Saturday, December 28, 2013

Nelson Mandela – the world leader and his legacy


Nelson Mandela, who is respected as the father of the nation in South Africa, died on December 5, 2013. He was the most popular world leader of our time and was revered by many heads of states.  Like many human rights activists, I have been a great admirer of him. I remember that I participated in protests and demonstrations in the USA that were organized by the Third World Coalition and CISPES (Committee In Support for the People of El Salvador) as a student in the Apartheid Days demanding that the USA and the western world divest from the apartheid South Africa. I remember my attending a lecture given by Bishop Desmond Tutu (a Nobel Laureate) at the University of Southern California, Los Angeles in the mid-1980s.

Many of us within the human rights camps throughout the globe did lot of work to create the public awareness about what was wrong with the South African system and eventually bring down the fall of the apartheid regime. It was not an easy task, esp. in the western world. The U.S.A, Western Europe, Israel and its powerful Jewish lobby had invested heavily in this former apartheid regime. They were opposed to bringing about a fundamental change in the apartheid character that would give the black majority a say in how the country ought to have been run.

Lest we forget, there were too many similarities between these two countries – Israel and apartheid South Africa. No wonder that Theodor Herzl (father of modern political Zionism and in effect the founder of the State of Israel) considered South African apartheid system a model for his dream - Jewish state. He had studied the methods used by Cecil Rhodes, the British Empire builder, thoroughly to separate certain African tribes from control of their land. His blueprints for large-scale settlement in Palestine envisioned a plan to create a 'Jewish Chartered Company' for Palestine patterned after the 'British Chartered Company in South Africa'. His diary includes the text of a letter Herzl wrote to Cecil Rhodes, shortly after the infamous Briton had colonized the land of the Shona people in Africa – whose land he claimed and renamed Rhodesia. “You are being invited to help make history,” Herzl wrote to Rhodes. “[I]t doesn’t involve Africa, but a piece of Asia Minor; not Englishmen but Jews… How, then, do I happen to turn to you since this is an out-of-the-way matter for you? How indeed? Because it is something colonial… [Y]ou, Mr. Rhodes, are a visionary politician or a practical visionary… I want you to.. put the stamp of your authority on the Zionist plan and to make the following declaration to a few people who swear by you: I, Rhodes have examined this plan and found it correct and practicable. It is a plan full of culture, excellent for the group of people for whom it is directly designed, and quite good for England, for Greater Britain…."

Although Mr. Herzl had died before Israel was born, its Zionist leaders made sure to fulfill the colonist vision he held through annexation of Arab territories and implementing colonial measures to seal its apartheid character. In the UN, it was no surprise that Israel always voted alongside the apartheid state of South Africa, and voted against any motion that challenged its apartheid apparatus or character.

Now, of course, South Africa is no longer an apartheid state, but Israel remains so to this very moment with its racist laws intact that discriminate the Arab Palestinians. And so does Myanmar (Burma) with its 1982 Citizenship Law that effectively rendered the Rohingya and many other non-Buddhists stateless, i.e., non-citizens in the land of their ancestors.

Who knows one day the apartheid wall of segregation there would also crumble allowing all – Israeli Jews and Palestinians - to live side by side peacefully as full citizens with all the due rights! And if I may dream the same for Burma, what a difference would that bring to the millions of suffering Rohingya and other minorities in this worst den of hatred and intolerance of the 21st century! But for this to happen, the USA and the powerful nations have to do what they did against the Pretoria regime. They must bring real pressure demanding real change: ending the settlements in Israel. They must demand citizenship, justice, safety, security and reparation for the Rohingya and other minorities in Myanmar that have been facing genocidal campaigns there. "Until you stop settlements, we are cutting off aid” - that sentence has never been spoken against Israel. "Until you stop your genocidal campaign against the Rohingya people and restore full citizenship to them, we are sending you to the Hague for committing crimes against humanity” – that sentence, too, was never spoken against the murderous leaders of Myanmar.

With changing guards in the administrative capital of South Africa and worldwide condemnation of the apartheid policy and biting sanctions, the former racists of the apartheid regimes were sobered down and forced to realize that old days were gone. For them to survive and let other Afrikaner Whites to survive in this unmistakably rainbow nation there had to be a change of the heart allowing the majority blacks to have equal rights under a democratic government. The rest was history! Nelson Mandela became the first elected black South African to win the election that followed and eventually became its first President in the new non-apartheid system.
With level-headedness and humor, he disarmed his adversaries and outsmarted the National Party government that released him from prison assuming it would be able to maneuver him into a deal that would effectively perpetuate white rule. He was probably the smartest and most skillful politician of Africa in the post-colonial era. He had the credibility to bridge the gap between radicals and moderates in the African National Congress (ANC), and between those who were for and against the liberation movement.

Mandela’s strength as a leader was to tone down militant blacks who wanted to settle scores after more than three centuries of brutal oppression and to assure nervous whites that they had a place in South Africa's future. Rather than opening old wounds which only divides and polarizes a society he tried to heal those wounds by bringing the two camps - former haves and have-nots, oppressor and oppressed, rulers and ruled - together so that they could forgive and reconcile. "I knew as well as I knew anything that the oppressor must be liberated just as surely as the oppressed," he wrote in his 1994 autobiography, Long Walk to Freedom.

When Mr. Mandela was released from prison, he and his former enemy President F.W. de Klerk were jointly awarded Liberty Medal in Philadelphia in 1993 (they also shared the Nobel Prize for peace). My wife and I went there to listen to his speech at the Independence Mall. Upon return I remember noticing that a thief had tried to break into our car while we were attending the event. But that incident could not dampen our spirit. As a reminder to the event, I never fixed the keyhole for the next twenty years that I held the car for.

I also fondly recall Mr. Mandela's town hall meeting at City College of New York in the summer of 1990 soon after his release from prison that was chaired by Ted Koppel of the ABC. He was questioned about his cordial relationship with Chairman Yasser Arafat of the PLO, Fidel Castro of Cuba and Mu’ammar Gaddafi of Libya. He did not hesitate to point out that they were his people’s real friends in those harsh days of apartheid when true friends were too few and enemies too many and too powerful. He unequivocally said, “One of the mistakes which some political analysts make is to think that their enemies should be our enemies…our attitude towards any country is determined by the attitude of that country towards our struggle…Yasser Arafat, Colonel Gaddafi, Fidel Castro support our struggle to the hilt. They do not only support it in rhetoric; they are placing resources at our disposal for us to win the struggle.” To the great embarrassment of Mr. Koppel and many pro-Israeli Jews, Mr. Mandela said there, “We identify with the PLO just because like ourselves they are fighting for the right of self-determination… Arafat is a comrade in arm.” When reminded about the power of the Jewish lobby in the USA which could torpedo his anti-apartheid movement, he taught the audience a lesson in moral leadership by stating that “for anybody which [who] changes his principles depending on whom he is dealing – that is not a man who can lead a nation.”

