Jaldapara National Reserve Forest once boasted its exotic and lush green beauty with tigers, elephants, deers, chitahas, ghorials, and myriad birds like parrots, mynahas, peacocks, doves, herons, wood-peckers, sparrows, cuckoos, of exotic hues and cacophonies. One can see in the brilliant radiance of blazing sun set the crowd of parrots and sparrows flung over one’s head. Your hair will be flicked with a bird’s sudden swift flight almost touching your head. Somewhere in the upper sky among the tinged cloudlets a lone eagle lazily supervises his vast empire. His eyes glisten, and far flung heavy wings mellow with the reddish white rays of the setting sun. Below down the river men are catching fish still in the languid lapping slimy water. A mist begins to overlap the tree tops of the Jaldapara forest on the opposite side of the park. Dew drops begin to fall on the grass of the park. And our feet are bathed at the embrace of recalcitrant tendrils of long grass decked with dews.

Situated at a distance of 12 Kilometres from Falakata and 20 Kilometres away from Madarihut, Kungnagar Eco Park by the outer fringe of internationally recognised Jaldapara National Reserve Forest once boasted its exotic and lush green beauty with tigers, elephants, deers, chitahas, ghorials, and myriad birds like parrots, mynahas, peacocks, doves, herons, wood-peckers, sparrows, cuckoos, of exotic hues and cacophonies. One can see in the brilliant radiance of blazing sun set the crowd of parrots and sparrows flung over one’s head. Your hair will be flicked with a bird’s sudden swift flight almost touching your head. Somewhere in the upper sky among the tinged cloudlets a lone eagle lazily supervises his vast empire. His eyes glisten, and far flung heavy wings mellow with the reddish white rays of the setting sun. Below down the river men are catching fish still in the languid lapping slimy water. A mist begins to overlap the tree tops of the Jaldapara forest on the opposite side of the park. Dew drops begin to fall on the grass of the park. And our feet are bathed at the embrace of recalcitrant tendrils of long grass decked with dew drops.

a kunki elephant of Kunjnagar beat bunglow

The half naked mahout with a wet napkin somehow fastened around his loin bathes and brings his elephant back home standing on the back of the giant elephant with a small knife in her hands. It is a regular scene of evening. One day I with my wife and daughter was walking around the park. We are in the in the middle of the path looking at the parrots sitting and flitting among the tall lean trees. Just then my daughter noticed the huge a tamed elephant with the mahout standing on it with a small knife and a huut huut sound approaching us. My daughter and wife screamed and we made our way quickly to the bush, leaving the path of the elephant’s pass vacate. And the mahout while passing, however, assures us, ‘no fear, he will do no harm.’ Now the evening descended. It’s a closing bell. Most visitors already left the park. All birds took shelter on the branches. Only a lone small pitch black bird, we call it fingi raja, still perched on the crest of a sleek lean bamboo. We left the park.

sara, my daughter

The park Before colonial period the area was a deep forest and rare tribes lived on its honey and timber. Then the British came and planted tree gardens clearing and cutting the forest with the help of the coolies collected from Jharkhand. These coolies later become the tea tribals of Dooars. Rural economy was destroyed, and the forest depleted day by day.

You have to pass first Kunjnagar haat to visit Kunjnagar Eco-Park. This haat was a legacy of the British . The haat, otherwise sleepy with a few tin huts and sheds, wore a festive look especially on Sunday. The tea labourers, farmers, rickshaw paddlers, lottery sellers, milk men, vegetable and fruit sellers, meat and fish sellers, quack doctors begin to crowd the haat one by one from noon onward. More time passes, more people come. By the sunset it is abuzz with shouts and cries of the village sellers and buyers. From a mile or two in the evening the tiny bulbs with their dim flickering make its existence known. During rain or power cut the shop keepers light the lanterns and candles. The haat looks eerie with dim lights, and dark buyers. People come from nearby neighborhoods to buy domestic needs and to erase the stains of days’ drudgery. They buy vegetables, groceries, medicines, meat and fish, take a cup of tea or drink a pot of haria, chew vaaga and gossip with friends and acquaintances. The visitors range from the children of seven to the wrinkled eighty. Everybody is in his or her own pursuits. Children along with teenage crowd televaja shops of chowmin, samosas, pakoras. The middle aged and the elderly gather in tea shops. They sip tea with sipping sounds and tell the story of local politics and domestic problems—finding a suitable match for his MA (distance mode) pass daughter, the winners of lottery of the day or week, amassing wealth by village netas by pilfering Govt. fund, marriage of a school master and his elahi arrangement of foreign liquors for the guests, deaths by snake-biting and drinking excessive alcohol, flood of 12th August, 2017 when people caught fish in the yard and swam in the street, adultery of a youthful widow or elopement and arrest. Light of last rays of the sun disappear, the stars begin to bloom, and the two days moon smiles in one corner of the sky. Now the buzz of the bazaar has waned. The people thin, but still they are buying for tomorrow. The elderly with torchs and lathis make their way homes a while ago. Some sellers are packing after the day’s brisk buck. By 9 pm the shops are all closed. The haat is deserted, and stray dogs take the verandas and the sheds of the haat as sleeping bed rolls. They occasionally bark at the movement of a jackal and chase it. The rats scamper and feast on the leftovers.

me at Kungnagar haat at one early wintry morning

By one side of the haat there is a vast uneven playing field where the boys play football in rainy season. In summer the field becomes a sort of breathing resort for the elderly males and females, boys and girls for gossips and rumours of rustic life and scandal. The lungi and dhoti clad men sitting on their haunches smoke biris and chew vaagas (beetle leaves) and pass by chattering days’ monotonous events. The women with cheap cotton sarees and worn out kameezes sit idly on the grass fanning with hand fans made of palm leaves and whispering scandalous rumours of elopement and family quarrels. There is a huge pakur tree at the northern entrance of the haat under which some men are selling singharas, chops, chowmins, egg rolls, papads, boiled eggs, ghughni, etc. and the teenage boys and girls make a beeline before them. The tree has spread its branches in all directions. And the root of the tree is fenced with tiles with images of gods and goddesses. Idle men sit under the tree, some on haunches, some cross legged. It’s a seat of shadow in scorching summer days, and people pass the day’s toil with easy laughter and churlish banter.
There are four or five saloons specialized in Nepali hair cutting and the adivasi young boys are their regular customers. They wear patched jeans and new shoes brought from local footpaths. The haat boasts of three medicine shops where only some first aids and bottles of yellow, red, pink syrup are available. The quack doctors with dubious degrees diagnose the adivasis and the rural folks and give the patients the same tablets for different ailments of dysentery, fever, headache, pain in stomach etc. Among these doctors I like one most, Mr. Kalipada who has got his degree from Dhaka, as his board reads. At first sight you must take him as a shoe-shiner. A man of over sixty with dirty Panjabi and stitched dhuti, wrinkled face and white thin uncombed hair sits on his only old wooden chair with two legs pressed to his chest like a dog in a wintry night. No patient comes. Now he squirms, and now he etches his head and a week’s white beard and mumbles himself. He does not possess basic diagnostic apparatuses like stethoscope, scale for measuring fever, weight machine etc. His only possession is some bottles of syrup and tablets already expired or on the verge of expiry. He looks pale and fatalistic. And his four by six tin roofed hut is smelly and dark with one china bulb and a lantern for emergency during strong wind and rain. The other two quacks—one is a young man of thirty. His room is pucca and has essential medicines and the basic apparatuses. The room is furnished with cheap curtains and a bench for the patients. This doctor’s arrival is also a cause of worry for Mr Kalipada. The third doctor, a man of fifty, well-built, fife feet ten, with a rustic look is chewing paan and talking with a man of his age, both sitting on newly bought red plastic chairs with legs pressed to their chests. He has no concern for patients and is only interested in selling third rated syrups with labels or no labels to the poor peasants and labourers at maximum retail price.
There are two grocery shops, five tea shops, two clothes stores, one fruit shop in this haat. Between the rows of tin shops the vegetable sellers sit on polythene sheets with the produce. On the eastern side there are sheds for meat and dry fish sellers. Milk men with plastic bottles of milk crowd at one extreme corner, and are sitting on their haunches barefoot and smoking biris. At the opposite corner adivasi women are selling haria (local liquor made from rice and herbs). One can see the women with tumblers of haria on their heads queuing to the haat prior to sun set. Men throng there to drink and to be refreshed. One pot of haria weighing 500 ml costs Rs. 20 maximum. The poor tribals with worn out and patched clothes and plastic slippers, and often barefooted, sit and drink till it is dark. Here also beauty conquers. The woman with robust body get more customers than her emaciated and pale counterpart. And one Rukhmini Subbah is a queen for her beauty among haria drinkers. They not only drink from her, also love to surround her, her body odour and broad smile of ease, and her joy of living attract men more to her. She is a tall woman with huge breasts and bust. She wears saree in a fashion so that her mid riff with deep navel remains half-hidden. Men eye her with lust and their eyes glow with desire. Other women haria sellers are poor pallor and attract less customers.
Pigs are slaughtered at a fallow land by the side of the haat. People are watching the skinning of the pig with fixed gazes. The pot bellied butcher with snub nose and gruff voice is cutting the beast to pieces. The offal is thrown into a nearby doba (a small pond) where water is shallow and pitched yellow. He has a hectic day and the customers groan for waiting to be delivered.
In another fringe of the haat some hawkers with fatalistic expressions and unshaven faces and bald and thin-hair heads sit on cross-legged on polythene sacks with worn out, faded sarees, pants, coats, shirts, t-shirts, petticoats, panties, bras, barmudas, blouses, bought once cheap from the relatively rich houses from the Bengali babus of Siliguri, Jalpaiguri, Coochbehar, Alipurduar. Some clothes are hung from the rusted hangers stuck to bamboo poles and fences, and some are spread on the sack with immaculate horizontal and vertical rows, as if shy to be touched. And when the sudden gust of wind from nowhere blows, the clothes flutter in the fashion of proud flags of important days. The customers are generally poor tribal men and women of adjacent neighborhood. Their eyes are black and hair thick. The bodies are pitch-dark. The mothers with their seven months or a year childs fastened with a napkin to their backs, throng before old clothes sellers and diagnose the beauty of their desired articles. The child has a snoring nose and the flies feast on it, and when the child flings out his small juicy tongue out of his mouth to taste the puss the flies make a temporary flight with a buzz. They choose their favourites with wistful eyes, but leave the articles often where they were, hearing the exorbitant cost with an expression of emotional turpitude and sadness, as if they have just encroached into an illegal territory. A sudden spasm comes to nerves and they restore again to their lot of poverty, and pain of daily living. Some buy, however, with a month’s earning all an elegant and costly saree now faded, that once was wrapped to an elite lady’s all fat body and attracted flood of accolades from her known and unknown friends, ‘wow, how beautiful you look, awesome, woo’ and the lady seemed to have been exasperated with their queries for its wherewithal. The desired saree is bought at its one-third cost after much hair-splitting and unbearable bargain that makes the seller mad and he succumbs to the buyer’s insistent pestering at last. That rich faded saree now is draped to a poor and slack, dry tiny breasted tribal mother with sunken eyes and emaciated limbs. She wears it and it hangs like a heap of clothes stuck to her. And when she wears it in the evening after day’s labour, and parries her relatives’ huts with a gait of glow and now she with her new look becomes a topic of hush-hush gossip of the evening among the haria drinker males who eye her with a lust in their black darkening eyes and a twitch on their moustaches , as if they have never come across her before and beat their heads for fail to praise her beauty before.
The haat boasts of its dried fishes and live chickens. It also harbours fresh fishes from nearby many streams and rivulets. It sells dried tobacco leaves and vagga paans and rotten beetle nuts. The farmers sit on their haunches with their field’s produce—potatoes, cabbages, cauliflowers, onions, garlics, brinjals , parbols , skoash, pumpkins, bananas, spinach. Here and there you can see an elderly poor woman sit with fern leaves and tender juicy tendrils of pumpkins. In some corners a lottery seller sizing his tickets. He has a tarpaulin hut with broken plastic chair and a wooden rotten table. He is short and bald, and has a 3 days beard with sunken cheeks and his eyelids are constantly flipping up and down. People gossip of Amrul’s winning a lottery of Rs. 2 lakh yesterday, and with that hope the van pullers and paan sellers check the serials of the tickets with a big dream in their eyes. Zameer plans to buy a ticket and he thinks if he wins a lottery his poverty will go forever. He will reamake his home and live with her wife Abida happy for life. But Kallo intervens, ‘ O, Bhai. Don’t waste hard earned money. Bhavi at home will berate you.’ Zameer after the days labour at a refugee house at Falakata as a mason has not gone home. He will take a cup of tea, a vaaga paan, and buy some vegetables and a syrup for his 3 year child Lebu’s ill health. Zameer leaves the tickets and becomes furious at Kallo, and silent he goes home and thrashes his wife and shouts at her at the top of his voice bringing entire neighbourhood to his home, ‘Kallo, tor vatar ache na ki’, Mui ke na koiya tui Kallo re kos ghorer kotha, magi. Tore ami talak devar naage’.
The haat is heavily crowdwd. You cannot walk without touching somebody. The tribal and peasant school girls with their Sunday dress parry for puchka, chowmin, pakoras and rolls. The young boys working at Jaiga, Phuntschilling (Bhutan) grill or cloth factories, gathered a little far from the girls, smoke cigarettes and chew shekhar and gutkha, and eye the girls for picking a talk with them. A boy and a girl come out of their respective circle and make a deal to pass the coming Sunday at Kunjnagar Park together, sitting by the side of the meandering river running between Jaldapara Forest and Kunjnagr Park and shutting their ears to the songs of the birds and murmurings of the rivulet but drinking beverages and alcohol and munching chips mechanically.

