Social Scientist. v 23, no. 263-65 (April-June 1995) p. 16.

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The Social Thoughts and Consciousness of the Bengali Muslims in the Colonial Period^

As I feel there is enough scope to throw light on the Bengali Muslim mind of the colonial period, I have chosen the theme of The Social Thoughts and Consciousness of the Bengali Muslims' in the study of modem Indian History. It is quite well-known that due to the uneven growth of the two major segments of population in this region of our country the Muslims lagged behind the Hindus. The process, however, started along with the rapidly changing sociopolitical scenario since the mid-eighteenth century. The Muslims could not easily accept the British rule and for a long time refused to take the advantage of modem English education. But the Hindus found no difficulty to adjust themselves with the situation. The introduction of Permanent Settlement, application of Resumption Laws on rent-free grants, abolition of Persian as the language of the Court and the administration, introduction of English as the medium of instruction and enforcement of new rules for recruitment to the government posts adversely affected the position of the Muslims and accelerated the process of their decline. The impact of the awakening in Bengal (popularly called the Bengal Renaissance), in fact remained confined mainly to the higher strata of the Hindu society, and it miserably failed to influence either the Muslims or the lower-caste Hindus including the adivasis. The main architect of the Renaissance, Rammohan Roy tried in the beginning of the nineteenthcentury to resuscitate liberalism, humanism and rationalism through theological discourses in Arabic and Persian languages.1 This was however an attempt to reconcile different schools of thought, yet he failed and thereafter no attempt was made by anyone till the end of the nineteenth century to uphold the spiritual values of different religions by developing comparative theological studies. The noted Hindu scholars or authors, though played an important role in different spheres of our life, remained mostly indifferent to the necessity of accepting the culture of the Indian Muslims with its Perso-Arabic background and failed to appreciate it as 'an integral part of the broad stream of Indian Culture.'2 On the other hand, when some upper and middle class Muslims received modem education ignoring the contemporary taboos, they too were not 'ready to accept the ancient culture of India as part of their own cultural heritage.'3

* Formerly professor of history at Jadavpur University, Jadavpur

** Presidential Address, Section III, IHC, Aligarh

Social Scientist, Vol. 23, Nos. 4-6, April-June 1995

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