(Tathagata Roy, 76, has been Governor in multiple Indian States in the past. A right-wing ideologue, he discusses the plight of Hindus in Bengal from the pre-Partition days to present times with Ratan Sharda, a scholar and an author who has written six books on Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh and also done a PHD on the organisation. NewsBred’s Bhumika Arora is happy to transcribe their recent conversation, available on YouTube).
Ratan Sharda: It is said that and it is written in Shyama Prasad Mukherjee’s biography that he saved Bengal for Hindus. How did he save Bengal for Hindus?
Tathagata Roy: Sometimes, In 1947, around April, Congress accepted the Partition of India which was being demanded by Jinnah. This is in spite of the fact Gandhi Ji has been saying that he will not accept partition but ultimately Congress accepted partition. When this happened, Dr Shyama Prasad Mukherjee said that if you’re dividing India, you must also divide Bengal because the Hindu majority which is on the west of Bengal, would not like to live like Dhimmis in the Islamic state and would like to join India. Now Jinnah was absolutely against and, he had said this is the move accentuated by bitterness. But Dr Mukherjee campaigned throughout Bengal, fortunately, he got Congress on his side because his own party Hindu Mahasabha was rather a small party with very little representation. The entire Bengali Hindu support was behind the Congress but Congress supported him with exceptions. As a result of that when there was a resolution regarding Partition, moved in the Bengal legislative assembly, the Hindu members overwhelmingly voted in favour of that partition and meanwhile the British parliament has passed a resolution that India would be given independence and Bengal and Punjab would be partitioned. Now had the partition of Bengal not been done, all of us, all the Bengali Hindus would have been part of east Pakistan and at that time it was an Islamic republic.
East Pakistan had staged not one but three major pogroms in 1950, 1964 and the worst were in 1971, during these pogroms thousand of Hindus were killed, injured and escaped to West Bengal and that is why today we are living in West Bengal as proud citizens of India. This is the primary reason why I say Dr Shyama Prasad Mukherjee saved the Bengali Hindus. There is a secondary reason as well- Had not this been done at that time, the princely states of Tripura and Manipur would have been disjointed from the rest of India and eventually gobbled up by Pakistan. Every Bengali Hindu should thank him.
RS: There are also allegations that Shyama Prasad Mukherjee Hindu Mahasabha allied with the Muslim League to form a government. Also at that time Congress also abdicated its responsibility of forming the government. What exactly was the politics of that time?
TR: For this, we have to go back to 1937. In 1937 there was an election on the basis of the government of India Act 1935 which was passed in the British parliament under which there would be separate electorates for Muslims and unreserved general category in which Hindu should also come and they should vote separately. After the election results were out, it was seen that none of the parties have
got the majority. At that time, the entire Hindu support was with the Congress but the Muslim support was divided between the religious party- Muslim League and Krishak Praja Party headed by Fazlul Huq. while Praja party wasn’t a religious party but its member happened to be practically all Muslims. Their demands were reduction or doing away with the interest and other welfare – basically for the welfare of Muslim peasants. When no party got majority the obvious thing for Congress was to join with this party which was not essentially Islamic. But Congress refused to form a coalition with the Krishak party and would sit in Opposition. This was horrible and suicidal move. Had this not been done whole of Bengal would have been part of India. Gandhi, Nehru, Patel, all of them did the awful miscalculation. As a result of that Krishak Praja Party was pushed into the arms of the Muslim League and they made Fazlul chief minister and they were running the government as started a terrible regime of Anti- Hindu government. There was terrible discrimination against Hindus. There were riots also in which police did not give any help to Hindus. As a result of this, things started going bad to worse. finally Dr. Shyama Prasad Mukherjee. who was, at that time the youngest vice-chancellor of Calcutta University the oldest University in the country, was dragged into politics by Hindu leaders of that time because the thought that no one else could give leadership to Hindus including those of the Congress. So, Dr Shyama Prasad Mukherjee came to politics in 1939 and joined the Hindu Mahasabha and became the working president of Akhil Bharat Hindu Mahasabha in one year. He managed to persuade Fazlul Huq out of the clutches of the Muslim League. Now this is a false rumour that Dr Shyama Prasad Mukherjee has joined forces with the Muslim League he has in fact dragged Fazlul out of the clutches of the Muslim League which is why the Muslim League abused Fazlul Huq and even called him black sheep. But Dr Shyama Prasad Mukherjee and Fazlul worked together and formed a ministry. It was formerly called the progressive democratic coalition And the colloquial name was Shyama-Haq ministry and this was the only time when since 1937 when some kind of justice done to all communities of Bengal but this did not last because at that time the Governor of Bengal was a very horrible person called Sir John Herbert. He manipulated Fazlul Huq to resign from the cabinet. After which the cabinet collapsed and Muslim League once again came back to power and they remained in power until 1947.
RS: There is not much known about the kind of violence happened in Bengal during partition? So what exactly what’s the situation of Hindu society in Bengal?
TR: There is a very interesting thing that happened in August 1947. Gandhiji should have been in Delhi looking at the national flag being unfurled and the Union Jack been taken down and the premier of Bengal Sarovar Din should have been in Karachi because he had fought on behalf of Pakistan trying to take Calcutta into Pakistan, for which started Calcutta killings of 16th August 1946 just one year back. But Gandhiji happened to be in Calcutta on that day and so was Sarovar Din. Sarovar Din had a lot of illegal property in Kolkata and he did not want to go away leaving all of that but Hindus would have lynched him on that day because of his role in 1946 riots so he leaned on Gandhiji shoulder and Gandhiji move from place to place spreading the message of love, preventing the riots but this had mixed effect.