herd of elephants, credit goes to one of my facebook friends, Nihar Ranjan Chaki



sun sinking  and glowing

at Kunjanagar beside the potholed street stood I at blazing sunset lone. The orange

cloudlets scattered the western horizon. Slowly evening descended, and tiny dew

droplets began falling. The birds went home and stopped their songs and fell soon

asleep. But a wayward parrot flicked in the air still. Later a full moon bathed the

harvested field, and crickets sang incessant, and eyes feasted on fireflies’ dance round

the bogs. Frogs croaked, and the clusters of stars hung heavy over me. The silence

broken by the occasional barking of the dogs and motorcycles’ whiz. The air was heavy

with scent of the woods and herbs. Looking at the patterns of the stars and the fireflies I

glimpse a heaven.

a young boy collects for cooking, twigs, and dried leaves from a shredded tea bagan

a young tea labourer collecting dry twigs from a shredded garden at Cooch Bihar Tea Garden, West Bengal

long planted. The garden once boasted of its charm and magic, with lush green foliage,

and the beautiful rain trees spotted the long stretches of the horizon. Now it lost its

charisma; poverty, and illiteracy, and lack of a square meal run its nourishers. The

‘coolies’, once they were so, and they all came from ‘Goomla’, Chhotanagpur, now

Jharkhand. A paltry payment after in weekend, and all they gather to haats, for haria,

and the vegetables, and groceries. Hardworking lot, from sun to moon they labour, now

not in tea gardens, but in some in the houses of Falakata babus.

Visit a haat, and see the charisma of GOD!

labouerers, unfed, half-fed, barefoot, children’s noses running, And the Adivasi women

selling ‘haria’ for a bare living, or somewhere, they even sell their emaciated bodies,

breasts lost the sense

of erection, all dull flesh, and the nipples dried, black.

Body twisted, and scarred, through the years shine, and shower, and male turpitudes,

I see on haats, or in pavements dry, or in bus stops, children sucking pale, pale mothers,

and they try hard to cover breasts with one end of their sullied torn sarees,

Sometimes, mothers don’t care at all men’s lustful gazes. I see it at Gayerkata haat too.


Post-Independence Bengali Muslim Literature: A Study of Select Texts

         Key Keywords: Literature, Bengali Muslim, Identity,                                               Representation
Literature whether it is regional, national or global always inspires, invigorates, and energizes us to look at life’s great mystery and miracle from multitude heterogeneous contours. It deepens the meaning of life in its colourful and painfully beautiful foliages— splendours and glories, hopes and aspirations, loves and expectations, sorrows and tears, strength and endurance, death and doom, diseases and pathos, the courage and resilience of a sea of humanity. And Bengali Muslim literature aims at giving many of the said life’s innate shades to humanity in general and to the Bengali Muslim in particular. From the aesthetic and idealistic sense there cannot be a strict division among so called Hindu literature, Muslim literature, Christian literature, Jewish literature and so on and forth. Literature is a continual striving toward the attainment of the essence of a life. But form a pragmatic perspective divisional heterogeneity and plurality  of literature has indeed been serving many a desired and cherished goals and aspirations of the people of designated literature. Indeed this plurality is an inerasable strength of literature also. If a community is incapable of sustaining and flourishing its own language and literature, that community is bound to lose the sheen of its unique gust of life. In this context comes the issue of Bengali Muslim literati and literature and their undeniable existence of mesmerizing gaze to life’s visceral and cerebral horizons from a distinct Bengali Muslim perspective. This paper aims to establish Bengali Muslim literature as an added milieu to the enrichment of Bengali literature as a whole.Introduction:            Why do we talk of Bengali Muslim Literature? Can we dissect literature into multifarious separated segments based on religion, caste, language, gender, ethnicity, socio-economic backwardness, nationality, age, space, technology, environment, and other unending list of identities and theories (isms) and ideologies? The answer is ‘no’ and ‘yes’ at the same time. Literature itself is self referral, self-sufficient and cannot have any ulterior ends. It is self- contained.  Literature like other arts is primarily thought to please and instruct us.   Pleasure or what we more concisely call aesthetic enduring pleasure is one of the sole determiners of a good literature or a classic. From this perspective literature is for literature’s sake. It cannot have plural designated specialized, bizarre technical and anatomical names. But literature is also thought to have specific roles and goals for voicing the hopes, aspirations, sorrows and pathos of the numberless divided and bordered societies across the world’s vast panorama. That is why literature now comes to be more and more recognized with specialized terms and epithets. There is also the unavoidable nuisance of literary extreme theorization which kills the essence of a literary piece, making it not the exercise of mind (as thought earlier) but simply mathematical and scientific and mechanical process. Whatever it may be, we cannot deny the existence of literature in the name of multiple societal determiners such as the socio-economic disadvantaged and the marginals, religion, ethnicity, language, nationality, age, environment and other plural specificities.  And here comes the question of ‘Bengali Muslim’ literature. Is it possible to divide Bangla Vasha O Sahitya    into such strict religious miniaturization? If there is a Bengali Muslim literature, there also should be, it is naturally expected, a likewise ‘Bengali Hindu’ literature.  I think such division in literature written in a particular language goes against the basics of a much coveted life-enhancing discipline like literature.  But simultaneously it is also true that a literature which does not reflect the hopes and aspirations, endurance and magnanimity of a particular society or community is liable to be treated with discontents and suspicions by the so called ‘Others’. And a literature reflecting the spirit, energy, love and ardour of a community or class can be embraced with ease and comfort by that coterie of people. It is all in human nature.  Literature whether it is regional, national or global always inspires, invigorates, and energizes us to look at life’s great mystery and miracle from multitude heterogeneous contours. It deepens the meaning of life in its colourful and painfully beautiful foliages— splendours and glories, hopes and aspirations, loves and expectations, sorrows and tears, strength and endurance, death and doom, diseases and pathos, the courage and resilience of a sea of humanity. And Bengali Muslim literature aims at giving many of the said life’s innate shades to humanity in general and to the Bengali Muslim in particular. From the aesthetic and idealistic sense there cannot be a strict division among so called Hindu literature, Muslim literature, Christian literature, Jewish literature and so on and forth. Literature is a continual striving toward the attainment of the essence of a life. But form a pragmatic perspective divisional heterogeneity and plurality  of literature has indeed been serving many a desired and cherished goals and aspirations of the people of designated literature. Indeed this plurality is an inerasable strength of literature also. If a community is incapable of sustaining and flourishing its own language and literature, that community is bound to lose the sheen of its unique gust of life. In this context come the issue of Bengali Muslim literati and literature and their undeniable existence of mesmerizing gaze to life’s visceral and cerebral horizons from a distinct Bengali Muslim perspective.Bengali Muslim Literature under Study:

Syed Mustafa Siraj 

The Bengali Muslim literati like Mir Mosharraf  Hossain  and Qazi Abdul Wadud with their love and rational humanity  were the stars of a unique literary flavour enunciating Bengali Muslim life in its vast panoramic hues in colonial Bengal. But the bloom could not last and only Humayun Kabir’s Chatturanga could manage its authority over a period of time. The community losing a host of literary luminaries and many influential heroes because of India’s ‘tryst with destiny’ was in a bad shape. No literature of merit had seen the light of the day for a long period. And after this ebb came the resurgent web of celebrity writers like Syed Mujtaba Ali and Syed Mustafa Siraj.  But they could not voice a radically distinct and differentiated Muslim voice because the country faced newer challenges of partition and communal riots. In this communally charged ambience it was natural for them to refrain from writing which might be considered purely Islamic in character. They both along with other Muslim Bengali litterateurs like Abdul Jabbar and Kabirul Islam writing in the first three decades of independence, and the contemporaries like Abul Bashar, Afsar Ahmed and Sohrab Husain took in content and imagery the local Bengali environment and its uniqueness which was quite different from the pure and pristine Islamic culture as the theme of their creativity. And their writings focus more or less on the local and immediate Bengali Muslim nuances and peculiarities. Their writings are influenced by the tradition of, Hinduism, syncretism and mysticism, and the local colour and flavour. These writers have been a votary not of a pure and prescriptive Islamic voice, but of a new Bengali Muslim perspective and a uniquely Bengali Muslim identity where the emphasis is laid not on Muslim identity first but Bengali ones.[1]

