nor was he a practising Hindu in the conventional sense. On top of it all, he was not a communalist person. Tagore has written volumes on the need for harmony between Hindus and Muslims of Bengal for the greater interest of the country and, on many occasions, blamed the parochiality of the Hindu elite for creating a distance with the Muslim society.
Tagore, who deemed it a duty to strengthen the Hindu-Muslim unity, wrote in 1895: 'We have a great duty to discharge - the duty of strengthening the Hindu-Muslim friendship. There is no doubt that there had been cordial relations between the Hindus and the Muslims of Bengal. In Bengal, the Muslims are greater in number, while the two communities have always maintained a good-neighbourly relationship. But the relation has started getting loose these days. ... Hindutva is finding jingoistic expression in the behaviour of the educated sections [of the Hindu community]...For no reason the Muslims are often contemptuously treated in novels, plays, newspapers and periodicals. Many Muslims are learning Bangla and writing in Bangla these days. It is, therefore, only natural that the two sides have now been engaged in the tit-for-tat exercise.' [Rabindranath Tagore, 'Hindu O Mussalman', Rabindrashamagra (Complete Works of Rabindranath Tagore), Volume 17, Pathak Samabesh, Dhaka, 2012, p 706]
Many young educated Muslim writers from East Bengal enjoyed Tagore's deep affection, some of them being, as their own recollections clearly suggest, Kazi Nazrul Islam, Kazi Abdul Odud, Syed Mujtaba Ali and Jasimuddin. In a letter to one MA Azam, a Bengali Muslim, Tagore wrote in 1934, 'Neither in my nature, nor in my behaviour, there is any difference between Hindus and Muslims. I get equally ashamed and enraged by the harassment of either of the sides, and find it ignominious for the entire country.'[Rabindranath Tagore, Rabindrashamagra (Complete Works of Rabindranath Tagore), Volume 16, Pathak Samabesh, Dhaka, 2012, p 457] In another letter to one Altaf Chowdhury the same year, Tagore wrote, 'There can be no worse barbarism than the one manifested in the prevalent efforts to distort the [Bangla] language and literature on the basis of communal considerations. This is something like setting fire on the family house for grievances against the brother.'[ibid, p 458]
Besides, what is less known about Tagore is that he had a large number of ordinary admirers, male and female, in the educated Muslim societies of Bengal and often took the trouble of writing back to them in acknowledgement of their admiration. In one such case, on a written request from an admiring unknown young Muslim ayurved, Tagore suggested a 'name' for the Aurvedic pharmacy that the former had been planning to open in Kolkata. In his letter to the young Muslim ayurved, Abdul Bari Chowdhury, on August 23, 1940, Tagore suggested that the pharmacy be named Bhoishajja Bhaban. [Bhuiyan Iqbal, Rabindranath O Muslim Samaj (Rabindranath and Muslim Society), Second edition, Prathama Prakashan, Dhaka, 2012, p 283]
Yet, regardless of his otherwise non-communal credential, Tagore actively supported the Hindu elite when they took to the street against the administrative division of Bengal to the advantage of the Muslim majority East Bengal in 1905. Politically guided by the Indian National Congress, the sole purpose of the movement for the annulment of the division was to protect the political and material interests of the Kolkata-based Hindu elite. In order to mobilise public opinion against the creation of the new East Bengal province, Tagore composed couplets with the suggestion that the Muslims and Hindus of both Eastern and Western Bengals are brothers, that there is no difference between them, and that they belong to one indivisible Bengal. Besides, he introduced tying of rakhi in the hands of Hindus and Muslims alike in a symbolic cultural gesture of forging political unity between the two communities with the view to keeping the Bengal united. Thanks to the agitation, the division of Bengal was annulled in 1911, which obviously upset the educated sections of Bengali Muslims.
Under the circumstance, one might legitimately ask why Tagore had actively taken the side of the self-seeking Hindu elite in the latter's efforts to undo the partition of Bengal in 1905 that benefited the Muslims of Bengal. True, most of the Kolkata-based rich Hindus having zamindari estates in East Bengal, as did Tagore's family, had opposed the partition, but to say that Tagore stood for the annulment to protect the material interest of his family would be too harsh, for he himself had once said that he loved asmandari, poetic imagination in other words, more than looking after zamindari. 
The most rational explanation, even if a little charitable, for Tagore's political stance against the interest of the Muslims of East Bengal could be that he, at that point of Bengal's history, sincerely believed in a broad-based 'Bengali nationalism', comprising Bangla-speaking Hindus and Muslims of both Eastern and Western Bengals and, therefore, politically preached the political project of a united Bengal.
Tagore, however, eventually revised his thesis of the eternal Hindu-Muslim brotherhood of Bengal. In an article, 'Baydhi O Pratikar', in 1907, Tagore wrote: 'There is no point in telling lies anymore. We must now admit that there is a contradiction between the Hindus and the Muslims [of Bengal]. We are not only different from each other, we are also opposed to each other.' [Rabindranath Tagore, in Bhuiyan Iqbal, Rabindranath O Muslim Samaj (Rabindranath and Muslim Society), Second edition, Prathama Prakashan, Dhaka, 2012, p 217] In the same article, he primarily blamed the elitist attitude of the Kolkata-based educated Hindus towards the rural Muslims of East Bengal for the mistrust between the two communities. 
Based on his empirical observations of the later years, Tagore finally realised that there were historical, social and cultural differences, and, therefore, conflicts of interests, between the two populaces of Bengal in general and its two religious communities in particular. He articulated his new realisation in November 1938, when he wrote in an essay on Bangla: 'The history of Bengal is one of divisiveness. The East Bengal-West Bengal ... divide is not a mere geographical one, with it was associated the inherent emotional division. Dissimilarity of societies was also there. It is only the language, which has still kept the unity going. That we are called Bengalis is only because of the fact that we speak Bangla.' [Rabindranath Tagore, 'Banglabhasha-Parichay', Rabindrashamagra (Complete Works of Rabindranath Tagore), Volume 13, Pathak Samabesh, Dhaka, 2012, p 582]
Tagore still did not realise that the part of his revised thesis that Bangla was serving like a bridge between the 'two societies' of East and West Bengals, Muslim and Hindu societies, was unfounded. Tagore either failed to notice, or refused to admit, that Bangla itself had already got divided into two varieties - one Sanskritised which came to be identified with the Hindu community and the other Arabicised-Persianised that came to be identified with Muslim community. Besides, the contents of Bangla literary works by Hindu and Muslim writers created a big wall between the two communities that substantially contributed to the political division and subsequent geographical bifurcation of Bengal, while Tagore himself had a role, conscious or subconscious, in causing the linguistic and literary division.
There can be no doubt that Tagore played the greatest role in enriching Bangla language and literature. Sukumar Sen rightly remarks that 'Rabindranath [Tagore] has single-handedly infused so much strength, and generated so much potential, into Bangla that no other single writer of the world has been able to do so to any language on earth.' [Sukumar Sen, Bangala Sahityer Itihas (History of Bangla Literature), Third Volume, Seventh Print, Ananda Publishers, Kolkata, 1416 Bangla calendar, p 124]
Despite his matchless contribution to the development of Bangla language and literature, Tagore contributed in more ways than one to divide the language into two varieties - of the Hindu variety and of the Muslim one - by way of avoiding, by and large, in his literary works the words of Arabic and Persian origin used in the daily life of the Muslims of Bengal in the first place. 
It is true that Tagore was not dead against the use of the words of Arabic and Persian origin, as some of his important Hindu predecessors were, but he had chosen to leave the job to the Muslim literary practitioners of Bengal. 
In response to a letter from Abul Fazal (1903-1983), a Muslim prose writer from East Bengal, Tagore wrote in September 1941 that 'the powerful Muslim writers have not adequately described in Bangla literature the Muslim lifestyle...Bangla literature would not be affected, if, in the course of depicting the Muslim lifestyle, the words used in the daily lives of the Muslim society naturally enters Bangla. The effort would rather enrich the literature.' [Rabindranath Tagore, Rabinndrasamagra (Complete works of Rabindrnath Thakur), Vol 16, Pathak Samabesh, Dhaka, p 459. Also see, 'Bangla Bhashai Arbi-Farsi Shabda: Rabindranath O Abul Fazaler Patralap' (Arabic and Persian words in Bangla: Exchange of letters between Rabindranath and Abul Fazal, in Mahabub Ullah (ed.), op-cit, p 1258.] It is common knowledge among the educated sections of the Bengalis, Hindus and Muslims, that Tagore, like most Hindu writers, did not make any 'effort' to 'depict' the 'lifestyle' of the 'Muslim society' to 'enrich the [Bangla] literature'. Consequently, Tagore's literary works do not contain much of the Bangla words of Arabic and Persian origin used in the daily life of the millions of Bengali Muslims.
Tagore's reluctance to depict the Muslim society in his volumes of literary works did not go unnoticed by the educated sections of the Muslim society in the 19th and 20th century; it continued to trouble the minds of many great Muslim admirers of Tagore in the 21st century - Ahmad Sofa being a notable example. 
Ahmed Sofa believed 'Rabindranath [Tagore] was the greatest of Indians, after Gautama Buddha'. [Ahmed Sofa, 'Jibita Thakle Rabindranathkei Jiggesh Kortam' (I would have directly asked Rabindranath, had he been alive), in Morshed Shafiul Hasan (ed.), Ahmad Sofa: Nirbachita Prabandha, (Selected essays of Ahmed Sofa), Maola Brothers, Dhaka, 2002, p 166] Still, Sofa had a question for Tagore - why he did not write a 'complete short story or a novel' about his Muslim tenants of East Bengal. Sofa writes: 'If I could meet Rabindranath, first I would have shown my respect by touching his feet, and then I would have very politely said, "I want to own you completely, but unfortunately I cannot, for you have not been able to display the magnanimity of writing a complete story about my society, the society of Bengali Muslims that is." I would have also asked the great poetic genius, "Can you deny that it is the toiling Muslim peasants who have provided foods for your entire family? Couldn't you recognise their labour by way of writing a single short story on them?"'[ibid, p 167] Understandably, Sofa could not ask the question directly to Tagore, for Tagore had died in 1941 Kolkata before Sofa was born in Chittagong in 1943.
Tagore, when alive, did face the same question from his Muslim admirers of East Bengal. In response to a letter from Tagore, Abul Fazal politely complained in September 1941 that the 'lives of the Muslim tenants' of Tagore's Zamindari estate at Shilaidaha of East Bengal, where he wrote the 'wonderful short stories' of the Galapaguccha, 'could not become any component' of his 'literary exercise', although the Muslim tenants held Tagore 'in high esteem'. [See, 'Bangla Bhashai Arbi-Farsi Shabda: Rabindranath O Abul Fazaler Patralap' (Arabic and Persian words in the Bangla language: Exchange of letters between Rabindranath and Abul Fazal), in Mahabub Ullah (ed.), op-cit, p 1258.] Tagore did not reply to the letter. Did he have one? Notably, three volumes of Tagore's Galapaguccha contains as many as 84 short stories written between 1884 and 1933, of which only five stories contains Muslim characters, while another story just mentions about the Muslims. However, in the short stories in question, Tagore 'did not project the Muslims', as Professor Mohammad Maniruzzaman rightly points out, 'in any adverse manner', 'as did many a Hindu nationalist writer of the 19th century [Bengal]'. [Mohammad Maniruzzaman, Adhunik Bangla Sahitya (Modern Bangla literature), Bangla Academy, Dhaka, First reprint of the third edition in 1993, pp 82-83]

SARAT Chandra Chattopadhyay was exposed to similar, if not the same, question, as did Tagore, by his Muslim admirers of East Bengal, famous among them being Motahar Hossain Chowdhury (1903-1956) and Mohammad Wajed Ali (1896-1954), as to why he kept silent about the Muslims in his great literary life. Motahar Hossain Chowdhury complained to Sarat Chandra during a conversation at the latter's residence in 1936 that the 'Hindu litterateurs have hardly portrayed the Muslim characters or treated the sorrows and happiness of the huge Muslim society in their literary works', and 'urged' him 'not to create Hinduised literature meant only for the Hindus' and 'draw the Muslims nearer by way of writing about them with sympathy and affection.' 
In response, Sarat Chandra admitted that the complaint was not unfounded, but attributed his failure to the prevalent Muslim intolerance towards any criticism of the Muslim society by the Hindu litterateurs. He said, 'I am aware of such [Muslim] grievances, but affection and disaffection, appreciation and reproach, praise and criticism go hand in hand in literature, particularly in fiction. The problem is, you (the Muslims) would neither consider this, nor would you forgive [the writers.] You would perhaps determine such punishments [for the writers], the imagination of which is enough to get scared. It is, therefore, safer [for the Hindu litterateurs] to maintain the status quo.' [Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay, 'Sahityer Arekta Dik' (Another dimension of literature), Sarat Sahitya Samagra (Collected Works of Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay), Volume II, Sukumar Sen (ed.), Ananda Publishers Limited, Kolkata, 1393 Bangla calendar, p 2167] 
In Sahityer Arekta Dik, Sarat Chandra did not mention the name of Motahar Hossain Chowdhury; he rather referred to Chowdhury as 'a young Muslim friend - a litterateur and scholarly professor whose heart has not been infected, and sight not blinded, by religious communalism.' He referred to the conversation and revealed Chowdhury's name while delivering his presidential address at the 10th annual session of the Muslim Sahitya Samaj the same year. [see 'Muslim Sahitya Samaj', ibid, p 2169] In the speech, Sarat Chandra mentioned the name of Wajed Ali, who critiqued the contents of Sahityer Arekta Dik, originally published in the annual Barshabani, which was reproduced in the monthly Bulbul under the title of Abanchita Baybadhan. Wajed Ali politely rejected Sarat Chandra's explanation for the Hindu writers' silence about the Muslim society in their literary works.
Understandably, Sarat Chandra refused to take the responsibility of his, and his Hindu colleagues', literary silence about the Bengali Muslims, who constituted the majority of the Bengal population. He rather blamed the Muslims for the Hindu failure, almost the same way Tagore passed the responsibility on to the Muslim litterateurs. 
However, Tagore not only carried forward the Hinduised linguistic and literary tradition inaugurated by means of avoiding Muslim characters and Arabicised/Persianised words used in the Muslim society in his literary exercises, he also contributed to dividing the Bangla language on geographical line, Eastern and Western Bengal, by way of recognising the 'dialect' used in a particular radius of the Kolkata city as the 'standard' language for Bangla literature. He also pleaded for accepting the pronunciations, and spellings based on the pronunciations, of the people living in and around the Kolkata city as the standard pronunciation and spelling of Bangla words. 
As regards the standard pronunciation of Bangla words, Tagore wrote in 1885: 'There are different kinds of pronunciation of words in different regions of Bangladesh. But we have to take the pronunciation practised in Kolkata as the standard, for Kolkata is the capital. Kolkata is the essence of entire Bengal.' [Rabindranath Tagore, 'Bangla Uccharan' in Humayun Azad (ed.), Bangla Bhasha: Bangla Bhasha Bishayak Prabandha Sankalan: 1743-1983, (The Bengali Language: A Collection of Linguistic Essays on the Bengali language: 1743-1983), Volume I, Revised second edition, Second print, Agamee Prakashani, Dhaka, 2002, p 207] 
The political argument of the linguistic practices put forward here was fundamentally flawed, for, in the first place, Kolkata, the centre of political power dominated by a colonialist Hindu-elite those days, hardly opened its arms to embrace the Muslims of East Bengal, and could never become the 'essence of entire Bengal' in the holistic sense of the proposition. Secondly, the vast majority of Bangla-speaking population of East Bengal, Muslims and Hindus, found no reason to make any efforts to learn the Kolkata pronunciation for Kolkata was not connected in any significant way to their livelihood. 
Shymacharan Ganguly, the Bengali linguist who was opposed to the idea of the political capitals solely determining the course of the development of the literary languages and mindless borrowing of Sanskrit words, wrote as early as in 1877: 'In the development of the literary language, political capitals have in the past exercised but too much influence. Provincialisms have not been allowed fair play: They have but too frequently been kept out of the literary language, simply because they have been provincialisms. A better course than this would be to absorb into cultivated dialect all that is of value in the several kindred dialects. Such absorption would be more real enrichment of a language than thoughtless borrowing under the bias of learning. If this principle were admitted and acted upon, provincial peculiarities would, generally speaking, have a chance of being incorporated into the literary language in proportion to the mental activity of the people who speak such dialects. Local centres of culture would thus have their due share of influence on the literary language of a country.' [Shyamcharan Ganguly, 'Bengali, Spoken and Written', in E Lethbridge (ed.) Calcutta Review, Volume LXV, 1877, p 412. Also reprinted in Annadashankar Roy and others (ed.), Akademi Patrika, Third issue, Pashchim Bangla Akademi, Pashchimbanga Sarkar, Kolkata, May, 1999, pp 27-28]
Ganguly's approach, anyone with a logical mind would agree, looks not only rational, but also accommodative of different dialects of a language, which promises better enrichment of the language concerned. But Tagore apparently refused to accept the democratic argument of linguistic accommodation. 
He took the same position about the standard spelling of Bangla words in 1901, as he did about their pronunciation in 1885: 'The spelling of Bangla words that I will discuss about will be done based on the pronunciation practised in Kolkata. The pronunciation practised in different areas, other than Kolkata, is to be justifiably considered regional.'[Rabindranath Tagore, 'Bangla Krit O Taddhit', Rabindranath Tagore, Rabinndrasamagra (Complete works of Rabindrnath Thakur), Vol 6, Pathak Smabesh, Dhaka, p 633]
In 1931, Tagore described the Bangla of East Bengal as a 'sub-language'. [Rabindranath Tagore, 'Chalita Bhashar Roop', Rabinndrasamagra (Complete works of Rabindrnath Thakur), Vol 16, Pathak Smabesh, Dhaka, pp 417-418] 
Finally, in 1938, Tagore unambiguously recognised the 'dialect' practised 'around the Kolkata city' to be the 'standard language' for Bangla literature and advised all the Bengalis to accept the dialect's universality: 'Question arises at times as to the spoken language of which region of Bengal should we accept as the standard dialect for Bangla literature. The answer is, the dialect of a particular region always gets the status of universality for particular reason...the dialect used around the Kolkata city has naturally been recognised as the standard language of Bengal. It is advisable for all to accept the universality of this dialect for the welfare of entire Bengal.' [Rabindranath Tagore, 'Banglabhasha-Parichay', Rabinndrasamagra (Complete works of Rabindrnath Thakur), Vol 13, Pathak Smabesh, Dhaka, p 587] 
Then, in 1940, Tagore argued in a letter that 'for the sake of avoiding future difficulties in the literary practices', 'it is essential for the people of all the regions of Bengal to learn the conversational language practised in Kolkata since childhood.' [Rabindranath Tagore's letter to Chittaranjan Bandapadhya, Rabinndrasamagra (Complete works of Rabindrnath Thakur), Vol 16, Pathak Smabesh, Dhaka, p 418] 
However, the fact remains that Tagore's advice for the people living beyond the Kolkata city, particularly those in East Bengal, went unheeded. The people outside Kolkata continued to speak the Bangla language in their own styles, for there were certain fundamental cultural differences, linguistic included, between the peoples of East and West Bengals. 
That the Bangla of East Bengal, particularly its pronunciation, is quite different from that of the West Bengal, and that the difference owing to separate history and culture kept the peoples of the two regions politically separated for ages, found clear expression in an episode of the famous comedy, Sadhabar Ekadashi, written by Dinabandhu Mitra (1830-1870) in 1866. While drinking alcohol together, Atalbihari, the son of a Kolkata-based rich Bengali, ignominiously calls Rammanikya, a rich man from Bikrampur of East Bengal migrated to the Kolkata city, a Bangal - the satirical synonym for a Bengali. Rammanikya reacts sharply: 'Why do you call me a Bangal? Do you think a Bangal is in any way inferior to you? Bikrampur is not that far from Kolkata, it's only eight days away from the Kolkata city! Any big difference?' [Dinabandhu Mitra, Sadhabar Ekadashi, Dinabandhu Rachanabali, Dr Ajitkumar Ghosh (ed.), Haraf Prakashani, Kolkata, 1974, p 137] Atalbihari, however, does not bother to reply. He continues to stigmatise the people of East Bengal by calling Rammanikya a Bangal.
Rammanikya seems to have eventually realised that it was not mere a few hundred kilometres of geographical distance that separated East Bengal from West Bengal; rather it was much more than that, which obviously included his Bangla language and pronunciation.
Enraged by the repeated criticism by Atalbihari, Rammanikya speaks, obviously in an East Bengal dialect, about the 'qualities' of the Kolkatans that he tried to acquire to be one of those, and laments that he is still not considered to be one by them. The list of the qualities in question, however, does not reflect positively on the Kolkatans: 'Why should you repeatedly call me a Bangal, when I have done almost everything that a Kolkatan does? I have eaten a lot of un-edibles, visited brothels, dressed the prostitutes with chikon dhoti, taken biscuits in Englishman's house, smoked ganja; and still I am not considered a Kolkatan...' [ibid]
Kamruddin Ahmad, an activist intellectual from East Bengal, rightly observed: '[T]he people of eastern and western Bengal did not belong to the same stock and the people of western Bengal, who could not rise above the influence of the Sanskrit language, ridiculed the dialect, accent and customs of the people of eastern Bengal, who also returned the compliments in the same terms.' [Kamruddin Ahmad, A Socio Political History of Bengal and the Birth of Bangladesh, Fourth edition, Inside Library, Dhaka, 1975, p 17] 
Understandably, Tagore did not take the trouble to realise that Kolkata was not the 'entire Bengal' in the first place, nor was the city the 'essence of Bengal'. If at all, the Kolkata city those days was the 'essence' of the Bengali bhadralok class, born out of Lord Cornwalis's Permanent Settlement of lands and Lord Macaulay's Despatch on Education, which had nothing to do with the general masses of Bengal in general and East Bengal in particular. Besides, the pronunciation and dialect of the Bengalis living in and around the Kolkata city of West Bengal were fundamentally different from those of the vast majority of the Bangla-speaking people, both Hindus and Muslims, living in East Bengal. 
However, by way of recognising the 'dialect' of the Kolkata city to be the 'standard Bangla language' of the entire Bengal, East and West, Tagore, the most influential Bengali litterateur, had, in fact, sided with the politically powerful minority elite of Bengal vis-à-vis the politically weak majority of the Bengali masses living outside Kolkata, whose 'dialect' he called a 'sub-language'. To put it differently, in the political struggle between the two 'dialects', the one of Kolkata won, and got recognised as a language, while the 'dialect' of the rest of Bengal, particularly East Bengal, got defeated and came to be recognised as a 'sub-language'. A 'dialect' or 'sub-language' is, after all, nothing but a politically defeated 'language'.

