WHAT AFTER BANGLADESH
India is still at cross-roads. The emergence of ‘Bangladesh’ is a big leap towards a new stability in the Indian sub-continent. But we are still far from the great destiny visualized for India by our modern prophets and patriots. The socio-political situation in India and in Bengal in particular is still chaotic. The vision of our politicians and intellectuals is still clouded, and their steps uncertain. It is our firm conviction that Dharma, not in its narrow misinterpreted sense, but as the Supreme dynamism of Truth and Harmony, the Total view and way of life leading to the highest and widest vistas of material and spiritual prosperity is the only way out of the mist that has enveloped us.
India has survived through all these ages only because somehow or other she has kept her soul alive. But now we feel that a great onslaught on the soul of India is in the offing. The urgent need of the hour is to be conscious of and boldly face the surreptitious attacks of ideologies endangering the freedom and dignity of Man.
The purpose of the present series is to make ourselves conscious of the eternal soul of India (Bharatatma) and find out the way India should follow in accordance with her svadharma to take her rightful place in the family of nations.
January 1972 Gautam Dharmapal
What after Bangladesh?
Bangladesh* is now free. An independent people’s Democratic Republic of Bangladesh has taken birth after the short and speedy war fought jointly by the Indian Army and the Mukti Bahini. For the Mukti Bahini it was a war of liberation, liberation of their motherland from the brutal hands of a military dictatorship that had surpassed all the past records of cruelty. For the Indian Army it was a war fought for the emancipation of a persecuted nation, a war fought for the great ideals of freedom, equality and fraternity, a Dharmayuddha in every sense of the term. By God’s grace we have won the war in the shortest possible time, thanks to the valour of our Jawans, the efficiency of our officers and generals and the co-operation they received both from the cadres of the Mukti Bahini and the local population. Our leaders rose to the occasion and instead of being unnerved by the risks involved in such a war gave a bold leadership and led the nation to victory. The people of India stood as one man and gave full support to their leaders, to the Jawans and to the war efforts. It is but natural that the nation will rejoice over such a well-earned victory in a war fought for such a noble cause. Praises have been showered in abundance on the leaders of both India and Bangladesh, and they deserve them fully.
But now it is time to sound a warning bell. Let us not exhaust ourselves in over-jubilation. Let us not lay down our oars, bask in complacency and return to our narrow parochial political life. Let us move forward and forge while the iron is hot a great federation of United India and thus undo the wrong done to our country by British diplomacy aided by our own narrow self-interests.
To understand and appreciate fully the implication and pointers in the emergence of free Bangladesh, we should go back to the beginning, to the days of partition which was the price we paid for our independence.
*We feel that the name Bangladesh should be used for the whole of Bengal, and not for any one of her parts. We have expressed our views in a letter to the Editor, Desh, 19th February, 1972.
Genesis of East Pakistan
From 1940 the Muslim League under the leadership of Mohamad Ali Jinnah openly began to demand the partition of the country. The Indian National Congress rejected the plan outright and continued her struggle for the independence of the whole of India. The Muslim League began to sharpen their demand by engineering communal riots which culminated in the Direct Action day of riots in Calcutta on the 16th of August, 1946. That broke the resistence of the Congress leaders to the idea of partition. The British Government and her representatives ( some of whom are now shedding crocodile tears ! ) in India had all along backed and encouraged – if not set – the Muslim League in their demand for partition. Without their support and encouragement the Muslim League could not have achieved their goal. It was the policy of the Muslim League to support the British Government and then to ask for Pakistan as a reward for their fidelity. The British used the League as a check against the Congress which was becoming more and more outspoken in its demand for complete independence, non-violently ( of course partially ) under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi and violently under the leadership of Netaji Subhash Chandra Bose. After World War II, when it became impossible for the British to control and rule India, when they could hold her no longer, they broke her up.
They managed the whole show in such a stealthy and shrewd manner that the Congress leaders fell in their trap and obliged them by accepting partition on communal grounds. In the process they sacrificed N.W.F.P. and Baluchistan where the majority under the leadership of Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan and others was fully co-operating with the national struggle for independence conducted by the Congress. However at the last moment they succeeded in salvaging Assam and parts of Punjab and Bengal.