            Abdul Jabbar’s Ilishmarir Char (1959) shows how easily poor and religious fishermen are being duped by the money lender MahajanTorbodi’s oppressive machinations. Their life gets changed only in coming contact with Ratan and Anwar who play a pivotal role in uplifting the fisher folk by providing education and raising class consciousness among them. Abul Bashar’s Surer Sampan (1990) and Dharmer Grahan (1992) depict religion as the major hurdle in otherwise smooth and candid man-woman relationships. The texts recognize that true and noble passions can transcend the so called religious barriers and borders. In Surer Sampan, for instance, music becomes the deep bonding agency between Sohini, daughter of Jafarullah, a music teacher, and Gopal, an unknown boy who grows up under the auspices of Jafarullah. Gopal and Sohini have a deep desire for each other but their wish for marital solemnization falls apart not from Jafarullah’s objections but from the village folk who are dead against Hindu-Muslim marriage in their locality. Sohrab Husain’s Sharam Ali’s Bhuban (2004) also raises issue of religious insincerity of a maulvi who advises him to be sexually restraint for he is a Muslim. Sharam Ali, contrary to maulvi’s advice dreams of beautiful female figures and craves for Fajli’s body anyhow.  He steals mango from the orchard and talks like an atheist for his stomach’s unruly behavioural pattern. Sharam Ali is a radical deviant from the pure Islamic code or way of life. Moreover,    a recurring emphasis by these authors in their other multiple writings on the beauty and truth in the lives of Muslim bauls and fakirs who espouse a mystical syncretistic tradition of humanity and their acceptance of life’s wide diversity and this particular baul or fakir way of life is detested and hated by the insular maulvis and other religious bigots.  Thus, these Bengali Muslim writers mark a charismatic departure from traditional Muslim writings where the emphasis was invariably on the myths and stories of the Prophet Muhammad and other sacred men of Islamic history and civilization, epistles of advice, namely nasihatnamas and hagiographies and other esoteric materials. They, on the other, by their sheer insistence and perseverance, painstakingly endeavour to depict Bengali Muslim life in its naked and sordid immediate reality where the nexus between religious bigotry and monetary oppressions crush the poor and the concept of ‘Islamic Brotherhood’ vanishes. But the humanity and endurance exerted by the oppressed poor and marginalized beacons new directions in the history of Bengali Muslim writings and representations.            This, however, does not suggest that all Bengali Muslim writers of post-independence have criticized normative Islam and distance themselves from the revivalist spirit of pristine Islam. A host of writers like Abdul Aziz al-Aman, Maulana Muhammad Tahir, Abdur Raquib and Abu Atahar have indeed manifested Islamic values and principles through their numerous writings. They are not believers in religious syncretism or cultural reconciliation. They are Muslim in orientation and they firmly hold the Islamic cultural beliefs, values and ethos. Their contribution to Bengali Muslim writings is to either translate some Arabian or Persian books into vernacular language or to write fresh biographies of the prophet and other holy men of Islam. Their writings are encomiastic of Islamic past glories and have an Islamic moral vision and they imbibe Arabic words in Bengali literary structure also. They basically try to write about Islamic thoughts and philosophy and thereby inject a dose of pure Islam into Bengali literary and cultural body. They have been able to make even the pious Muslims understand the need for vernacular language in disseminating Islamic knowledge and belief. They are in many respects pioneers in championing the cause of Bengali Muslim identity and restoring the sense of Muslim pride and prestige in the realm of Bengali (Hinduized) literary and cultural history.Portrayal of nature and rural landscape:            Bengali Muslim literati have an immaculate portrayal of the nature and rural landscape striped with evocative and mesmerizing vignettes of rural life such as ploughing, sowing, hunting, milking, catching fish, etc. These writers have themselves endured poverty and the odd sway of rural haphazard but idyllic life. And their writings often attest to their deep bonding and innate emotional love to the land of their birth and growth. Thus, it is quite natural for their writings to have a unique and exquisite rural flavour with all its wonders and oddities and trajectories.            Syed Mustafa Siraj has vividly portrayed the rural landscape of Bengal and more interestingly he has also based his novels on this rural setting. Kingbadantir Nayak (1969) encapsulates most brilliantly the unalloyed joys and sorrows of a group of unsophisticated people in a village in Uttar Rhar. They protect their fields of harvest by keeping them awake and guarding the fields in the dead of nights.  Trinabhoomi (1970) is a perennial saga of Murshidabad folk life which exhibits the malaise of modern life, society and economy based on indiscriminate urbanization, ever increasing construction of dams, and deforestation which forcibly push the forest people, tribals, milkmen, birdcatchers and agricultural farmers to the extreme margins of human survival race. Siraj’s Janmari (1990) depicts various concerns of contemporary rural life, where the landless generation hurls themselves to dacoity and other criminal activities because of their disgust and disillusion with life. Gulam Abdullah Rasool’s novel Aabad(1969) demonstrates a peasant movement in South 24 Parganas.  Moreover, Afsar Ahmed’s Shanu Alir Nijer Jami (1989), Abul Bashar’s Sparsher Baire (1995) and Sohrab Husain’s Sharam Alir Bhuban (2004)  are also in the same pattern and genre and all are marvelous portrayal of rural life and landscape with all micro and macro layers of human complexity lied there in.  Abdur Raquib’s vigorous stories also portray the rural Bengali Muslim simple and hardworking peasant life with strong moral and ethical concerns.  However, Afsar Ahmed’s Metiaburujer Kissa(2003) is a notable exception for its colour and flavour is urbane and it sets another note of urban Muslim life.Representation of the poor peasants:

            Bengali Muslim writers have also been very vocal and championed the cause of the poor peasants against zamindars’ atrocities and cruelties.  Their writings focus on the plight of the peasants making them conscious of their rights and, thereby, spearheading a protest against the evils of zaminadari system.  Indeed, these writers have been a game changer in the day to day lives of the hard working poor peasants. The effect is that the peasants become more resilient and energized to protect their livelihoods. Such novels as Abdul Jabbar’s Ilishmarir Char, Abdullah Rasool’s Aabad, Mustafa Siraj’s Niranjan Ganga (1980) and Abul Bashar’s Bhorer Prosuti (1991) depict a heartless picture of the peasants’ daily living experiences of the mahajan atrocities and tyrannies.  These texts are sympathetic to the cause of the peasants and they are indicative of a long term solution toward the amelioration of peasants’ problems.  A pungent twist is supplied to the theme of mahajan atrocities by Sohrab Husain’s Math Jadu Jane (2004) which encapsulates the protagonist Qausir Ali’s heart-rending struggle to rescue his two bigha field from the clamped fists of the mahajan whose lust cannot be quenched until he gets the body of Ali’s wife Sabera. One of the most striking features, however, of these writings is that they are a departure from the perspective of colonial writings where the peasants are always Muslims and the zamindars are invariably Hindus. Here community based relationships (Hindu-Muslim) is overpowered by the class interests among the same community members themselves. Afsar Ahmed’s Atma Parichay where the poor sharecropper Gafoor and the mahajan Haji Sahib is an attestation to this thematic paradigm shift.Socio-cultural Issue:            Bengali Muslim writings have also drawn our attention to the prevalent socio-cultural problems which are plaguing the lives of Muslim women who are becoming easy victims to the cumbersome practices of pardah, polygamy and triple talaq. Afsar Ahmed’s writings throw a serious challenge to the concept of shari’at   (the code of laws regulating the spiritual and temporal aspect of Muslim life) itself.  These man-made laws are fetters which stunt a Muslim woman’s hope of exploration of her full individual potency in every walk of life. His Kaalo Borkhar Bibi o Kusumer Gandha ebong Challees Jan Lok (1996) shows pardah as exploitative and inhuman custom which empowers men over women.  The implication is that women are sexually vulnerable and they must be kept in guard. On the first night of her third marriage, Rehana comes to know about her husband’s madness. The novel depicts Rehana’s two worlds—one  behind her veil and the other external to it, inhabited by forty men not immune to the desire for sexual gratification.  The scent of flowers behind the veil intoxicates these men and Rehana becomes an enticing article of consumption.   His Ek Ascharya Bashikaran Kissa (1998) is a virulent attack against polygamy. Maulavi Malukha is a powerful, respected and torch bearer of religious piety and sacredness. But he is obsessed with his physical quenchless desire of bringing home a fourth wife. Ditiya Bibi(1997) captures the trauma of an ordinary man who because of shari’at approval marries two women but he fails to look at his two wives at par, directed in the laws, and ultimately leaves one.  His Bhang Jyotsna (1993) and Bibir Mittha Talakh o Talkher Bibi ebong Halud Pakhir Kissa (1995) is a severe attck on the custom of easy and thoughtless divorce.  This theme of talaq and polygamy is also deftly enunciated in Abul Bashar’s Phoolbou (1988), a narrative of a Musilm widow’s pathos. Razia is Millat’s love, but she is married as the fourth wife of his father, the old Haji. And at the death of his father Millat cannot marry his mother.  And thus Razia, Millat’s love and mother eventually commits suicide having failed to have Millat’s love.  What emerges as one of the dynamics of these writings is the crave and demand for emancipation of Muslim women from the clutches of man-made shari’at which is at odd with the holy Qur’an, the supreme authority in Islam and Islamic way of life.            Another facet of perspective is added to this genre by Kamaal Husain who depicts most evocatively the sense of fear, insecurity, mistrust and alienation of the Bengali Muslim society of contemporary West Bengal. His Param Biswaser Gandha, Shikarer Prabaha and Swatantra Baranda(1990-2005) is a massive trilogy narrating the growing up of a young ordinary Muslim girl Sufia from adolescence to menopause. The texts are besmeared with her story of successes and failures, hopes and aspirations, dreams and desires, struggles and afflictions—all are part of her project of survival and recognition of her minority identity amid all odds and obstacles and prejudices. In a word Sufia’s story is somewhat representative of the strive for the establishment of Bengali Muslim unique identity facing and overcoming all odds in a Hindu majority land.  Husain’s hero Dr. Haneef in his novel Taeefa is afraid of being accused in the name of terrorism, treason.  There is a fear psychosis playing unconsciously on his inner self without any rhyme or reason. The text raises a host of holistic concerns of  Bengali Muslims’ identity and  dignity in the backdrop of increasing terrorist activities.  If a Muslim terrorist is caught, the whole society has to pay price for it because of their no faults at all. They are then needed to prove their nationality and patriotism. His short stories Anuprabesh and Bhay also enunciate the perennial fear and anxiety of being identified with terrorists, ISI agents, Bangaldeshis, under which the Muslims of Bengal have to survive. Husain’s writing has created a niche for him in the oeuvre of Bengali literature and culture.The Uniqueness:            Bengali Muslim literature with its emphasis on its local elements such as language, dress, food habit, indigenous customs and rituals, beliefs and creeds, daily living hardships and strivings, dreams and desires of immediate life along with its focus on conciliatory and assimilatory aspects of Islam is a much avowed phenomenon to be reckoned with grace and magnitude in the growth and development of the oeuvre of Bengali literature and culture. It is neither purely Islamic nor Muslim in orientation nor is it entirely divorced from its immediate local colour and setting, flora and fauna, people and customs, hopes and dreams, struggles and strivings.  These writers seem to have been less concerned with pristine Islam with its strict rules and regulations. Rather they have found elements of synthesis and reconciliation in Islam with other venerable cultures, especially the Hinduism for their context and treatment. The authors, however, despite their seemingly non-Islamic credentials can never be alleged to have imbibed a leniency toward Hinduized form of writing. Most of them have been vocal against plural societal, economic cruelties and malaise, religious dogmas or fatwas about talaq and pardah  stipulated by maulvis.  Bengali Muslim literature is primarily an unprecedented approach of treating Bangali musolmans as the core subject of their literature for the exploration and encapsulation of a missing theme. It deals with the daily living experiences as well as their somewhat ambivalent imitation of macabre Islam in a land far away from its origin. This literature touching some amorphous religious issues of Islam has laid its heavy weight of preponderance to the depiction of West Bengal and its marginal Muslims in its myriad array of hued tapestries.  And this literature has been well accepted and recognized by the Hindu and Muslim alike. They in no way can be called community writers writing particularly for a specific community. In fact, their writings have added an extra mileage to the richness of Bengali literature. And their critics include such notable Hindu writers as Manas Majumdarm,  Ameya Bhushan Majumdar, Sadhan Chattopadhya, Atin Bandopadhya and many more. Their writings with their powerful and vigorous representation of the marginal Muslims of Bengal is indeed a bridge to reaching Hindu-Muslim reconciliation and emotional closeness of Bengali people as a whole. The Bengalees irrespective of caste, class, or religion should take pride in this literature which cannot be relegated to the lower status as merely one of the offshoots of mainstream Bengali literature. Bengali Muslim literature has indeed injected a rich mosaic of local colours and flavours with its immediate reality to the texture and the matrix of the Bangla vasha o sahitya both in its thematic orientation and stylistic representation.            Unlike the Urdu literature which is besmeared with the images of pristine Islam of Arab origin, Pan-Islamic theorization and Islam’s past glory and present decadence, the Bengali Muslim writers are much less concerned with the concept of pure Islam and Pan-Islamic fervor. They are primarily preoccupied with their immediate environment and culture. Their resources of inspiration emerge first from the land of their birth and death, poverty and marginality,  its flora and fauna, rivers and fields, forests and hills, daily living experiences and haphazard acculturation. And then come the issues of religion, faith, creeds and customs –all are more or less influenced with the images of Hindu culture and ethos. Basically they are regional writers and their focus is only on the land of their inhabitation and its people. They write both in simple colloquial Bengali and the standard Bengali. Their readers are not limited to a few Muslim literate only. Their works are loved and admired by the Hindu readers also. Their writings are never meant for Muslim community only. It is dedicated to the Bengali community by and large. Bengali is their mother tongue. And as Bengalee  they  are proud of their culture and literature. But they face identity crisis only when they are asked by some ignoble Hindus such callous question as ‘Are you Bengalee or Muslim?’, their innate pride of being a Bengalee faces a severe jolt of consciousness.  But such exceptional happenings do not deter them from supporting their unbiased and unconditional loyalty to their mother tongue Bangla. And Bengali Muslim writers seem to be increasingly happier in not using Arabic or Persian words in their body of literature. Certainly some words relating to Islam and Islamic code of life surface on their writings. But they do not put any hindrance to the sweetness and smoothed richness of a free flowing language like Bangla.Conclusion:            The entire literature under review is a search for Bengali Muslim identity which is not solely based on pure Islam or Pan-Islam and this literature has no ulterior motive for the construction of Muslim identity. It is much concerned with a search for the assimilation of Islamic concepts and ideas to their innate Bengali identity in its indigenous locale, colour and setting.  Islamic theme is an added advantage to their cultural exploration in its rural poor but elegant beautiful Bengal setting. Their writings border the marginal poor rural Muslim folk of west Bengal with all their vicissitudes of life, pain and hunger, joys and sorrows, hopes and frustrations, intra and inter community heterogeneous nuances.  With its strict theological ignorance and its leniency to the mythic and esoteric interpretations of Islam of Pirs and Babas coupled with the land’s beauty and people’s poverty Bengali Muslim literature has created a permanent niche of its individuality and uniqueness in the oeuvre of Bangla vasha o sahitya.   