THERE was a further political implication of the recognition of Kolkata's dialect as the standard language by Tagore. The recognition came at such a time, the late 1930s, when the elites of the Muslim and Hindu communities of Bengal were bitterly fighting each other over political power. In such circumstances, Tagore's recognition for the Kolkata dialect, incidentally spoken mostly by the Hindus, came to be interpreted by a section of the Muslims to be his communal bias for his own religious community.
Given his professed distaste for religious communalism, explicit urge for harmonising Hindu-Muslim relation and proven affection for creative Muslim writers, it would indeed be too simplistic to brand Tagore as a communal litterateur. But given his reservation about using Arabic/Persianised words, compared to Sanskrit ones, his reluctance about treating the Muslims in his literary works and his recognition of the dialect of Kolkata as standard Bangla, it is indeed difficult to view Tagore as a secular-democratic writer. Moreover, while responding to Syed Nawab Ali Chowdhury's grievances against Hinduised as well as anti-Muslim curriculum for schoolchildren of Bengal, Tagore himself admitted in 1900 that 'it is difficult to completely avoid communal bias' in literary exercises. [Rabindranath Tagore, 'Musalman Chhatrer Bangla Shikhha' (Bangla education for Muslim students), Rabindrasamagra (Complete Works of Rabindranath Tagore), Volume 17, Pathak Samabesh, Dhaka, 2012, p 350] True, Tagore found Chowdhury's grievances against the communal practices of the Hindu authors 'legitimate', and remarked that 'it is a matter of regret to see traces of malice against Muslims in the books authored by people like Bankim babu'. [ibid, p. 351] But, in the same breath, Tagore defended Bankim Chandra by saying that 'it is indeed impossible to fully remove personal prejudices from literature'.
Not surprisingly, Nabanoor, a periodical run by Muslims, wrote in 1903, 'It is true that Bankim Babu was the first to injure Bengali Muslim society... But what should be done about those who have still been doing the same? In this regard, Rabindranath [Tagore], Bengal's favourite poet, is not an exception.' [Bhuiyan Iqbal, Rabindranath O Muslim Samaj (Rabindranath and Muslim Society), Second edition, Prathama Prakashan, Dhaka, 2012, pp 401-402]
The 'biases' and 'prejudices' are, in the final instance, social constructs influenced by the history, culture and obviously politics of the time. Bankim's 'bias' and 'prejudice' were also driven by his own political ideology; he made deliberate literary attempts to construct an ideological 'bias' for a Hindu state in India and cultural 'prejudice' against Muslims to achieve his political objective. One might ask whether or not Tagore was a subconscious victim of Bankim's political ideology.
It is well known that 'in terms of writing prose, Rabindranath Tagore initially followed Bankim Chandra but soon succeeded to come out of Bankim's influence to evolve the prose style of his own'. [Muhammad Abdul Hai, 'Bangla Gadyer Samriddhi: Rabindra Jug' (Enrichment of the Bangla prose: The era of Rabindranath Tagore), in Muhammad Abdul Hai and Syed Ali Ahsan, Bangla Sahityer Itibritto: Adhunik Jug (History of Bengali Literature: Modern Period), Eleventh print, Ahmed Publishing House, Dhaka, 2010, p 135] But did it happen in case of Bankim's ideological influence on Tagore? Could he get out of the influence? Ahmed Sofa, otherwise a great admirer of Tagore's literary works, replied in the negative. Sofa argues, 'Despite his conviction in the Brahma belief system, Rabindranath did not dare reject the ideology of Brahminic Hindu nationalism that Bankim Chandra had given shape to.' [Ahmed Sofa, 'Smaran: Dineshchandra Sen' (Remembering Dineshchandra Sen) in Morshed Shafiul Hasan (ed.), Ahmad Sofa: Nirbachita Prabandha, (Selected essays of Ahmed Sofa), Maola Brothers, Dhaka, 2002, p 162]
At this point, an independent Bengali mind is forced to recollect that the same Tagore who advocated Hindu-Muslim unity for the consolidation of Bengali nationalism also wrote his controversial poem Shibazi Utsab in glorification of the political activism of the Maratha nationalist Shibazi who had aspired to set up a Hindu state in India on the debris of the Muslim empire of the Mughals. In the poem in question, Tagore embraced in unambiguous terms Shibazi's political project of 'one theological state in India' and urged upon 'the Bengalis' to "join the Marathis in glorification of Shibazi in one voice".' He wrote: '"Ek Dharmarajya hobe e Bharate" e mahabachan karibo sambal/Marathir sange aji, he Bangali, ek kanthe bolo "jaitu Sibazi".' [For the full text of the poem, see Rabindranath Tagore, 'Shibazi Utsab', Sanchayita (Collection of selected poems of Rabindranath Tagore), Tenth edition, Reprint, Bishwabharati, Kolkata, pp 475-481]
However, Ahmed Sofa's observation may appear very harsh to many, particularly to those believing that the Kolkata-based English-educated elite had created a 'renaissance' in the 19th century Bengal. But a critical analysis of the process of the so-called Bengal renaissance, the nature of its intellectual outcome, and its political-ideological orientation clearly suggests that the essence and orientation of the Bengal 'renaissance' was completely inconsistent with those of the 17th century European renaissance. While the renaissance in Europe, based on humanism and realism, paved the way for the 'modern' transformation of many European societies from the mediaeval age, the thinkers and reformers of the so-called Bengal renaissance contributed to the revival of ancient Hindu ways of life. In the words of Amalesh Tripathi, '[N]ineteenth century Bengal preserved its triumph in its spiritual saga from Rammohun to Rabindranath.' [Amalesh Tripathi, Italir Renaissance, Bangalir Sanskriti, Ananda Publishers Private Limited, Kolkata, 1994, p 47]
The development obviously benefited the English-educated Hindu elite of Bengal of the time in many ways, but the benefits came at the cost of widening the gulf with Bengali Muslims. In this regard, Nirad C Chaudhuri rightly observes: 'Throughout the nineteenth century the culture of the Hindus of India was taken back to its ancient Sanskrit foundations. The only non-Hindu influence which it recognized and tried to assimilate was European. All the thinkers and reformers of modern India from Rammuhan Roy to Rabindra Nath Tagore based their life-work on the formula of a synthesis, by which they understood a synthesis of Hindu and European currents. Islamic trends and traditions did not touch even the arc of their consciousness. 
'Thus the new Indian culture of the nineteenth century built a perimeter of its own and put especially Muslim influences and aspirations beyond the pale. In relation to it the Muslims stood outside as an external proletariat, and if the Muslims wanted to come into its world they could come only after giving up all their Islamic values and traditions.' [Nirad C Chaudhuri, The Autobiography of an Unknown Indian, Eighth Impression, Jacob Publishing House, Bombay, 1988, p 236]

Muslim literary efforts for creating Muslim literature 
THE intellectual efforts of Muslim orators and writers ranging from Munshi Meherullah to Munshi Reajuddin Ahmed and their followers substantially contributed to halting the process of Muslim conversion into Christianity in East Bengal. Meanwhile, came a group of Muslim litterateurs who found it important to portray the Muslim lives and culture of Bengal, which was either missing or trivialised, in the literary works of the Hindu authors. These Muslim writers, prominent among them are Mir Musharaf Hossain [1847-1912], Mozammel Haque (1860-1933) and Mohammad Kazem Ali Qureshi alias Kaikobad (1858-1951), would pick up episodes from Muslim history and tradition from the Arab world on the one hand and ordinary Muslim lives of Bengal on the other, for their literary exercises in Bangla. In terms of syntax and semantics of the language, they followed the Sanskritised sadhu form of the Bangla prose introduced by Hindu authors like Bankim Chandra. They also made literary attempts to forge a better understanding and mutual respect between Hindu and Muslim communities. 
Mir Musharaf Hossain was a powerful Muslim litterateur from East Bengal, who came to be known as the first 'modern' Muslim prose writer of Bengal in the 19th century. His prose style was different from that of his contemporary Muslim litterateurs, while he did not make it a motto of his literary exercise to create Islamic literature as such to rejuvenate Islamic values among Muslims. 
The syntax and semantics of Musharaf Hossain's prose was rather Sanskritised and, therefore, similar to those of his Hindu contemporaries. In praise of the prose style in his play Jamidar Darpan (Mirror of the Zamindar), published in 1873, Bankim Chandra said, 'there was no trace of Mussalmani Bangla in it, and the Bangla language of this Muslim author is purer than that of many Hindu writers.' [Bankim Chandra Chattopadhya is cited in Serajul Islam Chowdhury, Bangaleer Jatiyatabad (Bengalis' Nationalism), The University Press Limited, Dhaka, 2000, p 28] Evidently, for Bankim, Bangla is 'purer' when there is 'no trace of' anything 'Mussalmani' in it. 
However, the subjects that Mosharraf Hossain chose for his novels, plays and essays were mostly Islamic or related to Muslim history and tradition. His famously popular novel, Bishad Sindhu (Sea of pains), was about the historical Karbala tragedy of Imam Hussein, the grandson of the prophet of Islam. Since its publication in 1891, Bishad Sindhu had been perhaps the most read novel of a Muslim writer in Muslim societies of East Bengal till the mid-Twentieth century, while its impact on Muslim minds was enormous. 
A recollection of Professor Sardar Fazlul Karim (b 1925), a left-leaning activist intellectual of national repute, might provide a clue to the impact of Bishad Sindhu on the Muslim minds of the early 20th century. Recollecting his adolescence, Sardar wrote in May 1990: 'Down memory lane, the first thing that comes to the mind about my adolescence is Bishad Sindhu. I do not remember as to how the book came to me in my school days. However, it was not difficult those days, more than fifty years ago, to get a copy of Bishad Sindhu. In fact, the book was available even with the low-income peasant family with one or two children attending school or madrassah. ... The memory of suspense and emotion that Bishad Sindhu had generated in me those days still stimulates my mind. ... I used to assemble my parents, brothers and sisters and my uncles and aunts in the courtyard of our house and read out Bishad Sindhu to them. ... Ah, what a tragic episode... As I continued to read, my mother, aunt and my brothers could not hold back tears.' [Morshed Shafiul Alam, (ed.) Sardar Fazlul Karim: Smriti Samagra, (A collection of memoirs by Sardar Fazlul Karim), Volume 1, Maola Brothers, Dhaka, 2013, pp 89-90] 
Shamsur Rahman (1929 -2006), one of the most influential modern poets of Bangladesh, provides a similar childhood memory centring Bishad Sindhu in his memoir. The poet admits that 'none had any knack for literature in our house', while he saw 'no books other than school textbooks, the holy Qur'an and Bishad Sindhu' in the house. [Shamsur Rahman, Kaler Dhuloy Lekha, Anyaprokash, Dhaka, Second print of the first edition, 2007, pp 16] The only one book that he read in his childhood, other than the school textbooks, was Bishad Sindhu. The poet recollects: 'I read a book, only one book, which was out of the school curriculum. It was Mir Mosharaf Hossain's Bishad Sindhu.' [ibid, p 18]
Shamsur Rahman also read out Bishad Sindhu often to his maternal grandmother. 'My grandmother did not have literacy... I still get surprised to think, after so many years, as to how my grandma heard my reading so passionately! She perhaps never took Bishad Sindhu for a novel. Instead, she perceived it to be a holy book of Islam... In recollection, I still see that I am reading out Bishad Sindhu, chapters after chapters, to my grandma and she is hearing it with utmost attention...To tell the truth, my adolescence, my grandma and Mir Mosharaf Hossain's Bishad Sindhu got merged into one.' [ibid, pp 18-19]
The tragic Karbala episode remained a source of literary works, prose and poetry, for many Muslim writers of Bengal till mid-20th century. [Poetic works like Kaikobad's Maharram Sharif apart, prose works on the tragedy included Kharatullah's Karbala published in 1906, Mohammaduddin Ahmed's Moharram Kanda published in 1912, Mohammad Abdul Bari's Karbala published in 1913, Fazlur Rahim Chowdhury's Maharram Chitra published in 1917, Amir Hossain Alkaderi's Karbalar Juddha published in 1936, Muhammad Barkat Ullah's Karbalar Juddha O Nabi Bangsher Itibritta and Karbala O Imam Bangsher Itibritta published in 1957 and 1965 respectively, etc. However, of all these works on the Karbala episode, Mosharaf Hossain's Bishad Sindhu proved to be the most influential and enduring.] Bishad Sindhu was for Muslims what Ramayana was for Hindus in the rural Bengal for decades: Hindus used to keep Ramayana beside Bhagawatgeeta and Muslims Bishad Sindhu beside the Qur'an.
Mir Mosharaf Hossain published another novel, Eslamer Joi, in 1908, glorifying the spiritual and political victory of Islam. Besides, he published quite a few volumes of poetry glorifying the leaders of early Islam that included Hazrat Omorer Dharmajibon Labh (Religious life of Hazrat Omar), Hazrat Hamjar Dharmajibon Labh (Religious life of Hazrat Hamza), Hazrat Belaler Jibani (Biography of Hazrat Belal) and Bibi Khodejar Bibaha (Marriage of Hazrat Khadeja) in 1905. Besides, the contents of two other volumes of his poetical works, Madinar Gaurab (Glory of Medina) and Moslem Biratwa (Muslim heroism), published in 1906 and 1907 respectively, were of Islamic essence. His essay, Hazrat Yusuf, published in 1908, is also concerned about an Arab prophet related to theological history of Islam.
Understandably, despite his different prose style, the content of Mir Mosharaf Hossain's literary works were similar to those of the Muslim prose writers who had taken up literary activism as a means of glorifying Islam through literature and strengthening Islamic values among Muslims of Bengal.
However, in his efforts to remove social animosity between Hindu and Muslim communities of Bengal, Mir Mosharaf Hossain wrote an essay, 'Gojibon', in 1889 arguing against cow-slaughtering by Muslims to make the Hindus, who regard the animal as one of their goddesses, happy, at the risk of being exposed to severe criticism from Muslim nationalists of Bengal. 
'Gojiban' earned him appreciation from the Hindu community, but many Muslim writers accused him of appeasing Hindus. Pundit Mashhadi wrote a book, Agnikukkut, in 1899 against the contents of Mosharaf Hossain's 'Gojibon'. Some mullahs even branded him a kafir for arguing against beef eating, and that too in the 'Sanskritised Bangla prose developed by Christians and Hindus'.