Thus was East Bengal formed a part of Pakistan. It was in fact the major partner of Pakistan, in terms of both population and economy. As regards geographical position, culture and language the two parts of Pakistan were poles apart. Religion was their only bond. But if religion could bind nations together, we would not have so many separate states from Pakistan to Turkey – all professing the same religion. It is the geographical compactness, the culture, the language and the common economic interest that in fact has helped the growth of modern nations. In that respect, Pakistan was an anomaly. It was bound to disintegrate sooner or later. Without the whole-hearted support of the Muslims of Bengal under the leadership of Shahid Suhrawardy the dream of Jinnah would not have materialized.
Independent Bengal – an Idea nipped in the Bud.
Sarat Bose ( Netaji’s brother ) when he saw that the Congress leaders had succumbed to the idea of partition, in order to save the integrity of Bengal and to avoid communal violence tried to secure an United Independent Bengal and even could enlist, we are informed, the support of Jinnah who proved his political foresight by predicting that the Congress leaders would not accept his (Bose’s ) proposal. The congress leaders vehemently opposed Sarat Bose and even Mahatma Gandhi indirectly supported them. They would allow India to be cut into two parts, but not into three! No, never! Sarat Bose, unlike the Muslim leaders, did not instigate violent riots. So the congress leaders could easily defy him! And what an irony of fate! Within twenty-five years we have accepted the partition of Mother India into three parts. Many of us are hoarse with joyous shouts hailing independent Bangladesh. Was not Sarat Bose a man with a greater vision than all the congress leaders? Had we accepted his solution, both the parts of Bengal would have been saved all the sufferings, killings and persecution that they have undergone during all these twenty-five years.
The Renaissance in East Bengal
But if the Muslims of Bengal were responsible for the creation of Pakistan, they were not late in realizing the evils of the unnatural division of the country and soon they were the leaders of a new revival, a renaissance in East Bengal which culminated in the struggle for liberation leading to the emergence of a free democratic nation. Let us quote here a prominent muslim leader of Bangladesh, “To-day you (Indians) will be shocked and feel uncomfortable to hear from us such naked self-criticism, but it must be said. There is no hesitation on our part to confess that nobody could have divided India, if we the muslims of Bengal would not have asked for it. We are solely responsible for the division of India. We are now atoning for the sin by giving our blood. We had shattered the dream of United India visualized by our great leaders like Kaviguru Rabindranath, Deshbandhu Chittaranjan and others. That very dream of our fathers and forefathers will have to be realized now.”( Puja number, Jayasree 1378, pp.235-36 ).
This Renaissance of East Bengal is simultaneously a resurgence of the spirit of synthesis of the Hindu culture and the strength of unity and brotherhood of the Muslim culture. In short it is a movement unmistakably heading towards the synthesis of a vedantic mind and a muslim body long visualized by Vivekananda, the messenger of the new age. This was also the spirit and essence of the great nineteenth century renaissance of Bengal starting from Raja Rammohan Roy and culminating in the trinity of Ramakrishna-Vivekananda-Aurobindo.
While the Muslims and their League were mainly and directly responsible for the vivisection of our motherland, it will be unfair to put the whole blame on them. The fact should be equally emphasized that the Hindus with their sectarianism, orthodox practices and superiority complex played no less a part in fomenting the feeling of separatism in the muslim community and thereby alienating them. If real unity of the Indian subcontinent is to be established, a total transformation of the attitude of the Hindus toward their muslim brethren will be as much essential as the change of heart of the muslim community.
The Prophecy of Sri Aurobindo.
We believe that the division of India on communal basis was the way of the Divine to rejoin the two communities with a new sense of freedom and fraternity and the emergence of the free democratic republic of Bangladesh heralds the beginning of a great United India. Sri Aurobindo was perhaps the first and the only person to declare openly on the very day of independence that the unnatural partition must and will go. He said,
“The old communal division into Hindus and Muslims seems now to have hardened into a permanent political division of the country.
It is to be hoped that this settled fact will not be accepted as settled for ever or as anything more than a temporary expedient. For if it lasts, India may be seriously weakened, even crippled. Civil strife may remain always possible, possible even a new invasion and foreign conquest. India’s internal development and prosperity may be impeded, her position among the nations weakened, her destiny impaired or even frustrated. This must not be. The partition must go. Let us hope that that may come about naturally by an increasing recognition of the necessity not only of peace and concord of common action, by the practice of common action and the creation of means for that purpose. In this way, unity may finally come about under whatever form – the exact form may have a pragmatic but not a fundamental importance. But by whatever means, in whatever way, the division must go. Unity must and will be achieved, for it is necessary for the greatness of India’s future.”