[1Tundawla, Alefiya. (2012). “Multiple Representations of Muslimhood in West Bengal: Identity Construction Through Literature.” South Asia Research, Vol.32 (2): 139-163. Print.   

Layered Marginality of Bengali Muslims in West Bengal: An Introspective Study

Na kisee kee aankh ka noor hoon

Na kisee key dil ka quaraar hoon

Jo kisee key kaam na aa sakey

Main v eek musht-e-ghubaar hoon

———— Bahadur Shah Zafar (1775-1862)


picture courtesy ‘Two Circles’



Of every four persons in West Bengal, roughly speak

ing one is a Bengali Muslim. Despite their numerical density and participation in different socio-economic activities their identity is basically singular, based only on their religious affiliation. They are solely “Muslims”. All other identities (Bengali, professional, educational, economic, residential etc.) are never acknowledged and often suppressed by popular lazy media, and concocted, unscrupulous power-hungry religious and political leaders and even by the Muslims themselves, leading to their marginality and voicelessness in the societal-cultural milieu and years of dehumanization and denigration in their own land and

outer world as well. Since the Independence Bengali Muslims have invariably been treated like “football”, only to be kicked off by the parties of all colours to gain political mileage. They are the “son of the soil”, and not imported stock like that of the Central Asian Aryans of whose ancestry the Brahmins are very proud. But unfortunately the bhodrolok Brahmins are at the helm of all state affairs, and the shudra-converted Bengali muslims are terribly sidelined,and made voiceless. Only at the time of elections some promises of “madrashas”, “Imam Bhatas” and “Urdu Academies”, and “Haj Houses” are doled out to them leading to the marginalization of the Bengali Muslims further. This cruel play is being played and replayed ad infinitum.


In reference to the the Max Muller’s contribution to origin and development of the ancient culture of India learned historian Romila Thapar has argued:

For Max Muller the Rgveda was the earliest stratum of Indo-European and therefore the most ancient literature in the world and key to the earliest language and religion of India. He maintained that there was an original Aryan homeland in central Asia from where there was a dispersal of Aryan speakers branching in two directions. One went to Europe and the other migrated to Iran eventually splitting again with one segment invading north-western India. The references in the Rgveda to the aryas and to their hostility towards the dasas, were read as the Aryans invading and enslaving the indigenes—the dasas, and eventually settling in India. (9)

And in reference to Jyotiba Phule she also remarked:

Writing in the latter half of the nineteenth century in Marathi, Phule argued that the original inhabitants of India were the adivasis, among whom he included the sudras, atisudras, and Dalits, all of whom were descendents of the heroic peoples ed by the daitya king Bali. The adivasis fought the arrival of the brahmanas who represented the Aryans, but were conquered and subordinated.(14)[1]

যাইহোক ম্যাক্সমুলার সাহেবের কথায় আর্যরা মধ্য-এশিয়া থেকে এসে উত্তর-পশ্চিম ভারত আক্রমন করেন। সেখানকার মূলনিবাসীদের, যাদেরকে আর্যরা ‘দাস’ মনে করত,পরাজিত করেন। তারপর তারা ধীরে ধীরে মধ্য ও পূর্ব ভারত দখল করে্ন। আজকে যারা ব্রাহ্মণ বলে গর্ব করেন, তাঁরা আসলে ভারতের বাইরে থেকে আসা যাযাবর আর্যদের উত্তরসূরি।সুতরাং ভারতবর্ষ আর্যদের ‘পিত্রভূমি’ বা ‘পুণ্যভূমি’ নয়। দাস বা শূদ্র্ররাই ভারতের প্রাচীন বাসিন্দা। আর্য আক্রমণের পূর্বে শূদ্র্রদের নিজস্ব জমি-জায়গা, চাষবাস, সংস্কৃতি সবই ছিল। তাঁরা আর্যদের হাতে পরাজিত হয়ে তথাকথিত ‘নিকৃষ্ট’ জীবের আসম্মানকর খ্যাতি লাভ করেন। এবং আর্যদের দ্বারা উদ্ভাবিত ‘বর্ণব্যবস্হা’-র কবলে পড়তে বাধ্য হন। ম্যাক্সমুলার সাহেবের কথা এজন্য টানলাম কারন তিনি ‘Scholar Extraordinary’। আর এই ‘Scholar Extraordinary’-এর লেখক নীরদ চৌধুরী কি অন্য ইতিহাস বলবেন? তাঁর মতে,

বিজয়ী ও ঔপনিবেশিক আর্যেরা বাংলাদেশে ইহাদেরই [আদিবাসীদের] উপর আধিপত্য করিত। তাহাদের উচ্চতর জীবন এই অনার্য জনসমষ্টির শ্রমের উপর প্রতিষ্ঠিত ছিল।এই সামাজিক ও বৈষয়িক ধারা বিংশ শতাব্দীর প্রথম ভাগ পর্যন্ত পরিবর্তিত হয় নাই। বাংলার জনসমষ্টিকে এই জন্য দুই স্তরে বিভক্ত করা যাইত—এক, ঔপনিবেশ স্থাপনকারী ভদ্রসম্প্রদায়; আর এক পুরাতন অধিবাসীর দাস সম্প্রদায়।[2]

এই ইতিহাস আমাদের আজ সকলের জানা। সুতরাং আর্যেরা প্রথমে মেরে কেটে ভারতের আদী অধীবাসীদেরকে পরাজিত করে। এবং পরে ভারতকে ধীরে ধীরে ‘পুণ্যভূমি’-তে রূপান্তরিত করে। পরে আবার সেটা ‘পিতৃভূমি’ কি করে হল, এই ইতিহাস M. S. Golwalkar –এর জানা থাকলেও, আমার জানা নেই। ভারতের বাইরে থেকে শক, হুন, মুঘল, পর্তুগীজ, ইংরেজ ইত্যাদির ন্যায় আর্যেরাও তো ক্ষমতা দখল করেছে পেশীর বলে। শুধু এইটুকু বুঝতে পারিনা যেখানে অন্যরা যখন সব পরম ও চরম শত্রু বলে পরিচিত, সেখানে আর একটি বিশেষ যাযাবর শ্রেনী ভারতের বাইরে থেকে এসে পুণ্যভূমি, পিতৃভূমির গল্প শোনায় কি করে? আর তার থেকেও অবাক হয় যখন দেখি এই গল্পটি কিছু লোকের কাছে মাত্রাতিরক্ত সমাদ্রিত, এবং এদের অহঙ্কার ও ক্ষমতা প্রশ্নাতীত। এতো বিজেতাদের ইতিহাস। পরাজিতরা গেল কোথাই? কার্ল মার্ক্সের ভাষায়, যেটি নীরদবাবু আগেই স্বীকার করেছেন, আর্যেরা তো ‘superstructure’ আর দাসেরা ‘structure,’ যদি আমি ভুল না বুঝে থাকি। কারন আর্যদের ‘উচ্চতর জীবন এই অনার্য জনসমষ্টির শ্রমের উপর প্রতিষ্ঠিত ছিল।’ যাদের শ্রম সমাজের মূল চালিকা শক্তি, আজ তাদের পৃথক ইতিহাস কোথাই? আছে, এদিক ওদিক ছড়িয়ে ছিটিয়ে। দরকার সেগুলিকে একসাথে সঙ্কলিত করে গতানুগতিক একঘেয়ে ইতিহাসকে চ্যালেঞ্জ করা এবং সত্য ইতিহাসের অনুসন্ধান করা।

Clarification of the term “Bengali Muslim”

First of all, I ask a simple question: who are ‘Bengali Muslims’? Does it mean all the Muslims living in West Bengal? It is not so. It refers only to all the Bengali speaking Muslims in West Bengal. Are they foreigner, or descendents of Emperor Babur, etc. as often alleged? Is there any deeper relation, barring religious tokenism, among Bengali speaking Muslims and Urdu, Tamil, Nepali, Syrian , Arabian, Pakistani, Afghanistani, Palestian, Indonesian, Egyptian Muslims, etc. There is absolutely nothing in common among these variants. It is interesting to note that variants among the Muslims even in India are inter-state, intra-state, inter-district, intra-district, and so on and forth, depending on the economic and social structure of the region. Neither the Indian Muslims nor the Bengali Muslims are a homogenous lot. They are Bengali at the core as that of the Bengali babus. They are the son of the soil, born here and will die here. They are shudra converted (because of Brahmanic tyranny) as many texts and history itself is a witness to this often willingly forgotten fact[3]. The Bengali Sheikhs have nothing in common with Arabian Sheikhs’s wealth, status and luxury. Many Bengali Sheikhs do the job of a scavenger to Arabian Sheikhs for a few rials. They are ill clad, ill fed, illiterate, poor, landless, ignorant, simple, mud housed rural backwood mass with hearts made of pure gold. And none of them can speak, Arabic, or Urdu, generally thought to be the sacred Islamic cultural medium. They speak in households Bengali dialects, not the standard Kolkata, or ‘Santipuri’ Bengali. They are culturally, socially, financially excluded from the so called mainstream ‘bhadralok’ Hindu babus.’ They are ‘pichieye para’ underprivileged ‘base’ stock of rural folk. They are the cheap labour of West Bengal. Thus the identity crisis of Bengali Muslims emerges mainly from two fronts—one from the caste Hindus who are in the habit of treating them as solely Muslims, and form the Urdu speaking Muslims the Bengali Muslims are treated as impure and base Muslims culturally alienated from the pure Islam. From this unfortunate discourse emanates the linguistic and cultural marginality in the broader domain of their public life. “…some members of the urban ‘mainstream’ Bengali elites construct an idea about the Muslims which takes their religious affinity as their singular identity, completely missing all other identities the strongest among which is their being “Bangali”’[4]. Another important finding is that more than 90 percent of the rural Muslims [in West Bengal] are Bangla-speaking, and only a tiny section reported Urdu to be their mother tongue. This sharply contrasts with a notion prevalent even among the literati of the urban areas that Muslims are mostly Urdu speaking.[5]

Stereotypical Clichés.