MOHAMMAD Kazem Ali Qureshi, better known as Kaikobad (1858-1952), had his 'literary inspiration derived from his desire to make the backward Muslims aware of their rich tradition and heritage and thereby help restore their glory'. [Banglapedia: National Encyclopaedia of Bangladesh, Volume 5, Asiatic Society of Bangladesh, Dhaka, Sub-Verbo: Kaikobad]
Kaikobad is famous for his epic, Mahashmashan, published in 1904 and based on the third war of Panipath between Indo-Afghan Muslims and Marathas in 1761. Kaikobad's objective behind composing the huge poetic volume was, as he wrote in the introduction to Mahashmashan, 'to write a poetic volume on the heroism of Indian Muslims, the reading of which would enable the Muslims of Bengal to audaciously claim that the Muslims of India had once been matchless heroes and that they were inferior to none in terms of courage and sense of pride.' Kaikobad was in Bangla poetry what Mir Mosharaf Hossain was in Bangla prose, for, as Wakil Ahmed observes, 'they were the ones who had successfully broken the ice of complex of the Bengali Muslims in terms of literary practices in Bangla language'.
Kaikobad was a proud Muslim writer of Bengal, but not a parochial communalist in any manner. He compared the Hindus and Muslims engaged in communal fights as 'apes and gibbons', and aspired for Hindu-Muslim unity for the decisive struggle for India's independence from British colonialism. He used his poetic ability in forging unity among feuding Muslims and Hindus. In a poem, Hindu-Mussalman, Kaikobad urged members of the two religious communities to come closer as 'children of Mother India' and sincerely 'serve at the mother's feet'.
Kaikobad also published a few volumes of poetry. The readers warmly received his Ashrumala, a volume published in 1894.
However, Kaikobad's Bangla was, like that of Mir Mosharaf Hossain - Sanskritised. Hossain's prose was like that of Bankim Chandra, while Kaikobad's was similar to that of poet Nabinchandra Sen. Not surprisingly, Nabinchandra praised Kaikobad's Ashrumala the same communally patronising way Bankimchandra did Hossain's Bishad Sindhu. In a letter to Kaikobad, Nabinchandra Sen wrote on April 2, 1896: 'Had I not received your gift, I would not have believed that a Muslim can compose such beautiful poems in Bangla'.[Nabinchandra Sen's letter is cited in Wakil Ahmed, Unish Shatake Bangali Mussalmaner Chinta O Chetanar Dhara (The thoughts and ideas of Bengali Muslims in the 19th century), Bangla Academy, Dhaka, 1997, p 248]
Bangabasi, a literary monthly edited by a Hindu writer, made similar comment on Kaikobad and his poetic volume: 'We did not know that there is any Muslim in the country who can compose such beautiful poems in such beautiful Bangla.' [ibid]
Mozammel Haque (1860-1933), a prolific Muslim writer from the Nadia district of West Bengal, also devoted his great literary abilities to rejuvenate the otherwise 'backward' Muslim society of Bengal in the spirit of the Arab and Persian Muslim saints, philanthropists and fighters. He wrote in Bangla the biographies of a number of great Arabian and Persian Muslim thinkers of the past. He also wrote a biography of Tipu Sultan, a Muslim ruler of the princely state of Mysore in India, who vigorously fought against British colonialism.
That a prime purpose of Mozammel Haque's literary exercise was to enlighten Bengali readers, particularly Muslim ones, about the Muslim tradition and history objectively and thereby inspire them to make progress with a sense of pride, is evident in the subjects he had chosen to write the essays, novels and poems on.
Many non-Muslim writers had projected Fateh Ali Tipu Sultan of Mysore as a fanatic ruler, who oppressed his Hindu subjects and converted them to Islam by force, which was mostly nothing but politically motivated distortion of history. Aware of such politically motivated projection of a Muslim ruler, Mozammel Haque says in the introduction of Tipu Sultan that he wrote the book 'to provide the readers with an objective narrative about Tipu[Sultan]'. [Mozammel Haque, Introduction to Tipu Sultan, in Muhammad Abdul Qayyum (ed.), Mozammel Haque Rachanabali (Works of Mozammel Haque), Volume 1, Bangla Academy, Dhaka, 2005, p 159]
Haque was also eager to generate in the 'lazy' Muslim minds of the day an interest in literature. In his 'submission' at the beginning of Tipu Sultan, Mozammel Haque lamented: 'Alas, when would you learn to appreciate literature, and when would you understand that literature remains the matrix of the strength of a nation.'
He also wrote a couple of novels, Johara in 1917 and Darafkhan Gazi in 1919, to enlighten the Muslim minds of Bengal about the glorious past of Islam on the one hand and generate awareness against the inhuman social practices prevalent in the contemporary Muslim society on the other. While Darafkhan Gazi was a historical novel relating to the invasion of Pandua in Bengal by the Pathans, Johara was about the tragic consequences of the early marriage of Muslim girls prevalent in Bengal those days. 
Mozammel Haque also published a few volumes of poetry, Kusumanjali being the first one in 1881. His Jatiya Foara, another volume published in 1912, was a collection of some 'spirited poems exhorting the Mohamedan community to a sense of their present fallen condition and advance on the path of progress.'
 Bandhab, a contemporary periodical edited by a Hindu writer, praised Kusumanjali saying: 'We never knew that Bengali Muslims could write such beautiful Bangla. All the poems contained in this volume, including Maharram, have been written in the language of the Hindus.' [The Agrahayon, 1289 (BS) issue of Bandhab, cited in Wakil Ahamed, ibid, p 262]
Shomprakash, another Bangla-language periodical, published a review of the volume of the poetry, saying: 'We knew, and we heard, the Muslims cannot speak good Bangla, but Kusumanjali has started removing our impression... Readers, see for yourself as how pure Bangla Mozammel Haque has written.' [ibid] Surabhi, another literary magazine, although critical about the contents of the volume, appreciated the book, for 'the writer being a Muslim has written pure Bangla'. [ibid]
Mozammel Haque also wrote two volumes of Padya-Shiksha, or art of poetry, the first volume of which was included in the school curriculum. Reviewing the second volume of Padya-Shiksha, Bangbasi, a literary journal edited by a Hindu author, wrote: 'The writer, although a Muslim, has command over the Bangla language form of the Hindus.'
Notably, the Hindu writers and journalists used to give positive reviews of the works of Muslim litterateurs when the latter followed the Sanskritised syntax and semantics of Bangla practised and patronised by the former. Such appreciations from well-known Hindu authors might have pleased the Muslim writers concerned, or have even embarrassed them, but the rest of the Muslims writers, and the Muslim readers in general, must have found such 'appreciations' humiliating to the entire Muslim community. But the Hindu literary community continued to do such cultural activism without bothering about its social and political implications. 
The communalist appreciation of Muslim works by the Hindus was not limited only to the literary world; it was also visible in the social arena.
Recollecting his school days in Mymensingh, Abul Mansur Ahmed writes that addressing at the annual function of his school, the Hindu manager of the local zamindary said, 'It is indeed a matter of great pleasure that the Muslims, following the footsteps of the gentlemen, have these days started concentrating on education.' [Abul Mansur Ahmed, Atmakatha (Memoir), Ahmed Publishing House, Dhaka, Second Printing, 2009, p 161] For the Hindu manager, the Muslims were not 'gentlemen'. 
It was, however, not an isolated example. For instance, Bangabasi, otherwise the 'best' Bangla weekly of the time, edited by a Hindu journalist, wrote while reporting on a public meeting: 'The meeting was attended by a few gentlemen and a large number of Muslims.' [ibid] For Bangabasi, only Hindus were gentlemen. 
Such appreciations would only send a communalist message to the larger Bengali Muslim community that the literary works are praiseworthy only when they were done in the manner the Hindu writers did, which in fact contributed to the widening of the gulf between the Muslim and Hindu literary communities. 
Under the circumstances, a significant section of the educated Muslims of Bengal, particularly the writers, developed certain grievances against the literary practices of the 19th century Hindu writers. The grievances included, as articulated much later by Professor Anisuzzaman, (a) absence of the Arabic, Persian and Hindustani words used in the everyday life of the Muslims in the modern Bangla literature, (b) absence of representation of Muslim life in the literature and (c) demonisation of the respected Muslim characters of history in poetry, plays and novels. [Anisuzzaman, 'Swaruper Sandhane', Nirbachita Prabandha, Anyaprokash, Dhaka, 2000, p 48]
The Muslim writers of Bengal, therefore, deemed it necessary to create their own Bangla literature to nurture Islamic values and traditions. They also made efforts to 'Islamise' Bangla language by using more and more Arabicised/Persianised words to counter the 'Hinduised' Bangla burdened with Sanskritised ones used by Hindu writers. In the process, Bangla language and literature got divided into two categories,  Hinduised and Islamised, which, in turn contributed to creating two opposing, even conflicting, political consciousness in the larger society of Bengal.
The most prominent among those who took the pioneering role in preaching that the literary activism of Bengali Muslims should be dedicated to creating an Islamic political consciousness in Bengal remains Ismail Hossain Sirazee (1879-1931).
Sirazee published a poem, Anal Prabaha, in 1899. The poem contained in fiery language the Muslim glory of the past, his intense anger for the fallen state of the contemporary Muslims and fervent call to the Muslim youths to fight for Indian independence from British colonialism. The second edition of the volume was published in 1908, and the book was banned by the British colonial administration, while Sirazee was jailed for two years.
Sirazee's poetic exercise appears to be a reaction to those of Hemchandra Bandapadaya (1838-1903) and Nabinchandra Sen (1847-1909), both of whom were fiercely anti-Muslim and intensely pro-British to ensure Hindu revivalism.
In Bharatsangeet, a poem composed in 1869, Hemchandra describes the past glory of Hindu race in India, which was lost to the Muslim 'enemies', 'regrettably' due to the obliviousness of the inherent strength of Sanatan dharma.  Hemchandra Bandapadaya is cited in Syed Ali Ahsan, 'Unish Shataker Mohakabyer Dhara' (The trend of epics in the Nineteenth century) in Muhammad Abdul Hai and Syed Ali Ahsan, Bangla Sahityer Itibritto: Adhunik Jug (History of Bengali Literature: Modern Period), Eleventh print, Ahmed Publishing House, Dhaka, 2010, p 204] In order to revive the past glory of Hinduism, Hemchandra had advised the Hindus in another poem to take the 'path shown by the English', for 'had the English not been here, India would have been a deserted forest'. In that case, writes Hemchandra, 'who would have shown' the Hindus, 'who would have taken' them 'to the path abandoned many years ago'? 
Nabinchandra Sen, like Hemchandra, was a Hindu nationalist. In his well-known epic poem Palashir Judhya, published in 1875, Sen portrays invading English military commander Lord Clive as a person 'committed to justice' and 'morally superior' to the 'sinful' Muslim rulers of Bengal. Although he describes Mir Jafar Ali Khan and Miron who betrayed Nawab Seraj-ud Dowla as villains, and Mohanlal who fought and died for the nawab a patriotic hero, Nabinchandra Sen preferred welcoming the British invaders of Christian faith to supporting the local nawab of Muslim faith. Moreover, his poetic trilogy - Bairatak, Kurukhetra and Prabhas - remains the epic of Hindu revivalism, introduced by Bankim Chandra in the 19th century Bangla literature. 

UNDER the circumstance, Ismail Hossain Sirazee published his epical poem Spainbijoy Kabya, projecting the triumphant battle of 'heroic' Muslim commander Tariq Ibn Zayad (d 720) against the Spanish emperor Roderich (d 712). In the poem, Sirazee, a Muslim nationalist, focuses on the strength, sense of justice, bravery and truthfulness of the Muslims.
Sirazee was also the one to call upon his fellow litterateurs to shape Bangla language and literature 'in Islamic ways'. Many of his contemporary Muslim writers, particularly from East Bengal, followed suit. Subsequently, they, as if to counter the Hinduised 'Bengal renaissance', called the new phenomenon as their own 'renaissance', and Sirazee came to be regarded as the 'forerunner of Muslim renaissance of Bengal'.
In an essay, Sahityashakti Ebong Jatisongothan (Literary power and nation formation), published in the inaugural issue of the Bangla monthly Al Islam in 1910, Sirazee argues that literature has always had the ability to shape a nation and urges Muslim litterateurs of the time to shape Bangla language and literature in Islamic ways to rejuvenate Islamic nationalism among Muslims of Bengal. Sirazee observes: 'The present Bangla language and literature is not congenial enough to infuse dynamism into our inert national life. It is now extremely essential to translate literature, history, biographies, theology and philosophy form our national language Arabic, and with that Persian and Urdu, into Bangla. History remains the lifeline for Muslims. There is no alternative to enlivening the moribund Muslims [of Bengal] by exposing them to Islamic history and the glorious lives of great Muslims.' [Ismail Hossain Sirazee is cited in Syed Ali Ahsan, 'Unish Shataker Mohakabyer Dhara' (The trend of epics in the Nineteenth century), ibid, p 217]
Sirazee also cautioned the 'Muslim servants of literature' to remain 'alert' against losing the 'sense of direction' by 'blind imitation' [of non-Muslim litterateurs]. In order 'to make Bangla literature the national literature' of Muslims, Sirazee advised Muslim writers to 'always remain within the walls of Islamic purity and principles in serving literature.'
While in his own literary exercises Sirazee never deviated from the 'literary principles' he preached to 'Muslim servants of Bangla literature', his preaching successfully influenced many contemporary Muslim writers to create literary works based on Islamic history and values with an Islamised Bangla language.
Then he took up his pen to rescue 'great' historical Muslim characters from being demonised by Hindu writers on the one hand, and establishing the moral superiority of Muslim men and women over Hindu men and women on the other. Explaining reasons for publishing his first novel, Rai-nandini, in 1916, Sirazee wrote in its introduction: 'Bangla has become the most prominent language of India, thanks to the contributions of Bengali writers.  Notwithstanding the scarcity of books on history, philosophy and science in Bangla, there are a lot of Bangla novels and plays, which are, however, full of hatred against Muslims. The novels are particularly hells of disdains, in which have been thrown members of the great Muslim nation, ranging from servants to emperors and nawabs to begums and princesses. Great Muslim begums and princesses like Nurjahan, Razia Sultana, Zebunnesa, Jahanara, Mamtajmahal, whose names have brightened the pages of history, are being portrayed as persons of loose character madly seeking love of Hindus.'[Syed Ismail Hossain Sirazee, in Abdul Kadir (ed.), Sirazee Rachnabali (Complete works of Ismail Hossain Sirazee) First reprint, Bangla Academy, Dhaka, 2003, p ix]
Sirazee finds such literary activism 'completely unbearable'. He continues: 'Hindu novelists, beginning from Bankim Chandra and Rangalal Bandapaddhaya to the rest, have been making enormous efforts to demean the globally respected Muslims and hurt their sentiments. Some Muslim writers, and myself, have repeatedly registered our protests against the phenomenon, but with no result. In the Bogra conference of the North-Bengal Literary Society, ...I made a sincere appeal to the Hindu educated class not to demean the Muslims for the sake of friendship and good relations between the two communities. But, alas! My appeal has produced no result.' [ibid, p x]
Sirazee admits that 'it is essential to have good relations between the Hindu and Muslim inhabitants of the same country' but alleges that the Hindu attitude towards Muslims is a great impediment to forging the cherished 'good relations'. He says that 'immersed in their imaginary Aryan traditions, the Hindu brothers, unfortunately, continue to sow the seeds of enmity by using their pens in an irresponsible manner.'
Sirazee argues that 'for the sake of the welfare of the country, and to generate awareness among Muslims, I have authored Rai-Nandini, although I am not an admirer of the literary form called novel. My sense of responsibility has driven me to write it. The Hindu and Muslim characters, as I have portrayed in the novel, are reflective of the real picture of the past.' [ibid]
Finally, Sirazee hopes that his novel will 'provide some comfort to those who have been extremely hurt by the novels written by Bengali authors'. He hopes that the 'Bengali authors' in question 'would rewrite the vulgar novels vilifying the Muslims and make efforts to portray the great heroic characters of the Muslims' in their works. In case of a failure, Sirazee writes in a retaliatory tone, 'I would take up my pen, imbibed with the indomitable spirit of Islam, to teach them a lesson.'
Evidently, Ismail Hossain Sirazee declared a linguistic and literary civil war against the communalist sections of the Hindu litterateurs. The war was not limited to mere declaration. For instance, Sirazee's novel Rai-nandini appears to be a Muslim response to Bankim Chandra's Durgeshnandini. In Durgeshnandini, Bankim projects a Muslim Pathan nawab, Kartul Khan, as a treacherous, cruel and lecherous ruler. Besides, he makes Kartul Khan's daughter, Ayesha, fall in love with a Hindu Rajput prince, Joysingh, imprisoned by the Muslim nawab. Intensely passionate about charming Joysingh's psychological distress in captivity, Ayesha offers to help him to flee from imprisonment. 
However, confronted by the nawab's man, Osman, in the midst of a clandestine conversation between Joysingh and Ayesha, the latter unequivocally declares: 'If you ask me, Osman, as to who is this captive to me, my answer is that he is the god of my heart. ...Listen, Osman, I tell you again, this captive is the god of my heart - nobody else would have a place in my heart. If the killing ground gets wet with his blood, still you would see, I would establish his image in the temple of my heart and worship him for years to come. If I never ever meet him, even if he is in the midst of a hundred women after his release from this captivity, even if he hates me, still, I will continue to remain a slave begging for his love.'[Bankim Chandra Chattapadhaya, Durgeshnandini, Upannyassamagra: Bankim Chandra (Collection of novels by Bankim Chandra), Khan Brothers & Company, Dhaka, 2013, p 77]
Sirazee found the negative portrayal of a Muslim nawab, and particularly the literary episode of a Muslim girl falling in love with a Hindu prince, offending to the Muslim sense of pride. In Rai-nandini, Sirazee, as if in an act of literary retaliation against Bankim, projects Jessore's Hindu ruler Raja Pratapaditya as a womaniser. Out to rob a Swarnamayee, the beautiful daughter of Kedar Rai, to satiate his carnal desire, Pratapaditya ordered Mahtab Khan, his Muslim chief military commander, to grab the girl for his enjoyment. Khan, a principled young military commander, sharply reacts to his employer's instruction: 'I am a Muslim, I am not a coward. I cannot loot her. That's the job of a dacoit. Besides, only the cowards resort to the persecution of women.' [Syed Ismail Hossain Sirazee, Rai-nandini, in Abdul Kadir (ed.), Sirazee Rachnabali (Complete works of Ismail Hossain Sirazee) First reprint, Bangla Academy, Dhaka, 2003, p 40] Pratapaditya gets furious, but Mahatab Khan quits his job, attracting further wrath of the Raja, and fled Jessore to avoid persecution.
However, in an apparent bid to counter Bankim's episode of Muslim Ayesha's love for Hindu Joysingh, Sirazee shows that Raja Pratapaditya's daughter Arunabati is in love with Muslim Mahtab Khan. Khan, on his way to some safe zone, meets in a distant district Raja Pratapadity's fourth wife, Rani Durgabati, who had motherly affection for the young commander, to take her blessings. There, he gets exposed to the explicitly passionate love of Arunabati and discovered Rani Durgabati to be willing about marrying her daughter off to Mahtab Khan, when she says it is 'better' for him 'to leave the monster's kingdom', but eagerly asks: '[In that case], my boy, what would happen to my [daughter] Arunabati?' 
Mahtab Khan, penniless at the time, resolves to escape Pratapaditya's wrath first, and leaves alone. As he leaves, the lovelorn Arunabati gets shattered in the fear of losing him forever and starts crying. She tries to forget Khan, but, as Sirazee describes, 'the more she wanted to forget Mahtab Khan, the more his separation became unbearable. Suddenly, she got up from bed, took her jewellery box, secretly got out of the house through the backdoor and rushed towards her beloved,' escaping through a riverine rout in the darkness of the night. [ibid, p 47]  
Quite familiar with the area, Arunabati reaches the riverbank soon. Meanwhile, Khan's boat has already got off to a distance. In the darkness, only its lantern is visible. She traces the faint ray of the lantern, soon gets nearer to the boat, urges Khan to pull aside. '[A]n astonished Mahtab Khan, repeatedly requested Arunabati to return home. The boatmen had meanwhile started to get the boat to the shore but changed course on Mahtab Khan's instruction. Then Arunabati jumped into the river, and started swimming towards the boat. Mahtab Khan could no longer hold himself. He immediately jumped into the river, and pulled Arunabati on to the boat within no time.' [ibid] 
However, Sirazee's appeal to the Hindu authors to stop producing anti-Muslim literature went unheeded, and the threat that he would continue to write novels like Rai-nandini, unless the Hindus stop their communalist pen, was ignored. Sirazee, therefore, continued to write for Muslims rejuvenation vis-à-vis Hindu revivalism. 
In doing social and political service to his own religious community through literature, Sirazee often appeared to be taking retaliatory actions against the Hindu communalists - his novel Tarabai, published in 1922, being a glaring example. In his bid to project the Islamic value system to be much superior to that of Hinduism, and Muslim rulers nobler than those of other faiths, Sirazee projected Maratha nationalist Shibazi in the novel as a 'self-seeking anti-Muslim villain', 'a gang leader' and 'a lecherous man', and his lovelorn daughter Tarabai desperate to win great Mughal hero Afzal Khan's love. 