Firstly, I do not why Gandhiji came to Calcutta because at that time much worse riots for taking place in Amritsar or Firozepur. If Gandhiji wanted to spread a message of love and bring about amity between Muslims and Hindus, Why didn’t he go to Amritsar or Firozepur? I am not talking about Rawalpindi or Lahore that might be physically impossible but Amritsar he could have gone. Why didn’t he go there and the only answer is that politics is the art of the possible and he did what was possible when he came to Calcutta. He tried to work with the sentiments of Bengalis because if he had gone to Amritsar they would have made keema of him. Throughout the process, he also prevented any kind of exchange of population between the two Bengali he prevented the Bengali Muslim in West Bengal from going away in East Bengal.
This had very unwelcome consequences. After this East Pakistan came into existence and was ruled by West Pakistanis. When West Pakistanis saw that it is not possible to drive out Hindus from East Pakistan, then the East Pakistani government headed by chief secretary Aziz Ahmed carried out mass killings of Hindu. On one km long bridge across the river Meghna, all the trains that passed across the bridge were stopped and Hindus were knifed and thrown in dead or half dead situations in the river. This was the picture of that time. Also, when we discuss why people don’t know about this, it is because the cultural, historical and literary space in West Bengal was totally occupied by the Marxists and Congress. The leftist started a propaganda mentioning that it is not Muslims who are responsible but Britishers who have done it.
RS: We may blame the Marxist historians for trying to denying the holocaust or genocide, but what about the Bengalis who have suffered not spoken about it?
TR: It was because of the lack of leadership. Only one leader was there, Dr Mukherjee who had also resigned from the union cabinet in protest against the Nehru-Liaquat Pact. This pact which Jawarharlal Nehru and Liaquat Ali had inked in the fond hope that Pakistan will look after their minorities, which Pakistan of course did not. Apart from Shyama Prasad Mukherjee, the other person was Dr Bidan Chand Roy, who was the chief minister at that time and his time was totally spent on rehabilitating because the central government gave no help to Bengal refugees because they thought that they would go back because Nehru had said so. There was no leadership. They used good use of their propaganda machinery, which has always been there.
RS:. Even after the creation of Bangladesh we saw huge persecution against Hindus, we saw waves of refugees coming to Bharat. How will it end? Is it because local Hindus in Bengal are also persecuted?
TR: There are two reasons for it.
On the Hindus side, there was no leadership left in East Bengal who could have spoken on the behalf of Hindus, or who could have prevented the exodus of Hindu from the newly liberated country of Bangladesh.
On the Muslim side, after the initial euphoria, the original ideas of Jihad, Kaafirs surfaced. In 1975, after the assasination of Sheikh Mujibur Rehman, the people who came to power were all Islamist and they started the campaign of driving Hindus out. There were violent pogroms in between as well. They adopted a gradual process- squeezing out Hindus on occasional parts. Hindus were discriminated against, they were very uncomfortable and gradually left Bangladesh and came to India.
RS: Is there any connection between violence against Hindu in Bengal recently and violence against Hindus in Bangladesh?
TR: Apparently there is none, at least, I have not been able to perceive it. The violence in West Bengal that we have seen after the election of 2021 if we see, Just before the elections, the Bharatiya Janata Party leaders have used foul language against Trinamool Congress leaders- the state president of BJP went on to make speeches like Maar dunga, Ghad dunga, safaya ho jayega ( will hit them, beat them, all will be cleaned up). This kind of thing created natural animosity and they found the opportunity they were like- ab sabak sikhaunga. Another reason was that they were also encouraged by the leadership of Trinamool.
In Bangladesh, what happened was part of what I discussed earlier- the squeezing out process together with occasional spurts. In Bangladesh what had happened is that, the Islamists have developed a sort of a standard operating procedure of staging insults to Islam on parts of Hindus and then trying to take out revenge. It had happened earlier also in 2017 in a village called Nassir Nagar in Ramanbhadiya District, Bangladesh. My roots belong to that district. My parents were born in that district. Hindu fisherman Rasraj Das has been accused of abusing Nabi on Facebook and after which some 300 Hindu houses were torched. This time it was uncannily similar, the copy of Quran placed under Hanuman ji and some Muslim came and were like you insulted the Muslims. They started breaking all the pandals, idols, vandalizing everything and killing Hindus. That is how things worked.
RS: Are you absolving the anti-Hindu Riots that happened with factors of BJP?
TR: I am not absolving anything, if you take the case of West Bengal what BJP state president said was definitely the contributing cause, maybe not the important one but contributory cause. Apart from that there was the training of the CPIM, which had preceded Trinamool’s rule. Before TMC, there was 30-40 years of CPIM rule, CPIM is a lumpen party. When TMC came into power, they switched from CPIM and came into TMC. after coming over they did what they do- looting, blundering, killing, raping and etc.
Also, the elections were managed very badly. The atmosphere was such that people were disgusted with Mamata Banerjee rule, BJP could have used that properly and might have come to power. In Bangladesh, Hindus are a threatened and very afraid set of people and steer away from any kind of trouble with the Muslims. The other thing is that also Awami League did not have anything in this whole business of attacking Hindus because Hindus support Awami league but the league contains lot of Islamist who for their own reasons did attack Hindus. The government of Bangladesh also woke up very late. Some kind of diplomatic pressure also has something to do with it after which the Bangladesh Sheikh Hasina took some action.
Some stupid quarters in india are asking why Narendra Modi is not doing anything. They must know that it’s a sovereign country. If Narendra Modi had publicly told Sheikh Hasina that you must save Hindus, immediately there would have been reaction by religious group, which they wanted – that is this country run by Sheikh Hasina or Narendra Modi. That way our PM showed exemplary restraint by not saying anything publicly but putting diplomatic pressure.