  1. Bengali Muslims cannot speak Urdu. They speak only local Bengali dialects and the prounnunciation of which makes the Bengali elites often utter “gaiya”.
  1. Bengali Muslims are not giving births like street dogs, as often alleged in public life. “Unlike the socially constructed belief that there is ‘Muslim population explosion,’ the recent Census data [2011] show a decreasing trend in growth among the Muslim population across the state.[6]
  1. The students of Bengali Muslim households are not madrasha-centric. Their enrolment in public school and colleges are increasing day by day. Govornment’s apathy to the educational infrastructural development in highly Muslim concentrated districts, blocks is as clear as daylight. “That the rate of enrolment in schools was very high in the areas with Muslim preponderence clearly showed that not only they were not averse to moden education but also that there was a clear lack of educational infrastructure in those areas”.[7] The differnce between blocks with a 15 per cent or less concentration of Muslims, and those with a 50 per cent or more concentration stands at 4.0 for both all management and government combined Secondary and Higher Secondary Schools. Such a wide gap does not only deter large numbers of Muslim youth from seeking higher levels of education, but also deters those taht live in these areas side by side. (SNAP Report, p. 38)[Muslim]students who are intellectualy capable of higher education but cannot afford to travel to the cities or to the districts with better universities are thus systematically excluded. (SNAP Report, p. 47)
  1. “Khariji” madrashas with a tin or thatch roof, few broken chairs, tables and benches, no toilets and supply of water, a few half-naked, emaciated Muslim students who call their master not as sir but “chhaarr” in West Bengal can never be the sponsors of terrorism, as alleged by self-defeating Hindu bhadrlok. If one is human, I am quite sure, that seeing such sorry and pathetic conditions of remote Khariji madrashas in west Bengal tears will roll down from her/his eyes.
  1. Bengali Muslims are not responsible for the destruction of Hindu temples, and they cannot marry a Hindu girl by force judjing from their economic and societal status. আমরা দেখেছি যে বাংলার নবজাগরণ শুরু হয় হিন্দু সমাজকে কেন্দ্র করে যা কিছুদিন পরেই হিন্দু পুনর্জাগরণের রুপ নেয়। তখন প্রাচীন ভারতের ধর্ম, ইতিহাস ও ঐতিহ্যের উপর জোর পড়ল। সাথে সাথে হিন্দু মানসে তার অতীত গৌরব এবং বর্তমানের উন্নতির নিরিখে মধ্যযুগের ইতিহাসকে লজ্জাজনক মনে হল। আর এ জন্য তাঁরা স্বভাবতই দায়ী করলেন মুসলমানদেরকে—যারা আক্রমণকারীরুপে ভারতে প্রবেশ করেছিলেন। তাঁরা [বেমালুম] ভুলে গেলেন, যে সেই আক্রমণকারী মুসলমান আর সমকালীন পরাধীন মুসলমান সব দিক দিয়ে আলাদা।[8]
  2. বাঙালি মুসলমান সবায় গোহত্যা করেনা। বরং এরা ‘গোধনে’ বিশ্বাস করে। গরু লালন পালন করেই গ্রামের অনেক গরিব মুসলমান চাষি জীবিকা নির্বাহ করে। এ প্রসঙ্গে মীর মশাররফ হোসেনের “গো-জীবন” (১৮৮৯) একটি অমুল্য দলিল। এখানে আজকের গো-রক্ষক সভা ও সমিতির নেতা নেত্রীদের আমি অনুরোধ করব Vandana Shiva-আর ‘Sacred Cow: A Miliking Machine’[9] লেখাটি পড়তে, যেখানে তিনি লিখেছেন, ‘breeding genetic diversity of livestock with multiple uses has been ignored by the industrial animal ‘factories’, which have reduced cows to milk and meat machines.’ সুতরাং শুধু মুসলমানদের গো-ভক্ষক বলে তুলোধোনা করা মেজরিটি কালচারের ‘tyranny’ ছাড়া বিশেষ কিছু নয়।ইস্যুটি অত সহজ নয়। নিরপেক্ষ ভাবে দেখলে ঝোলা থেকে বিড়াল বেরিয়ে পড়বে।
  3. Bengali Muslims are not responsible for the division of Bengal. “১৯৪৭ সনে মুসলমান বাঙালীর বিরুদ্ধতা সত্ত্বেও হিন্দু বাঙালীর ভোটে বাংলাদেশ বিভক্ত হইল”।[10]
  4. বাঙালি মুসলমান আরব, তুরস্ক, আফগানিস্থান থেকে কেউ ভারতে আসেনি। এরা শূদ্র থেকে ধর্মান্তরিত। বাঙালি মুসলমান ভারতের আদি বাসিন্দা। এরা মূলনিবাসী বা ভূমিপুত্র।

তাই বাঙালি মুসলমানদের নিয়ে আমাদের গর্বিত হওয়া উচিৎ। কিন্তু ঘটে ঠিক বিপরীত। রাস্তা ঘাট, ট্রেন বাস, পাড়ার ক্লাব, হাসপাতাল, থানা, আদালত, আপিস, সব জায়গার একটি সুস্বাদু মুখরোচক বিষয় মুসলমান তুলোধোনা। তুরস্কে, ইরাকে বোমা ফাটলে বা পাকিস্থানে আত্মঘাতী হামলা হলে, দূরদর্শন, খবরের কাগজের পোয়া বারো। একই পচা খবর সারাদিন লাইভ চলবে। পাড়ার এঁদো গলি থেকে শুরু করে শহরের রাজপথ মুসলমান বিদ্বেষী ক্ষীস্তি খেঁউড়ে সরগরম। অথচ বাঙালি মুসলমানের কিছু করার থাকে না। এক সহ্য ছাড়া। বাঙালি মুসলমান দু বেলা খাবার যোগাড় করতে হিমসিম খায়। সে কি করে বিশ্ব মুসলমানের ঠ্যাকা নেবে? তাই আজও বাঙালি মুসলমানকে সহিষ্ণুতার সাথে সামনের দিকে এগুতে হবে, আধুনিক বিঞ্জান ও প্রযুক্তি নির্ভর শিক্ষাকে কেন্দ্র করে। এছাড়া আর কোন বিকল্প রাস্তা নেই। আর এটা হলে, ক্ষীস্তি খেঁউড়ের দল শুঁড় শুঁড় করে সরে পড়বে।

Representation of Muslims in Media

Print as well as elctronic and social media are playing a disparaging role leading to the marginalization of Bengali Muslims further. They are so lazy that they fail to investigate the every day hard reality faced by Bengali Muslims. Their stereotypical representation of Muslims includes such obnoxious and derogatory terms as terrorists, beef-eaters, invaders, oppressors, barbaric, uncivilized, anti-national, illiterate, ignorant, poor, unhygenic, drug-traffickers, burglers, etc. It is a sheer and vulgar misrepresentation of the true identity of Bengali Muslims. Bengali Muslims may be poor and uneducated, but most of the other terms are forcibly applied to them to dehumanize and denegrate their holistic status. The true identity of Bengali Muslims is never reflected in Bengali art, literature, journalistic writing, media, and the educated public discourse of everyday Bengali life. Bengali Muslims earn their livelihood by the sweat of their brow. They are farmers, rickshaw-pullers, tailors, vegetable-sellers, masons, labours, biri-workers, village-vendors, poor, meek mass. Why Bengali Muslims are being misrepresented? The reason behind is the indulgence in the politics of writing/ representing by so called intellectuals, journalists, media anchors for some vested interests. The moot point is that as they are unable to represent themselves, they must be represented and of course with a tinge of malice, hatred and vituperation in order to make them Saidian “Other”.

Bengali Muslims and Politics

অন্য দিকে ভোটপ্রার্থীরা ভাল করিয়াই জানেন যে, শুধু বড়লোকের ভোট যোগাড় করিয়া জেতা যাইবে না, “ছোটলোকেরা” বেশীসংখ্যক, সুতরাং তাহাদের ভোটের মূল্য বেশী। তাই দৈত্যপক্ষের ক্যান্ডিডেট গজোদরবাবু মুসলমানপাড়ায় গিয়া নেমকহারাম গাজী মিঞাকে হাত করবার চেষ্টা করলেন, সঙ্গে তাঁহার দালালরাও আছে। গজোদর বলিলেন,

“আচ্ছা, গাজীসাহেব! তুমি যত টাকা নেও দেবো, আমাদের পক্ষে ভোট দিতে হবেই; নয়ত তোমার এই খানকার দ্বারদেশে পড়ে রইলুম। বুকে পা তুলে মেরে দে না; জয় জগদীশ্বর! যা কর বাবা গাজী সাহেব। আজ তোমার পায়ে মাথা খুঁড়ে মরব।”

গাজী—“আরে শালার ভাই শালারা বড় ভগরে [ফককরে] ভেননেক [ফেললেক]যে! সুমুন্দির ভাই নড়ে না যে! যেন পাষাণ হোই দেখ, আত্তির দুপুরের বেলায় যেন একটা অগড় [রগড়] পেয়েচে। ডাকবো নাকি লোকগর, ছেড়ে দেনা।”

ব্যাপার দেখিয়া গজোদর বাবুর দালাল অকালকুষ্মাণ্ড ক্যানভাস করিবার ভার নিল—

“বাবা গাজী! তোর পায়ে পৈতে ছিঁড়বো।” (“পৈতা জড়াইয়া গাজীর পদতলে পতন”)

গাজী—“আরে শালা বমোন কল্লাক্ কি! হুঁ হুঁ আমার ছাবাল পোলাগারে মোল্লি হোবাক যে, খেন্তো দে, খেন্তো দে।”

অকালকুষ্মাণ্ড—“বল্ বাবা, কালপেঁচাবাবুর দুটো ভোট? তুই যত টাকা চাস তা দেবো।”

গাজী (ক্ষণেক চিন্তার পর)—“আচ্ছা বল শালা বামোন, ২৫ টাকা দিবি? হ্যাঁ, ঝানলুম যে এক ঘা দায় অক্যে গেলা! দে ২৫ টাকা, দেবো তোমায় দুটো ভোঁট!”[11]

Jeremy Seabrook and Imran Ahmed Siddiqui comment: Muslims are not a matter of concern for the State unless they disturb or disrupt the existing order. It is only when they try to turn their eyes on wealth and power their activities become the interest of the State. If Muslims destruct one another it is of nobody’s concern. The word ‘Muslim’ has become synonymous with poverty and crime. They are antisocial elements. They will find a redressal mechanism for their cause.[12]

The State Government’s lackadaisical attitude towards the development of Muslims is quite evident. Muslims are not a matter of serious introspection, and the maintenance of their status quo of marginality in all public walks of life seems to be desirable. The problem arises when the Muslims try to assert their valid position, and they are invariably harassed hereafter in the guise of criminal activities or other.