Mandela was honest unto himself and everyone else. It is worth noting here that the town hall meeting in New York took place in 1990, long before the world (esp. the USA) embraced Nelson Mandela and the ANC. And, yet, even then, Mandela stood firm on his conviction. That was the sign of his moral leadership. He never abandoned his former comrades. When Arafat died, Mandela visited his widow Suha and said that “He [Arafat] was an icon in the proper sense of the world. He was not only concerned with the liberation of the Arab people, but of all the oppressed people throughout the world – Arabs and non-Arabs. And to lose a man of that stature and thinking is a great blow to all those who are fighting against oppression and we regret that.”

Leaders of American and South African Jewry were already taken aback by the warm embraces Mr. Mandela exchanged with PLO chief Yasser Arafat in Lusaka, Zambia soon after his release in 1990. In a speech at Lusaka airport in Zambia on February 27, 1990, Mandela said that Arafat “is fighting against a unique form of colonialism, and we wish him success in his struggle.” At a news conference the next day, he reiterated his support of the PLO. Asked whether such remarks might alienate South Africa’s 100,000 Jews, who were prominent in that nation’s business elite, Mandela retorted, “If the truth alienates the powerful Jewish community in South Africa, that’s too bad.” He added, “We expect everybody who is exploring the possibility of lasting solutions to be able to face the truth squarely. I believe that there are many similarities between our struggle and that of the PLO… We live under a unique form of colonialism in South Africa, as well as in Israel, and a lot flows from that.” Unlike most political leaders of our time, he was genuine and not a hypocrite that speaks with a forked tongue.

Mandela was a fighter all his life who relinquished neither his principles nor his humanity. At the Rivonia trial, he never denied the charges levied against him for treason. He, however, turned the defendant's stand into a pulpit and spent hours explaining why he felt that justice compelled him to carry out such acts. He said on the stand, "I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination… I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die." He and his ANC compatriots were shipped off to Robben Island, near Cape Town that had once served as a leper colony. There he spent the next 27 years.

Mandela never lost hope and liked to dream big. He later wrote, “I always knew that someday I would once again feel the grass under my feet and walk in the sunshine as a free man." In 1986, he took the greatest political risk of his life by opening a line of communication with the apartheid government. "I had concluded that the time had come when the struggle could best be pushed forward through negotiations," he wrote. "If we did not start a dialogue soon, both sides would be plunged into a dark night of oppression, violence and war." He told the apartheid leaders – who had offered to release him being terrified that he would die in jail and become more powerful as a martyr – that he would leave jail only when the government lifted the ban on the ANC and the Communist Party and agreed to negotiate a new constitution. On February 11, 1990, President F.W. de Klerk, who replaced P.W. Botha, freed Mr. Mandela.

Mr. Mandela also knew when to quit. When many leaders are seduced by power, he stepped down in 1999 after one term in office. He could have enjoyed much-deserved time with friends and family, but he continued crusading for better schools, AIDS awareness, human rights and democracy across Africa. In 2007, he founded a "council of elders" -- fellow Nobel peace laureates, politicians, and development leaders -- to pool their influence to tackle global crises. He left power voluntarily but remained the most influential person of our time.

Now this great man – a genuine world leader by any count - is dead. He was 95 years old. As it happens with great men, people will write about him, make movies on his life; he will be judged and his life story would be told and retold for generations to come; some probably will idolize him and others will do just the opposite – even calling him a terrorist, a racist and a communist. Obviously, truth lies somewhere in between of which this humble man was keenly aware of, and thus, reiterated that he was a mortal man and no saint. He struggled for his people and found out that Gandhi-style non-violence did not and could not work for his oppressed people. As a pragmatic leader, he provided a change in direction and led that military wing of his party - ANC. His armed struggle led him to life-time imprisonment in a remote island. There he reflected and became democratic, seeking solution - peace through justice.

Mr. Mandela walked out of the prison gates with his head held high and with his dignity, humanity and integrity still intact. And he had the remarkable capacity to forgive his jailers setting a powerful example of compassion and redemption.

He emerged from prison as if in a time capsule, still talking about nationalizing the mines. As a pragmatist and the elected President of his country, however, he abandoned the idea realizing that the rest of the world was discarding the tenets of socialism.  

He taught us about effective leadership. He showed that politics can be a noble profession, too, doing good for humanity. He was a transformational leader who called us to a higher purpose and sought to appeal to our better nature. As a transactional leader, he knew how to negotiate well with wisdom, dignity, calmness and level headedness.

In new South Africa, Mandela’s formula of reconciliation worked for most part and stopped the exodus of the wealthy white Afrikaners and brought some level of parity at least politically. As it has often happened with other founding fathers of nations, he was not an able administrator. As President, he failed to deliver on promises to the newly empowered black majority for a greater share of South Africa's wealth -- promises still unfulfilled nearly two decades later. About a third of the workforce remains unemployed today.

The South African society is battling a crime epidemic with a very high rate of murders, assaults, rapes, armed house robbery, car- and truck-jacking, and narco-trafficking. Organized crime is so entrenched that it warps the very authorities appointed to fight it. Corruption has been growing significantly, and bribery in the public sector has increased. Much of this new violence is committed by the South African blacks, and is often directed against other blacks, including those that have moved there for job from other parts of Africa. Even the residence of my ORCA friend Touhid Hossain, who is Bangladesh’s Ambassador to South Africa, was not immune from armed robbery attempts.

Mandela’s ANC party appears divided and in 2008, its various factions fought bitterly over the organization's leadership. Mandela delivered a message of unity that would represent an enormous legacy, if it were followed: "Our nation comes from a history of deep division and strife," he said. "Let us never, through our deeds or words, take our people back down that road." Will the ANC and people of South Africa heed to his advice? I pray and hope: they do.

In spite of her failures in improving law and order situation, and remedying her economic and social ills, South Africa remains a functioning democracy and her government has not allowed the infrastructure to collapse. The country is on a firmer footing and much better off compared to Zimbabwe of Robert Mugabe, who cared not to follow his wise neighbor to the south - another freedom fighter – Mandela who is loved by so many and loathed by so few.

As South Africa buried her ‘greatest son’ and the mourning tears dry up, the world will watch this nation closely to see which of his legacies would last. Let the aspirant leaders of our time learn a thing or two from this wise man – adoringly called “Madiba” (meaning: one of the great forces for freedom and equality of our time) by his people – who sacrificed so much for the sake of his people, for the sake of humanity and even for the sake of his apartheid enemies. They won’t find his kind too often!


