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A Partition of Contingency? Public Discourse in Bengal, 1946–1947

Abstract: The historiography on the Partition of Bengal has tended to see it as a culmination of long-term trends of Hindu and Muslim communalism within the province. This essay offers a counter-narrative to the ‘inevitability’ of the Partition by focusing on Bengali public discourse in the months leading up to the Partition. The possibility of a division generated a large-scale debate amongst the educated in Bengal and they articulated their views by sending numerous letters to leading newspapers, district political and civic organizations and sometimes published pamphlets for local consumption. A critical examination of these public debates for and against Partition reveals the countdown to August 1947 as a period of multiple possibilities. Rather than being pre-determined, the stands for a separate or a United Bengal were contingent in nature. Understanding the genesis provides the starting point and the necessary corrective to evaluate India's path to post-colonial nationhood.

Haimanti Roy
Cambridge University Press (online)