সাবির আহমেদ লিখেছেন, “ধর্মীয় পরিচিতি বাদ দিয়ে মুসলমানদের যদি আর্থ-সামাজিক ভাবে পিছিয়ে পড়া জনগোষ্ঠী হিসেবে গুরুত্ব দিয়ে, তাঁদের উন্নতির কথা ভাবা হত, তা হলে আজও এই সমাজকে এমন দুর্দশার মধ্যে থাকতে হত না ।” তিনি আরও বলেছেন যে রাজনৈতিক প্রতিনিধিত্ব একটি জনগোষ্ঠীর আশার প্রতিক।রাজনৈতিক প্রতিনিধিত্বে মুসলমানদের অংশ গ্রহণ বাড়লে উচ্চবর্ণের অহং-এ আঘাত লাগবে, আঘাত লাগবে তাদের স্বার্থেও, ক্ষমতার বৃত্ত কমে আসবে। মুসলমান জনপ্রতিনিধির সংখ্যা ইদানীং কিছু বাড়লেও, সমস্যা রয়েই গেছে। কারন “নীতি নির্ধারণে মুসলমানদের যোগদান অতি সামান্য।”[13] “…the pre-dominantly rural and socio-economically backward status of the Muslims has resulted in their poor representation in the social platforms—academic, political, cultural and so on, and this has created sort of social ignorance about the Muslims.”[14]

Gleamses of socio-econmoic condition of Muslims in West Bengal

Let us have a cursory look at Sabir Ahmed’s report on Muslims of West Bengal published in The Anando Bazaar Patrika. The report may be called a tip of an iceberg, and most important aspect of it that it does not delineate the status of the Bengali speaking Muslims separately. Be that as it may, the report is an eye-opener to the Muslims of West Bengal in many respects.

These statistical records reflect only the poor sordid condition of West Bengal Muslims in the arena of Government employment. Now let us survey some other areas to prove the marginality of Bengali Muslims in all other conceivable fronts.

  1. Muslims’ participation in higher education is 3 to 4 per cent only. Their enrolment in Primary and Secondary school is good. And in areas with high Muslim concentration educational infrastructure is very poor. For example in villages with 1000 Muslim populuation or more 3 per cent of such villages do not have a school at all.
  1. In schools of Muslim-concentrated areas the ratio among students and teachers is 37:1, wheras in West Bengal average student-teacher ratio is 27:1.
  2. In Muslim-concentrated areas infrastucture of health is almost nil. To have access to primary healthcare facility 35 per cent village people have to walk 4 kilometers at least, and 12 per cent of people from such “remote” villages have to walk 8 kilometers. Moreover, 45 per cent are entirely depended on quacks.
  3. The role of road or street is very vital to access to any services offered by Government. In areas with Muslim concentration 18 per cent of the road is made of mud, where plying even a cycle becomes a nightmare.[15]

আমরা মানসকুমার রায়চৌধুরী লিখিত আনন্দবাজার পত্রিকার সম্পাদক সমীপেষু চিঠিতে নোবেলজয়ী অর্থনীতিবিদ অমর্ত্যসেন কে উল্লেখ করে লেখা থেকে জানতে পারি যে বাঙালি মুসলমানরা পশ্চিমবঙ্গের সবচাইতে “গরীব, অবহেলিত ও পিছিয়েপড়া। বেঁচে থাকার নিরিখেও এরা সামঞ্জস্যহীন ভাবে চূড়ান্ত দরিদ্র ও বঞ্চিত। পয়সাওয়ালা বা ধর্মীয় ক্ষেত্রে ক্ষমতাবান মুসলমানরাই কেবল সুবিধাভোগী। বাদবাকি দরিদ্রতর মুসলিমদের সিংহভাগই ভূমিহীন, শিক্ষাগত যোগ্যতায় দৃষ্টিকটু ভাবে পিছিয়ে।”[16]

শুভনীল চৌধুরী ও শাশ্বত ঘোষ ২০১১ সালের সেনসাস, কর্মসংস্থান সংক্রান্ত ভারতের জাতীয় নমুনা সমীক্ষা রিপোর্ট ২০১১-১২ , ও উপরে আলোচিত স্ন্যাপ রিপোর্ট ২০১৪ এর সহযোগে আনন্দবাজার পত্রিকায় পশ্চিমবঙ্গের মুসলমানদের একই বেহাল ও নিদারুন চিত্র তুলে ধরেছেন।বিশেষ করে শিক্ষা ও কর্মসংস্থানে এদের করুন অবস্থার চিত্র আমরা পায়। উনাদের তথ্যে উঠে আসা বিষয়ের কিছু কিছু অংশ তুলে ধরার চেষ্টা করছি।

  1. ২০০১ সালে রাজ্যে মুসলমান ছিল ২৫.২ শতাংশ। আর ২০১১ সালে তা বেড়ে হয়েছে ২৭.০১ শতাংশ। পশ্চিমবঙ্গে মুসলমানদের জন্মের হার হিন্দুদের তুলনায় বেশি। কিন্তু এখানেই শেষ নয়। এটা লেখকদ্বয়ের মতে “অর্ধসত্য।” বাকি সত্য হল মুসলমান সমাজে জন্মহার “দ্রুত গতিতে কমেছে।” অর্থাৎ প্রচলিত ধারনাকে মিথ্যা প্রমান করে গড়ে প্রতি মুসলমান নারীর সন্তান প্রসব কমেছে।
  2. জনসংখ্যার অনুপাতে রাজ্যে মুসলমান সম্প্রদায়ের ৩৪.৫ শতাংশ কর্মরত, যেখানে হিন্দুদের ক্ষেত্রে এই অনুপাত ৩৯.৩ শতাংশ।
  3. রাজ্যে মুসলমানদের সাক্ষরতার হার ৬৮.৮ শতাংশ, হিন্দুদের ক্ষেত্রে সেই হার ৭৯.১ শতাংশ।আর স্নাতক পাশ মুসলমান ছেলেমেয়ের অনুপাত ২.৭ শতাংশ।
  4. সর্বভারতীয় ক্ষেত্রে মুসলমানরা শহরে বাস করেণ ৩৯.৯১ শতাংশ, আর গ্রামে বাস করেন ৬০.০৯ শতাংশ। কিন্ত আমাদের রাজ্যে ২২.৩৪ শতাংশ মুসলমান শহরে বাস করেন, আর গ্রামে বাস করেন ৭৭.৬৬ শতাংশ। সুতরাং বাংলার মুসলমান বেশি গ্রামীন।
  5. রাজ্যে মুসলমান খেতমজুরেরে অনুপাত ৩১.৩ শতাংশ, হিন্দুদের ক্ষেত্রে তা ২৮.২ শতাংশ।
  6. নির্মাণকাজে মুসলমানদের অনুপাত ১২.৬ শতাংশ, হিন্দুদের ক্ষেত্রে এই অনুপাত ৬.৫ শতাংশ।
  7. গ্রামের ৮০ শতাংশ মুসলমান গৃহস্থের পারিবারিক মাসিক আয় ৫০০০ টাকার কম।শহরে এই অনুপাত ৬৫ শতাংশ। অর্থাৎ রাজ্যের মুসলমানদের দুই-তৃ্তীয়াংশ মানুষ দারিদ্র সীমার নিচে বসবাস করেন।

এত তথ্যের পর লেখকদ্বয়ের বলিষ্ঠ মন্তব্য “তাই মুসলমান সমাজের উন্নয়নের কথা বললে যাঁরা সাম্প্রদায়িক রাজনীতির জিগির তোলেন, তাঁরা পশ্চিমবঙ্গের সার্বিক উন্নয়নের বিরোধিতা করছেন।”[17] আরে খেতে পরতে পান না তো কি হয়েছে। বেঁচে তো আছেন। গুজরাটের দাঙ্গা তো আর কলকাতায় হয়নি। এর থেকে বেশি পশ্চিমবঙ্গের মুসলমান কি আশা করতে পারে? সব রাজনৈতিক দলের বুলি একই। এরা সব ঠেকা নিয়ে বসে আছে বাঙালি মুসলমানদের দাঙ্গার হাত থকে রক্ষা করার জন্য। ভাবটা এমন যে মুসলমানদের জন্য কিছু না করলেও হবে। শুধু মাঝে মধ্যে মুসলমানদের জানান দিতে হবে যে আমরা তোদের রক্ষাকর্তা। ব্যাস, কেল্লা ফতে।কিন্তু এখানেও দাঙ্গা থেকে রক্ষা করার বেলুন চুপসে যাই। সেই সন্দেহের একটি মূল্যবান দলিল Jeremy Seabrook and Imran Ahmed Siddiqui-এর “people without history: india’s muslim ghettos.” হলদে রঙের কালিতে এই বইয়ের ব্যাক কভারে জ্বল জ্বল করছে কথাগুলি,

Kolkata’s Muslims live in a city that for 33 years was governed by the Communist Party of India [Marxist]. It has been the proudest boast of the Communists that they have been

guided by a secular ideology, and that as a result, Muslims in West Bengal have been spared the excesses of communalists in Gujrat, Maharastra, Orissa and elsewhere.[18]

পশ্চিমবঙ্গের মুসলমানদের ‘দাঙ্গার জুজু’ দেখান সব রাজনৈতিক দলগুলির একটি নিয়মিত মোক্ষম অস্ত্র।অতীন বন্ধ্যোপাধ্যায় ভাল বলেছেন,

এই দেশে হিন্দু-মুসলমানের বিদ্বেষ জাগিয়ে দাও। অর্থনৈতিক সংগ্রামের কথা এখন বলা যাবেনা। শ্রেণীসংগ্রামের কথা বলে যেত, কিন্তু কিছু উপর তলার মানুষ রয়ে গেছি আমরা, আমাদের তবে কি হবে। তার চেয়ে ভাল ধর্ম জাগরণ। ধর্মের নামে ঢোল বাজিয়ে আখের গুছিয়ে নাও।[19]

বাঙালি মুসলমানদের সমস্যা বহুবিধ। কিন্তু সেগুলিকে বিশ্লেষণ করে নিম্নের সিন্ধান্তগুলিতে আসা খুব কঠিন নয়।

১। টুপি দাড়ি ছাড়া, মানে ধর্মকে বাদ দিয়ে মুসলমানদের আলাদা ভাবে একটি পিছিয়ে পড়া জনগোষ্ঠী হিসেবে দেখা হয় না।

২। মুসলমানদের রাজনৈতিক জনপ্রতিনিধি বাড়লে সখ্যাগুরুর মহা বিপদ, মানে তাঁদের ক্ষমতা ও সুযোগ সুবিধার পরিমণ্ডল কমে যাবে। এই ভয় সখ্যাগুরুর চেতন বা অবচেতন মনে কাজ করে। এটা খুবই স্বাভাবিক।

৩। মুসলমান রাজনৈতিক জনপ্রতিনিধিদের নিতি নির্ধারণের কোনও ক্ষমতা নেই। তাই আমি এদের ‘জি হুজুর’ গোছের বলি। এদের মধ্যে কেউ কেউ ঘোলা জলে মাছ ধরে নিজেরটা কামিয়ে নেন।

৪। মুসলমানরা শিক্ষা, কর্মসংস্থান, রুজিরোজগার সব দিক থেকে পিছিয়ে। জীবন ধারনের নূনতম মান এদের নেই।

৫। সুবিধাবাদি, ধান্দাবাজ, স্বার্থপরায়ন দলগুলি মুসলমানদের চাপে রাখার জন্য সময় সময় দাঙ্গার জুজু দেখায়।এক্ষেত্রে সব দলের নীতি এক।

The Uniqueness Of Bengali Muslims

The Bengali Muslims are merely “footballs”, as earlier stated. They exist for the benefit of everyone barring themselves. I quote my favourite Kahlil Gibran,

I have cried over your humiliation

And submission; and my tears streamed

Like crystalline, but could not sear

Away your stagnant weakness…


I hate you, My Countrymen, because

You hate glory and greatness. I

Despise you because you despise yourselves.