For some links to good articles on Nelson Mandela click here, here and here.
[Note: This is a revised version of an article, which was earlier posted and now deleted.]

Sunday, December 22, 2013

International Rohingya Conference in the USA Calls for Stopping Genocide in Myanmar

The Rohingya people, who mostly live in the western Rakhine state of Myanmar, are the most persecuted people in our time. The Rohingyas are denied every right in this Buddhist-majority country simply because of their Muslim faith and ethnicity which is at variance with the dominant race and religion. Not a single of the 30 clauses of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), enshrined in the United Nations, of which Myanmar is a member state, is honored by the racist government in this den of hatred, intolerance and bigotry.

Although the ancestors of the Rohingyas have been the bhumiputras or first settlers to the silver crescent of the Arakan (now named Rakhine state to obliterate its Islamic connection), bordering Bangladesh, from time immemorial, they were declared stateless in their own country by President Ne Win. Dr. Aye Kyaw (now deceased), a Rakhine Buddhist academic, who lived in New York, was behind this xenophobic law to uproot the Rohingya, the second largest ethnic community in the Rakhine state. They are wrongly portrayed as “Bengalis” or “Chittagonians.” The denial of citizenship rights has led to all kinds of persecution of the Rohingya people known to mankind. They are unable to obtain passports or visas, own land or hold government jobs. They cannot get access to higher education. Even to move from one part of the locality to another they require special permission. Myanmar law prohibits them from having more than two children per family. They are also taxed for everything, even for owning chicken and goats.

In my study of ethnic and religious minorities around the world, I have not found a single community that has been suffering more than this unfortunate people – the Rohingyas of Burma. Their condition inside Myanmar has simply worsened since May 28 of last year. As a matter of fact, many of the Rohingyas would tell that they were able to survive those earlier (i.e., pre-2012) practices of unfathomed inhumanity displayed by the Buddhist majority people against them. But now they have lost almost everything. Their homes, businesses, schools, madrasas, orphanages, and mosques have all been systematically demolished in a planned way – all with the blessing of the government – local and central.

The United Nations and other organizations have reported atrocities against the Rohingya. An April report by the nonprofit Human Rights Watch detailed what it called "a campaign of ethnic cleansing against Rohingya Muslims in Arakan State since June 2012." The report described an ongoing humanitarian crisis and the role of the Burmese government, local authorities and Buddhist monks in the terror and forced relocation of more than 125,000 Rohingya and other Muslims (that number has now grown to more than 140,000). It said that tens of thousands of displaced Muslims had been denied access to humanitarian aid and been unable to return home. They are forced to live in cages with little freedom to move around and fetch for their survival. In a 2012 report to the U.N. Human Rights Council, a U.N.-appointed independent observer said he had received "consistent and credible allegations of a wide range of human rights violations...including 'sweeps' against Muslim villages, arbitrary detentions, sexual assault and torture."

I wish with all the media attention the situation had improved for the suffering Rohingyas. But it has not. Even the OIC was denied access to visit Muslim camps last year. Just as it happened during the Cyclone Nargis that hit the Rakhine state in 2008, relief items donated by Muslim countries and aid agencies continue to be distributed amply within the Rakhine Buddhists while the same are denied to the Rohingya Muslims by the state authorities. They are starving to death. Many of them are fed tainted food and spoiled grains. Many are risking their lives to find refuge elsewhere.

President Thein Sein has openly said that he does not want the Rohingyas living in his Buddhist country. And what is so disheartening is that even when these Rohingyas are killed in genocidal campaigns inside Myanmar, their neighbors to the west and east won’t accept them as refugees. Most of the Rohingyas have now settled for a life of insecurity as unwanted refugees in many parts of our world.

Who would have thought that we would witness such serious violations against a people some 65 years after the UDHR was adopted by the UN General Assembly?

Of particular concern is the unfettered role played by Wirathu - the abbot of historically influential Mandalay Ma-soe-yein monastery and his 969 Anti-Muslim movements, which sanctifies eliminitionist policies against the Muslims. Despite Wirathu’s outspoken propagation of violent aggression toward Muslims in Burma, government leaders have publicly called him peaceful and good. Demanding the expulsion of all Muslims from Burma, these monks urge the local population to sever all relations with not only the Muslims, but also with what are described as their “sympathizers”. Labeled as national traitors, those Buddhists who associate with Muslims also face intimidation and violence. The hateful rhetoric of the radical monks and the “969” campaign is ominously reminiscent of the hateful propaganda directed at the Tutsi population and their sympathizers in the lead up and during the Rwandan genocide, let alone the Nazi-led Holocaust more than half a century earlier.

Equally problematic is the fact that national and local security forces have been allowed to perpetuate severe human rights abuses and brutal persecution against Muslims with impunity.

In my detailed analysis of the events since last year, drawing upon field reports and eye-witness accounts from inside Myanmar, I have concluded that the Rohingyas of Myanmar are facing genocide, and nothing short of it. The elimination of the Rohingya and other Muslim minorities there has sadly become a national project enjoying widespread support within the Buddhist community – home and abroad. Deplorably, even Aung Saan Suu Kyi is a party to this crime! It is high time for the world community to stop this process before it is too late.

On December 14, University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee, hosted the first international conference in the USA on the plight of the Rohingya people of Myanmar – “Stop Genocide and Restore Rohingya’s Citizenship Rights in Myanmar.” It was jointly hosted by the Burmese Rohingya American Friendship Association (BRAFA) and the Rohingya Concern International (RCI) in collaboration with the Ethnic Studies program at the university. Amongst others I was invited to speak at the conference.

The conference opened with a welcome speech from BRAFA’s chairman – Mr. Shaukhat Kyaw Soe Aung (MSK Jilani) and Dr. Chia Vang of the Ethnic Studies program at the university. The program was conducted by Mr. Mohiuddin Yosuf, President of the RCI and Chief Coordinator of the conference organizing committee. Amongst others, the speakers included - Professor Greg Stanton of the Genocide Watch (George Mason University), Mr. Nurul Islam of ARNO (UK), Sheikh Ziad Hamdan of Islamic Society of Milwaukee, Professor Abid Bahar from Montreal (Canada), and Dr. Nora Rowley of the Vulnerable Population Health and Well-Being.

In his speech, Professor Greg Stanton discussed the obvious similarities faced by the Rohingyas of Myanmar with those of Tutsis in Rwanda. They are victims of eight stages of genocide – Classification, Symbolization, Dehumanization, Organization, Polarization, Preparation, Extermination and Denial. "The first stage of genocide is classification, where you classify a whole group of people as somehow outside the citizenship of the country," said Stanton. "One of the things we've learned about genocide is it's a process, not an event," Stanton said. "And these early warning signs are ones to take very seriously."

