Towards Undestanding Identity
Chandikaprasad Sarkar, The Bengali Muslims: A Study in Their Politicization, 1912-1929, K.P. Bagchi & Co, Calcutta, 1991, pp. 273, Rs 200.
An academic probe into the nature of participation in the political process by the Muslims is always fascinating. Not only does this effort unearth new areas of enquiry it will also provide us with insights which may be crucial in understanding the dynamics of communal relations in the context of divide and rule. Although the 1947 partition appeared unavoidable given the height of communal tension in the pre-1947 days. What is however puzzling is why the so-called 'two nation' theory which was opposed vehemently by both the Congress and 'nationalist Muslims prevailed as the saga of India's independence drew to a close. In other words, by attributing the triumph of the two nation theory to merely elite machinations one is likely to miss out the complex interplay of factors involving the actors of both the organised and unorganised worlds of politics. What is, therefore, incumbent on an analyst striving to unravel the background of the partition is to concentrate on the historical process that probably set the motion in perspective long before it became significant on the institutional plane.
The task, though difficult, is most challenging for it involves a through study of human consciousness which keeps changing rather rapidly in response to both internal and external stimuli. Since the formation of Muslim identity accounts partly for the 1947 Great Divide of the subcontinent of India, an enquiry into the probable factors which contributed to the so-called separatist tendencies has to take into account the broader socio-political and economic scene in which a particular mindset is set and articulated too. The argument focusing on the historical process brings out probably sharply the complex interplay of factors involving the society, the economy and the institutional structure which was rather artificially imposed in India in the wake of colonialism to stabilise an alien rule. Although it is not always possible to capture the reality in its complex manifestation for the dearth of the right kind source materials, what can best be done is
Social Scientist, Vol. 20, Nos. 3-4, March-April 1992