——– “My Countrymen”[20]

বাঙালি মুসলমান গোবেচারা জীব বলে সুনাম ও দুর্নাম দুইই আছে। সুনাম/ দুর্নাম শুনতে পায় বন্ধুদের কাছে, “ তোরা বিহারী মুসলমানদের মত ‘এগ্রেসিভ’ না”। বাঙালির রক্ত কিনা।তাই বাঙালি মুসলমান কিছুটা হলেও সংযত আচার, আচারনে, কথাবার্তায়। এখন একদিনকার মজার ঘ্টনা বলি। আমি তিস্তায় ফালাকাটা থেকে বহরমপুরে সপ্তাহের শেষে বাড়ী ফিরছিলাম। পাশে বসেছিল একজন বয়স্ক জনৈক হিন্দু ভদ্রলোক। ট্রেন কিষানগঞ্জ থামলে টুপি ও লুঙ্গি পরা ছোটো খাটো সাদা মাটা চেহারার এক দল তবলীগ জামাত, সংখ্যায় জনা ত্রিশ হবে, আমাদের কামরাটায় উঠল। এদের দেখা মাত্র বয়স্ক ভদ্রলোকের তার পাশে বসা লোকটির মনোযোগ আকর্ষণ করে তাচ্ছিল্যকর মন্তব্য, “ না, না, এরা বাঙালি মুসলমান। আজমগড়ের মুসলিম হুউ”। ঐ ভদ্রলোকের কাছে বাঙালি মুসলমান ভীষণ গরীব হওয়াতে, ও হিন্দি বা উর্দু না বলতে পারাতে, এবং চেহারাতে খর্বকার হওয়াতে, এরা একরকম ভেড়া গোত্রিয় জীবের মত মনে হয়। আজমগড়ের মুসলিমরা হল সাচ্চা মুসলমান। ভেতো বাঙালি মুসলমান খাঁটি মুসলমান নামের কলঙ্ক। আ্মার William Blake – এর “The Lamb” কবিতাটি মনে পড়ে, যেখানে “He [God/ Christ] is called by thy name, for he calls himself a lamb.” বাঙালি মুসলমান তাই ভেড়া বা lamb হতে পারলে তার গর্বিত হওয়া উচিৎ। কবিতাটির কয়েক লাইন এরুপ,

Little lamb, who made thee?

Dost thou know who made thee?

Little lamb, I’ll tell thee,

Little lamb, I’ll tell thee:

He is called by thy name, for he calls himself a lamb.

He is meek, and He is mild;

He became a little child.

বাঙালি মুসলমানের ভীরুতা কাপুরুষতা নয়। বরং এটা তাঁর মৌলিক গুন।তাঁর “meeknees,” “tenderness,” and “gentleness” তাঁকে মহানুভবতা দান করে। এতে তার লজ্জার কিছু নেই, গর্ব করার আনেক কিছু আছে। বাঙালি মুসলমানের দুর্বলতা হল তার সবলতার পরিচায়ক।বাঙালি মুসলমানের সরল সাধারন সাদা মাটা জীবন, তাদের নিরীহ স্বভাব, অকৃত্রিম আথিতেয়তা, তাদের দুর্বলতা, ভীরুতা—এসবই তার একান্ত মৌলিক গুণ। হতে পারে চাষা, লেখাপড়া জানে না, গরীব। কিন্তু হৃদয় সোনা দিয়ে মোড়ান, কুসংস্কার মুক্ত। চাষি, চাঁড়াল, বাবু, ভদ্রলোক, গরীব, বড়লোক, যে কেউ বাঙালি মুসলমানের বাড়ীতে গেলে, তারা অতিথিদের ঘরের ভিতর নূতন পাটি, কাঁথা, বা চেয়ারে বসতে দেবে। বাড়ীর সব থেকে ভাল কাপে চা দেবে। নূতন গ্লাসে জল দেবে। কারন এরা সূচিবাইগ্রস্থ নয়। এই অকৃত্রিম আথিতেয়তা খুব কম বাবু ভদ্রলোকের বাড়ীতে প্রত্যাশা করা যাই।বরং বেশিরভাগ ভদ্রলোক মুসলমান ও অন্যান্য ‘ছোট/নিচু’ জাতের জন্য আলদা এক সেট কাপ প্লেট রেখে দেন ভাড়ার ঘরের এক নির্দিষ্ট কোনে। নিচু জাতের কামলা, মুনিশ, মিস্ত্রী এলে সেগুলিতে চা দেওয়া হয়। পরে ‘কাজের মেয়ে’ কাপ প্লেটগুলি ভাল করে মেজে, বসা জায়গাটি গঙ্গা জল ছিটিয়ে, পারলে ভাল করে নিকিয়ে দেয়। বাঙালি মুসলমানের এই কপটতা নেয়।বেশিরভাগ বাঙালি মুসলমান চালচুলোহীন, মানে ‘wretched of the earth’ বলা যেতে পারে। বাঙালি মুসলমান নিরীহ, দুর্বল, সরল।আর এই গুণগুলি তাদের স্বকীয়তার স্বরূপ।


In contrast to the national trend, where more than one third of the Muslims live in urban areas, in West Bengal Muslims share less than one fifth of the urban population. Given the urban-centric power structure dominated by upper caste Hindu elites, the rural root of the Muslims of West Bengal has led to their being almost invisible in urban public domain—educational institutions, public services, media, cultural platforms, and other podiums of importance. Nevertheless, notwithstanding a general silence on the issue, some initiatives, however limited, were seen to be taken by part of the intelligentsia. This had contributed, in its limited way, to the strengthening of a Muslim agency, the seeds of which could be seen in the social efforts at organising schools, healthcare facilities, and so on taken up by sections of the Muslims.[21] They are merely triumph cards at the hand of dishonest and unscrupulous political leaders who use, misuse and abuse them for their political mileage. Second, the upper caste Bengali Hindus irrespective of party colours who are at the helm of affairs never want their co-habitant muslims at par with them in multi sectoral perspectives. Third, the local ignorant maulvis and their madrasas is a severe hindrance to the educational and social competence of the Bengali muslims. Fourth, they must assert their Bengali identity and refuse the path of Urdu speaking urban muslims. Fifth, an economic and educational revamp and a change of stolid mindset of hackneyed muslims, and a cleansed heart of their haughty and egoistic co-brethren can allay their pain of being marginalized. Otherwise, as Said said in another context, Bengali muslims can never represent themselves; they must always be represented, and in derision of course.[22]

As earlier stated the market of Dalit literature is good enough to produce numberless Ph. Ds in this field. But I doubt that any serious contribution to the enrichment of the Dalits being made by such Ph. Ds. But a slow change is taking place in the case of Dalits. And that change matters. But any discussion on Bengali Muslims has been almost a taboo. While, thanks to certain constitutional guarantees and other public measures, unfair treatment against the Adivasis and the Dalits is at least acknowledged, discussion on the socio-economiuc handicaps of the Muslims remains almost a taboo. And even after the publication of the Sachar Report that has clearly brought out the depressed status of the Muslims as regards capability-enhancing opportunities, debates and deliberations on the issue in West Bengal are far from adequate. The inadequacy of informed engagement has not only had its effect on the continually depressed socio-economic status of the Muslims of West Bengal, but also on the imagination of the Muslim identity that is being [invariably] framed solely on religious line, ignoring multiple other facets of their lives. [23] For the true development of Muslims the first and foremost condition is to separate them from what I call their ‘Burquha- topi-dari’ line. Muslims should have to be thought as a democratic citizen with all the constitutional rights and duties of the nation. And in no way their religious tag is to be tantalized.Veteran journalist of repute, M. J. Akbar comments with due justification,

The need of the hour was to change the attitude and mindset. “Changing attitude and mindset is not easy but when the time demands a change, a change should be ushered in, for power flows not from a sword but power flows from education.” Muslims should start regaining their self-confidence and shed the “politics of begging.” “Indian Muslims should consider themselves fortunate since India is a democratic country and communities here are empowered.” Muslims should not just cast their votes but sell them. “Sell it to the bidder who promises education and especially to that bidder who promises education to the girls,”[24]

I quote my favourite Kahlil Gibran to conclude,

I have cried over your humiliation

And submission; and my tears streamed

Like crystalline, but could not sear

Away your stagnant weakness…


I hate you, My Countrymen, because

You hate glory and greatness. I

Despise you because you despise yourselves.

——– “My Countrymen”[25]

প্রসঙ্গ ভিন্ন হলেও কবিগুরুর ভাষায় তাই বাংলার বাঙালি মুসলমানদের বলতে চায়,

“মুহূর্ত তুলিয়া শির একত্র দাঁড়াও দেখি সবে,

যার ভয়ে তুমি ভীত সে অন্যায় ভীরু তোমা চেয়ে,

যখনি জাগিবে তুমি তখনি সে পলাইবে ধেয়ে;

যখনি দাঁড়াবে তুমি সম্মুকে তাহার, তখনি সে

পথকুক্কুরের মতো সংকোচে সত্রাসে যাবে মিশে;

দেবতা বিমুখ তারে, কেহ নাহি সহায় তাহার,

মুখে করে আস্ফালন, জানে সে হীনতা আপনার

মনে মনে।”


[1] Romila Thapar. “The Historiography of the Concept of ‘Aryan’. ” India: Historical Beginnings and the Concept of the Aryan. Romila Thapar et all. New Delhi: National Book Trust, 2013. pp. 9,14, 19

[2] নীরদচন্দ্র চৌধুরী, নির্বাচিত প্রবন্ধ, সম্পদনা, ধ্রুব নারায়ণ চৌধুরী, কলকাতাঃ আনান্দ, ২০১৩, পৃঃ৭৩

[3] Mojumdar, Atindra. Arabic, Persian and Turkish Words in Bengali Literature. Kolkata: Ekwsh Shatak, 2012. pp.10-12

[4] “Introduction”. Living Reality of Muslims in west Bengal: A Report. Association SNAP and Guidance Guild in association with Pratichi Institute, Kolkata.2016. p. 6

[5] Ibid, p. 6

[6] Ibid, p. 7

[7] Ibid. p. 7

[8] আনিসুজ্জামান, মুসলিম-মানস ও বাংলা সাহিত্য (১৭৫৭-১৯১৮), ঢাকাঃ চারুলিপি প্রকাশন, ২০১২, পৃঃ ৩৪০

[9] Vandana Shiva, ‘Sacred Cow: A Miliking Machine.’ The Deccan Chronicle. Nov. 3. 2016 <>. Web. Accessed on, Nov 5, 2016.

[10] নীরদচন্দ্র চৌধুরী, আত্মঘাতী বাঙালী, প্রথম খণ্ড, কলকাতাঃ মিত্র ও ঘোষ,১৪১৮ বঙ্গাব্দ, পৃ.১৯৮

[11] নীরদচন্দ্র চৌধুরী, “ভোটমঙ্গলঃ সেকালের বাঙালীর চোখে ইলেকশন”, দেশঃ সুবর্ণজয়ন্তী প্রবন্ধ সংকলন (১৯৩৩-১৯৮৩), সম্পাদক, সাগরময় ঘোষ, কলকাতাঃ আনন্দ পাবলিশার্স,২০০০,পৃঃ ২২৭-২৩২

[12] Jeremy Seabrook and Imran Ahmed Siddiqui. “people without history: india’s muslim ghettos.” New Delhi: Navayana, 2011. P. 19. Print.

