Apropos nothing, let me talk about alternate history — you know, those fantastic tales where this or that even had or had not happened, leading to a very, or not so very, different history.
As the regular readers would know, there are at least two such series, perhaps three, running in this blog where Bengal, or India, had never been partitioned, or where partition had meant a different kind of Pakistan. There was even a post about had there been a battle in Plassey. But when it comes to the subcontinent, the big alternative history subject is about Mughal Empire continuing on beyond the 17th century. Since the Empire exhausted itself during Aurangzeb’s reign, perhaps had his brother Dara Shikoh had been the emperor, things might have been different?
I’ve been intermittently posting two series of alternate histories, one with a Pakistan where Bengal, not Punjab, experienced communal cleansing (latest post) and the other is an India that was never partitioned (latest post). As it happens, even in the unpartitioned India, I imagine Bengal partitioned on communal line.
Does that mean I believe Bengal was always destined to be divided?
No. I don’t believe there is anything inevitable about history. There are specific reasons why key players make particular choices, which together with external shocks (sometimes truly random), shape the course of history. It’s not that hard to imagine a history where Bengal remained undivided, whether as part of India or Pakistan, or as an independent, sovereign state.
So, what if Bengal had not been partitioned?
The 1950s is, of course, considered as somewhat of a ’golden era’ these days. Some of it just nostalgia of the older generations. It is also partly a result of decades of pop culture glorification of Lallywood’s golden days. But there is also something to the idea that the mid-to-late 1950s were times of general peace and prosperity.
And the mid-1950s was the heyday of Jawaharlal Nehru’s long political career. (more…)