THE queen of Krishnanagar, Maleka Amina Banu, whom Shibazi is attracted to, is made to reject 'heroic' Sibazi's proposed 'love' on the ground that, as Maleka tells Rokeya, 'Shibaji is a mean; he cannot be called a heroic man, call him a robber. He should rather be called a mountain-rat.' When Rokeya, who pursues Shibazi's case to Maleka, refers to Shibazi's magnanimity and kindness shown to the latter, Maleka replies: 'He has an evil plan behind his apparent magnanimity and kindness, which is nothing but alluring me to marriage with him. However, he should know that a Muslim woman could never accept a kafir as husband.' Rokeya then informs Maleka that 'Shibazi is even ready to convert to be a Muslim' for marrying Maleka, and thus he appears to be an 'ideal lover'. But Maleka finds it to a 'treachery' on Shibazi's part, and says, 'If a man who has seven wives and several concubines and still cannot sleep at night without me should be called an ideal lover, who is then the ideal debauch?' [Syed Ismail Hossain Sirazee, Tarabai, in Abdul Kadir (ed.), Sirazee Rachnabali (Complete works of Ismail Hossain Sirazee) First reprint, Bangla Academy, Dhaka, 2003, pp 111-112]
Again, in order to underline the Hindu immorality and cowardice and Muslim women's strong sense of sexual morality, Sirazee made Shibazi enter the house of Maleka in the middle of the night and make indecent advances to her. Enraged, Maleka, known for her bravery, hits Shibazi to the ground and the latter suddenly discovers himself at the feet of the Muslim queen, holding a sharp knife pointed to his chest. Helpless, and afraid of death, Sibaji begs, 'Please, Maleka, please forgive me...please, don't kill me. I'd never elope with any woman, nor would I look at you with carnal desire. I have realised today that of the women of all faiths, the Muslim ones are the most protective about their chastity.' [ibid, p 138]
Sirazee was not satisfied with projecting Muslim women's pious determination against the idea of marrying Hindu men. He, therefore, took the trouble of projecting Hindu women as vulnerable to the heroic performances of Muslim men, and made in the same novel a Hindu girl, again, none other than Shibazi's daughter Tarabai, fall for the chivalrous Muslim commander Afjal Khan - Shibazi's prime military enemy. Shibazi is eventually found in the novel agreeable to the marriage of her daughter with Afjal Khan, and arrange for the marriage in his own kingdom, obviously to achieve his political ambition vis-à-vis the Mughal emperor in Delhi. However, eventually the marriage does not take place, for Maloji, who is in love with Tarabai, stabs her to death a few hours before she is to wed her beloved Khan. 
Desperate to secure Afjal Khan's friendship, Shibazi, after the death of his daughter, offers his own sister Kaminibai to him, which Khan refuses to accept. The novel ends with Shibazi, disappointed by his failure to forge a family tie with Afjal Khan for political convenience, treacherously killing the Mughal military hero. 
The readers having command over South Asian history would realise without making much efforts that the political objective of the novel is, besides glorifying Muslim heroism and morality, to demonise Hindus in general and the Martha leader Shibazi in particular.  
Ismail Hossain Sirazee's next novel, Feroza Begum, published in 1924, was based on the Muslim-Hindu conflicts finding expression in the War of Panipath between Muslims and Hindu Marathas and contains the same spirit of Muslim superiority over Hindus in terms of bravery, magnanimity and morality. 
The content, tone and tenor of his third novel, Nuruddin, published in 1923, were also not different from his previous literary works. In the novel, Sirazee showed that Muslim princes and military commanders remained the bravest youths in India, and that their bravery and heroism were so impressive that Rajput kings had often married out their beautiful daughters to Muslim princes and commanders. In such an episode of Nuruddin, the queen of Chitore, Rani Lakshmibai, also thinks about marrying off her daughter, Ruksminibai, to the Muslim military commander of her kingdom, Rumi Khan, and discusses the idea with the king of Chitore - Rana Udaysingh. 
A little hesitant, Rana asks the queen: 'Don't you think that marrying off the daughter to the [Muslim] military commander would lower the high head of Shishodiya family, particularly in the eyes of the Rajput kings?'
The queen replies: 'It wouldn't. It would rather hold my head high. Is there any king of Rajput left, who hasn't married off a daughter to Muslims? If marrying a girl off to the Sultan family of Malab does not bring in disgrace, why should it be a matter of dishonour to marry off a girl to Rumi Khan - the greatest of heroes born of the indomitable Turkish royal family?' [Syed Ismail Hossain Sirazee, Nuruddin, in Abdul Kadir (ed.), Sirazee Rachnabali (Complete works of Ismail Hossain Sirazee) First reprint, Bangla Academy, Dhaka, 2003, p 248]
Sirazee also published a few volumes of poems. Most of his poetical works were dedicated to the cause of independence - independence from the British colonial rule. Mujibur Rahman Khan (1910-1984), a journalist and litterateur, rightly observed in 1956, more than five decades of the composition of Anal Prabaha, 'Sirazee was the poet of independence.' [Mujibur Rahman Khan, Dibacha, Appendix, in Abdul Kadir (ed.), Sirazee Rachnabali (Complete works of Ismail Hossain Sirazee) First reprint, Bangla Academy, Dhaka, 2003, p 439]  He also said, 'As far as I know, Sirazee was the first one to get prison terms [from the British] for propagating the message of independence in Bangla literature.' [ibid, p 442]However, Sirazee's spirit of independence was imbued with, to a large extent, the interests of Muslims in general and Muslims of Bengal in particular. That is why, his poetic exercise, like his prose work, was devoted to fighting against the British colonialism on the one hand, and the elitist Hindu vilification of Muslims on the other. 
In poem, Ishwar Chandra Gupta (1812-1859), a well-known Hindu poet of Bengal, contemptuously called Muslims 'Nere' and remarked that Muslims are 'arrogant in temperament', 'worthless in deeds' and the 'worst of human beings'.
Ishwar Chandra Gupta is cited in Mohammad Maniruzzaman, Adhunik Bangla Kabye Hindu-Mussalman Samparka (Hindu-Muslim relations in the modern Bengali poetry), Bangla Academy, Dhaka, 1970, p 181]
Sirazee, as if to rebut Gupta's poetic observations about Muslims, published a poem, Chokh Gelo, in 1900, in which he called Hindus a 'servant race' and regretted that 'even the servant race of Hindus' looks at Muslims contemptuously, call them mlechha, yaban, etc, and considers them 'untouchables'. 
[Ismail Hossain Sirazee is cited in Chandra Gupta is cited in Sanjida Akhter, Bangla Chotogolpe Deshbibhag (Reflection of partition in the Bangla short stories), Bangla Academy, Dhaka, 2002, p 14]
Sirazee's biographer, M Serajul Haque, writes: 'Sirazee Sahib learnt Persian in school and studied Sanskrit at home... Since boyhood, he used to read Sanskrit grammar and literature, studied Sanskrit dictionaries as well as scriptures of Hinduism like Veda, Manusanghita and Upanishad.' [M Serajul Haque, Serazee-Charita. See appendix, in Abdul Kadir (ed.), Sirazee Rachnabali (Complete works of Ismail Hossain Sirazee) First reprint, Bangla Academy, Dhaka, 2003, p 342] Not surprisingly, Sirazee's own Bangla prose was Sanskritised. However, at a certain stage of his life, apparently on political and cultural considerations, Sirazee used to argue that Muslim writers should use more and more 'sweet' but 'intense' Arabic and Persian words in Bangla prose.
Understandably, in terms of the Bangla prose style, Sirazee was for Islamising the language by deliberately using Arabic and Persian words vis-à-vis Hinduised Bangla leaden with Sanskritised words. In this regard, he wrote in an article, Sahityer Prabhab O Prerona, in the monthly Soltan in 1923: 'Subject to particular topics, we are for simple and lucid prose. But we are not in favour of light and spineless language. Heroic languages like Arabic and Persian sound so sweet, but at the same time how intense they are! Muslims should not imitate the followers of Rabindranath [Tagore] who, in the name of softening Bangla, has in fact diluted the language.' [Ismail Hossain Serazee is cited in Shajahan Manir, Bangla Sahitye Bangali Mussalmaner Chintadhara: 1919-1940 (Thoughts of Muslims in Bengali Literature: 1919-1940), First reprint, Bangla Academy, Dhaka, 2004, p 262] In order to infuse 'gravity' into Bangla, and transform it into a heroic language, and thus make it compatible with the Muslim spirit, Sirazee advised to 'put the language on the back of the Arabic horse' with an open 'Persian sword' in hand. Clearly, in the last instance, Sirazee was for an Islamised Bangla language with the use of Arabic and Persian words. 
It is, however, noteworthy that Sirazee never displayed any sympathy for the madrassah-trained Arabic-Persian literate mullahs having no command over Bangla. Sirazee wrote in 1916: 'No populace can make progress without the mother tongue... Our maulavis of Bengal cannot do any service to the society or the religion because of their lack of command over the mother tongue...With no knowledge of Bangla, the Arabic-Persian literate mullahs have rather perpetually been contributing to degradation of society.' [Ismail Hossain Sirazee, Matribhasha O Jayiya Unnati, in Mahbubullah (ed.), Mohan Ekushe Subornojointi Grantha (Amar Ekushe Golden Jubilee Book), op-cit, pp 34-35] In the same article, Sirazee also observes that 'it is a responsibility to cultivate Bangla at every madrassah of Bengal'. In this regard, he called upon his 'Bengali Muslim brethrens... not to perceive Bangla language to be the language of Hindus' and urged upon them to sincerely 'serve Bangla, for 'not serving the cause of the mother tongue is tantamount to a sin'. 
Notably, Sirazee was also an effective orator. In public oratory, he used to be compared with Surendranath Bandapadhaya, while many found his oratory comparable with the late Munshi Mohammad Meherullah. Serajul Haque writes: 'The moribund Muslim society of Bengal that opened its eyes in the morning by the charming oratory of the late Munshi Mohammad Meherullah, while the fiery speeches of Sirazee made that society to leave the bed for workplace.' [M Serajul Haque, Serazee-Charita, op-cit, p 397] Munshi Meherullah had used his talent of oratory against the Christianisation of Muslims, while Sirazee used his oratory skill against Hindu communalism on the one hand and Muslim obscurantism on the other. The objective of both the men was the welfare of Muslims of Bengal. 
Nevertheless, in the process of protesting against Hindu communalism in Bangla language and literature, Sirazee often appears a Muslim communalist himself, which eventually influenced the literary developments of Bangla language and literature, further widening the gulf initially created by the Hindu elite. After all, many Muslim writers of the time to accept Sirazee's literary and linguistic views.
Mohammad Reazuddin Ahmed, one of those who believed in 'Muslim nationalism', observed in the introduction to his book Pakpanjatan, published in 1929: 'The Bangla language used by Bengali Muslim writers must have Muslim characteristics. Influenced by the Sanskritised Bangla used by Hindus, Muslims have lost their national thoughts, national consciousness and national imagination. Muslim hearts are now saturated with Hindu ideas and thoughts. The thought process of the Muslims is heavily influenced by that of the Hindus. [Mohammad Reazuddin Ahmed is cited in Shajahan Manir, Bangla Sahitye Bangali Mussalmaner Chintadhara: 1919-1940 (Thoughts of Muslims in Bengali Literaure: 1919 - 1940), ibid, p 264] 
Understandably, Ismail Hossain Sirazee, Reazuddin Ahmed and the like substantially contributed to the Islamisation of Bangla language and literature, both in terms of form and content, vis-à-vis its Hinduisation by Bankim Chandra and his Hindu followers, which equally created the cultural ground for social and political mobilisation of the people of Bengal on religious lines.

WHILE the contemporary Muslim society of Bengal was witnessing the intellectual rejuvenation of Islamic thoughts and ideas in literary practices, its women still remained the most backward section of the Bengali populace in terms of social, economic and political advancement. They were captives within the four walls of household duties, plagued with social and religious obscurantism. In terms of social, economic and political emancipation, the condition of Hindu women of Bengal was no different. Moreover, the most of the dominant male litterateurs of both the religious communities were still using female characters in their literary works to satisfy the communalist ego against opposing religious faiths, Bankim Chandra and Ismail Hossain Sirazee being representative examples. In their so-called historical novels, while Bankim used female Muslim characters like Ayesha to project the heroism and chivalry of Hindu princes, Sirazee used female Hindu characters like Arunabati to demonstrate the vigour of Muslim commanders. In both cases, women were projected as emotionally helpless and vulnerable to chivalrous men even of enemy camps. The communalist political purposes of the two writers are so evident in their so-called historical novels that the most charitable literary critic on earth would feel constrained to interpret such a-historical episodes of love in question with the eternal tune of emotional relations between men and women, in which love seldom respects religious or racial barriers. The female characters, thus, were mostly being used by the male supremacist litterateurs of both Muslim and Hindu faiths of the contemporary Bengal as a literary instrument to propagate the inferiority of the rival religious communities of the time. 
Under such circumstances, Begum Roquiah Sakhawat Hussain (1880-1932), better known as Begum Roquia, appeared in the field of Bangla literature, to wage a war against social, political, economic and cultural enslavement of Bengali women in general and Muslim women of Bengal in particular. Perhaps the greatest Muslim woman of Bengal of her time, Begum Roquia, a self-educated intellectual, developed a passion for Bangla. Born and brought up in a Muslim aristocratic family of Bengal, Roquia was not sent to school for formal education. At home, she was allowed to learn Urdu and Persian; no one except her elder sister supported her to learn Bangla. In a letter to her sister much later, Bengal Roquia recollected, 'Although my other relatives did not oppose much my learning of Urdu and Persian, they were dead against the idea of my learning Bangla. It was only you who were in favour of learning Bangla.' [Begum Roquia Sakhawat Hussain is cited in Mahbubullah (ed.), Mohan Ekushe Subornojointi Grantha (Amar Ekushe Golden Jubilee Book), op-cit, p 29] However, she learnt Bangla, and sustained the passion for it, although she 'could not converse in the language for 14 years' while living with her Urdu/English speaking husband in Bhagalpur of Bihar. Later, after the untimely death of her husband, she established and ran till death a girls' high school in Kolkata. As the medium of instruction was Urdu, she had hardly any scope to speak in Bangla at the educational institution in question. Begum Roquia also founded Anjuman e Khawateen e Islam, Islamic Women's Association in other words, 'which was active in holding debates and conferences regarding the status of women and education ... Anjuman e Khawateen e Islam organised many events for social reforms based on the original teachings of Islam that, according to her, were lost.' [http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Roquia_Sakhawat_Hussain]Most of the debates and discussions organised by the organisation were conducted in language/s other than Bangla. Still, she continued to nurture her passion for Bangla and devoted her creative ability to the service of the language by way of expressing her social thoughts in Bangla. Hers was a lucid prose. 
Roquia identified lack of education, purdah and patriarchal practices of religions to be the prime impediments towards the emancipation of Muslim women, particularly Muslim women in Bengal. Subsequently, she used her pen, one of the sharpest of her time, given the absolutely patriarchal environment of contemporary Bengal, against the anti-women social and religious practices in question, understandably attracting harsh criticism from conservative sections of the Muslims. Describing the status of Bengali women, both Muslim and Hindu, as a degraded one, Begum Rokeya held the patriarchal social rules and regulations approved by religions responsible for the degraded conditions, and wrote in an article, Amader Abanati, published in Nabanoor, a Kolkata-based Bangla monthly, as early as 1904:
'Even after our much degradation, we could not hold our heads high, due, perhaps mainly, to the fact that the moment any of our sisters has tried to hold her head high, the weapons of religious decrees have smashed the head. True that one cannot make a definitive claim about it, but, at the same time, one has reasons to perceive the situation in this light. The directives that we initially ignored have eventually been accepted, believing them to be the dictates of religions. ['Amader Abanati' (Our degradation) was first published in the Bhadra issue of Nabanoor, in 1311 Bangla calendar (1904 Gregorian calendar). The article was eventually incorporated into the first volume of her book Matichur the next year under the title of Strijatir Abanati (Degradation of women). However, while incorporating into the book, the author struck out five paragraphs, 23rd to 27th, of the original article and replaced them with five new paragraphs. The quotes are taken from the original article, cited by Abdul Kadir in his introduction to Rokeya-Rachanabali (Works of Begum Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain), Second print, Bangla Academy, Dhaka, 1984, p XI]
Begum Roquia continues to argue, 'To keep us, the women, in the dark, the men have propagated the religious scriptures to be the directives of God. ... In the past, a man becoming an eminent person among others by dint of his own talents, used to claim himself to be a god, or an ambassador of God, and tried to enlighten the uncivilised [people around him.]...The religious books are nothing but the rules and regulations formulated by men. The regulations formulated by the male sages would have been different, if the female ones formulated them. But where are the qualities in the women to become a sage? However, none can definitely say that the religious scriptures are from God. Had God sent an ambassador to rule the women, his jurisdiction would not have been limited only to Asia. Why did the ambassador not go to Europe? Why did he not travel from the North Pole to the South Pole to announce God's directive that women have to live under men's control? Does God belong only to Asia? Did he not have the authority in America? Why did His ambassadors not go across the world, particularly when God's natural gifts are available everywhere?  Anyway, we no longer need to tolerate men's unnecessary authority with our heads bowed down. Look, the oppression of women is directly proportional to the degree of the religious bindings imposed upon them - burning alive [Hindu] widows with their deceased husbands being an example...Where the religious bindings are loose, women have their conditions almost as developed as men's. Here, by "religion", I mean the social regulations based on religion.' [ibid, p XII] 
Then she provides the justification for questioning the religious authority of men with regards to the emancipation of women: 'One can ask me, "Why do you talk about religion so much while talking about social issues?" My answer is simple: "Religion has eventually made our strong chain of enslavement stronger. The men are now ruling the women in the name of religion. So, I am forced to talk about religion. The pious people should, therefore, be able to forgive me.' [ibid]
Understandably, Begum Rokeya was subjected to harsh criticism by conservative sections of the Kolkata Muslims for her radical literary exercises. In a 'submission' to the readers of her book, Abarodhbasini, a compilation of 48 stories 'based on facts and experiences', published in the monthly Mohammadi for three years since 1928, she said: 'I have been attracting the curses of the conservative mullahs for the last 25 years of my social services now.' [Roquia Sakhawat Hossain, in Abdul Kadir (ed.), Rokeya-Rachanabali (Works of Begum Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain), Second print, Bangla Academy, Dhaka, 1984, p 471] 
However, most of the episodes that Begum Rokeya presented in Abarodhbasini, mostly in satirical tone, exposed the humiliation that the practice of the extreme purdah system had inflicted on the lives of primarily the Muslim women of Bengal. She also referred to the purdah-generated humiliating conditions of Hindu women in a couple of episodes. Evidently, the objective of Abarodhbasini was to inspire the Muslim society to free its women, and Muslim women to be free, from the obscurantist prisons of the excessive purdah system. 

