Instead Of Shunning Bengal’s ‘Foundation Day’, Here’s Why Bengali Hindus Must Celebrate It As ‘Deliverance Day’

Jaideep Mazumdar

Jun 21, 2023, 02:12 PM | Updated 02:12 PM IST

Bodies of Hindus massacred by Muslims in Calcutta in August 1946.
Bodies of Hindus massacred by Muslims in Calcutta in August 1946.
  • Had a majority of the Hindu members of the Bengal Assembly not voted in favour of partition on 20 June 1947, all would have been lost for Bengali Hindus. 
  • Thus the whole of Bengal needs to celebrate 20 June as a day on which a momentous decision was taken that led to millions of Hindus being saved. 
  • A row broke out between Bengal Governor C V Ananda Bose and Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee over the former’s decision to celebrate 20 June as the state's foundation day. 

    Banerjee quickly termed the Governor’s decision as an attempt to “defame Bengal”. She said that ever since Independence, no one has ever celebrated 20 June as the state’s foundation day. 

    The Chief Minister is right: 20 June has never been celebrated as the state’s foundation day. But that’s not because the day does not hold any significance. 

    The date (20 June) holds immense significance, and the reason Banerjee and most others in Bengal are unaware of this is because of the distortion of history by Marxists who have written school and college textbooks. 

    Coupled with the distortion and whitewashing of history by Marxists is also the misplaced notion of Hindu-Muslim unity that continues to blindly guide the pseudo-secular lobby in Bengal. 

    The Significance Of 20 June

    It was on 20 June 1947 that a majority of the Hindu members of the Bengal Provincial Assembly voted for the partition of Bengal, thus leading to the formation of West Bengal as part of an independent India. 

    Had the Hindu members of the assembly not voted for partition, West Bengal would have become part of East Pakistan where Hindus would have been persecuted, killed, forcibly converted to Islam and forced to seek refuge in other countries. 

    Had it not been for that vote to partition Bengal, Bengali Hindus would have been without a homeland of their own today and would definitely have been the largest refugee group in the world. 

    The credit for avoiding this catastrophe, of course, goes to Shyama Prasad Mookerjee (read this) who convinced viceroy Lord Mountbatten to roll out what is known as the Mountbatten Plan.

    The salient feature of this plan was that Muslims, Hindus and Sikhs of the Punjab and Bengal legislative assemblies would vote jointly, and then separately, for or against the partition of the two provinces. 

    Accordingly, on 20 June 1947, a joint session of the Bengal Legislative Assembly put the proposal to partition Bengal to vote. The proposal was rejected by a majority vote (126 against and 90 in favour). 

    That’s because a majority of the members of the assembly were Muslims who did not want to partition Bengal and wanted the whole of Bengal (east and west Bengal) to become part of Pakistan.

    Next, the Muslim members of the assembly met and again voted against partition of Bengal (106 against and 35 for the partition proposal). After that, the Hindu members of the house met and voted for partition of Bengal (58 for and 21 against).

    As per the Mountbatten Plan which was formulated at Mookerjee’s insistence, if a simple majority of any religious group (Hindus, Muslims or Sikhs) of the Punjab and Bengal legislative assemblies voted for partition, the two provinces would be partitioned. 

    The Muslim League, backed by Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi, had said that the partition proposal should be decided by a majority vote of the assemblies of the two provinces. 

    But Mookerjee and other stalwarts saw through the Muslim League’s gameplan. Muslims were in a majority in the Bengal Assembly since 54 per cent of the population of (undivided) Bengal province (present-day West Bengal and Bangladesh) were Muslims and 42 per cent were Hindus. 

    Had Bengal Not Been Partitioned

    Had the partition proposal been allowed to be carried by a majority vote of the Bengal Assembly, it would have been surely defeated with Muslim members voting against it. The entire Bengal (including West Bengal) would then have become East Pakistan.

    And the consequences for the minority Hindus in East Pakistan would have been disastrous. That is amply borne out by the sorry plight of Bengali Hindus in the eastern part of Bengal that became part of Pakistan, ie, East Pakistan. 

    Bengali Hindus have been attacked and killed, their womenfolk abducted and raped, and lakhs have been forcibly converted to Islam. Lakhs of Bengali Hindus have been forced to flee East Pakistan and then Bangladesh due to persecution by state and non-state actors since 1947. 

    Statistics also tell this grim tale. Bengali Hindus formed 22.5 per cent of the population of East Pakistan in August 1947. Today, they form less than 7 per cent of the population of Bangladesh. 

    The ‘missing’ Hindus (numbering millions) are the ones who have been killed, or forcibly converted to Islam, or have had to flee to India to save themselves.  

    Votaries of Hindu-Muslim unity will gloss over this vital aspect and will still bemoan the partition of Bengal. But the fact remains that had Bengal not been partitioned, the plight of Bengali Hindus would have been much worse than Jews in Hitler’s Germany. 