In her speech, Dr. Rowley shared eye-witness accounts of suffering of the Rohingya people in which the government continues to play its evil role towards elimination of this persecuted people. Professor Bahar discussed history of the Rohingya people and shared his encounter with them as a field researcher in the late 1970s.

The conference participants called upon the Government of Myanmar to (1) restore full citizenship rights of all the stateless Rohingya minorities living inside Burma and to all those who were forced to seek a life of unwanted refugee outside as a result of government-orchestrated violence against them; (2) stop persecution, discrimination and dehumanizing of Muslims, including repealing laws and policies that enact or contribute to the persecution of Muslims and other targeted groups within Myanmar; (3) crack down on anti-Muslim violence against Rohingya and other Muslims; (4) allow an international independent investigation of the anti-Muslim violence; (5) stop the criminal activities of Buddhist monk Wirathu and his 969 movement, and punish them for causing suffering of the Muslim victims; (6) guarantee safety and security of the Rohingya people and other minority Muslims and Christians living inside Myanmar; (7) compensate for the loss of lives and properties of all those affected by the cleansing pogroms since May 28, 2012; (8) allow for relocation of the victims to their original places; (9) allow unfettered access of the international UN agencies, non-government organizations, including the OIC, to closely monitor the violence prone Rakhine state and allow them to aid the Muslim victims.

The conference participants called upon UN Security Council to authorize armed intervention in Myanmar by a UN force under Chapter Seven of the UN Charter; the Mandate must include protection of Rohingya civilians and humanitarian workers and a No Fly Zone over the Rakhine state; the Rules of Engagement must be robust and include aggressive prevention of killing. They urged the major military powers (e.g., the USA, Russia and the UK) to provide leadership, logistics, airlift, communications, and financing. In the event that Myanmar won’t permit entry, the conference called for suspension of its UN membership.

They also called upon the International Criminal Court in the Hague to prosecute Wirathu and other instigators of crimes against humanity. They also urged the Veto powers to enforce harsh measures against the political and military leaders of Myanmar for lack of progress in matters of human rights and restoration of citizenship rights of the Rohingya people.

 

Saturday, December 21, 2013

THE FIRST INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE IN THE USA ON THE ROHINGYAS OF BURMA (MYANMAR)


THE DECLARATION FROM THE FIRST INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE IN THE USA ON THE ROHINGYAS OF BURMA (MYANMAR)

The 1-day human rights conference on the plight of the Rohingya people of Myanmar – “Stop Genocide and Restore Rohingya’s Citizenship Rights in Myanmar”, held in the campus of University of Wisconsin, Milwaukee on December 14, 2013 passed the following resolutions:

1. The Rohingya people, who mostly live in the western Rakhine state of Myanmar, are the most persecuted people in our time.

2. The tragic events unraveling since May 28, 2012 have made it obvious that the Rohingya people are victims of eight stages of genocide – Classification, Symbolization, Dehumanization, Organization, Polarization, Preparation, Extermination and Denial, as clearly documented by Professor Gregory H. Stanton, President of Genocide Watch.

a)      The level of anti-Muslim intolerance, hatred and xenophobia had simply no parallel in our time! Extremists have denied the very existence of the Rohingya people, in spite of the fact that the latter group has comprised almost a third of the population of the Rakhine State.

b)      The genocidal campaigns against Muslims has resulted in deaths of many and internal displacement of some quarter million Muslims inside Myanmar.

c)       Since May 28, 2012, national government actions and policies continue to be the main source of brutal persecution and human rights abuses that in effect has led to the ethnic cleansing of Rohingya.

d)      Of particular concern is the unfettered role played by Wirathu - the abbot of historically influential Mandalay Ma-soe-yein monastery and his 969 Anti-Muslim movements, which sanctifies eliminitionist policies against the Muslims. Despite Wirathu’s outspoken propagation of violent aggression toward Muslims in Burma, government leaders have publicly called him peaceful and good. Demanding the expulsion of all Muslims from Burma, these monks urge the local population to sever all relations with not only the Muslims, but also with what are described as their “sympathizers”.Labeled as national traitors, those Buddhists who associate with Muslims also face intimidation and violence. The hateful rhetoric of the radical monks and the “969” campaign is ominously reminiscent of the hateful propaganda directed at the Tutsi population and their sympathizers in the lead up and during the Rwandan genocide, let alone the Nazi-led Holocaust more than half a century earlier.

e)      National and local security forces have been allowed to perpetuate severe human rights abuses and brutal persecution against Muslims with impunity.

The conference participants hereby call upon –

1. The Government of Myanmar to restore full citizenship rights of all the stateless Rohingya minorities living inside Burma and to all those who were forced to seek a life of unwanted refugee outside as a result of government-orchestrated violence against them.

2. The Government of Myanmar to stop persecution, discrimination and dehumanizing of Muslims, including repealing laws and policies that enact or contribute to the persecution of Muslims and other targeted groups within Myanmar.

3. The Government of Myanmar to crack down on anti-Muslim violence against Rohingya and other Muslims.

a. It must also allow an international independent investigation of the anti-Muslim violence.

b. It must stop the criminal activities of Buddhist monk Wirathu and his 969 movement, and punish them for causing suffering of the Muslim victims.

c. It must guarantee safety and security of the Rohingya people and other minority Muslims and Christians living inside Myanmar failing which it can be prosecuted for orchestrating and/or encouraging crimes against humanity.

d. It must compensate for the loss of lives and properties of all those affected by the cleansing pogroms since May 28, 2012.

e. It must allow for relocation of the victims to their original places.

f. It must allow unfettered access of the international UN agencies, non-government organizations, including the OIC, to closely monitor the violence prone Rakhine state and allow them to aid the Muslim victims.

4. The UN Security Council to authorize armed intervention in Myanmar by a UN force under Chapter Seven of the UN Charter. The Mandate must include protection of Rohingya civilians and humanitarian workers and a No Fly Zone over the Rakhine state. The Rules of Engagement must be robust and include aggressive prevention of killing.

5. The International Criminal Court in the Hague should prosecute Wirathu and other instigators of crimes against humanity. It should also look into prosecuting the major political and military leaders in Myanmar that are responsible for crimes against humanity.

6. The major military powers (e.g., the USA, Russia and the UK) to provide leadership, logistics, airlift, communications, and financing.

a. If Myanmar will not permit entry, its UN membership should be suspended.

b. The lack of progress in matters of human rights of the Rohingya and other non-Buddhist minorities inside should automatically lead to enforcement of harsh measures which include trial of Myanmar’s leaders in an international criminal court for committing and aiding crimes against humanity.

