Saturday, March 21, 2009

The Pakistani Ruling Elite vs. the Bangla (Bengali) Language -- 1

In spite of the incessant entreaties, demands and pro-Bangla rallies and demonstrations of the Bangalis (Bengalees), why did the Pakistani rulers totally ignore Bangla in the making of the state languages of Pakistan? First of all, it was racism (ethnic differences) -- pure and simple, and, secondly, there were other factors, such as social status differences, regionalism, religious and linguistic differences, and servile loyalty of the of the East Bengal (East Pakistan) Muslim Leaguers to the ruling elite.

Ethnic Differences

The Pakistani ruling elite comprised Urdu-Farsi-speaking North Indian Muslims, mostly descended from Muslim Turks, Mughals and Afghans who ruled parts of India in past centuries. These roti (hand-made wheat flat-bread) and meat eating people considered themselves ethnically superior to the mostly dark-skinned rice-and-fish-eating Bangalis. As a result, they could not consider themselves equal to the Bangali Muslims. After independence in 1947, many north Indian Muslims migrated to West Pakistan and mostly they are the ones who were the potiticians, civil servants, educate class and business people.

The Bangalis, on the other hand, are a heterogenous and considerably diverse group of people. They descended partially from the fair-skinned Aryans, mostly dark-skinned Austric, Dravidian and Proto-Australoids, and partially yellow-skinned Tibeto-Burman peoples. For this reason, Bangalis' skin colour ranges from black to very fair. Most of the Bangali Muslims were converts from Hinduism after the Muslims began their conquering inroads in Bengal in the 13th century.

Social Status Differences

The All-India Muslim League comprised mainly the upper class of the Muslim communities -- the zaminders, nawabs and nawabzadas (big landlords) --who were used to ruling common people, but not feeling equal with them. They had no affinity with or empathy for the common folks. Then there were other members of the Muslim League who were highly educated, such as barristers, lawyers, and educationists, and there were also moneyed merchants and businessmen. Starting from 1944, only during the leadership of Abul Hashim, a West Bengal lawyer, the Muslim League began to recruit members from ordinary Muslim population.

Most of the Bangalis were ordinary citizens -- mostly illiterate, financially hard-pressed, and of peasant stock. The number of highly-educated persons among them was minimal. The All-India Muslim League leadership, who were also the ruling elite in Pakistan, just could not take the East Pakistani Muslims as equals.

Regional Differences

The British first came to Bengal in 1690 as traders and in 1757 they became the rulers of Bengal by deafeating Nawab Sirajudoulla at the Battle of Polashi (Plassey). Under them, Calcutta gradually developed as a strong administrative, business, industrial, educational, and cultural centre. All important decisions and activities revolved round Calcutta and its surrounding areas.

As a result, the East Bengal (later East Pakistan) got neglected. It remained an underdeveloped hinterland of Calcutta supplying raw materials (jute, indigo, cotton, leather and the like) and food items. Moreover, East Bengal, being a riverine and marshy delta, was regularly visited by endemic diseases like cholera, malaria, tuberculosis, and diarrhea. So East Bengal was not an attractive place for people in other parts of India. The historical neglect continued in the independent Pakistan, too.

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