    Jogendra Nath Mandal’s Example

    The plight that would have befallen Bengali Hindus had Bengal not been partitioned is also borne out by the experience of Jogendra Nath Mandal, a Bengali Dalit leader who was a votary of Hindu-Muslim unity. 

    Mandal, considered to be one of the founding fathers of Pakistan, vehemently opposed the partition of Bengal, supported the Muslim League and told Bengali Dalits that they would be safe in East Pakistan. Mandal became Pakistan’s first law and labour minister. 

    It took just a couple of years for him to realise that he had made a mistake. Systematic targeting of Hindus, including lower caste Hindus, in Pakistan and then the killings of Hindus in East Pakistan in 1950 led Mandal to flee that country and seek refuge in West Bengal. 

    His resignation letter to Pakistani premier Liaquat Ali Khan provides an account of the plight of the Hindus in East and West Pakistan.

    How Mookerjee Saved Hindus

    Had Mookerjee not mobilised Hindus in Bengal and top leaders of the Congress party to vote for partition of Bengal, and had he not convinced Mountbatten to come up with the plan to respect the opinions of the minority communities (Hindus and Sikhs) in Bengal and Punjab provinces, Bengali Hindus would surely have been become ‘stateless’ refugees. 

    It was Mookerjee who launched the Bengali Hindu Homeland Movement to create a homeland for Bengali Hindus within the Indian Union. 

    This was in response to the Muslim League’s demand for inclusion of the whole of Bengal in the proposed separate country of Pakistan. The League’s premise was that since composite Bengal (East and West) was a Muslim-majority province Bengali Muslims outnumbered Bengali Hindus it should therefore become part of Pakistan. 

    Mookerjee and other farsighted Bengali Hindus built up a strong movement opposing this idea and got the Indian National Congress to also oppose the move, as a result of which the League’s plan was defeated.

    The then prime minister of Bengal province Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy who is also known as the ‘Butcher of Bengal’ for launching a pogrom against Hindus in Calcutta in August 1946 through the Direct Action Day quickly realised that the Mountbatten Plan would defeat his objective of making undivided Bengal a part of Pakistan. 

    Suhrawardy came up with a plan to make united Bengal an independent entity. Suhrawardy managed to get the support of a handful of Congress leaders like Sarat Chandra Bose (elder brother of Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose) and Kiran Shankar Ray. Even Gandhi supported Suhrawardy.

    But Mookerjee and other Bengali Hindu leaders, including those from the Congress, saw through Suhrawardy’s plan. They realised that Bengali Hindus would never be safe in a Muslim-majority country, and that Suhrawardy would eventually merge an independent Bengal with Pakistan. 

    Once Gandhi endorsed Suhrawardy’s plan for an independent Bengal on 12 May 1947, Mookerjee met Jawaharlal Nehru, Sardar Patel and other Congress stalwarts and convinced them about the disastrous impact of Suhrawardy’s plan. 

    The then Congress president J B Kripalani issued a statement the very next day (13 May 1947) rejecting Suhrawardy’s plan. Nehru and Patel also opposed the plan. 

    Mookerjee also mobilised eminent Bengali Hindus like Hemanta Kumar Sarkar, Nalinaksha Sanyal, Major General A C Chatterjee, Jadab Panja, Upendranath Banerjee, Dr Shishir Kumar Banerjee, Subodh Chandra Mitra, Shailendra Kumar Ghosh, and historian Sir Jadunath Sarkar to support the partition of Bengal. 

    Many other prominent Hindu Bengalis like Dr Bidhan Chandra Roy (who later became chief minister of West Bengal), Nirmal Chandra Chatterjee (father of former Lok Sabha Speaker Somnath Chatterjee), economist Nalini Ranjan Sarkar (who became West Bengal finance minister) supported the partition of Bengal as mooted by Mookerjee. 

    The Hindu Mahasabha, led by Mookherjee, organised meetings all over Bengal and built up the movement for partition. He also got the Indian National Congress to join in.

    Mookerjee also got eminent persons from all walks of life to support the demand. The top 50 jurists of the Calcutta High Court, the chambers of commerce, top industrialists like Ghanshyam Das Birla, and many others backed the partition demand.

    Ultimately, Bengal was partitioned and Bengali Hindus were thus saved. Bengali Hindus in West Bengal need to know this, and appreciate that 20 June is actually their day of deliverance. 

    Had a majority of the Hindu members of the Bengal Assembly not voted in favour of partition on 20 June 1947, all would have been lost for Bengali Hindus. 

    Thus, not only Governor C V Ananda Bose, the whole of Bengal needs to celebrate 20 June as a day on which a momentous decision that led to millions of Hindus being saved was taken. 

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