For more information, please contact the following:-

(1) Shaukhat Kyaw Soe Aung (aka) MSK Jilani

BRAFA Chairman & Chair of the Conference Organizing Committee

Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

Tel: (414) 736 4273, E-mail: info.brafa@yahoo.com

(2) Mohiuddin Yosuf (aka) Maung Sein

President of RCI & Chief Coordinator of the Conference Organizing Committee

Tel: (202) 594 2548, E-mail: rci2008usa@gmail.com

 

 

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Indian Diplomat arrested for visa fraud in NY

An Indian diplomat in NY - Devyani Khobragade - was recently arrested in New York. According to the U.S. attorney’s office, Khobragade was helping her nanny fill out fake visa forms that claimed the diplomat was paying her $4,500 (U.S.) a month, which works out to $3,927 a month more than the woman’s actual $3.31-an-hour salary, which they documented in a secret contract. The irony of the whole episode is that in the past year, Khobragade has repeatedly spoken to the media in connection to her duties as an advocate for “underprivileged” women’s rights. And now she seems caught red handed for taking advantage of her own nanny.

The information concerning her arrest can be seen by clicking here, here and here.

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Bengal under the English Rule (1757-1905) – An Analysis


When Bengal was colonized by the East India Company in the second half of the 18th century, it was the richest jewel on the British crown. Bengal by then had been ruled under Muslim rule for nearly six centuries. During this long period from 1203 to 1757, as the rulers of the territory of Bangalah (Bengal), Muslims held the administrative positions. And yet, when the territory was divided in 1905 – less than 150 years of English colonization – into East Bengal, which was to later become the province of East Pakistan in 1947 and subsequently the independent People’s Republic of Bangladesh in 1971, and West Bengal, which was to later become a state within the Republic of India – the Muslims of Bengal lagged behind their Hindu counterparts economically and politically. Why?

To understand the causes, it is necessary that we have a fairly good grasp of the political, economic and social landscape of the territory, at least dating back to the time of the fall of the last independent Nawab of Bengal – Siraj-ud-Dowla in 1757.

The Hindu ascendancy in Bengal was not entirely a British phenomenon. As a matter of fact, a section of Hindu community had prospered beyond measures during the Muslim, i.e., pre-1757 English, rule of Bengal. Many of them held important positions as ministers and generals during the Sultanate period of Ilyas Shah, before the Mughals came in the political scene of India. (Dr. Abdul Karim, Banglar Etihash, tr. History of Bengal: the Sultani Period, Dhaka (1998), p. 413) Many Hindus became filthy rich through such positions, and others through money lending to actually become the bankers (like the Rothschild family of our time) to the Nawab, and regrettably played the devious role which facilitated the downfall of the Nawabi rule.

During the Mughal period, Bengal existed mostly as one of its outlying provinces or Diwans and was locally administered by a Subedar (provincial governor), who acted as the representative of the Emperor. The Subedar was responsible for collecting taxes and revenues from subjects, a portion of which had to be sent to the Emperor and the remainder kept for meeting expenses for welfare of the province. He also maintained a standing army and police force to protect the territory against any potential attack from outside and preserve law and order. Land tax collection (usually a fifth of the agricultural produce) was done through the zamindars. (Ibid., p. 411) [In rare cases, e.g., in Benapole and Ghoraghat, feudal lords existed who instead of collecting taxes from the peasants paid an agreed upon sum of money as tax to the Muslim sultan to show his subservience to the higher authority. (ibid., p. 418)]

In Bengal, which was a Muslim majority territory, most of the zamindars were Muslims during the greater part of Sultani and Mughal rule (until 1717). But things started changing drastically from 1717 onward when Murshid Kuli Khan became the Subedar of Bengal, Bihar and Orissa (today’s Odissa and Jharkhand states of India). He held the position for ten years until 1727. During his rule, the Izaradar system emerged in which instead of the zamindars this new group became tax and revenue collectors. (Jadunath Sarkar, History of Bengal, 2nd vol., Dacca, 1948, p. 409) Within just two to three generations they were able to replace the zamindars and came to be known as not only zamindars but also in places as Rajas and Maharajas.

All the chosen Izaradars during Murshid Kuli Khan’s tenure were Hindus. He did this in order to avoid competition from fellow Muslim nobles who might vie for his high position. Before him, as noted by renowned historians in their vast works, all the top administrative positions were held by Muslims, esp. from the Uttar Pradesh. (Salimullah, Tarikh-e-Bangalah, pp. 403-4, 454)

The latter Nawabs of Bengal simply followed the precedence of keeping Hindu Izaradars, established by Murshid Kuli Khan. By 1757, when Nawab Siraj-ud-Dowla became the ruler of Bengal, these Hindu administrators had become strong enough to conspire and bring about his downfall. But there were some exceptions, as much as some of the Muslim nobles betrayed the Nawab during the fateful Battle of Plassey (1757) and sided with the forces of the East India Company that was led by Robert Clive.

One such betrayer, Mir Jafar, who came to be known as Lord Clive’s Donkey, became the next Nawab and his reign lasted only 3 years (1757-60). In a revolving door politics, he was replaced by Mir Kasim who tried to go against the wishes of the East India Company. He, too, was dethroned in 1763, and Mir Jafar was put back to power for the second time. After his death in 1765, his inept son Najm-ud-Dowla (1765-66) and younger brother Saif-ud-Dowla (1766), followed by son Mubarak-ud-Dowla ruled in succession.

By 1765, after the victory at the Battle of Buxar, the East India Company had won the Diwani (representation) from the Mughal Emperor, becoming the virtual ruler of Bengal, Bihar and Orissa. Those Nawabs since the fall of Siraj-ud-Dowla were merely title-holders by name only, and nothing else, for which they earned a pension out of the share of the collected revenue.

During Robert Clive’s dual rule, until 1774, the task of revenue collection was still at the hands of the puppet Nawabs who collected the same through their Hindu representatives – the nayeb-diwans (tax collectors/Izaradars). His EIC did not have the wherewithal to collect such taxes through its English employees and thus relied upon already existing system.

As to the share of the collected taxes, here is a breakdown: the Mughal emperor Shah Alam II in Delhi earned 2.6 million taka, the Nawab of Bengal 3.2 million taka and the East India Company (EIC) the rest of the collected revenue. (Anisuzzaman, Muslim Manosh o Bangla Shahitya (tr. Muslim Mindset and Bengali Literature), 1757-1918, Dhaka (1964), p. 6) [Note: Before Sultan Bahadur Shah Jafar was dethroned in the aftermath of the Sepoy Mutiny, he used to get a pension of 100,000 taka per month. Similar to Bengal, although the official date for downfall of the Mughal Empire is noted as 1857, the actual fall happened much earlier in 14 September, 1803, when General Lake of the EIC moved into Delhi with his British troops after capturing Aligarh. Since then Mughal rulers were drawing pension money from the EIC. (Jaswant Singh, Jinnah: India, Partition and Independence)] Under the EIC administration, taxes multiplied exponentially and consequently, people suffered miserably.

