United Bengal/United India ?
BY Khodeza Begum
Certain activities prejudicial to the national independence and territorial integrity of Bangladesh have drawn the attention of all conscious persons in and outside the country. A demand was raised to re-establish an undivided subcontinent which was forcefully asserted at a press conference held in a restaurant in Dhaka on December 29, 1991 by an obscure outfit ‘Upamahadesh Punorujjibon Andolon’ (movement for revival of the sub-continent) . In a party later held on 31 December, 1991 and hosted by this same group, a speech was delivered by a Congress party scholar, especially brought in from India, who inaccurately suggested that none but Muhammad Ali Jinnah was responsible for the partition of India in 1947. The speech was intended to imbibe new thoughts into Bangladesh and South Asia seeking the rejection of the two-nation theory.
Afterwards a cover story was published in the weekly Bichinta magazine regarding social and political movement for the revival of a united subcontinent. In an interview, given by a leader of the Indian ruling alliance UPA, it was indicated that their desire was to go back to the pre-August,1947 scenario of a united India. It may be mentioned here that a brochure published under the title of ‘Ashamprodaik Upamohadesher Ishtehar’ (communiqué of non-communal subcontinent) proposed to place defence, currency and some other state responsibilities under the disposal and coordination of the centre (presumably New Delhi). A map of India was printed on the cover page of this booklet where the surrounding countries were not clearly shown and were therefore not obviously discernible.
A similar seminar, arranged by the World Peace Council and its Bangladesh chapter, was later held in Dhaka under the slogan for a ‘new urge in the field of South Asian regional co-operation’. The political elites of the country participated in the seminar in which it had been earlier decided that the agenda of the discussion will be focussed principally on South Asian regional co-operation. Nevertheless, a Indian Congress party leader, Mayaram Surgeon and others dwelled in their speeches on the proposal for a united India. Mayaram said, ‘Why can’t we establish a united state of the pre-1947 configuration? We did not want separation. We were separated by the British design on the basis of religion. But now it is proved that division on the basis of religion can not exist. We want to return to pre-partition India’.
It would have been very difficult to hold a seminar explicitly in the name of a ‘New urge to establish an undivided India’, which was in reality the main theme of the seminar. With such an agenda, so expressly and overtly stated, it would have been near impossible to have obtained the assurance of the participation of the political leaders of the country. Discussion was, therefore, primarily concentrated on the issue of regional co-operation. Here it may be pertinent to mention that the World Peace Council which was formed by the patronisation of the erstwhile Soviet Union and was basically a Soviet intelligence initiative (The daily Telegraph, 02 March, 1992).
Visiting Indian artistes, litterateurs, journalists and intellectuals to Bangladesh often take part in various meetings and seminars and they have been prone to making unwarranted comments on the desirability of a reunited India and a reunited Bengal, which in the final analysis, amounts to very much the same thing. Some time back, Shib Narayan Ray, an Indian intellectual, spoke enthusiastically for an undivided Bengal. In an interview with a weekly he stated that both the parts of Bengal would be inevitably reunited. But he did not clarify on how both the parts of Bengal would be merged, nor did he say whether Indian administered Bengal will be freed from Indian subjugation to be united with Bangladesh or Bangladesh will be merged with an Indian ruled and administered West Bengal. Needless to say there is no difference in the slogans ‘unification of West Bengal and Bangladesh’, ‘united Bengal’, or ‘revival of the sub-continent or an undivided India’.
Let us now analyse these developments from a historical perspective. The exponents of a united Bengal, undivided Bengal or an undivided India have blamed Muhammad Ali Jinnah and the Muslim League for India’s partition but historical research has shown that Nehru and the Congress party were solely responsible for the partition of 1947. Maulana Abul Kalam Azad has stated that the nationalistic spirit of the Congress party could not defy communal considerations in the selection of leaders which should have been on the basis of merit but instead they had to submit to the majority and minority sentiments of the people. Sardar Patel also said that partition of India has to be accepted since it was the inevitable solution to this predicament. It was better to be separated on these lines than to quarrel each and everyday (India Wins Freedom, Orient Longman, 1959, pages 19-20, 185 & 197). Many of these considerations are also found in the writings of Bikramadittya who discloses that Nehru agreed to accept the partition of India considering it as a proposal for an amicable settlement. Nehru and Congress had a deep-rooted conviction that the existence of Pakistan would be for a very short period of time. They thought that Pakistan will not be able to exist due to political, economic and social weakness(Shadhinotar Ojana Katha, preface: page-10).
