Social Scientist. v 26, no. 306-307 (Nov-Dec 1998) p. 114.


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BOOK REVIEW

Partition Revisited

Bengal Divided: Hindu Communalism and Partition, 1932-47, by Joy a Chatterji, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 1994, pp. 303+xvii.

Existing studies of the partition of British India have tended to emphasise on the tripartite negotiations between the colonial state, the Indian National Congress and the Muslim League preceding the transfer of power to the independent governments of India and Pakistan. The creation of these two new nations from among the ruins of Britain's Indian empire has been represented by historians of all shades of opinion as the culminating triumph of the activities undertaken by Muslim separatists between 1930-47. Joya Chatterji's book is a refreshing addition to this voluminous historiography. Its primary contribution lies essentially in providing us with alternate axes for analysing the division of Bengal, a Muslim majority province. Chatterji encourages us to locate the roots of the partition in the increasingly vocal communalisms espoused by the Hindu bhadralok. Apart from highlighting their campaign for the division of their homeland (which she attributes to their attempts to regain greater institutional power from Muslim politicians), she also shows the connivance of the Congress high-command in articulating 'Hindu demands'.

A substantial section of the book studies the development of a sense of community among the 'class' of Hindu bhadralok, which is seen by the author as a product of their perception of their educational, and consequent cultural, ascendancy in Bengal. Chatterji views this as an outcome of a system where a regular income was derived by the bhadrolok as rent from intermediary tenure holdings, providing them with the time and the material resources to pursue higher education. This resulted, according to Chatterji, in their holding a virtual monopoly over appointments to the lower-level bureaucracy, reinforcing their presence in administrative structures. The influence



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