Muslim peasants (i.e., the Rayats) who were at the bottom of the economic pyramid were the worst sufferers in this revenue collection system. It is worthwhile sharing here a letter from Lord Clive, dated 30 September, 1765, published in the Court of Directors of the EIC. He wrote: “The source of tyranny and suppression opened by the European agents acting under the authority of the Company’s servants and the numberless black agents and sub-agents acting also under them, will, I fear, be a lasting reproach to the English name in this country.” (Romesh Dutt, The Economic History of India under early British Rule, 3rd ed., London (1908), p. 37) As already hinted, those so-called black agents were local Hindu tax collectors.

It should be also noted here that before the Battle of Plassey, Bengal was a very rich, prosperous province with enough for everyone to live a very decent life. As a matter of fact, the inhabitants of Bengal had a much better standard of living compared to most Europeans living at the time. But under the British rule, the tax burden became simply unbearable rising fivefold (from 10% to 50% of the value of the agricultural product) within a very short period of time. The agriculture sector was ruined by a faulty system, which encouraged cotton, opium poppy and indigo production over rice cultivation. Moreover, the EIC cared only about tax/revenue collection and nothing else. They did not do anything to improve the irrigation system.

To make things worse, the EIC imported products enjoyed duty-free entry into the local market while the reverse was not true for local made products, e.g., muslin, into the European market. The entire internal and external trade was monopolized by the EIC. The weavers were forced to weave cotton yarns beyond their capacity. Even under such savage, brutal, inhuman and ruthless work environment and tiring and back-breaking workdays, they would be paid so little that they could ill-afford having a full meal at the end of the day. Hunger and starvation was their lot. Many cut their own thumbs to avoid being put to this kind of forced labor, others sold everything including even their children to escape being punished by the revenue collectors, and many fled the country. (Ibid., Dutt, pp. 23-27)

In 1769 the EIC directors issued the new directives stipulating that the peasants should be forced to produce raw material and not finished cotton or silk (resham in Bangla) products, and that such activities could only be done in company owned properties (and not at farmer’s cottage). (Ibid., p. 45) Due to unfair trade practices, soon the entire cotton, muslin and silk industry got ruined. With one-way of flow of money out to the Great Britain, while nothing spent for the good of the farmers and the local people, it was only a question of time when a great famine would ravage the country. That ominous event came in 1770 when a third of the population, nearly ten million people, starved to death what has been called the Great Famine of Bengal even though that year the EIC had the highest collection of revenue ever from the land. (ibid., pp. 52-53)

The EIC also came up with a new system for revenue collection. It is called the Sunset Law in which if either a revenue collector (i.e., zamindar) or a rayat (land holder) had failed to pay the previously decreed revenue by a certain sunset time, his territory would be auctioned off to the highest bidder. Almost all of these bidders were Hindu administrative officials, previously employed by Muslim zamindars. Many of them deliberately faulted upon payment on behalf of the Muslim zamindar so that later he could bid for the same territory using zamindar’s money. Many of the new zamindars were Hindu officials employed within the EIC’s government. These bureaucrats were ideally placed to bid for lands that they knew to be under-assessed and thereby profitable. In addition, their position allowed them to quickly acquire wealth through corruption and bribery. They could also manipulate the system to possess the land that they targeted.

So by 1790 all on a sudden most of the zamindars or revenue collectors happen to come from the Hindu community who were mostly absentee landlords that managed their newly acquired zamindary through local managers. Those new zamindars virtually became the oppressive hands of the EIC imposing heavy taxes on the peasants. The situation of Muslims simply worsened after the Permanent Settlement Act, concluded by Lord Cornwallis in 1793, was enacted. Not only did the Muslim nobility, including the zamindars lost their properties, even the well-off farmers started losing their farmland as a result of company policy of high taxes, high usury rates charged by Hindu mahajons (moneylenders) and oppression of the new Hindu zamindars.

The EIC’s policy virtually ruined not only the agricultural sector in Bengal but destroyed its rural cottage industry. Consider, e.g., the case of Muslin – the finest fabric ever woven in the world, which weighed less than 10 grams per square yard. Till 1813, Dhaka muslin continued to sell in London with 75 per cent profit and was cheaper than the local British make fabrics. Alarmed at this competition, the British imposed 80 per cent duty on the imported Bengali product. But more than the duty, the EIC was bent on ruining the muslin trade by introducing machine-made yarn, which was introduced in Dhaka by 1817 at one-fourth the price of the Dhaka yarn. The Muslin weavers were also paid so little that their families remained hungry. Another unsavory fact associated with the destruction of this Dhaka Muslin industry was that the thumbs and index fingers of many yarn makers were chopped off by the British in order to prevent them from twisting the finer yarns required for the muslins, which would reduce the competitive edge that Muslin had enjoyed thus far over its counterpart fabrics made in Europe. While the machine generated British yarn was uniform in quality, something which could no longer be maintained by skilled weavers under inhuman company policy and practices, in 1840, Dr Taylor, a British textile expert, admitted: "Even in the present day, notwithstanding the great perfection which the mills have attained, the Dhaka fabrics are unrivalled in transparency, beauty and delicacy of texture." The count for the best variety of Dhaka muslin was 1800 threads per inch, while the lesser varieties had about 1400 threads per inch.

With the destruction of the Muslin industry, in Dhaka alone, the population reduced from 150,000 to nearly 30,000. (Romesh Dutt, The Economic History of India in the Victorian Age, 3rd ed., London (1908), p. 105)

Next consider the case of rice cultivators who were forced to grow indigo in their fields. The indigo planters who were Europeans left no stones unturned to make money. They mercilessly pursued the peasants to plant indigo instead of food grains. They provided loans, called dadon at a very high interest rate. Once a farmer took such loans he remained in debt for whole of his life before passing it to his successors. The price paid by the planters was meager, only 2.5% of the market price. So the farmers could make no profit by growing indigo. The farmers were totally unprotected from the brutal indigo planters, who resorted to mortgage or destruction of their property if they were unwilling to obey them. Government rules favored the planters who owned some 400 plantation sites in Bengal in the early 19th century. (Romesh Dutt, The Economic History of India under early British Rule, 3rd ed., London (1908), p. 270)

By an Act in 1833, the planters were granted a free hand in oppression of the peasants. Even the Hindu zamindars, money lenders and other influential persons like Raja Ram Mohan Roy and Darokanath Thakur sided with those oppressive planters. Sadly, the latter two Hindu intellectuals, both then die-hard supporters of the EIC rule in Bengal, propagated the myth that peasants were living happily under the Indigo Plantations. (A.R. Desai, Social Background of Indian Nationalism, 2nd ed., Bombay (1954), p. 113) Most of the oppressed peasants were Muslims. Facing severe oppression unleashed on them the farmers resorted to revolt against the joint forces of Indigo planters, EIC and the local Hindu zamindars, mahajons and their agents. But their resistance did not succeed against the superior and more lethal weapons used by the opposing side. After the failure of the Sepoy Mutiny of 1857, as a matter of fact, the oppression of the Indigo planters increased dramatically against the Muslim peasants, which in turn resulted in several protests across East Bengal.