It was for this reason that Gandhi, Nehru and the Congress party did not accept an undivided and sovereign Bengal as demanded under the Suhrawardy-Hashim-Sharat Bose plan. They made the division of Bengal an inevitable fact of history. Nehru in a letter written to Ashraf Chowdhury indicated that ‘Bengal and Punjab will have to be divided if division of India becomes indisputable. Because only by making this division, we shall be able to establish undivided India again within the shortest possible time’ (Jinnah and Gandhi – Sree R Majumder). The British hypocrisy was also an important factor in this context. When Mountbatten realised that India could not be kept united by any means, he chalked-out the plan of partition in such a way that the confronting parts may later be merged together again ( Mountbatten and the Partition of India-by Larry Collins & Dominique Lapier, Page 92-93). This was why Sikkim had to be annexed, Indian soldiers were sent to Sri Lanka. Nepal and Bhutan are also being destabilised.
The assistance provided by India in the Bangladesh liberation war is a historical truth. But we also need to consider the intention of the Indian leaders. On 05 April, 1971, the chairman of India’s Institute of Defence Strategic Analysis, Sree Subramaniam, who had a close relationship with the Nehru family, wrote in the daily National Herald: ‘The crisis of East Bengal has brought such an opportunity to India which will never come in thousand years’. It was also necessary for India to neutralize Bengal for the interest of the strife-torn North-East India (War and Secession by Richard Sison & Leo Rose, page-207). During the liberation war, both the governments of India and Bangladesh signed a seven-point secret agreement in order to make Bangladesh dependent on India in all respects. (RAW and CIA in the Liberation War of Bangladesh, Masudul Haq, page:-92-93).
In clause three of the treaty it was enunciated that Bangladesh will have no army of its own. When the valiant freedom fighters were fighting with the marauding Pakistanis risking their lives, RAW formed a special force called the, ‘Mujib Bahini’ under General Sujon Singh Uban at Dehradun without any intimation to the exiled Bangladesh government in Kolkata (RAW and CIA in the Liberation War of Bangladesh, Masudul Haq, page, 96-97). In his book ”Phantoms of Chittagong‘ General Uban has also clearly illustrated the motives behind the creation of the Mujib Bahini. Many quarters opine that the now-defunct 25 year Friendship Treaty was nothing but a revised edition of that 7-point treaty. Clauses 08, 09 and 10 of this treaty indicate that the concept of defence system of Bangladesh and India are codified in one string. It means that defence policy of India and Bangladesh are reciprocal and complimentary. Similar attitude was echoed in the writings of Indira Gandhi. She said both India and Bangladesh are complimentary to each other in terms of culture and economy(Aspects of our Foreign Policy, page-100).
To be precise, India has a number of objectives in Bangladesh. These are:
* Deterring the gradual emergence of Bangladeshi nationalism and to maintain India’s control over her economy and culture.
* Destroying the defence capability of Bangladesh due to its proximity to Marxist–ruled and Bengali-speaking West Bengal, Tripura and the secessionist northeast region.
* Obtaining transit through Bangladesh territory for direct access to the war torn northeast, use of the facilities of Chittagong port to reduce pressure on Calcutta and Haldia ports and free trade and import of gas.
* Installing a puppet government in Bangladesh and eventually launching an invasion to merge Bangladesh with India. The aggressive attitude of India was ventilated in the writings of Nehru, the prophet of India’s expansionism. In his book‘Discovery of India ‘ he wrote: “India will inevitably exercise an important influence. India will also develop as the centre of economic and political activity in the Indian Ocean area. The small national state is doomed. It may survive as a culturally autonomous area but not as an independent political unit“.
