29 July, 2021

That Unholy Cleave

A former diplomat sweeps through Bengal’s history to narrate the story of its Partition, which she deems was avoidable

That Unholy Cleave

The painful partition of Bengal in 1905 had larger consequential effect on India’s Partition in 1947, with lasting impact on the Indian society, according to Bhaswati Mukherjee in her well-researched book Bengal and Its Partition: An Untold Story. She traces developments since the battle of Palashi (Plassey) in 1757, whose repercussions were felt 100 years later in the form of the 1857 sepoy mutiny­—the largest anti-colonisation uprising in the world in the 19th century.

Apprehending the capacity of Indian people to mount a massive uprising against the empire and to prevent such a possibility, the British indulged in a policy of ‘divide and rule’ in Bengal to begin with, and then elsewhere in the country. Their efforts at compartmentalising Indian ­history (and history writing) on religious lines were designed to create competitive forces that would counter-balance communities and save the empire the trouble of quelling them.

Subjugating people necessitated deliberate tactics of ­demeaning their civilisation,...

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