[13] সাবির আহমেদ, সংখ্যাগুরু সংখ্যালঘুর কথা বলবে না, আনন্দবাজার পত্রিকা, ০৩.০৫.২০১৬, পৃঃ ৪

[14] “Introduction”. Living Reality of Muslims in west Bengal: A Report. Association SNAP and Guidance Guild in association with Pratichi Institute, Kolkata.2016. p. 6

[15] সাবির আহমেদ, সাচার কমিটি রিপোর্টের দশ বছর পরে, আনন্দবাজার পত্রিকা, ২৪.০১.২০১৬, পৃঃ৪

[16] মানসকুমার রায়চৌধুরী, পাঁচ বছরে কতটুকু করেছেন, আনন্দবাজার পত্রিকা, ২১.০৩.২০১৬, পৃঃ ৪

[17] শুভনীল চৌধুরী ও শাশ্বত ঘোষ, মুসলমানদের বাদ দিয়ে উন্নয়ন হবে না, আনন্দবাজার পত্রিকা, ২৪.০১.২০১৬, পৃঃ ৪

[18] Jeremy Seabrook and Imran Ahmed Siddiqui. “people without history: india’s muslim ghettos.” New Delhi: Navayana, 2011. Print.

[19] অতীন বন্ধ্যোপাধ্যায়, নীলকণ্ঠ পাখির খোঁজে, কলকাতাঃ করুণা প্রকাশনী, ২০১০,পৃঃ৩০৭

[20] Kahlil Gibran. “My Countrymen” in Secrets of the Heart. New Delhi: UBSPD, 2006. Print

[21] “Introduction”. Living Reality of Muslims in west Bengal: A Report. Association SNAP and Guidance Guild in association with Pratichi Institute, Kolkata.2016. p. 4

[22] Abu Siddik, “Bengali Muslims as Marginals: An Overview” in Representation of the Marginalized in Indian writings in English. Ed. Abu Siddik. Falakata, Alipurduar: Falakata College, Publication Cell, 2015. p. 183-184. Print.

[23] “Introduction”. Living Reality of Muslims in west Bengal: A Report. Association SNAP and Guidance Guild in association with Pratichi Institute, Kolkata.2016. p. 3

24 M.J. Akbar, “Muslims should shed attitude of minorityism”. The Hindu, 19 Feb. 2013

[25] Kahlil Gibran. “My Countrymen” in Secrets of the Heart. New Delhi: UBSPD, 2006. Print
Continue reading “Layered Marginality of Bengali Muslims in West Bengal: An Introspective Study”

তিন তালাক ও বাংলার মুসলমান মহিলা

তিন তালাক ও বাংলার মুসলমান মহিলা
ড. আবু সিদ্দিক
বাঙালি মুসলমানদের ‘তিন তালাক’ প্রথার বিরুদ্ধে সচেতন হওয়া দরকার, যদিও বাংলার মুসলমানদের মধ্যে তিন তালাক বা দুই তালাকের প্রবনতা দিনের পর দিন কমছে। মুসলমানদের বোঝা উচিৎ আজ আর তিন (মতভেদে দুই) তালাক প্রথা নিস্প্রয়োজন। মুসলিম পার্সোনাল ল’ বোর্ড (১৯৭৩) তিন তালাকের পক্ষ সমর্থন করতে পারেন তাঁদের ব্যক্তিগত ও রাজনৈতিক স্বার্থের জন্য। কিন্তু বাঙালি মুসলমানদের ভারতীয় নাগরিক হওয়ার সুবাদে ভারতীয় বিচার-ব্যবস্হার প্রতি শ্রদ্ধা দেখান আবশ্যীক।মুসলিম পার্সোনাল ল’ বোর্ড, যার ভাষা ইংরেজী এবং উর্দু, এবং যার মাথায় আছেন জনাব Syed Mohammad Rabe Hasani সহ Qari Muhammad Tayyib Abul Hasan Ali Hasani Nadw-এর মত খ্যাতনামা আলেমগন কখনই বাঙালি মুসলমানের প্রতিনিধি হতে পারে না। আমি একশো শতাংশ বিশ্বাস করি উনারা বাঙালি মুসলমানকে চেনেন না।এই বোর্ড ভারতীয় সমাজে অনাবশ্যক বিভেদের জন্ম দেয়। শিক্ষিত সচেতন মুসলমানদের তাই শাহ বানো ও শাইরা বানো দের পাশে দাঁড়ান উচিৎ। ভারতীয় বিচার-ব্যবস্হা যেন ক্ষমতাসীন পুরুষ মুসলিমদের তোষণ না করে। একটি নারীকে তাঁর ন্যায্য সাংবিধানিক অধিকার ও মর্যাদা থেকে কেউ যেন বঞ্ছিত করতে না পারে।

মুসলিম পার্সোনাল ল’ বোর্ড ইসলাম এবং সারা ভারতের মুসলমানদের, আমি আগেই বলেছি আবারও বলছি, প্রতিনিধিত্ব করে না।আরীফ মোহম্মদ খানের যুক্তিবাদী ধারনা এবং মানবাতাবাদী চেতনা আজকের মুসলমান সমাজের বড়ই প্রয়োজন। শাহ বানোর পর গঙ্গা দিয়ে জল অনেক প্রবাহিত হয়েছে। মুসলমান নারীর অবস্থার খুব একটা পরিবর্তন হয় নি। কারন সংখ্যালঘু ধর্মীয় নেতারা সংখ্যাগুরু সমগ্র মুসলমান সম্প্রদায়ের উপর এখনও সমানতালে আল্লার এবং দোজখের অতিরঞ্জিত ভয় দেখিয়ে ‘টাইট’ দিয়ে রেখেছেন। আর যেটা সবথেকে অবাক করার কথা সেটা হল মুসলমান বুদ্ধিজীবীদের কয়েকটি এলোমেলো প্রতিবাদী সূর এই গোঁড়াদের বিরুদ্ধে সময় সময় শুনা গেলেও, সংঘটিত প্রতিবাদের যুক্তিবাদি এবং মানবতাবাদী আওয়াজ সেরকম ভাবে এখনও প্রকাশ পায় না। আশার কথা সেই কাজটি এবার নজরুল ইসলামের দ্বারা শুরু হয়েছে পশ্চিমবঙ্গের মাটিতে। আমরা অতীতে দেখেছি এবং এখনও দেখছি মুসলমান বুদ্ধিজীবীদের উদার মানবতাবাদী মতামত এবং তাদের দেওয়া কুরান ও হাদিসের মননশীল ব্যাখ্যা কোনদিন বৃহত্তর মুসলমান সম্প্রদায়ের কাছে ‘পাত্তা’ পায় নি। পাত্তা পেয়েছে তথাকথিত মৌলবিদের দেওয়া কুরান ও হাদিসের বিভেদকামী ব্যাখা। আজ হেসে খেলে দিন কাটানোর সময় নয়। গভীর আত্মনুসন্ধানের দিন। আমাদের উচিৎ মুষ্টিমেয় যে সব মুসলমান (সে কতটা খাঁটি মুসলমান/ কাফের এই বিচার না করে) বৃহত্তর সমাজের কথা ভেবে এবং ইসলামের প্রগতিবাদী এবং যুক্তিবাদীতে আস্থা রাখেন, তাঁদেরকে বুকে ধরে আগলে রাখা, এবং তাদের কাজের প্রতি গভীর শ্রদ্ধা এবং সমর্থন প্রদান করা।
কিন্তু এখানে আর একটি কথা খুব স্পষ্ট করে বলা দরকার। তালাক প্রথাই একমাত্র মুসলমান মহিলাদের পিছিয়ে রাখেনি। মুসলমান মহিলারা আরও নানাদিক হতে বঞ্চিত ও ‘অচ্ছুৎ’। এবং এর জন্য বৃহত্তর নাগরিক সমাজ এবং রাষ্ট্র দায়ী একথা ভুলে গেলে চলবে না। দুঃখের বিষয় তালাক নিয়ে সকালে বিকালে রকমারি সুস্বাদু ভুরি ভুরি লেখা বেরুয়। তালাকের ইস্যুকে সামনে রেখে গলি থেকে রাজপথ আমরা দাপিয়ে বেড়াই। কিন্তু মুসলমান মহিলাদের শিক্ষা, স্বাস্থ্য ইত্যাদি সম্পর্কে আমরা ভীষণভাবে মুখে কলুপ আঁটি। বোরখা, তালাক ছাড়া আর কি কিছু মুসলমান মহিলাদের পাবার নেই? তাহলে মুসলমান মহিলাদেরকে ‘বোরখা, তালাক’-এর গণ্ডী পেরিয়ে একটু একপেশেভাব কাটিয়ে নিজেদের আলস্যকে বিদায়দিয়ে চোখে টাটকা ঠাণ্ডা জলের ঝাপটা দিয়ে দেখলে কেমন হয়!মানুষের মুক্তির প্রধান এবং প্রাথমিক সোপান শিক্ষা। যে শিক্ষা থাকলে মুসলমান মহিলারা তালাকের প্রথা কে ভোঁতা করে দিতে পারেন নিজেরাই। সেই শিক্ষার ক্ষেত্রে মুসলমান মহিলাদের পশ্চাদপদতার জন্য কে বা কারা দায়ী? মুসলমানরা নয় নিশ্চয়। মুসলমান মহিলাদের সামগ্রিক শিক্ষাগত অবস্থানের ক্ষেত্রে প্রধান অন্তরায় দারিদ্র্য, কাছাকাছি বিদ্যালয়ের অভাব, দূরের স্কুলে পাঠানোর ক্ষেত্রে নিরাপত্তাজনিত সমস্যা, গ্রামীণ পশ্চাদপদ অংশে স্কুলের দুর্দশা, মেয়েদের পৃথক স্কুলের অভাব, মহিলা শিক্ষিকার অভাব, শিখান্তে পেশাপ্রবেশের সম্ভবনা কম, ইত্যাদি। মুসলমান মহিলাদের কথা বলতে শুধু তাঁদের বিবাহ, সন্তান জন্ম দেওয়া, তালাক, ইত্যাদি বিষয়গুলোই প্রাধান্য পায়।চেনা ছকের বাইরে পা দিলে বাংলা তথা ভারতের মুসলমান মহিলাদের পিছিয়ে পড়ার কারন একমাত্র পর্দা ও তালাক নয় সেটা সাচার রিপোর্ট, স্ন্যাপ রিপোর্ট (পশ্চিমবঙ্গের মুসলমান মহিলাদের ক্ষেত্রে) চোখে আঙুল দিয়ে বার বার প্রমাণ করে।



today a wide circulated bengali daily has published the sorry state

the plight is nowhere

of bengal muslims in the area of govt. employment. it is said that the party in power is anxiety-stricken for it. they are weeping now for their muslim fellows. it is crocodiles’ tears

i think it is an eye wash. panchyat vote is coming, and the political parties are clamouring for the fair share of ignoble and ignorant minority vote banks. they have no earnest desire for the upliftment of minority agrarian populace. they treat them as triumph cards to hold their power.

but today past scenarios have changed. many muslims educated youths, i believe, will not accept the deluge of promises. they want see their actualisation in their day yo day lives. though some will be bullied, but not all.

now it is the time for bengal muslims to get united irrespective of status and class. they have to express their solidarity in democratic way. they will have to more conscious about the promises of leaders.

the need of the hour is the quality education. unless and until steps are taken to this direction, there will be nothing. vote will come and go. and ignorant resourceless muslims will be plunged into the mire of darkness.

thus i request my educated muslim brothers and sisters don’t be cheated by such leaders who are busy to amass their personal wealth. and don’t expect anything beneficial from muslim leaders particularly. they have no power to express their views. and if they do, they will be immediately either sided aside or sacked by the brahmanical party bosses.