In 1860 the British Raj was forced to investigate the matter and come up with new laws to curtail the oppression of the Indigo planters. A year earlier, in 1859, likewise the Bengal Rent Act allowed certain allowances to peasants against the zamindars and money-lenders. (Dutt, The Economic History of India in the Victorian Age, p. 263)

Many of the Hindu zamindars were outright bigots and would penalize Muslim men heavily for keeping beard. In Sarfarazpur when the Muslim rayats declared not to pay such fines, they were attacked by Hindu vandals and their mosques were burned down. When their complaints were unheard in the police thana, the matter was brought to the notice of the Magistrate who also did nothing against the offenders. Then the matter was eventually brought to the notice of Calcutta Commissioner. When he, too, did nothing to redress the matter, Muslim peasants revolted under the leadership of Titu Mir. In Laoghata the oppressive Hindu zamindar Debnath Roy was killed. Muslim peasants also attacked Indigo plantations. But their resistance against the joint forces of the EIC, Hindu zamindars and mahajons could not last long against heavy weapons used by the English magistrates Alexander and Scott. Titu Mir and many of his gallant revolutionaries died in the battle field, and many were taken prisoners to serve long terms.

Hindu zamindars also imposed several types of taxes on Muslim peasants for Hindu festivals like the Durga puja. When Muslim peasants refused to pay such taxes they were beaten and their properties grabbed by Hindu zamindars. Dudu Mia (d. 1860), son of Haji Shariatullah, led a peasant’s revolt against such practices in Faridpur. To discourage such revolts, the Hindu zamindars filed false cases against Dudu Mia and his lieutenants. Dudu Mia was imprisoned and died in Alipur Prison in 1860. [Interestingly, in Sheikh Mujib’s Incomplete Memoirs (published in Bangla by the University Press, Dhaka) he also mentions how the Hindu zamindars and landlords were adept in making those false cases against Muslim peasants in the early 20th century.]

An analysis of the post-Nawabi period in Bengal, thus, shows the very dismal state of Muslims. They had not only lost the political leadership at the top but had also fallen behind in all other counts.

As William Hunter’s report showed, Muslim upper and educated class before the EIC rule held mostly four important positions – defense, tax and revenue collection (which, as we have already noted, was transferred to Hindus by the time Nawab Murshid Kuli Khan), judicial and political administration. (W.W. Hunter, The Indian Musulmans, 3rd ed. London (1876)) With the replacement of the Muslim local nawabs and zamindars by the Hindu new masters, many Muslims started losing their jobs, and their economic conditions suffered miserably. With the EIC acquisition of Muslim Waqf properties through a series of laws enacted between 1793 and 1828, Muslim education, social and cultural institutions started suffering also. (A. R. Mallick, British Policy and the Muslims of Bengal, Dacca (1961), p. 32-3)

When English eventually replaced Farsi as the official language, Muslims found themselves in much disadvantage in the government employment sector, and they were no match against better educated and prepared Hindus. Between 1793 and 1814, the task of English education was essentially led by Christian missionaries, who with their too obvious aggressive missionary zeal and anti-Muslim bias helped further to discourage Muslim parents from sending their children to such English institutes. Many conservative Hindus, too, did not like to send their children to those Christian missionary schools.

For educated Hindus replacing Farsi with English was, however, not as emotionally challenging as it was for most Muslims, who resisted the change for a plethora of reasons. It is always difficult for the vanquished to adore anything from the victor. The Hindus, on the other hand, who were, politically speaking, second-class during the Muslim rule of India, saw the emerging opportunity with the old order being replaced with the new, and grabbed it faster and strongly. To further accelerate their climb up on the new ladder, set by the EIC, and later the British Raj, some of the Hindus did not mind even converting to Christianity.

In his doctoral work Professor Anisuzzaman challenged the notion that Muslims lagged behind Hindus in picking up English education on grounds of religion. With the closure of Islamic endowments and institutions, and lack of funding from the top, especially the EIC, the number of Muslim students declined. (Anisuzzaman, op. cit., pp. 28-36)

But more importantly, it was the poor economic condition of the Muslim peasants overall which did not allow them to send their children to modern English schools. For them to have some rudimentary Islamic education in the madrasa and then help out in the agricultural sector was considered more fruitful. Most of the schools where English was initially taught in the early 19th century were also located in and around Calcutta, and not around northern and eastern parts of Bengal where Muslims comprised a solid majority. As Professor A.R. Mallick argued, the EIC educational policy favored the Hindus rather than the Muslims. (Op. cit., pp. 189-93) Even when in 1833, English was included as a subject within the madrasa curriculum it did not help much in improving literacy rate amongst Muslims of Bengal, again because of poverty.

Economically, the Hindu community was better off during the EIC rule and could, therefore, afford to send its children to schools to get better educated, which helped them to get employed easily. These educated Hindus also favored their own community in every field further narrowing down the scope for upward mobility amongst the already disadvantaged Muslim community. A Hindu zamindar would often discourage Muslim education in his territory and would rather force a brilliant Muslim student who was desirous of attending college to become Magistrate one day to work in his office as a clerk or an attendant. If the Muslim father resisted such suggestions, often times he would be punished and his properties grabbed by the zamindar.

By 1851 only two Muslim students appeared in the Junior Scholarship Examinations from Kolkata Madrasa (one was Abdool Luteef). In the same period, likewise, only two Muslim students appeared in the same exam from Hooghly College, established by philanthropist Haji Mohsin. (Bimanbehari Majumdar, History of Political Thought, Calcutta (1934), vol. 1, p. 392) It is also worth noting here that tuition fees charged in madrasas were less than a quarter compared to Hindu schools where English was taught. But English was not introduced in Calcutta Madrasa until 1854. By 1856, the Muslim students comprised only about ten percent of the entire student population of Bengal – e.g., 731 out of a total of 7216. (Mallick, op. cit., pp. 277-8) In the school year of 1856-57 a total of 158 Muslim students took the English education and 7 passed the Junior Scholarship Exam in 1856. (ibid., pp. 253-5)

The Hindu community also had community leaders like Raja Ram Mohan Roy and Ishwar Chandra who not only approved the British policy in Bengal, but also encouraged its folks to quickly adopt the English education which would benefit them in every aspect, and this their community did almost religiously. In 1816, Ram Mohan Roy collaborated with English educationists to establish the Hindu College. The graduates of this college played a vital role later. In 1824 the Sanskrit College was established to preserve and educate on Hindu culture.