BEGUM Roquia must have succeeded, at least to some extent, in achieving the objective. Moulabhi Abdul Karim, a reputed retired school inspector commanding respect of the educated Muslims of the time, wrote in the 'introduction' to Abarodhbasini: 'Many an author has so far earned reputation by writing many kinds of history, but none has written before the history of the humiliations of the subcontinent's prisoners of the purdah. The reading of the book repeatedly reminds us about the degradation that we have now been exposed to: a large part of the Muslim society, the society which had once been the ideal of the entire world, has now become funny before the eyes of the civilisation. ... I believe the reading of Abarodhbasini would act as an eye-opener to the sleeping nation.' [Ibid, p 472]
Begum Roquia underlined the importance of modern education in general, and women's education in particular, for the emancipation of the Muslim society of Bengal. She elaborately explained how the Muslim elite of Bengal had done a grave disservice to the Muslim society by remaining indifferent to the need of setting up modern educational institutions of its own. In this regard, she pointed out how the Hindu elite had developed its own society on the one hand, and saved the Hindus from the aggressive Christianisation process on the other, by establishing its own institutions of modern education in the colonial Bengal.
In an article published in Mohammadi, a Kolkata-based monthly, in 1931, Roquia wrote: 'There came a day in the history [of Bengal], when the ray of knowledge peeped into the Bengali Hindu's house of darkness. They opened their eyes, and realised by the sweet chirping of birds that the night is over and the dawn has arrived. They, therefore, left the lazy comforts of the bed. But what direction a Hindu could go, particularly when they had the multidimensional fear of being ostracised for doing this or eating that, etc. They, therefore, started getting converted into Christianity in large groups, and thus the Bandapadhayas became the Bannerjees and the Sarkars the Sircars. In those days of terrible crisis, social welfare-oriented people like Raja Rammuhan Ray and Keshob Chandra Sen came forward to establish Brahma Samaj and thus saved a generation of Hindus from being converted to Christianity. Then they established their own educational institutions, and subsequently their children did not require going to the Christian schools. Self-reliance saved them.' [Roquia Sakhawat Hussain, 'Dhangser Pathe Bangiya Mussalman' (Bengali Muslims on the verge of destruction), in Abdul Kadir (ed.), Rokey-Rachanabali (Works of Begum Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain), Second print, Bangla Academy, Dhaka, 1984, p 302] 
Rokeya then says that the similar opportunity for enlightenment knocked at the doors of the Muslims as well, but they did not take it. 
'The ray of knowledge also peeped into the huts of the Muslims [of Bengal], still dreaming of the royal palaces. Subsequently, they could no longer remain satisfied with reciting of Pandenama and Shahnama. They started running to the Hindu and Christian schools. They did not establish their own schools and colleges. On receiving education at the Christian college they became sahibs, and started talking in English manner - chakar became behara and moote became coolie in their lips.' [ibid]
Rokeya goes on to describe: 'The educated father ultimately could not remain happy with their daughters learning mere puthis like Rahe-nazat and Sonavan; they started sending their children to Christian convents and Hindu schools. In the Christian convents, Laila became Lily and Jainab Jenny. In Hindu schools, Ayesha became Asha and Kulsum Kusum. Still it was not that dangerous [for the Muslims], but it was not the end our story of degradation.
'In the next generation [of the educated Muslims], Jenny required Christian governess for rearing up her children, so that they can speak in English from their childhood. Jenny's daughter was to be named, say, Barbara Arif. Now, Barbara does not see her mother praying at home, so her source of the playing idea remained the convents. She, therefore, sings at home the English songs that she learns at the convent, such as, "Jesus saves me this I know/For the Bible tells me so", or the Bangla couplet, such as, "The Muslims are treacherous, beat them with shoes, and pull them by the ears."
'The name of the daughter of our Kusum, on the other hand, is Soudamini Begum. Soudamini's playing idea revolves round idolatry and making of images with muds. She sings: "Smear your body with clay of the river Jamuna/On the body write the name of Hari/In the time of trouble, all friends sing Hari's name in chorus." Or she sings: "The Muslims, who are neres, have neither any wealth nor the prestige. [ ibid, pp 302-303]
Roquia finds such 'conditions of the Muslim society in general and the Muslim girls in particular', very 'unfortunate'. She argues that the only way for the Muslims to get rid of the 'unfortunate' situation is to have 'an ideal Muslim girls school, in which our girls can receive higher education required for adjustment with the people of other communities and provinces of the modern age'. Referring to the fact that 'the girls of other civilised communities, as well as the Muslim girls of other provinces of India, are becoming physicians, barristers and councillors, and attending roundtable conferences,' Roquia asks, 'What sins have our girls committed that they have to remain deprived of those opportunities?' [ibid, p 305] Herself the founder of a girls' school in Kolkata, Shakhawat Memorial Girls' High School, Begum Roquia not only played the pioneering role in spreading female education, and propagating through her literary works the democratic idea of gender equality in society, but also stood in the way of cultural Christianisations and Hinduisation of Muslim girls at the non-Muslim educational institutions.
Her short story, Nurse Nelly, again, 'based on empirical experience', provides a tragic consequence of the proselytisation of a 19-year-old Muslim girl, Nayeema, into Christianity. Influenced by the Christian missionaries at a hospital, Nayeema, the wife of an English-educated district magistrate and mother of two children, embraced Christianity, and left the Muslim family with all her money and jewelleries to serve the newly adopted faith. Nayeema's husband went to the court against the missionaries, but lost the case as Nayeema, renamed Nelly, told the court that she had adopted the new faith independently - out of her own thoughtful choice. The incident gave the Christian missionaries a big mileage, particularly in terms of their success of converting a young woman of a highly respected Muslim family. 
However, as soon as Nayeema left the court premises, leaving behind the lovely family, she realised that she had made a grave mistake. As she reached the church, she fainted. Then, 'after regaining consciousness', Begum Roquia describes, 'she repented in the Islamic way, repeatedly recited kolema to her heart's content and continued to call Allah, but there was no longer any use of all these.' [Rokeya Sakhawat Hossain, 'Nurse Nelly', in Abdul Kadir (ed.), Rokeya-Rachanabali, ibid, p 203] She aspired to return to the lost world, both in terms of faith and family, but there was no scope for her to return anymore. 
However, the converted Muslim girl, now renamed Nelly, initially got pampered by the missionaries; but after the money and jewelleries she brought with her changed hands, the girl got exposed to severe difficulties and became a third-grade nurse, practically doing the job of a penniless janitor. 
Meanwhile, the Muslim family that she had left also got humiliated and shattered by the incident - both emotionally and socially: the family's old lady, Nayeema's mother-in-law, died by the emotional shock in two months, his traumatised daughter Jamila followed the grandma in a fortnight, and his one-year-old son Jafar followed suit the next month. Exposed to the tragic deaths of mother and children, and faced with social humiliation, the once proud district magistrate became a completely broken man - aloof from society. 
Nayeema, or Nelly, eventually returned to her in-law's house seven years after she had left the family, but not alive. The Lucknow hospital authority sent her coffin; she died of hunger and sickness there, all alone.
Understandably, Nurse Neli, based on Roquia's empirical experience, contributed to dissuading the Muslims in responding positively to the pursuation of religious convertion by the Christian missioneries of Bengal those days. Still, Begum Roquia was subjected to harsh criticism of the conservative educated Muslims, such as S A Al Musbhi and Nawsher Ali Khan Yusufzai and Mohammad Reazuddin Ahmed for her opnions against the extreme purdah system. However, the most of Begum Roquia's critics, including those opposing her 'radical' views, appreciated her lucid Bangla prose on the one hand and her command over many a social issues on the other. While reviewing Roquia's Matichur in the montly Nabanoor in 1905, one of such critics wrote: "Reforming the society is one thing while wheeping the society is another. The whipping might bleed the society, but it does not help resolve the social problems. The auother of the Matichur has continuously been wheeping the society, while we cannot expect that it would produce any positive result." Then the critic says: "However, the language used in the book is very lucid and the prose style fascinating. [Her language is so fascinating that] even for any male writer it would have been a matter of pride to be able to write a book in such language. Besides, no Muslim writer before her has discussed so many social issues. Although we do not agree with all her opnions, we cannot help but appreciate her discussions." [The Nabanoor's review is cited in Wakil Ahmed, Unish Shatake Bangali Mussalmaner Chinta O Chetanar Dhara (The thoughts and ideas of Bengali Muslims in the 19th century), Bangla Academy, Dhaka, 1997, p. 311] However, that Begum Roquia, while asserting for social and cultural reforms in the Muslim society of Bengal, introduced and cultivated a prose style with proportionate issue of Arabic and Persian words in the Bangla language remains unquestionable.

MEANWHILE, Kazi Imdadul Huq (1882-1926), a scholarly Muslim prose writer, dedicated his literary abilities to enlighten the Muslims of Bengal about the great Islamic past, and thus inspire them to lead a spirited Muslim life. His Prabandhamala, a collection of essays, includes discussions on Alekzandriar Prachin Pustakagar (Ancient library of Aleczandria), Franse Moslem Adhikar (Muslim rights in France), Al Hamra (a biography on the prophet Mohammad's wife Bibi Ayesha), Pagla Khalifa (The Eccentric Caliph) and Moslem Bigyan Charcha (Studies of science by Muslims). He also wrote Nabikahini (Tales of the Prophet of Islam) for Muslim children. 
Besides, Kazi Imdadul Huq has to his credit a brilliant novel, Abdullah, in which he artistically attacked various backward social, cultural and religious practices prevailing in contemporary Muslim society of Bengal, such as 'caste problem' existing in the form of discrepancy between the Muslims of so-called Ashraf (high) and Atraf (low) births, purdha system imposed on the Muslim women, blind allegiance to the Muslim saints, etc. [Kazi Imdadul Huq died after writing 30 chapters of the novel. Anwarul Kadir, a contemporary Bengali litterateur, added 11 chapters, based on draft notes that Huq had left, to finish the novel. The novel appeared in instalments in a periodical called Moslem Bharat since 1922 and was published in the book form in 1933] Professor Muhammad Abdul Hye compared Abdullah with Sarat Chandra's Palli Samaj, in which the latter attacked certain irrational practices of contemporary Hindu society. [Muhammad Abdul Hai, in Muhammad Abdul Hai and Syed Ali Ahsan, Bangla Sahityer Itibritto: Adhunik Jug (History of Bengali Literature: Modern Period), Ahmed Publishing House, Dhaka, Eleventh print, 2010, p 150]
In Abdullah, Kazi Imdadul Huq projected the contemporary Hindu disdain for Muslims, which got manifested in the Hindu landowner Shashi Babu's refusal to rent his house to Abdullah, a Muslim schoolteacher, for Atul Babu, a Hindu lawyer, and some other Hindus living in the same neighbourhood told Shashi Babu that 'it was the neighbourhood of the gentlemen' and that 'a Muslim residence in the neighbourhood would appear to be a problem to the gentlemen in question'. [The quoted text from Kazi Imdadul Huq's Abdullah is cited in Shajahan Manir, Bangla Sahitye Bangali Mussalmaner Chintadhara: 1919-1940 (Thoughts of Muslims in Bangla Literature: 1919-1940), First reprint, Bangla Academy, Dhaka, 2004, p 125]
That the Hindu landlord's refusal to rent houses to the Muslims is not merely imagination of a Muslim litterateur, rather a crude reality of life those days even in the Kolkata city, gets evident in the tragic experience of none other than poet Kazi Nazrul Islam, who never cared for a 'religious' life for his own, nor did he display any prejudice against any religion. 
The poet, along with his family, was ousted from a rented house on Sitanath road of Kolkata in the mid-1930s, thanks to the poet's Muslim identity. Nitai Ghatak writes: 'The orthodox Hindu owner of the house on Sitanath road initially did not know that a Muslim family had rented his house, for it was officially rented by Shantipada Singha, the [Hindu] manager of Dhumketu [a biweekly that Nazrul was editing those days], and the bills of the monthly rent used to be issued to the manager. But one day the landlord somehow came to know that a Muslim family had been living in his house, and therefore the poet was forced to leave.' [Nitai Ghatak, 'Nazrul-Smriti' in Abdul Mannan Syed (ed.), Otit Diner Smriti (Memory of the past), Nazrul Institute, Dhaka, 2004, p 46] The fact that the poet never cared for any particular religious identity, that his wife Pramila Devi came from a Hindu family and, moreover, that this Hindu mother-in-law was living with him did not help his family to avoid the humiliating ouster.
Kazi Imdadul Huq was all for Hindu-Muslim harmony and abolition of all social and cultural discrimination against each other. That he used his pen to achieve these objectives got evident in his novel in question in Abdullah's last appeal to his students at the Bahirbati High School. Immediately before he leaves, to take up his next assignment as the headmaster of Rasulpur Government High School, Abdullah tells his students at Bahirbati high school: 'Have my blessings, boys, so that you grow up as human beings - the real human beings who never hate each other, in which state Hindus and Muslims can rather embrace each others like relatives. My brothers, please remember what I have repeatedly told you earlier, I tell you again - do not entertain the idea of any difference between Hindus and Muslims. The sense of such differences remains the source of all the miseries of our country.' [The quoted text from Kazi Imdadul Huq's Abdullah is cited in Shajahan Manir, Bangla Sahitye Bangali Mussalmaner Chintadhara: 1919-1940 (Thoughts of Muslims in Bangla Literature: 1919-1940), First reprint, Bangla Academy, Dhaka, 2004, p 125] 
The humiliating Hindu practice of untouchability towards the 'low-caste' co-religionists and Muslims has featured in the works of many Muslim writers. Syed Mujtaba Ali (1904-1974), a secularist Muslim litterateur of Bengal who studied and eventually taught in Tagore's Visva Bharati University, provided such a picture in a short story, Nere, in 1931. 
In the story, an apparently liberal Hindu couple meets a helpful young man in a Kolkata-bound steamer at East-Bengal's Chandpur terminal. Impressed by the selfless service of the young co-passenger, the Hindu babu opens a discussion about contemporary politics with the young man. In the course of the discussion, the babu criticises those reluctant about honouring Gandhi's public appeal to the Indians to use locally produced khaddar for attires and abandon the Hindu religious practice of untouchability.
In response to the young man's curious glance at the babu's non-khaddar attires, the latter says that he cannot wear khaddar, for the cloth is expensive for him on the one hand and his 'slaughterer like' superior at the office dislikes khaddar on the other. 'However, I don't believe in the untouchability. It does not involve any money, in the first place. Besides, why should I practice untouchability? Aren't the cobblers and the Muslims human beings? What's wrong with taking foods sitting beside them? I will eat, I will definitely eat, foods with them.' [Syed Mujtaba Ali, Nere, Syed Mujtaba Ali Rachanabali, Volume XI, Fifth reprint, Mitra O Ghosh Publishers, Kolkata, 1409, p 279] 
By then it was the babu's breakfast time. He offers the young boy to share with him some snacks. The boy appears hesitant. But the babu almost forcibly pushes a piece of sweetmeat into the boy's mouth. The latter eventually eats the piece of sweetmeat. However, as the babu is getting down from the steamer in the next station, he asks for the name and address of the helpful young man so that they can have correspondences through letters in the future. In the process, the babu comes to know from the boy's name, Abdul Rasul, that he is a Muslim. The babu gets furious. 'What? ... You are a Muslim? ... Why, why did you cause me impurity? Why didn't you tell me during breakfast that you were a Muslim?' [ibid, p 280]
Flabbergasted, the young boy says, 'Didn't you say that you do not believe in the caste system - untouchabilty?' 
An enraged Babu replies with his 'hand almost touching the nose' of the boy: 'I don't believe [in untouchability]? Obviously I do. I do strongly believe in the practice. My seven generations have believed in it. Why shouldn't I? Uff. You have trapped me into the task of atonement. You, the worthless nere.' [ibid]
The short story is, again, not the result of mere creative imagination of a Muslim writer intended to cast aspersion on the Hindu community, rather a literary reflection of the superstitious practice of untouchability by a section of the Hindus. The victims of humiliation by such inhuman practices had mostly been low-caste Hindus and Muslims - Kazi Nazrul Islam being an example. 
The Kazi, Bengal's most secular poet of his time, was subjected to serious embarrassment when some in-laws of his Hindu friend Dr Nalinakhma Sanayal had refused to dine with him at Bahrumpur of West Bengal in the early 1920s. Nitai Ghatak, a close associate of the poet in Kolkata those days, recollects: 'The poet joined the bridal party [of Nalinakhma Sanayal]. There was a musical session at the bride's house at Bahrampur. The poet was the principal singer. It was quite a vibrant session. The problem started with the call to the wedding dinner. The bride's was a Bhattachariya family. There was hardly any liberal attitude in Hindu society, particularly among its Bhattachariyas, those days. Many members [of the bride's family] refused to dine with a Muslim [poet]. The poet was deeply hurt by the incident. ... He remained seated silently in the audience for while, and then pulled his harmonium to sing - 'the caste-ist frauds are engaged in treachery in the name of caste differences ... [Nitai Ghatak, 'Nazrul-Smriti' in Abdul Mannan Syed (ed.), Otit Diner Smriti (Memory of the past), Nazrul Institute, Dhaka, 2004, pp 37-38.  For the whole poem, see, Kazi Nazrul Islam, 'Jater Bajjati', Nazrul Rachanabali (Collected works of Kazi Nazrul Islam), Volume I, Nazrul Birth Centenary edition, Bangla Academy, Dhaka, 2012, pp 133-135]
Earlier, in the 1910s, Rabindranath Tagore also witnessed the same humiliating Hindu behaviour with Muslim Bengalis. Referring to the Hindu practice of not eating or drinking anything even in the shadow of a Muslim presence, he wrote in an article, Lokahita, in 1914: 'Some years ago, during the Swadeshi movement, a Hindu swadeshi activist did not hesitate to ask a fellow Muslim supporter to stay away from the doorstep while taking a glass of water.' [Rabindranath Tagore, Rabindrashamagra (Complete Works of Rabindranath Tagore), Volume 12, Pathak Samabesh, Dhaka, 2012, p 594] 
There were obviously Hindu writers, along with Muslim ones, who criticised such anti-Muslim social practices of Hindus in their respective literary works. But compared to the pervasive intensity of the Hindu prejudice in question, the amount of such literary activism was so insignificant that it hardly helped remove the menace from society those days. 

