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Muslim Political Mobilization in Colonial Bengal

Amit Dey

By Neilesh Bose
Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 2014, pp. 324, Rs. 1195.00


The self-fashioning of bhadralok Hindus in Bengal in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and their responses to colonial rule, is an area which is frequently traversed by researchers. Scholars such as Rafiuddin Ahmed, Sufia Ahmed, Jayanti Maitra, and Anisuzzaman have mainly concentrated on late nineteenth century Bengali Muslim society. Developments in the Bengali Muslim society throughout the nineteenth century have been covered by the late historian Amalendu De. The late historian, Chandi Prasad Sarkar, has dealt with the politicization of the Bengal Muslims during the first half of the twentieth century. Not much is known, however, about the impact of literary and cultural history on the identity formation of Bengali Muslims in the first half of the twentieth century. How did the Bengali intellectual traditions intersect with the idea of Pakistan in the years preceding the vivisection of India? What role did Bengali language and literature play in the political consciousness of the Bengal Muslims? In the light of these questions, the author endeav-ours to present a comprehensive analysis of Muslim political mobilization in late colonial Bengal. Bose argues that the notion of the separatist ‘Muslim’ state of Pakistan need not be exclusively studied in the context of developments in northern India. It would be useful to investigate how this notion emerged out of a sustained engagement with Bengali intellectual and literary traditions. Through an intensive analysis of the writings of Bengali Muslim politicians and intellectuals, the pursuit of folklore, literary modernism, and intellectual movements in both Dacca and Calcutta, this book aims at exploring the arena of the Bengali Muslim perspective.  A brief overview of Bengali literary history is followed by a discussion of language and literature as debated by the members of the BMSS or Bengali Muslim Sahitya Samaj, the first Calcutta-based literary society for Bengali Muslims, active from 1911 to 1918. The implications of being Bengali and Muslim have been handled in chapter two. The period which is known for various ideological commitments like Bengali regionalism, Islamic universalism, and modern European ideologies of social justice, such as Communism, also witnessed the emergence of the powerful Bengali poet Nazrul Islam. The author goes on to investigate the issues relating to Islam, Muslim identity, and Bengali language and culture in the other major urban location of Bengal—Dacca, home to iconic Muslim aristocratic families. The role of the Muslim Sahitya Samaj (MSS) and its rationalist thinker Kazi Abdul Wadud ...

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