KALYAN KUMAR SEK GUPTA
Bengali Intelligentsia and the Politics of Rent y
IN 1873, the occupancy ryots of the district of Pabna, now in Bangladesh, struggled against their landlords to defend the right of occupancy granted to them and to other Bengal cultivators bv the R^nt Act X of 1859.1 This agrarian unrest which gradually spread toother districts of eastern and central Bengal in the decade preceding the enactment of the Bengal Tenancy Act of 18852 had also an impact on the politics of the westernized urban elite of Calcutta, the capital of India and the seat of the nineteenth century Bengali bhadralok culture. The Bengali intelligentsia of the time, though aware of the socio-economic implications of the problem posed by the strained agrarian relations, saw the problem at the same time from divergent angles and attempted to solve it on their separate premises and interests. This pointed to the existence of a conflict of ideology among the westernized elite. It was perhaps natural since the Bengali intelligentsia in the late nineteenth century did not have a common social base.
Unfortunately very little research has so far been done on the ideology and the interests of the westernised intelligentsia of Bengal vis-a-vis the land question. Historians who have enquired into the social role of the Bengali intelligentsia in the period under review have not so far worked out in detail their social origins.3 Unless this is done one cannot