Is it not a sanction and seal of the Divine Force to the life-mission of Sri Aurobindo, that the birthday of free India should coincide with his own birthday and that his vision of United India should begin to materialize in his centenary year?
Three Steps to Greater India
How prophetically true the message has been even in its minutest detail, not excluding the possibility of foreign conquest! With all our gratitude for the solid support given by the Soviet Union in our championing the cause of Bangladesh, we are yet in the dark about the terms and conditions of this support. India’s full recognition of North Vietnam immediately after the end of the war naturally raises some doubts. Today we are denouncing America from all house-tops for the nasty part she played during the recent crisis, but we have conveniently forgotten her effective intervention in the Sino-Indian war in 1962 when our leaders had already written off Assam! The hands of the U.S.S.R. on the otherhand have not always been clean. Let us not forget Hungary and Czechoslovakia. It is unwise to sway this way and that with the policies of big powers – which are directed to the maintenance of balance of power according to their reckoning at a particular time – and be all praise for one and all blame for another. On the contrary we should steer clear of both the big powers so that we do not get ourselves bound up too much with any of them and be a stooge in their game of power-politics like Pakistan. Our country has a far greater part to play, we believe, in the making of the future world. And the time has come when each one of us should be conscious of the destiny that awaits us and act to hasten its coming. Like one man we should rise, just as we did in the recent war, but for a still greater cause, viz, the establishment of a world-wide Dharma rajya i.e. , a united world, a federation of nations based on freedom, justice and love. Towards this goal the first necessary step is a federation of India, i.e. , Bharat, Bangladesh and Pakistan, the second necessary step is a fundamental change in our own constitution bringing about a federal system of Govt. in Bharat with full autonomous states and the third necessary step is a confederation of the Indian Sub-Continent, a Mahabharat, including Bharat, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Nepal, Bhutan, Burma and Cylon.
Federation of India, Bangladesh and Pakistan
Bharat and Bangladesh have already joined hands. There is every reason for hoping that they will evolve a new pattern of harmony in international relations, where mutual understanding and co-operation will be the guiding factor – and not race for supremacy. Our next move should be to persuade Pakistan to join us in our efforts to begin a new chapter in the history of our sub-continent. Let us hope that the leaders and the people of Pakistan ( formerly West Pakistan ) which is in many ways a homogeneous state now, will learn the lessons of history and accept the reality of Bangladesh in a spirit of true brotherhood of which their new president and other leaders are talking so much. Let them accept their defeat in war with Bharat not with a sense of humiliation or with a resolve to retaliate, but as an inevitable result of the blind policy of their leaders, the low morals of their army and the unprecedented cruelty of their administrators along with their agents and collaborators. They were fighting a wrong battle at a wrong place, at a wrong time with wrong weapons. So defeat was unavoidable. Bharat only hastened the process, by resolving to make up its past folly with regard to East Bengal. So instead of continuing to harbour malice and ill-will towards Bharat and Bangladesh, let Pakistan see and accept facts as facts, repent for her misdeeds in erst-while East Pakistan and come back to the mother-fold to which she belonged, with a new dignity and status, i.e as an independent equal partner in a federation or brotherhood whatever you may call it. The return of the prodigal, which is sure to happen one day – the sooner it happens the better for all of us – will be hailed as far more joyous an event than even the emergence of Bangladesh. It will bury for all time to come the bitterness and hatred that the two nations are nurturing in their rising generations since independence.
Geographically, ethnically, linguistically and economically the people of Pakistan ( formerly West Pakistan ) are far more closer to the people of North India than to the people of West Asia. They form a natural unit with Bharat and not with Persia or Turkey, on whom their President is depending so much. The only factor they have in common is religion. But has ever religion ( not in its original inspiring form, but in its mechanical institutional form ) been a binding force of people who are dissimilar in other respects or have different interests? Have not Hindus quarreled bitterly among themselves and have not Christians and Muslims done the same?
Religion must be transcended.
