West Bengal

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West Bengal

West Bengal is a state in eastern India on the Bay of Bengal and is the nation's fourth-most populous state, with over 91 million inhabitants. It was formed during the partition of Bengal between India and Pakistan during the partition of India at the end of British rule. It is bordered by the countries of Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan, and the Indian states of Odisha, Jharkhand, Bihar, Sikkim, and Assam. The state capital is Kolkata (Calcutta), the seventh-largest city in India.


  • It is obviously an advantage in the sixteenth century Bengal to be a Moor, in as much as the Hindus daily become Moors to gain the favour of their rulers.
    • Barbosa, The Book of Duarte Barbosa, II, p.148. quoted from Lal, K. S. (1990). Indian muslims: Who are they.
  • There’s nothing in common between the East Bengalis and the West Bengalis. Between us and the East Bengalis, on the other hand, there’s religion in com­mon. The Partition of 1947 was a very good thing.
    • Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, April 1972 interview to Oriana Fallaci, as quoted in Interviews with History and Conversations with Power (2011).
  • One of the dreams that have inspired me and given a purpose to my life is that of a great and undivided Bengal … a Bengal that is above all sects and groups and is the home alike of the Muslim, the Hindu, the Christian and the Buddhist.
    • Nearly a decade before he formed the Indian National Army (INA), Netaji wrote this passionate message to his fellow Bengalis [1]
  • Haig writes that “it is evident, from the numerical superiority in Eastern Bengal of the Muslims… that at some period an immense wave of proselytization must have swept over the country and it is most probable that the period was the period of Jalaluddin Muhammad (converted son of Hindu Raja Ganesh) during whose reign of seventeen years (1414-1431)… hosts of Hindus are said to have been forcibly converted to Islam”.81 With regard to these conversions, Dr. Wise writes that “the only condition he offered were the Koran or death… many Hindus fled to Kamrup and the jungles of Assam, but it is nevertheless probable that more Muhammadans were added to Islam during these seventeen years (1414-31) than in the next three hundred years”.
    • Wolseley Haig, C.H.I., III, p. 267. quoted from Lal, K. S. (1992). The legacy of Muslim rule in India. New Delhi: Aditya Prakashan. Chapter 6
  • It is my firm belief that if our plans of education are followed up, there will not be a single idolator among the respectable classes of Bengal thirty years hence.
    • Thomas Babington Macaulay, 1st Baron Macaulay, Letter written to his father in 1836. Quoted in Indian Church History Review, December 1973, p. 187. Quoted from Goel, S. R. (2016). History of Hindu-Christian encounters, AD 304 to 1996. Chapter 13. ISBN 9788185990354
  • This is where, between 1956-57 and 1966-67, 46.9 per cent of India’s exports left the country and where 30.4 per cent of the imports arrived… The Mogul rulers of India knew Bengal as their Paradise on earth, and this certainly was’nt because it was comfortable to live in. The British soon came to the same conclusion and Charles Stewart had decided by 1813 that ‘The province of Bengal is one of the most valuable acquisitions that was ever made by any nation.’ It has always been a source of profit. In 1964, West Bengal was producing 95 per cent of India’s jute, 92 per cent of its razor blades, 87 per cent of its electric fans, 80 per cent of its sewing machines, 78 per cent of its railway wagons, 74 per cent of its rubber shoes…
    • Geoffrey Moorhouse in Calcutta: the City Revisited, 1971, Penguin Books, p 133.
  • It is a fact that most of the corrupt come from OBCs and Scheduled Castes and now increasingly the Scheduled Tribes. I will give an example. One of the states with the least amount of corruption is state of West Bengal when the CPI(M) was there. And I must draw attention to the fact that in the last 100 years, nobody from OBC, SC and ST has come anywhere near to power. It is an absolutely clean state.
    • Ashis Nandy, 2013. Most of the Corrupt From SC/STs, OBCs: Ashis Nandy, [1] Outlook India
  • I think that on the whole, the Muslim minority in West Bengal – which also, I think, suffers from from a feeling of frustration and a certain insecurity – is relatively more secure than the Hindu minority in East Bengal… Now take the proposal regarding exchange of population… it is completely opposed to our political economic, social and spirtual ideals. If you want to have an excahnge of population, then you must change the whole basis of not only this Government but of all that we have stood for these thirty odd years and during the movement for freedom in this country.
  • This is the history of the people who speak Bengali, covering both present-day Bangladesh and the Indian state of West Bengal and other Bengali-speaking areas of the country from the earliest recorded times to 1947 when the Indian subcontinent was partitioned into India and Pakistan, and nearly two-thirds of undivided Bengal went to Pakistan.
