Social Scientist. v 3, no. 36 (July 1975) p. 71.

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Review Article

Long Before Pakistan and Bangladesh


THIS book is an attempt at explaining the origins of Muslim separatism in Bengal. Though the separatist politics in Bengal became increasingly manifest in the first few decades of the twentieth century, its roots developed in the nineteenth. In fact the book scarcely deals with anything that occurred in the twentieth century.

The main argument of the book is that the growth of Muslim separatism cannot be adequately explained in terms of the British policy of 'divide and rule' alone; certain developments in Bengali society since the establishment of British rule led the Muslims increasingly to feel a distinct identity of their own, their present position and future destiny being different from those of the Hindus. The argument is not entirely a novel one.1 What makes the book a notable contribution to our under-standing of Muslim separatism is the emphasis on the distinctiveness of the problem of separatism in Bengal, and the abundance of new data which the author has used.2

The growth of Muslim separatism, it is argued, primarily related to the^rapid economic impoverishment" during British rule of several Muslim groups.British revenue sale laws spelt ruination for the big Muslim ^amindars. A larger number of petty landholders were wiped out as a result of the resumptions of rent-free tenures, which vastly increased after 1828. Under the new agrarian system that gradually evolved in Bengal since the time of the Permanent Settlement of 1793, the economic position of the peasants^ among whom Muslims constituted the most numerous group, sharply deteriorated. A considerable number of Muslims previously employed in the army, administration and judiciary lost their jobs. The substitution of English for Persian in 1837 was particularly disastrous for the Muslims, since, for various reasons,they were slow to learn the new official language

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