The Partition of the Sub-continent and the Bifurcation of Bengal: The Part Told Least [Part 2: Uncontrolled dominion]

Bifurcation of Bengal

V P Menon, as he told about himself in The Transfer of Power in India, “[i]n one capacity or other, from 1917 […] was continuously associated with the constitutional development in India. From 1942 till the transfer of power in August 1947 [he] was the Constitutional Adviser to the Governor-General.”

V P Menon cites an article by W. E. Gladstone in 1878. The article was published in the Patriot of the veteran Indian journalist, Kristo Das Pal. In the article Gladstone wrote:

“Here is tutelage unexampled in history. It embraces from one-fifth to one-sixth of the human race: the latest German reckonings of the population of the globe carrying it beyond fourteen hundred millions. Over this population and the vast territory it inhabits, we hold a dominion entirely uncontrolled, […] This dominion is de jure in the hands of a nation whose numbers as compared with those of its Indian subjects are one to seven, and whose seat is at the other end of the world; de facto, it is wielded by a handful of their agents, military and civil, who are not as one to three thousand of the peoples spread, as an ocean, in passive obedience around them [….] At home still less provision is made for the adequate discharge of a gigantic duty. It depends upon a Cabinet which dreads nothing so much as the mention of an Indian question at its meetings; on a minister who knows that the less his colleagues hear of his proceedings, the better they will be pleased; on a Council, which is not allowed to enter into his highest deliberations; and on a Parliament, supreme over them all, which cannot in its two Houses jointly muster one single score of persons, who have either a practical experience in the government of India or a tolerable knowledge of its people or its history [….] The truth as to India cannot too soon be understood. There are two policies, fundamentally different; and it is the wrong one that is now in favour. One of them treats India as a child treats a doll, and defends it against other children; the other places all its hopes for the permanence of our Indian rule in our good government of India. [….] [L]et them feel that we are there to give more than we receive; that their interests are not traversed and frustrated by selfish aims of ours; that, if we are defending ourselves upon the line of the Hindoo Coosh, it is them and their interests that we are defending even more and far more than our own. Unless we can produce this conviction in the mind of India, in vain shall we lavish our thoughts and our resources upon a merely material defence [….]”

Gladstone’s statement tells a fact: A vast land was ruled for exploitation with an easy imperial trick! To the British imperialism, the vast land was a comfortable seat. However, the comfort was not permanent.

Imperialism follows the same trick today: Let the commoners of the land “feel that” imperialism is present “to give more than” imperialism receives; that the people’s “interests are not traversed and frustrated by selfish aims of” imperialism; and “it is” the people’s interests that imperialism is “defending even more and far more than” of imperialism.

In the next century, Churchill told another fact. Churchill in a speech on July 8, 1933 said: “India is vital to the well-being of Britain [….] If we add the loss of India […] then problems will arise […] incomparably more grave then any we have known. You will have a surplus population here which it may be beyond the Government to provide effectively.”

The colony’s – this subcontinent – importance to the Empire is well articulated by the imperialist politician.

Three years earlier than Churchill’s statement, Lord Rothermere said the same. According to a report by the Daily Mail on May 16, 1930, Lord Rothermere said: [M]any authorities estimate that the proportion of the vital trading, banking and shipping business of Britain directly dependent upon our connection with India is 20 per cent. […] India is the lynchpin of the British Empire. If we lose India, the Empire must collapse – first, economically, then politically.”

These observations show importance of the subcontinent to the imperialist power. Many studies/estimates are available now that show the resources the colonial power robbed from this subcontinent. Those are not repeated here. The imperialist power had to give up such a land, which was lynchpin of the empire.

This subcontinent’s geostrategic importance to the colonial masters is also told by V P Menon. He writes:

“When, in 1942, Sir Stafford Cripps announced His Majesty’s Government’s policy, the opinion was widely expressed that the British were bent upon the division of the country; that they wanted to create a Middle Eastern sphere of influence, and in pursuance of that policy wished to bring about the creation of a separate Pakistan. This would accord with their traditional liking for Muslims, with their policy of protecting the Straits and the Suez Canal from Russian influence, and with their new but overwhelming interest in the oil of Iran, Iraq and Arabia.”

The imperial masters had to leave behind such a land – resourceful, and vital to its interest in terms of geostrategy and geoeconomy. So, the 1947-partition was an imperialist deal, not a fair handover of power. It was tricky, tricky to the extent that ensures its interest.

That fact is told by E W R Lumby in The Transfer of Power In India, 1945-7:  “[T]hose to whom Britain handed over power were members of the educated middle class. If she had not acted promptly, and if she had in consequence become involved in a war against the forces of nationalism, the outcome might well have been a rapid transition to the third phase. In other words, the victor in the struggle might have been neither of the ostensible protagonists, but the coalition of educated fanaticism and uneducated discontent which is comprehensively designated Communism. As it was, however, the new Governments of India and Pakistan were composed of men whose political philosophy had much in common with the liberal and social democracy of the West. British policy had therefore ensured that the leaders of the two new States should be men who would talk to her in her own political language; but who, on the other hand, would be able to meet the formidable challenge of Communism in Asia in a way in which she herself could never had done.”

So, it’s found the motive behind the transfer of power – a threat of “communism”, actually communism was not the issue, as in then-subcontinent, there was no possibility of communism. The issue was a society free from exploitation, which the British historian has expressed as “communism”, as he used the terms “educated fanaticism” and “uneducated discontent”, which mean radical political force, or a class force standing for equality and equity.

[To be continued.]

Farooque Chowdhury writes from Dhaka, Bengladesh

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