KAZI Nazrul Islam (1899-1976) appeared in the scene of Bangla language and literature in Kolkata as 'a blazing comet' in 1920, immediately after he left the Indian Army that he had served for some three years since 1917. The Kazi earned his literary reputation as the 'rebel eternal' with the publication of his ever-famous poem, Bidrohi (the rebel) in 1922. The issues that he consistently fought for throughout his active literary life included freedom from English colonial rule, equality of citizens, women's emancipation and Hindu-Muslim unity. 
In the process of his literary activism against British colonialism, Nazrul faced arrest as well as imprisonment; many of his literary works were also banned. He was first arrested while editing the biweekly magazine Dhumketu in 1922. His Anondomoyeer Agomone, an anti-colonial poem published in Dhumketu in September 1922, led to a police raid on the magazine's office, and he was arrested and accused of sedition against the colonial administration immediately. During the hearing of the sedition charge, Nazrul made a long statement before the court. He argued: 'I have been accused of sedition. That is why I am now confined in the prison. On the one side is the crown, on the other the flames of the comet. One is the king, sceptre in hand; the other Truth worth the mace of justice. To plead for me, the king of all kings, the judge of all judges, the eternal truth the living God... His laws emerged out of the realisation of a universal truth about mankind. They are for and by a sovereign God. The king is supported by an infinitesimal creature; I by its eternal and indivisible Creator. I am a poet; I have been sent by God to express the unexpressed, to portray the un-portrayed. It is God who is heard through the voice of the poet... My voice is but a medium for Truth, the message of God... I am the instrument of that eternal self-evident truth, an instrument that voices forth the message of the ever-true. I am an instrument of God. The instrument is not unbreakable, but who is there to break God?'[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kazi_Nazrul_Islam, accessed on August 28, 2013] The colonial court sentenced him to prison; he was released in December 1923. The Kazi composed a large number of poems and songs in jail; many of his works were banned in the 1920s by the British authorities.
In terms of literary spirit, Kazi Nazrul Islam 'was deeply influenced by Rabindranath Tagore and Sarat Chandra Chattopadhyay as well as Persian poets Hafez, Rumi and Omar Khayyam'. [ibid] However, in terms of activism, both cultural and political, he went much beyond their influences. Nazrul actively participated in the independence movement of India and, in the process, associated himself with political parties like the Indian National Congress and Sramik Praja Swaraj Dal. A close associate of Muzaffar Ahmed, a founding leader of the Indian Communist Party, Nazrul would attend and address rallies and conferences of different oppressed sections of the people such as the peasants, workers, fishermen, women and so on. He also composed dozens of poems and songs for these communities, which he never missed any opportunity to recite and sing out to their gatherings.
About Nazrul's ability to transform serious socio-political issues into materials of poetry, Abdul Mannan Syed (1943-2010), a reputed litterateur and literary critic in Bangla language, writes: 'Issues like aspiration for freedom, Hindu-Muslim unity, emancipation of oppressed people, etc are the subjects of essays, polemics and critiques in prose. Nazrul's matchless credit is that he has successfully transformed such socio-political issues and events of everyday life into the materials of poetical works and composed unique poems.'[Abdul Mannan Syed (ed.), Prabeshika (introduction) to Otit Diner Smriti (Memories of the past), Nazrul Institute, Dhaka, 2004, p 4] 
The Kazi was a staunch secularist in his own way, which would regularly find expression in all kinds of human activities - social, cultural, political, familial and personal. He was a Congressite for many years but would criticise the Indian National Congress 'for not embracing outright political independence from the British empire' in the 1920s and 1930s. However, he did not support the Khilafat Movement of Pan-Islamist Indians, even when Karamchand Gandhi and his Congress supported it, for Nazrul found the movement nothing but an expression of 'religious fundamentalism'. [ibid]
He was married to a Hindu woman, Pramila Devi, and their children were brought up with secular attitudes towards life. Kazi Sabyasachi, aka Sunny, Nazrul Islam's elder son, recollecting his childhood memories, says that as a child he once fainted while watching a movie at the Rupabani cinema in Kolkata. He regained consciousness a little while later, with his father tending him. However, he was still feeling dizzy as they were returning by a rickshaw. Anxious, Nazrul told him: 'Sunny, call Durga, call Allah, He would help you recover.' [Kazi Sabyasachi, 'Shaishaber Smriti' (Childhood memories) in Abdul Mannan Syed (ed.), Otit Diner Smriti (Memories of the past), Nazrul Institute, Dhaka, 2004, p 20]
Nazrul believed in a united Bengal on the basis of 'Bengali nationalism', which, he believed, could only be materialised by removing religious animosity between Hindu and Muslim communities of Bengal. He wrote in an article in Nabajug in 1942, 'Bengalis would be able to achieve the unachievable the day they would be able to claim in unison that Bengal belongs to the Bengalis.' [Kazi Nazrul Islam, 'Bangalir Bangla', Nazrul Rachanabali (Collected works of Kazi Nazrul Islam), Volume VII, Nazrul Birth Centenary edition, Bangla Academy, Dhaka, 2012, p 56] He, therefore, devoted his literary ability to forge a pervasive unity between the two religious communities. In the process, the Kazi ruthlessly criticised the communalist leaders of various religious communities contributing to the widening of the gap between the ordinary people belonging to different faiths. Referring to communal clashes in Bengal, he wrote: 'I saw at a place that 49 Hindus, comprising high- and low-caste ones, ruthlessly beating up a lean and thin Muslim worker; In another place, I saw a similar number of Muslims beating up a weak Hindu like a beast. The hapless innocent people are being beaten up by the two beasts. They are beating up human beings the way uncivilised savages pierce pigs to death. I found every face of the attackers more dangerous than that of the Satan and uglier than that of wild pigs. In their envy and ugliness, they smell rotten like hell. [Kazi Nazrul Islam, 'Mandir O Masjid', Nazrul Rachanabali (Collected works of Kazi Nazrul Islam), Volume II, Nazrul Birth Centenary edition, Bangla Academy, Dhaka, 2012, p 432]
Nazrul argues in the article that such communal clashes have nothing to do with religiosity. He, therefore, goes on to say: 'The two [feuding] groups have the same leader - Satan. Wearing a cap on the head and false beard on the cheek, he sometimes provokes Muslims [against Hindus] and sometimes tying a false tiki with hairs on head, provokes Hindus [against Muslims]. Again, in the guise of a soldier, Gora or Gurkha, the same Satan fires shots on both Hindus and Muslims! His tale has reached the shore of the sea, his red face resembles with that of wild monkeys of the seashore.' [ibid]
In another article, Nazrul argues, 'None of the prophets has ever made any such claim that "I have come for the Hindus", or "I have come for the Muslims", or "I have come for the Christians". They have rather said, "we have come for human beings - like lights that belong to all and everybody". But Krishna's admirers claim that Krishna belongs to Hindus, Muhammad's admirers claim that Muhammad belongs to Muslims and Christ's admirers claim that Jesus belongs to Christians. Thus Krishna, Muhammad, and Christ got "nationalised", which created all sorts of problems. [Kazi Nazrul Islam, 'Hindu-Mussalman', Nazrul Rachanabali (Collected works of Kazi Nazrul Islam), Volume II, Nazrul Birth Centenary edition, Bangla Academy, Dhaka, 2012, p 437]
The Kazi, therefore, used his literary abilities to fight against all kinds of religious sectarianism, and those Hindu and Muslim communalists standing in the way of forging a harmonious relationship between the two religious communities. His criticism against the obscurantist mullahs is well known, but he was equally critical of the parochial Hindu practices. Referring to the Hindu Chuntmarga, the social practice of 'untouchability' in other words, the Kazi wrote:  If a Muslim touches a Hindu, the latter has to take a bath for purification, Muslim touch to any food makes it impure for a Hindu, if a Muslim steps in a Hindu house the latter has to purify the place by smearing it with cow dung (!), a Hindu has to throw out the water of his hukka if a Muslim touches the seat where the former smokes the hukka sitting on. This is a grave insult to humanity.' [Kazi Nazrul Islam, 'Chuntmarga', Nazrul Rachanabali (Collected works of Kazi Nazrul Islam), Volume I, Nazrul Birth Centenary edition, Bangla Academy, Dhaka, 2012, pp 393-394]
The Kazi then exposes the Hindu hypocrisy of the call of unity between the two communities. He says that with such practice of untouchability is in vogue, the Hindu call to the Muslims from the political platform for unity, and their claim that 'Muslims and Hindus are brothers' and that they have 'one indivisible address' and that there is 'no difference' between the two brothers, is nothing but 'dangerous cheating', a 'dirty lie', on which the idea of creating an 'indivisible nationhood' sounds 'funny'.
The solution rather lies somewhere else: 'Remaining committed to own religious faith, one has to acquire the strength to welcome, with the arms wide open, to embrace all and everybody.' [ibid, p 392]
The Kazi then urges upon Hindus and Muslims of Bengal alike: 'Let a Hindu remain Hindu, a Muslim Muslim, but say, say for once, standing in the midst of the unlimited freedom under the open sky, that "I am a human being, humanity is my religion."' [ibid. p 393]

KAZI Nazrul Islam's unambiguous secular humanist worldview found expression not only in his essays and articles but also in his poems. In one of his famous poems, Samyabadi, composed in 1925, he sings the 'song of equality', in which 'Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims and Christians have met one another, overcoming all barriers, removing all differences'[see Kazi Nazrul Islam, 'Samayabadi', Nazrul Rachanabali (Collected works of Kazi Nazrul Islam), Volume II, Nazrul Birth Centenary edition, Bangla Academy, Dhaka, 2012, p 79] Again, in Manush, he brands as 'ignorant' those who nurture enmity with others on the basis of difference in religious faiths. He calls them 'ignorant' because they do not realise that 'it was human beings who brought in the Books', the holy books that is, 'instead of the Books giving birth to human beings'.[see Kazi Nazrul Islam, 'Manush', Nazrul Rachanabali, ibid, p 82]
Nazrul's secular humanist attitude towards life is also evident in the fact that he has composed several thousand songs, particularly several hundred ghazals and kirtans, involving religious thoughts and ideas of both Muslims and Hindus, in which he appropriates Arabic, Persian and Sanskrit words in compatibility with the themes and ideas he deals with. His secular political consciousness, secular lifestyle and secular literary practices drew many progressive personalities of his time, both Muslim and Hindu, towards him. His extraordinary abilities also exposed him to the wrath of obscurantist sections of the Muslims and Hindus of the contemporary Bengal, whom he would ruthlessly attack, both in poetry and prose, for their parochial worldviews.
Many Kolkata-based Muslim-run weeklies and periodicals, such as Mohammadi, Hanafi, Islam Darpan, Muslim Darshan and Shariate Islam, bitterly criticised Nazrul Islam in the 1920s and 1930s for his evidently secular philosophy of life. Some of those periodicals even branded him as kafir, infidel in other words. 
The weekly Mohammadi wrote in an editorial in March 1929 that 'Nazrul Islam should rather be called Nazrul Dashabhuja', which is the synonym of the Hindu goddess Durga. As the Kazi came to visit Bogra of East Bengal after the incident, one of his young Muslim admirers drew his attention to the editorial comment. In response, he said, 'Brother, they refused to understand me. Read my works carefully, you would understand me. Moreover, a poet is to be meant equally for Hindus and Muslims alike.' [KM Shamsher Ali, 'Bogurai Nazrul', in Abdul Mannan Syed (ed.), Otit Diner Smriti (Memories of the past), Nazrul Institute, Dhaka, 2004, p 88]
Again, while visiting East Bengal's Kushtia in 1929, Nazrul was exposed to an embarrassing question from a Muslim stranger, as to whether or not he was a believer. The stranger referred to a line of his famous poem Bidrohi, in which the poet said 'A rebellious Bhrigu, I imprint my footsteps on Bhagwan's bosom', and observed that 'Bhagwan and Allah is the same entity', and asked as to why he composed such an 'audacious' sentence. The poet's instant reply was: 'Why don't you, the parties of Allah and Bhagwan, then, are getting united to oust the white pharaohs settled on the shoulders of both the peoples.' [Azizur Rahman, "Kustiai Bidrohi Kabi" (The rebel poet in Kushtia), in Abdul Mannan Syed (ed.), Otit Diner Smriti (Memories of the past), Nazrul Institute, Dhaka, 2004, p 71] Evidently, Nazrul referred to the much-needed unity of Hindu and Muslim communities to oust the British rulers from India.
However, in response to Muslim criticism of his secular literary practices, Nazrul time and again tried to explain his stance, although in vein, those days. In a letter to an admirer, Nazrul Islam wrote in 1925: 'The Muslim society has attacked me again and again, and that too ruthlessly, but I didn't mind, for the illiterate Muslims of Bengal are obscurantist and the educated ones jealous. ...The Muslim society has always made mistakes [about me], for they have confused between my poetic works and myself - Nazrul Islam the person that is. I am a Muslim, but my poetic work is dedicated to all countries, all times and all religions. The source of so many mistakes remains in the habit of judging a poet by his religious identity, and considering him as a Hindu poet or a Muslim poet.' [Kazi Nazrul Islam wrote the letter to one Anwar Hossain. See Nazrul Rachanabali (Collected works of Kazi Nazrul Islam), Volume IX, Nazrul Birth Centenary edition, Bangla Academy, Dhaka, 2012, p 179]
In another letter to Principal Ibrahim Khan in 1927, Nazrul wrote, with a touch of regret: 'I do not know whether or not the Muslims of Bengal are poor in riches, but what I am sure about is, and that too through my painful personal experiences, that they are poor, very poor, in terms of mental wealth. I have accepted the moniker of kafir that the Muslim society has accorded me with, and I don't remember that I have ever termed it an injustice. But I feel ashamed to think that I have not become great enough to be called a kafir, for I have been promoted to the rank of the great men Hafez, [Omar] Khayyam and Mansur [Hallaj].' [Kazi Nazrul Islam, Nazrul Rachanabali (Collected works of Kazi Nazrul Islam), Volume IX, Nazrul Birth Centenary edition, Bangla Academy, Dhaka, 2012, p 182]
However, criticism from Muslim fanatics could never stop Nazrul from pursuing his secular humanist ideals. He rather continued both individually and collectively to combat the Muslim prisoners of religious fanaticism by his literary activism. He was merciless against fanatic mullahs in his literary exercise and joined a collective effort of the like-minded Muslim litterateurs of Bengal in fighting against the menace in the mid-1920s.
In this regard, Abul Mansur Ahmed recollects in his memoirs that some rationally thinking Muslim writers, committed to the welfare of the Muslim population of Bengal, unanimously resolved in Kolkata in the mid-1920s that 'Mullahs are responsible for all the disgraces of the contemporary Bengali Muslims'. Mansur Ahmed writes: 'It is the mullahs who have kept the Muslim population ignorant and in poverty by offering misinterpretations of Islam. They have propagated for years that earthly riches are meant for kafirs, while hurs and gilmans are waiting for Muslims in the heavens. We all were convinced about the view and, therefore, all launched a literary campaign against the mullahs.' [Abul Mansur Ahmed, Atmakatha (Memoirs), Second Printing, Ahmed Publishing House, Dhaka, 2009, p 153]Those who belonged to the informal group included Dr Lutfar Rahman, S Wajed Ali, Kazi Abdul Odud, Humayun Kabir, Mohammad Wajed Ali, Abul Mansur Ahmed and, obviously, Kazi Nazrul Islam.
In its bid to intellectually combat fanatic thoughts and ideas of the mullahs, the group in question founded a 'League against Mullahism' with Moulana Mujibur Rahman, the assistant editor of the Kolkata based Mussalman. The group was officially floated in the famous Albert Hall in Kolkata, while Moulana Abdur Razzak Malihabadi, secretary to Moulana Abul Kalam Azad, presided over the inaugural session of the anti-Mullah platform. [ibid, p 154]

