Bengal is getting in the throes of turmoil. On this side of the border, there is a struggle to prevent the industrialisation of the state. Nandigram is only the first symptom of the resistance. Uncannily, although Singur was a similar issue, the impact did not go far. Was it not because the Jamiat-e-Ulma-e-Hind led by Janab Siddiquallah Chowdhury did not have a popular base in that area? Whereas Nandigram is a majority area for him. Incensed by the Marxist contempt towards religion, Chief Minister Bhattacharjee is unable to empathise with the compulsions of Islam. Prophet Mohammed wanted his followers to achieve a majority in the world'spopulation by doomsday. In order to fulfill this wish, procreation must be prolific which in turn needs an obedient womanhood; preferably uneducated and unquestioning. Such a woman cannot appreciate the value of education for her children. Without secular studies, the offspring cannot grow up to compete for modern jobs. Hence industrialisation is undesirable for Islam. Not all the oil wealth of Arabia and Iran has been able to fuel any great manufacture in West Asia.
Remarkably Bangladesh has also remained substantially without large industries. In the first flush of Partition, a number of jute mills were set up to process all the golden jute that Dhaka and Narayanganj districts produced. For a country with a severely adverse land man ratio, industrialisation should have been a continual process. Perhaps the popularity of Islam has been a significant stumbling block. It is to be seen what kind of government will emerge from the current crisis created by the military takeover. But Islam will continue to be the state religion. So far Bangladesh, and it'spredecessor East Pakistan has, either pushed out Hindu refugees or sent out Muslim infiltrators. West Bengal has been unfortunate in being at the receiving end of both the inflows.
Unlike the Punjab in the early years of Partition, there was very little of a population exchange in Bengal. It was a one-way traffic that has made the state also over populated, one of the compulsions of which is a shift from agriculture to manufacture. More than one out of every four Bengalis being Muslim, Jamiat-e-Ulema is likely to have a large following in its endeavour to resist the setting up of large factories.
Chowdhury means business; he has gone to the extent of declaring that the CPM is anti-Muslim behind the veneer of secularism. Shri Narendra Modi has given more rights to Muslims than Bhattacharjee in Bengal. Muslims are by far safer in Gujarat where they enjoy more rights and privileges. What is the future Chief Minister Bhattacharya'sdream of industrialisation a la China? His dream is not unrealistic; his State was the Ruhr of India at the time of Independence. The two Bengals juxtaposed make an interesting paradox. One side with 90 per cent Muslims who are happy to be agrarian and the other side with 75 per cent Hindus raring to modernise. In the absence of progress, the cream of Bengal talent is emigrating to other parts of India as well as overseas. If the current trend continues, West Bengal would lose the bulk of its elite.
There are other problems as well. The High Commission is not effective except reportedly in conveying donations to the Rama Krishna Mission at Dhaka that in turn heals more Muslims than Hindus. Dhaka humiliated India in 2002 by killing several of its BSF jawans and returning their bodies hanging on poles as if they were animal carcasses. The Indian government was helpless and its foreign minister exclaimed: do you expect us to go to war with Bangladesh? The government of Kolkata is equally indifferent; it is yet to recommend the granting of citizenship to Taslima Nasrin.
It was hoped that after the secession of Bangladesh in 1971, ethnic cleansing would come to an end. At Partition, there were 29 per cent Hindus in East Bengal. By 1974 they had come down to 13.5 per cent. With the advent of General Zia-ur-Rahman and subsequently General H.M. Ershad, the cleansing was resumed. Today the figure hovers around 9. There are dozens of incidents every month in different parts of Bangladesh; in the course of May, 55 such occurrences were reported in the local press. Land in the villages and houses of Hindus in the urban areas are forcibly occupied and most often the police does not even register the complaints of the disposed. Temples are also targets and even the writ of the High Court does not always run. For example, in Sherpur of Bogra district, Ma Bhawani Moyee mandir lost one of its sections to marauders last year despite a Court injunction. This oppression would cease if the Muslims of Bengal were enabled to gather in Bangladesh while all the Hindus from there were allowed to cross over to West Bengal. In other words, an organised exchange of population should be negotiated between New Delhi and Dhaka with Kolkata being equally involved.
The technique of such an exchange between two countries was authored by the League of Nations soon after World War I ended. A detailed scheme, how to value respective properties, when which batch of people would move to where and how they should be compensated with land or property etc. was worked out under the leadership of no other than the legendary Viceroy of India, Lord Curzon. The exchange scheme was formalised by the Treaty of Lausanne of 1923. Nearly all Christians, mainly Greek, residing in Turkey were transferred to Greece while Muslims of Greece were asked to migrate to Turkey. However difficult and painful the exchange of populations was, it brought to an end religious strifes in Greece and Turkey, reminiscent of communal riots in India.