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Continuing Linkages

Pinak Ranjan Chakravarty

By Delwar Hussain
Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 2015, pp. 187, Rs. 550.00


The plight of border communities, sundered by the Partition is now well recognized in all its dimensions—displacement, rehabilitation, economic and social disruption. While the brunt of the negative fallout was borne by the main inhabited areas along the Radcliffe Line (boundary between India and Pakistan and later Bangladesh), in more remote areas the impact was more economic. Yet over the years the communities living across each other along the border have found ways and means to continue their economic linkages through both formal and informal channels. This situation persists along the Bangladesh-India border but has been almost snuffed out along the India-Pakistan border, the latter being heavily militarized and monitored. Despite the fencing along the Bangladesh–India border, communities along the border have maintained economic and social relations that in some cases have thrived—the more remote the location, relatively more intimate are the cross border linkages. This happened because the illeffects of Partition did not spill over into the remote border areas nestled in the hills of Meghalaya, for instance. The Partition of Bengal was even sought to be prevented by a joint appeal to Jawaharlal Nehru by a section of the Bengali Hindu leadership and a section of the Bengali Muslim leadership. In a letter to Nehru on the eve of Partition, they pleaded that Bengal should not be divided. Nehru agreed, but with the caveat that a united Bengal must remain in the Indian Union. That settled the debate which in any case was a last desperate attempt by some Bengali leaders of that time to keep Bengal united. In the back of their minds was the earlier Partition of Bengal by Lord Curzon in 1905 which was reversed in 1911 in the face of fierce Bengali resistance. The collateral damage that this event caused is well known— the rise of communal politics and the Hindu-Muslim divide fostered and encouraged by the British colonial rulers to ‘divide and rule’. The affinity between the two Bengals, particularly the strong economic, cultural and linguistic bonds, was not extinguished and survived despite the transfer of population which was, by and large, relatively much less bloody than that on the western border. Thus people to people contacts were largely retained along with railway, road links and travel without passports, thereby mitigating somewhat the bitterness of Partition. As a child this reviewer recalls meeting hawkers of eggs from East Pakistan in the early 1960...

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