    • Nitish Sengupta in the Preface to the History of the Bengali-speaking People.
  • The extent to which this process of political organization of disadvantaged groups has occurred has varied a great deal between different parts of India… In West Bengal, for instance, effective organization of different groups under the leadership of the ‘left front’ parties has led to a significant change in the balance of political power, and this, in turn, has provided the basis for important social achievements, notably land reforms…West Bengal provides a good example of the possibility and rewards of land reform programmes (enhancing equity as well as the efficiency of local agriculture.)
  • We investigated the working of a number of elementary schools from three districts of West Bengal… The problem is, in some ways, compounded by the fact that school teachers are now comparatively well paid – no longer the recipients of miserably exploitative wages... The salary of teachers in regular schools has gone up dramatically over recent years. This is an obvious cause for celebration at one level (indeed, I remember being personally involved, as a student at Presidency College fifty years ago, in agitations to raise the desperately low prevailing salaries of school teachers). But the situation is now very different. The big salary increases in recent years have not only made school education vastly more expensive (making it much harder to offer regular school education to those who are still excluded from it), but have also tended to draw school teachers as a group further away from the families of children, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds. There is considerable evidence that the class barrier that deeply impairs the delivery of school education to the worst-off members of society is now further reinforced by the increase in economic and social distance between the teachers and the poorer (and less privileged) children
  • “The fourteenth century was a period of expansion of Muslim authority in Bengal and the adjoining territories. A significant part was played in this process by the warrior saints who were eager to take up the cause of any persecuted community. This often resulted (in clash) with the native authority, followed, almost invariably, by annexation…” This also shows how elastic were the methods adopted by the Sufis. They acted mostly as peaceful missionaries, but if they saw that the espousal of some just cause required military action, they were not averse to fighting. “The Sufis… did not adopt the Ismaili technique of gradual conversion… They established their khanqahs and shrines at places which had already had a reputation for sanctity before Islam. Thus some of the traditional i.e. (Hindu) gatherings were transformed into new festivals. (i.e. Muslim). As a result of these efforts, Bengal in course of time became a Muslim land…”
    • Ishtiaq Husain Qureshi, The Muslim Community of the Indo-Pakistan Subcontinent (610-1947), Monton & Co., S-Gravenhage, 1962, pp.70-71, 74-75. quoted from Lal, K. S. (1990). Indian muslims: Who are they.
  • “It is no use belittling the fact that people are coming from East Bengal to West Bengal because they find life in East Bengal intolerable.”
  • The administration is hopelessly inefficient and dishonest and as no improvement can be expected in the course of things, the future of the Hindus here (Calcutta or Bengal) is unspeakably dark.
    • Sir Jadunath Sarkar, letter on 1946 to Padam Bhushan Dr. G. S. Sardesai [5] [6]
  • The whole state of West Bengal seemed like a huge refugee camp, with its muddy roads jammed with endless lines for inoculations or registration cards.
    • Nevin S. Scrimshaw. Scrimshaw, quoted in Bass, G. J. (2014). The Blood telegram: Nixon, Kissinger, and a forgotten genocide. ch 14
  • This is a vast country, abounding in rice, and nowhere in the world have I seen any land where prices are lower than there; on the other hand it is a gloomy place, and the people of Khurasan call it “A hell full of good things.” I have seen fat fowls sold there at the rate of eight for a single dirham, young pigeons at fifteen to the dirham, and a fat ram sold for two dirhams. I saw too a piece of fine cotton cloth, of excellent quality, thirty cubits long, sold for two dinars, and a beautiful slave-girl for a single gold dinar, that is, two and a half gold dinars in Moroccan money. The first city in Bengal that we entered was Sudkawan [Satgaon or Chittagong], a large town on the coast of the great sea. Close by it the river Ganges, to which the Hindus go on pilgrimage, and the river Jun [Jumna, here obviously the Brahmaputra] unite and discharge together into the sea. They have a large fleet on the river, with which they make war on the inhabitants of the land of Laknawti.
    • Ibn Battuta, p., 267 Ibn Battuta. Travels in Asia and Africa 1325- 1354, trans. by H.A.R. Gibb, Low Price Publications, 1999 reprint, first published 1929. in Jain, M. (editor) (2011). The India they saw: Foreign accounts. New Delhi: Ocean Books. Volume II

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