KAZI Nazrul Islam's secular humanist worldview naturally influenced him to draw equally from Muslim and Hindu myths to an unprecedented extent in the history of Bangla language and literature. Abdul Mannan Syed rightly observed that 'no Bengali poet but Nazrul could simultaneously use history and myths of both the Hindus and the Muslims with surprising ease'. [Abdul Mannan Syed (ed.), Prabeshika (Introduction) to the Otit Diner Smriti (Memories of the past), op-cit, p 4] Besides, he routinely used Sanskrit, Hindi, Arabic and Persian words with extraordinary ease, without paying heed to Hindu or Muslim reactions, positive or adverse, in an age when Arabic-Persian words were to be identified with Muslim writers and Sanskrit-Hindi words with Hindu authors. 
Even Sukumar Sen, a historian of Bangla literature who appears conservative when it comes recognising Nazrul's literary and linguistic contributions, admitted that 'his use of Arabic-Persian-Hindi words with tatsama and tadbhaba ones has infused gravity into his literary style'. [Sukumar Sen, Bangala Sahityer Itihas (History of Bangla Literature), Fifth Volume, Sixth impression, Ananda Publishers, Kolkata, 2010, p 301] However, the fact remains that Nazrul's 'use of Arabic-Persian-Hindi words with tatsama and tadbhaba ones has infused gravity' not only into his own 'literary style' but also enriched Bangla language and literature as a whole by increasing the language's wealth of vocabularies on the one hand and adding new colour to the literature on the other, let alone secularising the language and literature to a significant extent. 
Nazrul Islam's literary endeavour to secularise Bangla language and literature understandably ran into communal interventions, conscious or sub-conscious, by Muslim and Hindu literary camps. While it is well-known that a conservative section of Muslim writers and journalists branded Nazrul as a kafir for using Hindi words and Hindu myths in his works, a conservative section of Hindu writers and journalists refused to recognise him as a secular litterateur for using Arabic-Persian-Urdu words and myths relating to Islam. The historical controversy over the use of a particular Persian word, khun, for blood, instead of the Sanskritised rakta, remains an interesting example of linguistic communalism pursued by contemporary Hindu litterateurs of Bengal.
The controversy over khun started in the late 1927, with none other than poet Rabindranath Tagore publicly objecting to the use of the word in poetry to denote 'blood'. It all began with two reports simultaneously published in the Kolkata-based weekly Shanibarer Chithi and daily Bangalar Katha, in which Rabindranath Tagore was quoted to have criticised a 'young Bengali poet' for using a Persian word, khun, in place of Sanskritised rakta, to mean 'blood'. Tagore did the criticism while responding to a reception accorded to him by Rabindra Parishad on December 13, 1927. He reportedly objected to the idea of using khun for rakta for the sake of doing something new and said: 'I tell you, we will leave the space for the younger generation. But if they abandon what is universal, if they trouble [the literature], if they somersault, then we will stay back, we will continue to live even after death, will never leave any space.' [Tagore's speech as published in the Poush 4, 1334 BS (c 1927) issue of Bangalar Katha, is cited in Bhuiyan Iqbal, Rabindranath O Muslim Samaj, op-cit, p 403]
Tagore's 'young Bengali poet' was immediately interpreted by many contemporary Bengali litterateurs to be Kazi Nazrul Islam. The Kazi, who enjoyed Tagore's affection, reacted sharply to the latter's stance. In an immediate response to Tagore's observation, he wrote an article, headlined Barar Pireeti Balir Bandh, which was published in the December 30, 1927 issue of the weekly Atmashakti. The Kazi wrote that he had 'unfortunately sang out to the Kabiguru' one of his songs, 'the sun will rise again, coloured with our blood'  'the other day', in which he used khun for blood, 'which perhaps prompted Kabiguru to make the statement' about khun. 'He was for rakta.'
Kazi, then, explained: 'I use khun in my poems not to add the colour of Bolshevism or Islam. The poet (Tagore) has raised the objection, because he perhaps does not like any of the colours in question these days. 
'I use a lot of Arabic and Persian words, other than khun, in my works. And I have an answer for that. I believe that the goddess of world poetry has a Muslim style, which does not affect the beauty of the goddess. The late Ajit Chakrabarti had much appreciated the idea. 
'When decorated with a couple of Iranian ornaments, the goddess of Bangla poetry does not get outcaste; she rather looks more beautiful.' [Kazi Nazrul Islam, 'Barar Pireeti Balir Bandh', Nazrul Rachanabali (Collected works of Kazi Nazrul Islam), Volume VII, Nazrul Birth Centenary edition, Bangla Academy, Dhaka, 2012, p 31]
He also wrote that he was 'surprised over Kabiguru's newly developed fear of words, particularly when he has created innumerable new words beyond dictionaries.' [ibid, p 32]
Despite his sharp reaction to Tagore's observation about the use of the Persian word in question, Nazrul always held Tagore and his works in high esteem. In a poem composed on Tagore's death, the Kazi asked the Bengali boys and girls to 'read his writings' to have their 'strength and courage renewed' in the event of 'feeling weak'. [Kazi Nazrul Islam, 'Mrityuheen Rabindra', Nazrul Rachanabali (Collected works of Kazi Nazrul Islam), Volume XI, Nazrul Birth Centenary edition, Bangla Academy, Dhaka, 2012, p 271]
Meanwhile, Kazi Nazrul Islam's article drew the attention of Pramatha Chowdhury (1868-1946), a reputed prose writer of the time who had been present at Rabindra Parishad's reception and had himself heard what Tagore exactly said. In response to the reaction of 'Kazi Nazar-ul Islam', Pramatha Chowdhury wrote an article, Banga Sahitye Khuner Mamla, in defence of Tagore, arguing that the Kazi had no reason to take the criticism upon himself. In the article, published in Bangalar Katha on Feberuary 3, 1928, Chowdhury wrote: 'I was present at the meeting in which Rabindranath [Tagore] made those remarks, but it did not occur in my mind that the remarks were meant for Kazi Shaheb. As far as I can remember, he referred to the word khun while giving an example of new words cultivated by a rising young poet. He did not critique any risen poet.' [Pramatha Chowdhury, Agranthita Rachana - 2, Malayendu Dinda (ed.), Manfakira, Kolkata, 2011, p 23] Chowdhury also argued that 'Rabindranath could never stand against the use of khun in Bangla poetry, for one would find the word in the Balmiki Pratibha, which Tagore had composed in his adolescence much before the Kazi was born.'
However, Chowdhury generally argued for the use of Persian words, for, as he said, 'if Arabic-Persian words are to be abandoned, then, we would be forced to abandon, before everything else, the kalam - the pen.' He was not ready to leave the kalam. He, however, was against inappropriate use of Arabic-Persian words. He wrote, 'Using khun for rakta on every occasion is a literary crime, because it is equally criminal to use rakta for khun on every occasion.' [ibid, p 24] In this regard, he argued that no lawyer of Bengal had so far taken any 'rakter mamla' in the criminal courts, as no Bengali had so far been charged as 'rakter asami'. What Chowdhury meant to say is that everybody uses khun, instead of rakta, to mean murder in such cases. They are therefore called 'khuner mamla' and 'khuner asami' instead of 'rakter mamla' and 'rakter mamla' respectively. Again, he argued that the 'goddess Kali does not mind any khun' in the sense of murder, but none is supposed to offer at her feet 'khun-jaba' flower, instead of rakta-jaba. 
Meanwhile, some Muslim and Hindu litterateurs continued to debate on the issue, for and against the use of khun to denote blood. 
Tagore did not immediately take part in the controversy sparked by his reported comments on the use of khun in Bangla poetry. However, the controversy took a different shape when Tagore published his controversial speech, as Kabir Abhibhashan, in the February issue of the Prabashi in 1928. In the written text of the speech, it was discovered that Tagore had referred to 'a Bengali Hindu poet'. He said: 'People loudly boast of newness only when they lack in creative abilities. They do not have the ability to pour the nectar of freshness into the traditional pot; they search for chaotic peculiarities to prove their unique ability in loud voice. I came to notice the other day that a Bengali Hindu poet has used the word "khun" for rakta. If the old word rakta fails to colour his poetry in red, one would take it to be his failure. Having failed to create colour [in the poetry], he wants to startle [the reader].'[Rabindranath Tagore, 'Kabir Abhibhashan', Rabindrasamagra (Complete Works of Rabindranath Tagore), Volume 12, Pathak Shamabesh, Dhaka, 2013, p 510]
Rabindranath Tagore's published speech might have pacified Nazrul Islam, as it suggested that the latter was not the former's target, because Nazrul was not a 'Hindu poet'. However, it still remained controversial, as speculated by Dr Sumita Chakrabarti, whether or not Tagore, on a second thought, or on the advice of his admirers, had later inserted the word 'Hindu' before the 'poet' to save the situation created out of the reports published in Shanibarer Chithi and Bangalar Katha. [Sumita Chakrabarti, Sristi-Swatantre Nazrul, Pustak Bipani, Kolkata, 2007, p 165] Chakrabarti also speculated that the editor of Prabashi might also have inserted the word Hindu, 'maybe with a verbal permission from Rabindranath.'
The question of 'insertion' came because, as Chakrabarti rightly underlines, Pramatha Chowdhury, who heard the Tagore speech in question, did not mention that the poet used the word Hindu in the first place. Had he heard it, Chowdhury would not have to base his thesis that Tagore did not mean Nazrul Islam, for the former talked about a 'rising young poet', while the latter was already a 'risen' one. Besides, two newspapers could have hardly any reason to resolve to deliberately omit the word 'Hindu' from the sentence. 
However, Chakrabarti raises, and raises rightly, a more serious question about the controversy. She argues that even if the judgement in the 'case of khun in Bangla literature goes in favour of Tagore, the larger issue involved in the case still remains, which is, as she points out, the question of linguistic communalism.
In this regard, she argues that Tagore might not have any objection to the use of khun by the Muslim poet Kazi Nazrul Islam, but he appears to have objection to the idea when it comes to a 'Hindu poet'. She based her argument not only the controversial text of Kabir Abhibhashan, but also on that of another speech he wrote earlier in 1925. In the speech he wrote: 
'If Bangla is the mother tongue of Bengali Muslims, then their Muslim identity can well be expressed through that language. The contemporary Muslim writers of Bangla literature are routinely proving the proposition. The talented ones among them would become immortal in this language. Besides, they can strengthen Bangla language further by injecting into it Mussalmani materials. There is, after all, no dearth of such materials in Bangla language, while that has not affected us in any way.' [The speech was supposed to be delivered at the annual session of Bangiya Sahitya Sammilan, but Tagore did not attend the session; it was eventually incorporated into a book titled, Sahityer Pathe. For the full text, see Rabindranath Tagore, 'Sahityasamnilan', Rabindrasamagra (Complete Works of Rabindranath Tagore), Volume 12, Pathak Shamabesh, Dhaka, 2013, pp 504-507.]Sumita Chakrabarti rightly notes, 'Rabindranath [Tagore] does not have any objection to Muslim writers pouring "Mussalmani materials' into Bangla language, but he perhaps could not approve the idea for Hindu writers.' [Sumita Chakrabarti, Sristi-Swatantre Nazrul, op-cit, p 166] Chakrabarti interprets the phenomenon as 'linguistic communalism' and observes that people 'subconsciously become the prisoner' of such 'linguistic communalism', which is 'very dangerous'. 
However, for Tagore, it was not a 'subconscious' thought that infusion of Arabic and Persian words in everyday use into Bangla language as well as portrayal of the lifestyle of Bengali Muslims in Bangla literature is primarily, if not solely, the responsibility of Muslim writers of Bengal. Because, long after he had suggested in 1925 that Muslim writers of Bengal 'can strengthen Bangla language further by way of injecting into it the Mussalmani materials', Tagore wrote to Abul Fazal in 1940 that 'powerful Muslim writers have not adequately described Muslim lifestyle in Bangla literature' and that Bangla literature would be enriched, 'if, in the course of depicting Muslim lifestyle', Muslim writers take efforts for 'natural entry' of Arabic and Persian 'words used in the daily lives of Muslim society' into 'Bangla language'. [Rabindranath Tagore, Rabinndrasamagra (Complete works of Rabindranath Tagore), Volume 16, Pathak Shamabesh, Dhaka, 2011, p 459] 
Besides, Tagore did keep in mind the controversy over the poetic use of the Persian word khun taking place in 1927-1928 until the last days of his life, for Tagore raised the issue of khun again in his letter to Abul Fazal in 1940. He wrote: The [Bangla] language has easily accepted the [Persian] word khun-kharabi. It would be an obscurantist act on our part if we do not accept this fact. But the [Bangla] language has not accepted khun in the sense of rakta. The word may be acceptable to a particular family or a particular community, but Bangla language in general would refuse to accept khun to denote rakta. [ibid] 
Before, he wrote to Abul Fazal about the rakta-khun controversy, Tagore had referred to the issue once more in 1934. In a letter to MA Azam, editor of the Kolkata-based Ghorer Maya, he wrote: 'Thousands of Persian and Arabic words have naturally been assimilated in Bangla language. There was no trace of forcible attempts in the process of assimilation. However, one cannot but find it a forcible attempt to impose on Bangla language Persian and Arabic words that are not used in the everyday life of the common people, or the use is limited to a particular class of people. The use of [the Persian word] khun to mean murder does not sound artificial, [and therefore] the word has been naturally accepted by Bengalis in general. But khun in the sense of blood has not been accepted, and therefore it is meaningless to argue about it.' [Ghorer Maya published the letter immediately, in 1934. The letter was then published in Prabashi the same year. For the present reference, see Rabinndrasamagra (Complete works of Rabindranath Tagore), Volume 16, Pathak Shamabesh, Dhaka, 2011, p 457] 
Kazi Nazrul Islam never complied with Rabindranath Tagore's prescribed rule of using Persian word/s and continued to use Sanskritised words with those of Arabic and Persian origin in his poetic and prose works without caring for the particular bias for and against the words by opposing religious communities of the time. Meanwhile, the debate over the use of the word khun remains a typical example of the linguistic and literary division that the two religious communities of Bengal caused in Bangla language and literature.

UNDER the divisive linguistic and literary circumstance of Bengal, created out of the Hindu elite's communal practices and subsequent Muslim literary reactions, the entire cultural atmosphere got so vitiated so that the Kolkata-based Muslim litterateurs decided in 1911 to stay away from Bangiya Sahitya Parishad, founded in 1893, and form their own organisation - Bangiya Musalman Sahitya Samity. It was the 'psychological environment of the time' that made the Muslim writers of Bengal to form their 'own' Bangiya Musalman Sahitya Samity in 1911.
Explaining the context of forming the Samity, Dr Muhammad Shahidullah, the founding secretary of the organisation, wrote in the Bangla monthly Mahe Nou in 1958: 'Some of us were the members of Bangiya Sahitya Parishad. ...but we used to attend the meetings of the Parishad as poor relatives of the rich attend the latter's functions. We, therefore, resolved to have our own literary organisation....' [Dr Shahidullah's article, Bangiya Musalman Sahitya Patrika, published in the Kartik 1365 issue of Mahe Nou, is cited in Sukumar Sen, Bangala Sahityer Itihas (History of Bangla Literature), Fifth volume, Sixth impression, Ananda Publishers, Kolkata, 2010, p 241] Hence, a meeting of the Muslim writers of Bengal was held on September 4, 1911 and Bangiya Musalman Sahitya Samity came to existence. 
The timing of the formation of the Sahitya Samity is very significant in terms of Bengal's political context as well. The Muslim writers in question decided to organise themselves separately from their Hindu counterparts within two weeks of the annulment of the division of Bengal on August 20, 1911, which was the result of a Hindu elite-led movement to the disadvantage particularly of the Muslims of East Bengal. 
Bangiya Musalman Sahitya Samity decided in 1918 to launch a Bangla literary quarterly, with its president, Moulavi Abdul Karim, proposing that the title of the quarterly should be Bangiya Musalman Sahitya Patrika. But some Samiti officials, including Muzaffar Ahmad, a founding member of the Communist Party of India, argued that the words Bangiya Musalman should be dropped from the proposed name and that the name of the quarterly should be just Sahitya Patrika. But the president of the Samity rejected Muzaffar Ahmad's idea, arguing that 'Hindus would never purchase the periodical [edited by Muslims], and therefore there is no point in confusing Muslim readers about its identity.' [Muzaffar Ahmed, Kazi Nazrul Islam: Smritikata, Muktadhara, Dhaka, 1973, p 57] 
This is not the sole example of the literary and linguistic division of the Bengalis those days. In 1920, when Afzalul Haque, a Kolkata-based Muslim publisher, decided to launch a Bangla monthly under the title of 'Moslem Bharat', Muzaffar Ahmad again pursued him to leave the word 'Moslem' from 'Bharat' to give it a secular identity. But Afzalul Haque, himself 'a non-communal person' refused to accept the suggestion, because 'he was not sure that many Hindus would buy any monthly edited by a Muslim.' [ibid, p 55]
Even AK Fazlul Haque (1873-1962), while launching a Bangla daily in Kolkata in 1920, insisted on a 'Muslim name' for the newspaper. Confronted by the writers concerned, particularly Muzaffar Ahmad and Kazi Nazrul Islam, Haque warned that if they did not chose a 'Muslim name' for the daily, they would be exposed to 'double jeopardy': 'The Hindus will not buy your newspaper, while the Muslims will not understand that it is theirs. You would be caught between the two communities.' [ibid, p 62] This time they, however, were not swayed by Haque's insistence and the daily was published with a secular name, Nabajug - the New Age. 
Even in those days of communal psychological environment, there were some litterateurs in both the Muslim and Hindu camps who sincerely tried to forge a comprehensive linguistic and literary unity between the two communities. Ahsan Ullah, a Muslim litterateur from East Bengal, for instance, made a passionate appeal in an article, Bangabhasha and Mussalman Sahitya, to the Bengali literary practitioners in 1918 to abolish the idea of Hinduised Bangla and Islamised Bangla. He wrote: 'Brothers, forget about the conflict between the Hindus and Muslims; remove words like Hinduised and Islamised Bangla languages from the dictionaries. You should rather establish better command over Bangla by using both the forms, and ensure the welfare of the country by furthering the development of the language.' [Ahsan Ullah is cited in Shajahan Manir, Bangla Sahitye Bangali Mussalmaner Chintadhara: 1919-1940 (Thoughts of Muslims in Bangla Literature: 1919-1940), First reprint, Bangla Academy, Dhaka, 2004, p 259]
Earlier, Syed Nawab Ali Chowdhury (1863-1929), a Muslim aristocrat from East Bengal, wrote in an article, Bangabhashar Gati, 'We do not want Hinduised Bangla language, nor do we want an Islamised one, we want pure Bangla language communicative to both Hindus and Muslims of Bengal.' [Syed Nawab Ali Chowdhury, Bangabhashar Gati, in Mahbubullah (ed.), Mohan Ekushe Subornojointi Grantha (Amar Ekushe Golden Jubilee Book), op-cit, p 1207] 
There was also a collective literary effort by a section of the Muslim intellectuals to bring in social and intellectual reforms in the Muslim community on the one hand, and forge linguistic and literary unity among the mutually opposing religious communities of Bengal - the efforts made by the Dhaka-based Muslim Sahitya Samaj is a case in point. 
Muslim Sahitya Samaj, which was founded in 1926, launched a literary movement called Buddhir Mukti Andolan - movement for the 'emancipation of intellect'. The prime organisers of the movement included Abul Hossain, Kazi Abdul Odud and Kazi Motahar Hossain, while the signature slogan of the movement was: Where knowledge is limited, the intellect is benumbed, and emancipation impossible. The group launched its annual journal, Shikha (flame), the next year. The group eventually came to be known after its signature publication - the Shikha group. 
The Shikha group, side by side with intellectually fighting against the Mullahism in Dhaka, floated an organisation called 'Anti-purdah League', understandably to fight against the purdha system imposed on Muslim women by the fanatic mullahs. 
In the process of fighting social and intellectual reforms of the Muslim society, the Shikha group had faced many obstructions and harassments by a section of the conservative Muslims who started considering the members of the group to be 'kafirs'. In one such instance of harassment, as Mustafa Nurul Islam points out, the powerful leaders of the Dhaka-based Muslim society summoned the top organisers of the group, Abul Hussain and Kazi Abdul Odud, to the residence of Baliadi's zaminder, Kazimuddin Siddiky. In the zaminder's house, they had faced a test of Islamic credentials by one Moulana Muhammad Ishaq. They, however, escaped an adverse religious decree, with the former expressing in Arabic his commitment to Islam and the latter presenting a piece of his poem composed on the prophet of Islam. [Mustafa Nurul Islam (ed.), Shikha Samagra, Preface to Shikha Samagra, Bangla Academy, Dhaka, 2003, p IX]
The group's literary activism included analysing the socio-cultural reasons for the communalistic division of the Bengali populace and making enlightening literary efforts to forge a comprehensive unity by removing religious animosities prevalent among the Muslim and Hindu elites of Bengal. 
Kazi Abdul Odud (1894-1970) of the Shikha group observed in an article, Bangali Mussalmaner Sahitya-Samasya, in 1927 that 'literature here [in Bengal] is very communalistic - its more about an exercise of special joy and sorrows of the Hindus than those of the human beings [in general]'. [Kazi Abdul Odud, Bangali Mussalmaner Sahitya-Samasya, in Mustafa Nurul Islam (ed.), Shikha Samagra, Bangla Academy, Dhaka, 2003, p 41] Odud regretted that the 'literary assertion of Hindutwa by Hindus has generated in the Muslim minds nothing but parochial communalism.' [ibid, p 42] He observed that there was nothing wrong with litterateurs being Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists or Christians as individual social beings, but as litterateurs they are supposed to be fundamentally different from communalist Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists and Christians. 
Abul Hussain (1897-1938), the founding editor of the Shikha, regretted in an essay, Chota Golper Dhara, in 1919: 'Bangla literature has been flowing by two separate streams, one led by the Hindu community and the other Muslim.' [Abul Hussain, 'Chota Golper Dhara', in Abul Quasem Fazlul Huq (ed.), Abul Hussain Rachanabali (Works of Abul Hussain), Volume I, Bangla Academy, Dhaka, 2003, p 146]
In another essay, Tarun Muslim, written in 1921, Hussain wrote: 'Our beautiful birth-land, the [two] opposing communities, still prisoners of the past, are fighting each other over [the past glory], ignoring the contemporary challenges. One community wants to regenerate and re-establish the Vedic society and the other is out to replicate the Arab world. Both the communities are dangerously hypnotised by the past. They do not have the consciousness about the present; they refuse to look at the future.' [Abul Hussain, 'Tarun Muslim', in Abul Quasem Fazlul Huq (ed.), Abul Hussain Rachanabali, ibid, p 211] In the essay, Hussain urged upon both the Muslim and Hindu youths to do away with mutual enmity and jointly work towards changing the 'condition of our Sonar Bangla' for the better.
Dr Muhammad Shahidullah (1885-1969), a reputed linguist from East Bengal, was also against those nurturing the communalistic division of Bangla language and literature, and therefore fought against the phenomenon. In an address in 1929, Shahidullah said: 'To one section of the Bengalis, Bangla language means Sanskrit without its onuswars and bisargas, while to the other section Bangla means a peculiar hotchpotch of Arabic, Persian and Urdu ...The Bangla language must be saved from both these groups.' [Dr Muhammad Shahidullah is cited in Shajahan Manir, Bangla Sahitye Bangali Mussalmaner Chintadhara: 1919-1940 (Thoughts of Muslims in Bangla Literature: 1919-1940), First reprint, Bangla Academy, Dhaka, 2004, p 259] Dr Shahidullah was very critical of contemporary Muslim writers, making deliberate efforts to Islamise Bangla by inappropriately using Arabic, Persian and Urdu words in their literary exercise. He found 'those trying to cultivate Mussalmani Bangla' to be 'a genre of people, created out of the bones of gorillas'.
There were, of course, Hindu writers, Pramatha Chowdhury being a prominent one, who had those days aspired for doing away with the linguistic division of Bangla, and therefore explored different ways to forge a literary unity among the two opposing religious communities. Chowdhury had argued in an article, Urdu Banam Bangla, 1934: 'Bangla is the language of the Bengalis irrespective of their [religious] communal identity...In religious matters, Hindus and Muslims use different words. The texts of Hinduism remain mostly in the Sanskrit, and that of Islam... mostly Arabic. ...However, the size of the religious vocabularies is so small that they have not divided the Bangla language into two.'[Pramatha Chowdhury, 'Urdu Banam Bangla' (Urdu versus Bangla), in Mahbub Ullah (ed.) Mohan Ekushe Subornojointi Grantha (Amar Ekushe Golden Jubilee Book), op-cit, p 276]He then argued that the writers of both the communities were free to use the rest of the vocabularies in the same manner, keeping the words relating to religious faiths free for the use of respective religionists. But there were only a few takers of the literary proposition among the Hindu community.
However, there were some educated Muslims who believed that the Muslim society urgently needed to be enlightened by the modern education, which, in turn, would not only help Muslims catch up with their Hindu counterparts, but also help grow a better relationship between the two communities. But the Muslims of Bengal had been feeling constraints for decades to send their children to Bangla and English medium schools of the day, due to anti-Muslim curricula. 
In this regard, the Dhaka-based Musalman Surid Samniloni observed during its 1886-1887 annual session: 'Many educated Muslims can speak about the life of Jesus Christ's great grandfather, they can recall the names of 1,600 girlfriends of Sri Krishna, but they say nothing about the basic tenets of Mohammedan religious system. ...The Muslim parents are, therefore, opposed to the idea of English and Bangla education.' [See Wakil Ahmed, ibid, pp 516-517]
Then Noor-al-Iman, a Bangla monthly, wrote in 1900: 'The school curriculam includes the mythological stories of Hinduism, such as war between Rama and Rabana, episodes of Kuru-Pandab, etc. Besides, the [Muslim] students have to internalise the Hindu culture and learn Hindu manners. That is not all: the textbooks, full of anti-Muslim slanders and vilifications against Muslim manners, train the impressionable young boys to hate the Muslims as mleccha and jabanas.' [Noor-al-Iman is cited in Wakil Ahmed, ibid, p 517]The periodical also advised Muslims of Bengal 'to write books on the historical episodes of Islam, narratives of the deeds of Muslim heroes and heroines, the episodes on Muslim prophet and saints, lives of pious Muslim men and women, lives and works of Muslim kings and nawabs, essence of Islam and its hadiths, advantages of namaj and roja, Muslim festivals, et cetera in the Bangla language and make efforts for including them in the school curricula.' 
Abdul Hamid Khan Yusufzai (1845-1910) wrote in the Note on Mohammedan Education, published in the Moslem Chronicle in 1900: 'Muslim parents were often disgusted to find their [pathsala-going] children reciting fairly easily chapters and verses of the Ramayana and the Mahabharata, but stark ignorant of the name of the revered father of their great prophet.' [Abdul Hamid Khan Yusufzai is cited in Rafiuddin Ahmed, The Bengal Muslims, 18711906: A Quest for Identity, Oxford University Press, Second Edition, Delhi, 1988, p 126]
The same year, Syed Nawab Ali Chowdhury questioned in an essay, 'Vernacular education in Bengal', the anti-Muslim contents of the school curriculum, and asked: 'Should we send our boys to schools only to learn of the vices not of the virtues of our civilisation and our forefathers?' [Nawab Ali Chowdhury is cited in Wakil Ahmed, Unish Shatake Bangali Mussalmaner Chinta O Chetanar Dhara (The thoughts and ideas of Bengali Muslims in the 19th century), Bangla Academy, Dhaka, 1997, p 516] 
Meanwhile, Mir Musharraf Hossain provided in his Atmajibani in 1908 the autobiographical account of the experience: 'We two brothers enrolled in a school in Kushtia to take lessons in English and Bangla. We were there in the school for quite some years, but we found no trace of the name of Allah and His rasul in the curriculum. Even no teacher had ever pronounced those names. We found the mention of pigs in an English book, but there was no trace of anything Islamic in the books. We have found in the books the mention of Ram, Shyam, Hari, Kali, Durga, even pigs, dogs and jackals, but not anything about Allah and his prophet.' [ibid, pp 491-492]
Under the circumstance in which the Sanskritised Bangla and the Hinduised contents of the school textbooks appeared to be a serious impediment for Muslim children to attend government-run Pathsalas, some progressive Muslim writers committed to Muslim education, such as Abul Mansur Ahmed and Dr Muhammad Shahidullah, started writing children's books compatible with the Muslim psychology. But their efforts faced stiff resistance from the powerful quarters of the Hindu elite - both private and public.

