Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Bangladesh, Communalism

The Hindu-Muslim antagonism in Bengal haf been viewed in terms of the political experiences of south-Asia. A particular paradox in the history of freedom struggle against the Britush Raj in the sub-continent lied in the fact that the maturing of mainstream nationalism was almost synonymous with the strengthening of communalism in Indian politics which in the long run contributed to the partition of India along religious lines.
The phenomenonof communalism in Bengal had, not unnaturally, attracted the attention of social scientists which resulted in the development of competing stereotypes on the causes and nature of this political process. recent studies had ,particularly, stressed a link between Hindu dominance and Muslim socio-economic grievances. The 1871 censusof India formally revealed that that nearly half of the total population in Bengal was Muslims most of whominhabited the marshy low-lying tracts of eastern Bengal- the area corresponding to the present day Bangladesh. In some districts , such as Mymensing, Pabna, Bogra, Bakergang, Noakhali and chttagong more than 605 of the population were Muslims.
Their demographic predominance was, however, not reflected in the socio-economic and political structures of the province. As a community they mostly earned their livelihood as tenant farmers and agricultural labourersemployed by Hindu Zamindars.Hindu domination over Muslim peasantry was butressed by a dependence of the latter on Hindu Mahazans (money lenders) for credit . Besides paying regular rent , the Muslim peasantry had to meet the burden of additional cesses for the remuneration of zamindari officials, performance of Puja, in Zamindari estates , opening of additional classes in village schools, and special occasions such as marriages or births in zamindar's gfamilies. Bengal had some Muslim landlords, but their position was constantly threatened by the subdivision of estates among female members of their families who unlike their Hindu counterparts, were entitled to succession. Few Muslims who lived in towns earned their living as day labourers, butchers, carpenters, carters, coachman,stable boys, tailors, boatmen, laskars, bookbinders, and petty traders. According to one estimate in the beginning of the twentieth century there was only one muslim to every seven hindus in govt. jobs and professional occupatios, the situation changed only marginally in the 1940s.
Much of the communal riots in Bengal during the first part of the 20th centurycould be ascribed to this economic divide from the exploited , like the Hindu zamindars and marwari money-lenders facing the overwhelmingly Muslim peasntry in 20th century colonial Bengal, the contradictions between the two tended to be expressed in a communal form. Economic grievances of the muslim masses alone cannot , however, explain the growth of communalism in Bengal. Bengal's economic scene itself underwent significant changes in the late 1920s with the rise of Muslim landowners, especially in Rajshahi, Dhaka and Chittagong.