Under British patronage, the history of India started to be rewritten distorting facts, periodizing her history along religious lines, showing that the majority Hindus were better off under British rule compared to under Muslim rule. Many of the educated Hindus enthusiastically participated in this divide-and-rule game, seeding the ground for partition of India in 1947. The poisonous role of Bengali Hindu writers like Bankim Chandra was highly problematic who helped to further widen the religious divide. The middle-class Hindus created social clubs, exclusively for Hindus, to propagate Hindutvadi philosophy, towards a future Hindu (Ram) Raj. Even the latter-formed so-called revolutionary, essentially terrorist, cells suffered from distinct anti-Muslim bias and Hindutvadi ideas. (Abul Kalam Azad, India Wins Freedom, Calcutta (1959), pp. 4-5) In 1882, Dayanand Saraswati organized a movement to ban slaughter of cows in India. And then in 1885 when Bal Gangadhar Tilak introduced Shivaji festival probably the death-bell for a united India was rung. As many of the Hindu extremists, Hindutvadis, became important party members within the Indian National Congress, it was not a question of if but when the country would be sliced along religious lines.

In contrast, Muslims were disorganized centrally and their struggles were mostly economic-centric and local, which were directed against oppressive British Raj and their planters, traders and agents – the zamindars and the mahajons. Although the local agents were all Hindus, the revolt movement was never anti-Hindu by any definition. Many Muslim leaders, especially the religious ones, did not call for or dream about the partition of India, and surely not Bengal, along religious lines, and as a matter of fact opposed it wholeheartedly almost to the bitter end.

Muslim community could not compete with and, thus, lagged behind the Hindu community without a modern, savvy intelligentsia, an educated middle class that has learned English and a bourgeoisie, on a substantial scale. What they needed was an intellectual uprising. And this was provided by a very unlikely character – a non-Bengali from Delhi by the name of Sir Syed Ahmed (1817-1898), who in so many ways was what Raja Ram Mohan Roy was for the Hindus of the early 19th century. He, too, like Roy, was a great admirer of the British Raj, and felt that salvation of Muslims lied in English education and cooperation, and not resistance or revolt.

In 1858, Sir Syed Ahmed founded a modern school in Muradabad. In 1864 he established the Translation Society. In 1869 he published a newspaper – Mohamedan Social Reformer. In 1873, he founded the Muslim Anglo-Oriental College in Aligarh, which was to become later Aligarh University and to breed scores of luminous leaders who led the cause of Muslim subjects under the British Raj.  

Not to be overlooked here is also the role of Nawab Bahadur Abdool Luteef Khan (1828-93) of Faridpur who was the first Bengali Muslim to have founded in 1866 the Mohamedan Literary Society in Calcutta, which had dual objectives: discussion around western (European) culture so as to encourage and reform Muslim thinking along that line, and to advise the British Raj through its advisory committees on matters pertaining to Muslims. It was the first of its kind in entire India for the Muslim community. Within four years its membership grew to 500. (Anisuzzaman, op. cit., p. 85)

The titles of Nawab and later Nawab Bahadur were bestowed on Abdool Luteef in 1880 and 1887, respectively, by the British Raj. He, too, like Sir Syed felt that English education was a must for Muslims for moving up the social and economic ladder. He vigorously campaigned for higher education of Muslims, and as a result of his work, the famous all-exclusive Hindu College in Calcutta was renamed Presidency College in which for the first time Muslims could enter.

As noted above, Sir Syed’s Translation Society was contemporary to Luteef’s Literary Society, which enjoyed some financial benefits from the government, usually from the office of the Lt. Governor of Bengal. Many English men of high rank within the British Raj used to join in its meetings. Many Muslim dignitaries like the Sultan of Mysore, Nawab of Oudh (Ajodhya), Nizams of Hyderabad and Murshidabad were its active members. Many of the Literary Society’s pro-British Raj activities ran opposite to those propagated by more conservative elements within the Muslim society which advocated self-rule and resistance and not subjugation and collaboration. It also opposed views of Justice Syed Ameer Ali who had founded the National Mohamedan Association in 1877 and was highly critical of educational policy of the British Raj on matters pertaining to Muslims.

It is obvious that there were serious divisions and disagreements within the Muslim community – from top to bottom. Many of the pro-British Muslim subjects like Sir Syed did not want to join in the national convention for Indian Muslims in 1882 that was called by the National Mohamedan Association.

Nevertheless, the efforts of pro-British pioneers within the Muslim community paid off to better the dismal economic condition of their lot. The awareness level about the benefit of English education under the Raj was much higher, and there were more educated people within the community. With better economy, esp. in the late 18th century, as a result of growing demand of jute and rice, which were mostly produced in Muslim-majority East Bengal, the overall condition of Muslims started taking an upturn. Many of the previously poor Muslim peasants now for the first time could afford to send their children for higher education. Hunter’s report also provided the necessary background for the British Raj to establish madrasas in Chittagong, Rajshahi and Dhaka where English was taught. (Anisuzzaman, op. cit., p. 89) The inclusion of Bengali, Farsi and Arabic subjects as part of the optional curriculum for the bachelor’s degree in Calcutta University and appointment of Muslim teachers for teaching English at the high school level greatly reduced the educational backwardness of Muslims. The scholarship from the Haji Mohammad Mohsin Fund also helped greatly to spread education amongst poor Muslims who previously could not afford paying the tuition and boarding bills.

As a result, in 1871, 14.7% of the Muslim population in Bengal had education at school and college levels. This number rose up to 23.8% by 1881-2. But such advances in literacy rate did not necessarily translate into higher percentage of government jobs since there was no quota system for Muslims in the employment sector, and they had to compete with Hindus for such jobs. 

With competition in jobs came rivalry – social and political, and the short-lived division of Bengal in 1905, which was popular amongst most Muslims but unpopular with Hindus who felt that their monopoly in Calcutta-based trading and commerce was now threatened by raw material producing East Bengal. This rivalry would lead to the foundation of the All India Muslim League in 1906 as a counter weight to the Hindu-dominated Indian National Congress, which was formed much earlier, and eventually to the emergence of a truncated Pakistan with two wings – East Pakistan (formed mostly out of East Bengal) and West Pakistan (which comprised parts of the territories of Punjab, Sindh, North-West Frontier and Baluchistan) separated by India in the middle.