ABUL Mansur Ahmed, one of the finest Bengali prose writers from East Bengal, wrote a children's book in the mid-1920s and approached Bhattachariya and Sons, a prominent Kolkata-based publishing house of the time, to have the book published. The publisher, a Hindu businessman, liked the manuscript; he believed that 'the stories and the language of the manuscript were wonderful', and that 'the book would definitely be popular.' [Abul Mansur Ahmed, Atmakatha (Memoirs), Ahmed Publishing House, Dhaka, Second Printing, 2009, pp 205-206] Bhattachariya agreed to publish the book, but requested the writer to add an index of the meanings of some widely used Bangla 'words of Arab and Persian origin like Allah (God) and roja (fasting in the month of Ramadan)'. Mansur Ahmed refused to do so, on the ground that words like Allah and roja have been widely used by Muslims of Bengal for several hundred years and, like jangal (jungle) and janala (window) of Dutch origin, assimilated in Bangla vocabulary long ago. But the publisher insisted on the index of meaning for the Arabic word 'Allah' as Sanskrit word Iswar and Persian word 'roja' as Sanskrit upabash, etc. Mansur Ahmed eventually told the publisher that he would entertain the request only if the former asked his Hindu writers to provide an index of meaning for words like Iswar as Allah and upabash as roja. The condition angered the publisher and he refused to publish Mansur Ahmed's book.
Abul Mansur Ahmed's experience with the Hindu-dominated administration was not pleasant either. The Textbook Committee of Bengal, comprising Hindu officials, rejected a proposal for Abul Mansur Ahmed's book, Naya Para (New Reading), a storybook for children, to be part of the primary school curriculum in 1937 as it contained Arabic and Persian words like Khoda (God) and pani (water). The officials of the Textbook committee argued that such words 'would hurt the religious sentiment of Hindu students'. In response, Abul Mansur Ahmed argued that 'if words like Ishwar (God) and jal (water) had not hurt the religious sentiment of Muslim students for more than hundred years, words like Khoda and Pani should not hurt the Hindu sentiments today.' The argument did not help. Even the then Muslim chief minister of Bengal, AK Fazlul Haque, who was also in charge of the education ministry, failed to change the mind of the Textbook authorities in question.[Ibid, p 208]
Subsequently, a 'new realisation' dawned on Abul Mansur Ahmed that the elite of the minority Hindu community was determined not to accept the spoken language of the majority Muslim community of Bengal. He told the annual conference of the Progressive Writers Association in 1943: 'I do not know whether a political Pakistan will emerge in India, but what I am sure about is, given the way writers of the Hindu community and the education department have been ignoring the use of the spoken language of the Muslim majority community of Bengal in their literary works and textbooks, a literary Pakistan will be created in Bengal.' [ibid, pp 222-223] Abul Mansur Ahmed, once a staunch Congressite publicly condemning the 'demand for Pakistan', left the Indian National Congress for the Muslim League and admittedly became 'a bigger supporter of Pakistan than the Muslim League leaders'. [ibid, p 224] 
Dr Mohammad Shahidullah, a famous philologist from East Bengal who actively opposed the deliberate attempt to Islamise Bangla, wrote a textbook for maktab and madrassah students of Bengal. Subsequently, Ramesh Chandra Bandyopadhyay, a well-known Kolkata-based Hindu litterateur, accused Shahidullah of 'polluting' the 'very tenor and structure of the Bengali language' by using 'Arabic and Persian words like fereshta (angel), dojakh (hell) and behesht (heaven)' in the textbook concerned. [Ramesh Chandra Bandyopadhyay is cited in Dhurjati Prasad De, Bengal Muslims in Search of Social Identity: 1905-47, The University Press Limited, Dhaka, 1988, p 119]
In an article published in the Kolkata-based monthly Prabasi in 1339 Bangla calendar, Bandyopadhyay complained that 'random use of such words without considering their suitability' by Dr Shahidullah and the like 'evidently split the language into two, giving birth to a kind of literary communalism between the Hindus and the Muslims'. Bandyopadhyay found the phenomenon 'a question of cultural survival' for the Hindus and urged 'the fellow Bengali Hindus to come up and rescue the Bengali language'. Perhaps, Bandyopadhyay would have found Dr Shahidullah to have 'rightly' served 'the Bengali language' had he used Sanskritised words like debdoot for fereshta, narak for dojakh and swarga for behesht, words found in Hindu religious scriptures and mythology. He clearly failed to realise, or accept, that Arabic and Persian words like fereshta, dojakh and behesht have been naturalised in the vocabulary of the Muslim majority Bengal over the past few centuries, while no rationally thinking Bengali, Muslim or Hindu is expected to object to the use of such words in the textbooks of maktab and madrassah curriculum meant primarily, if not exclusively, for Muslim students. In this regard, it is also worth mentioning that Dr Shahidullah had to go all the way to Germany to learn and study Sanskrit, as the 'Brahmin pundit of the erstwhile Calcutta University refused to teach a mlechho (barbarian) the Veda-Upanishad'. [Serajul Islam Chowdhury, Bangaleer Jatiyatabad (Bengalis' Nationalism), The University Press Limited, Dhaka, 2000, p 17. Mlechho is a derogatory Bangla word usually used by the caste Hindus for Muslims.]
Be that as it may, in response to Ramesh Chandra Bandyopadhyay's contention, Moulana Akram Khan, a Muslim League leader-cum-journalist wrote in Masik Mohammadi, a monthly literary magazine, that there were cultural differences between Muslims and Hindus of Bengal that found expression in the use of words in their literary works. He also pointed out that the kind of Bangla the Hindu litterateurs wrote contained 'Hindu religio-cultural ideas apart from Sanskrit words', many of which were 'symbolic of image worshipping and therefore opposed to Islamic ideal'. In this perspective, Akram Khan observed, if the textbooks for maktabs and madrassahs were to be written in that Bangla, the Muslim community 'might have to face a possibility of cultural extinction'. [Akram Khan is cited in Dhurjati Prasad De, Bengal Muslims in Search of Social Identity: 1905-47, op-cit, p 121] He eventually proposed 'a mutual understanding ...between Hindus and Muslims' to the effect that the former 'would not drop' the Arabic and Persian words that 'had been naturalised' and the latter 'would not try to incorporate' them 'without necessity'. There were, however, not so many litterateurs in Bengal those days, Muslims or Hindus, to implement the proposed 'mutual understanding' about Bangla.
S Wajed Ali (1890-1950), who was for developing a 'comprehensive Bangla language, accommodating the two sub-languages, one for Muslims and the other for Hindus', had a different linguistic prescription to propose. He wrote in an article: 'Bidyasagar mahashaya has totally changed the Bangla literary language. He has completely ousted Arabic, Persian and Urdu words from Bangla language, and replaced them with Sanskrit ones.' [S Wajed Ali, 'Bangla Sahitya O Bangali Mussalman' in Mahbubullah (ed.), Mohan Ekushe Subornojointi Grantha (Amar Ekushe Golden Jubilee Book), op-cit, p 1011]
He argues, 'There is not an iota of doubt that the language of the Bengali Muslims is largely different from that of the Bengali Hindus. Indeed, there are enough historical and cultural reasons for the difference. The language of puthis had once emerged in our [Muslim] society due to those reasons. We now definitely have to make our language more communicative, for the language of Amir Hamza's Dastana would not work anymore. We would advance our language towards lucidity based on our own natural language. Maybe, two sub-languages, of the Muslims and the Hindus, would constitute a comprehensive Bangla language some day. But that would depend on our Hindu friends, for we have already proceeded towards their sub-language to an extent more than we had required. They should now come forward to join us halfway through.' [ibid]
Meanwhile, much before the partition of the subcontinent into India and Pakistan in 1947, words like Pakistan, East Pakistan and West Pakistan had entered the political vocabularies of the region. For instance, a Muslim literary organisation with the phrase 'East Pakistan' - East Pakistan Literary Society - came into existence in Dhaka as early as in 1942. Similarly, three years before the politicians created Pakistan/East Pakistan in 1947, the Muslim literary intellectuals of East Bengal created the East Pakistan Renaissance Society in Kolkata in 1944. Evidently, the politically conscious Muslim literary elite of Bengal was already prepared to shape their own Bangla language and literature separating them from those of their Hindu counterparts. 
Abul Mansur Ahmed, while delivering his presidential address at the first conference of the East Pakistan Renaissance Society in 1944, said: 'The inhabitants of East Pakistan are a people, which is entirely different from the other peoples of India on the one hand and its religious brethrens of West Pakistan on the other. 
'By the literature of East Pakistan, in other words the literature of Bengal and Assam, we understand the literature of the era beginning from the period of Vidyasagar-Bankimchandra to that of the Rabindra[nath]-Sarat Chandra era. The literature created in this era is of very high standard. Rabindranath, particularly, has upgraded this literature to the global standard. 
'Still, this is not the literature of East Pakistan, for this is not the literature of the Muslims of Bengal. The Muslims do not have any contribution to this literature, nor has this literature any contribution to the Muslims. The Muslim society did not get, and are not getting now, any inspiration. The reason is simple: The Muslims are not the creators of this literature, while there is no Muslim content in it. Besides, Muslims have nothing to do with the spirit of this literature; even its language is not the one of Muslim's.' [Abul Mansur Ahmed is cited in Anisuzzaman, 'Swaruper Sandhane', Nirbachita Prabandha, Anyaprokash, Dhaka, 2000, p 51]
In terms of the division of Bangla language and literature, an old analysis of Haraprasad Shastri proved prophetic. He wrote in an essay, Bangala Bhasha, published in Prabasi, a Kolkata-based Bangla periodical, as early as in 1915: 'Some believe Bangla is the daughter of Sanskrit. Mr Aksmaychandra has observed that Sanskrit is the grandmother of Bangla. But I say Sanskrit is the great-great-great-great grandmother of Bangla...So Bangla's relation with Sanskrit is a quite distant one. Those who want to drive Bangla towards the direction of Sanskrit, there is hardly any possibility for them to succeed. Sanskrit had a direction of its own; Bangla has flown towards another direction over time. The attempt to drive Bangla towards Sanskrit, therefore, would be like driving Ganges towards Himalayas. Bangla, by way of living with Muslims over seven hundred years, has already taken many things from Muslims that have become inherent components of the language. No attempt to drive those things out of Bangla would succeed now. Muslims have not been able to change any other language of India the way they have been able to change Bangla.' [Haraprasad Sastri, 'Bangala Bhasha' in Dr Humayun Azad (ed.) Bangla Bhasha: Bangla Bhashabishayak Prabandhasankalan (The Bengali Language: A Collection of Linguistic Essays on the Bengali Language), Volume II, Second edition, Agamee Prakashani, Dhaka, 2001, p 382]
Then he wrote: 'So far the [Sanskrit] pundits have driven the Persian words out of Bangla language at their will, because the Muslims of Bengal have hitherto not entered Bangla literature. Now that they have started creating Bangla literature, they are asking, "Why should you drive out Mussalmani words from Bangla literature? What rights do you have to drive them out? The words that have been in circulation for three, four and five centuries, they have earned the legitimate rights to remain in the language. Who are you to deny them of the right?" The Muslims have not stopped here. They are saying further: "If you drive the Muslim words out, and replace them with bombastic Sanskrit words, making it difficult for us to understand, we would use bombastic Persian and Arabic words; we will separate our language from yours, without depending on you".' [Ibid, p 384] 
Bangla language was indeed separated, with that Bangla literature, and with that the minds of ordinary 'educated' Bengalis - Hindus and the Muslims. Subsequently, the 'educated' sections of the two religious communities, who usually mould public opinion, contributed to the social polarisation of the people of Bengal into Hindu and Muslim camps, and thus provided the communalist politicians with a fertile cultural ground to successfully cultivate the politics of the partition of Bengal and divided it on religious line in 1947, with apparent supports of the people at large - both Hindus and Muslims. Language, indeed, plays a powerful role in politics.

giuliano bernini,
5 ott 2013, 03:25