Religion has served its purpose in human history and the time has now come to transcend it. Specially on our shoulder lies this task, for we have seen on one hand the abyss of narrow religiosity that finally succeeded in breaking up our country and on the other the heights of spirituality proclaiming freedom brotherhood and oneness of all. India has been made the crucible for the fusion of all religions into a spiritual brotherhood. Our saints and savants have ably carried on this task, and our common masses too have followed them to a large extent. Kabir, Nanak and Chaitanya, the great Akbar and Darashikoh and the prophets of the great Indian Renaissance starting from Raja Rammohan Roy all preached the same message of universal harmony and brotherhood, deprecating narrow religious differences of achara and anusthana. It was always the narrow political economic and religious vested interests that spoiled their noble efforts. Let us now once again rise higher and forgetting all small defferences unite ourselves into a great United Nation, setting thereby the pattern of the real United Nations of the future.
Autonomous States in India.
Now to the second step suggested by us. With the passing of time, it is becoming clearer and clearer that a unitary govt. for such a large populous multilingual varied country like India presents all the problems of an unmanageably large centrally administered joint family. The only strong reason put forward by its staunch supporters is that otherwise the country will disintegrate and foreign powers will have a free hand to meddle in our internal affairs. But this is the reasoning of a father who does not allow his adult children to go out lest they should be spoilt!
The evils of centrally-accumulating power are only too obvious for the seeing eye. Every intelligent citizen feels that Democracy is gradually and irresistibly becoming a camouflage for Dictatorship.The only way out of this is fully autonomous states with a strong federal govt. at the centre, represented by all the states, in control of foreign relations, army, communication and currency. The history of our country has been a strange mixture of two opposite currents. Politically we have been divided, but culturally we have been united, thanks to our ancient heritage imbibing in us a sense of oneness. The constitution of India too should reflect this special trend of Indian history – i.e. unity in diversity. To suppress this diversity in the name of uniformity will be – and has been – equally disastrous as to destroy the unity by emphasizing the differences.
If we are silly enough to misuse this state-autonomy against the interest of our country by inviting foreign meddlers, then we will be only repeating the history of the tenth or the eighteenth century. If after so much that has happened, we are not politically major enough to rule out that possibility then we should better perish; for if we lose the spirit of the Indian polity what is the use of a mere vegetative life?
States enjoying full freedom regarding every other matter except the four mentioned above, and acting in co-operation with each other and with the centre, contributing an equal percentage of revenue to the latter, will lead to a far more prosperous India. And this switch-over from the unitary to the federal system should be done before it is too late, for the process of disintegration has already begun as a result of innumerable just grievances piling up unredressed year after year. Some states have got one set of demands, others have got another set of demands. Small states are cropping up in strategic areas, thereby making the safety of the country more vulnerable. Once given the dignity and responsibility of freedom, this will stop. Decentralization of power as of wealth is always good for the natural and organic growth of man and society, so long as there is sincere goodwill and sense of true brotherhood.
The Language Issue
It will not be irrelevant here to bring up a very important issue viz. language, that is at present eating away the integrity of our country. Once the shackles of the centre are loosened, this problem will solve itself automatically. Regional languages will be installed in full glory and made the medium of education from the primary to the post-graduate stage. Bangladesh will soon set an example in this respect, showing how quickly a regional language can be made the vehicle for all purposes of life, if there is the will to do it, giving a lie to those who still want to cling to the language of their former rulers, only because they themselves were educated in it! Once we are lord in our own house, our eyes will naturally fall on our own treasures. We will then know the value of Sanskrit, the unofficial cultural language of India for centuries, and shall not look askance at the same proposal that simple Sanskrit should be made the national language of India.
Towards a Miniature United Nations.
The third step mentioned above is just an enlargement of the first step. It is but natural that a great nation will have brotherly relations with all her immediate neighbours. Afghanisthan , Nepal, Bhutan and Tibet; Burma and Ceylon are so close to us geographically and culturally that we cannot but go out to them with open arms of friendship. If we can establish healthy relations with all these neighbouring countries we will be a miniature united nations, bringing the world nearer to its destined goal of One World – working for the welfare of whole humanity, irrespective of race, culture, religion or nationality, and not a battle-field of national diplomacy for the supremacy of one power-block over another.
This is the truth we are seeing in the emergence of Bangladesh; that it will herald a new awakening, a new turn for the better not only in our own country, but in the whole world. May the Divine lead Mother India to her destined goal.
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