The Road to Independence

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The Pakistan Resolution of 1940 at Lahore was the outcome of the political confrontation between Hindus and Muslims. The Lahore Resolution demanded that geographically contiguous units "be demarcated into regions which should be constituted with such territorial readjustments as may be necessary so that the areas in which the Muslims are numerically in a majority should be grouped to constitute "Independent State" in which the constitutional units be autonomous and sovereign". The fervor for the Lahore Resolution sprang not merely from the disillusion of the Muslims with the Hindu leadership. It was also facilitated by the vagueness of the Resolution which promised everything to everybody. The vernacular Muslim elites in Bengal maintained that the Lahore Resolution was legally a charter for a Muslim dominated independent and sovereign Bengal. The immigrant Muslim ashraf in Bengal thought that the Lahore Resolution was a mandate for merging geographically dispersed Muslim majority areas into an Islamic state. Ultimately the demands of the vernacular Muslim elite for an independent Bengal was opposed both by the ashraf and the Hindu middle class. Ironically the formal decision for partition of Bengal was taken not by Muslim but Hindu leaders who fought for an undivided Bengal four decades ago.
The partition of the south Asian sub-continent into two independent states in 1947 was a defeat for the British policy. It partially undid the Pax Britannica which was the greatest achievement of the Raj. Nevertheless, the partition forestalled the balkanization of the sub-continent which would have swept away the entire political structure which was so laboriously built by the British rulers. The eastern areas of Bengal were constituted into a province of Pakistan and its political boundaries were drawn up arbitrarily.
Pakistan, which emerged constitutionally as one country in 1947, was in fact "a double country". The two wings were not only separated from each other by more than 1,000 miles, they were also culturally, economically and socially different. "The cure, at least as far as the East Bengalese were concerned, proved to be worse than the disease".

The Road to Independence : The relationship between the East and the West wings of Pakistan was the mirror image of the Hindu-Muslim relations in the undivided sub-continent. The creation of East Pakistan did not resolve the identity crisis of the majority people in the Bangladesh region. The political leadership in Pakistan was usurped by the ashraf and their fellow-travelers. The spread of education and funding of the rural economy swelled the ranks of the vernacular elite who was intensely proud of the local cultural heritage. This compounded the dichotomy of language and religion. As a recent scholar rightly observes, "The Bengali love affair with their language involves a passionate ritual that produces emotional experiences seldom found in other parts of the world". The Language Movement during 1948-52 which demanded the designation of Bangla as the state language of Pakistan undermined the authority of the ashraf and reinforced the role of the vernacular elite. In British India, the Muslims of Bengal united under the banner of Islam to escape from the exploitation of Bengalis Hindus who shared the same mother tongue. In the united Pakistan, the Bengalis of East Pakistan reasserted their cultural and linguistic identity to resist the exploitation of their co-religionists who spoke in a different language. Though history repeated itself in Pakistan, the lessons learnt from Hindu-Muslim confrontation were forgotten. Neither in undivided India nor in united Pakistan, the dominant economic classes agreed to sacrifice their short-term interests. Democratic verdicts were brushed aside and economic disparity between the two wings widened under the aegis of military dictatorships in Pakistan.
The disintegration of united Pakistan is not, therefore, in the least surprising. However, the way in which Bangladesh was born is unique to south Asia. Bangladesh was the product of a sanguinary revolution. The Pakistan army had to be defeated physically in 1971 to establish the new state. The birth of Bangladesh resolved the dichotomy between religion and habitat and between extra-territorial and territorial loyalties by recognizing both the facts as a reality in the life of the new nation.