The Partition of Bengal and Assam: Contour of Freedom

By Bidyut Chakrabarty | Go to book overview

CONCLUSION

The contradictory nature of the reality of 15 August 1947 continues to intrigue historians more than half a century after India was partitioned. Freedom was won, but was accompanied by the trauma of partition and the mayhem that followed immediately before the transfer of power was formally articulated. Thus India's independence represents a great paradox of history. The nationalist movement led to freedom, but failed to avoid partition. The success of the nationalist movement was therefore also its failure. Why did it happen? The answer lies in another paradox, namely the success-failure of the anti-imperialist movement, led by Gandhi and his Congress colleagues. In its struggle against the colonial power, the Congress had a two-fold task: moulding different classes, communities and groups into a nation, and winning freedom for this emerging nation. The Congress had succeeded in mobilising the nation against the British, which accounted for the final withdrawal of the British rule in India; it was, however, virtually unsuccessful 'in welding the diversity into a nation and particularly failed to integrate the Muslims into this nation'. 1 Underlying this conundrum - the success and failure of the nationalist movement - lies the roots of the paradox of independence that came along with the Great Divide of the subcontinent of India. Independence and partition were, as a commentator argues, 'but the reflection of the success and failure of the strategy of the [Congress-led] nationalist movement'. 2

The study challenges the argument that the 1947 partition of Bengal was a consequence of Hindu communalism of the Bengali bhadralok. 3 It has been shown that the roots of the vivisection lay in a highly intricate unfolding of a process in which the British were as much responsible as the rising tide of Muslim communalism. 4 By institutionalising the separate facilities offered to the Muslims in the form of separate electorate, quota in government jobs and special education facilities, the colonial government initiated a policy of segregation from which it never retreated. 5 It has also been argued that the respective elites skilfully manipulated the doctrinal differences between the two principal communities to fulfil a political

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