Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Dr Shyama Prasad Mookherjee, the creator of West Bengal

As a matter of fact, Shyama Prasad Mookherjee was the creator of the state now called West Bengal. He carved out West Bengal from the then East Pakistan and East Punjab from West Pakistan. He was basically an educationist but the crisis of partition, more pointedly the partition of Bengal, brought him into politics. When the British accepted partition of India and creation of the new Islamic state of Pakistan, it was decided that the state or a Pradesh would be considered the smallest unit. Or in other words, a state with majority Muslim would go to Pakistan and a Hindu majority state would remain in the Indian Republic.

At that time the Bengal Province was a Muslim majority state and hence the entire Bengal was waiting to be included into the Islamic state of Pakistan. But after the massacre of the Hindus by the Muslims in Calcutta and Noakhali in 1946-47, Dr Mookherjee was convinced that it would be devastating for the Hindus, if they continue to live in a Muslim-dominated state and under a government controlled by the Muslim League. It should be mentioned here that most of the districts of East Bengal were Muslim dominated while the districts of western Bengal were dominated by the Hindus. So, Dr Mookherjee demanded that the smallest unit should be a district, not a province.

Similarly, the entire state of Punjab was marked as a Muslim majority state and hence was to be included into Pakistan. But the districts of West Punjab were dominated by the Muslims while in the districts of East Punjab, Hindus and Sikhs were in the majority. Dr Mookherjee argued that the Hindus of the Hindu majority districts of Bengal and Punjab must have their right to self-determination. It was not possible for the British to deny his argument; as a result only the Muslim-dominated districts in eastern Bengal, renamed East Pakistan, went to the new Islamic state of Pakistan, while a new state of West Bengal was formed with the Hindu-dominated districts of Bengal, which remained with India. Likewise, all the Muslim-dominated districts of Punjab, renamed West Pakistan, went to Pakistan, and the Hindu/Sikh-dominated districts were included in the Indian Union as a new state, called East Punjab. The only Muslim majority district that was included into West Bengal, due to geographical reasons, was Murshidabad. And for the similar reason, the Hindu dominated district Khulna was included into East Pakistan.

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