The same theory was echoed in the writings of Rabi Rikhi, India’s renowned defence analyst. In his book, ‘The War That Never Was’ he writes: “India should at the earliest opportunity incorporate Pakistan into the Republic followed by all the territories that composed India before independence. The natural boundaries of India encompass the present-day states of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. Our geo-strategic imperative requires a subordinate Sri Lanka, Burma and Bhutan, and a buffer Tibet and Afghanistan. No matter what the cost, we must start the process of reintegration. The later we put it off, the more the eventual cost. Once Pakistan returns to the fold, the other states will return at a fraction of the cost and effort. Reintegration can be conducted either peacefully or by war. In 1975, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was assassinated. Though Mrs. Indira Gandhi first considered intervention and Army alerted three divisions, in the end the government hesitated and the moment passed. The result: our chance to keep Bangladesh in our camp vanished. India would have been fully justified in intervening under the same doctrine that lets the Soviet Union intervene in Poland and Afghanistan and the Americans in Nicaragua and Grenada “. Later after the general election of 1991 in Bangladesh, the Ananda Bazar Patrika of 2 March 1991 commented that the people of Bangladesh should raise the demand to merge with India.
India undertook the following strategies to achieve her goal:
* Extensive intelligence activities of ‘RAW’ within Bangladesh in order to weaken and erode the independence and sovereignty of the nation. RAW’s activities in Bangladesh have now reached a terrifying stage. It was alleged by an Indian leader Subramaniam Swamy (Janata Dal) that RAW was involved in the assassination of late President Ziaur Rahman (WeeklySunday, Calcutta, 18–24 September, 1988). RAW has been deeply involved in the Chittagong Hill Tracts:
# ‘The Chakma guerrillas closely assisted RAW operatives. They were assisted during and after the Liberation War. The Chakmas, after the change of government in 1975, contacted RAW. The Chakmas offered to infiltrate among the Mizo rebels and pass on information to the Indian Government in lieu of asylum. This offer was accepted (Inside RAW: The Story of India’s Secret Service, Asoka Raina, Vikas Publishers, New Delhi, 1981, pp.86-87).
# ‘In 1975, RAW was instructed to assist the Chakma rebels with arms, supplies, bases and training. Training was conducted in the border camps in Tripura but specialized training was imparted at Chakrata near Dehra Doon. Shantu Larma’s Shanti Bahini members were flown to Chakrata and then sent back to Tripura to infiltrate into Chittagong Hill Tracts. A RAW office and its operatives at Agartala monitored the progress of the trainees. In 1976, the Shanti Bahini launched its first attack on the Bangladesh force. A new insurgency had been born and India’s secret war in the hills of Bangladesh had begun (South Asia’s Fractured Frontier, Binalaksmi Nepram, Mittal Publishers, New Delhi, 2002, pp-153).
# ‘RAW was involved in training rebels of Chakma tribes and Shanti Bahini to carry out subversive activities in Bangladesh (RAW’s role in Furthering India’s Foreign Policy, The New Nation, Dhaka, 31 August 1994).
India wants to encourage a pro-Indian culture in Bangladesh. The Indians are working very tactfully in different walks of life, including political, administrative, cultural arenas, journalists, students and the intellectuals. It should be mentioned here that an Indian daily (The Indian Express, 28 April 1992) in a report said: India’s intelligence agency provided about Rs.5 crore to a Bangladeshi political party through the Calcutta office of RAW for election purposes. A former student leader who is known as a mysterious personality in the politics of Bangladesh, attended a seminar titled ‘Political trend of South Asia’ where he pledged to unite all the Bengali speaking people of Bangladesh, West Bengal, Assam and Tripura (Weekly Khoborer Kagoj, 23 May, 1991). India has also been trying to confuse the political consciousness of the rising middle class. India has launched an all out media campaign and cultural aggression through her satellite channels, video and print media against Bangladesh.
Analysing the foregoing we can say that united Bengal or greater Bengal will not, in any way, be an independent or sovereign entity rather it will be merely a province under India. United Bengal or greater Bengal is just another face of the revival of the sub-continent or united India dream. Now the question arises, if there is no border between Bangladesh and India or a pre-47 undivided India is established, then what was the necessity of the Bangladesh liberation war?
Khodeza Begum/ E Mail : [email protected]