Empire's Last Casualty: Indian Subcontinent's Vanishing Hindu and Other Minorities (2008) is a study of effects of religious communalism on a pluralistic, tolerant, multi-religious society. It focuses on the loss of indigenous Hindu population from the land of their ancestors; and on changes brought about since a multi-religious progressive region of Colonial British India was partitioned in 1947, and its effects on Hindu and non-Muslim (Buddhist and Christian) minorities, on pluralism and on indigenous cultures. After Britain's Muslim-Hindu partition of Bengal Province east Bengal became Muslim-majority East Pakistan, a part of Islamic Republic of Pakistan, unleashing regular, merciless anti-Hindu pogroms by intolerant Islamists. West Bengal remained in India, with Muslim minority and ever-growing massive Bengali Hindu refugee who turned towards left extremism. Following a 1971 war of independence against West Pakistan, Bangladesh gained independence, creating the second largest Muslim-majority nation. That war was concurrently anti-Hindu and anti-Bengali genocide by Islamic Republic's army and its Bengali and Urdu speaking Islamist allies. The book documents the decade-wise "missing" Hindus from Bangladesh Census: over 49 million; larger than 163 of 189 nations listed in World Bank's April 2003 World Development indicators database, and between 3.1 million (larger than 75 of 189 nations) and 1.4 million Hindus lost their lives through the process of Islamization. Documenting three million-plus lost lives have been painful and difficult; especially when Hindus cremate their dead. Additionally rivers of the world's largest delta washed away signs of mass murder leaving no clue. All attempts have been made to justify the data presented in the book, hardly-known to the world and rarely discussed in Bengal itself.
Dr. Sachi (Sabyasachi) Ghosh Dastidar is a Distinguished Service Professor of the State University of New York at Old Westbury. He has taught in the U.S., Kazakhstan and India. He has also worked in Florida, Tennessee and West Bengal. Dastidar was an elected Board Member of a New York City School district making him the first Bengali-American to hold a popularly elected position in the U.S.
Sachi Dastidar has authored seven books, A Aamaar Desh, (1998), Regional Disparities and Regional Development Planning of West Bengal with Shefali S. Dastidar (1990), Central Asian Journal of Management, Economics and Social Research (2000) and Living Among the Believers (2006). He has written over 100 articles, short stories and travelogues.
His awards include Senior Fulbright Award, Distinguished Service Professor of the State University of New York, and honors from New York City Comptroller, NYC Council Speaker, residents of Mahilara, Madaripur and Uzirpur, all of Bangladesh, Assam Buddhist Vihar, and from Kazakhstan Institute. He has traveled to over 63 countries in all seven continents including Antarctica.
Publisher: Firma KLM Publishers, Kolkata (Calcutta), India
ISBN: 81-7102-151- 4
AGENDA Sunday, September 5, 2010
Vanishing minorities Empire’s Last Casualty Author: Sachi Ghosh Dastidar Publisher: Firma KLM. Hindus are facing existential crisis in Bangladesh, yet no one is raising the issue, says Saradindu MukherjiStudy of forced migration or refugees has been deliberately neglected by Indian social scientists primarily because of India’s ‘secular’ politics and ‘progressive’ social science research! This negationism is also due to the diktat of their international patrons whose policy is to prop up Pakistan and Bangladesh as normal state systems. Muslim separatist tendencies were the basic factors behind Partition. Pakistan was created on the specific demands made by the Muslim League, and it was duly supported by its permanent collaborators — the Indian Communists. The existing accounts on Partition usually “balance” the guilt and sufferings of both the communities in equal measure, and then, blame everything on the British. On the subsequent persecution, discrimination, dispossession and ethno-religious cleansing of Hindus, Sikhs, Buddhists, etc, the literature is scanty. Herein lies the importance of the book, Empire’s Last Casualty, by Sachi Ghosh Dastidar, a senior academic in the State University of New York and a refugee from East Pakistan.The plight of Hindus in eastern Bengal (later called East Pakistan and currently Bangladesh) is one of the most traumatic stories in the history of human civilisation — comparable in scale to the elimination of the Pagans, Zoroastrians, Hindus and Buddhists by their Islamic conquerors across the world. The sufferings of the aborigines of Australia, the Orang Aslis in Malaysia and that of the native “Indians” by their European conquerors belong to the same category of brutality.Hindus/Buddhists, who constituted 30 per cent of Bangladesh’s population in 1947, have been reduced to less than 10 per cent. The “missing population” amounting to about 25 million are to be found in their unabated mass migration to India, conversion to Islam and merciless elimination. And even this reduction to 30 per cent in 1947 had occurred in a few centuries following Bakhtiyar Khilji’s invasion of Bengal. Thus, the “original sin” cannot be ascribed to the British Empire!The differences between how the non-Muslims suffered in the West and the East had been described by this reviewer thus: “In Islamic parlance, it may be said that while Hindus and Sikhs in West Pakistan were subjected to jhatka (instant slaughter) at one go, Hindus and Buddhists in East Pakistan became items for halal — the process of slow slitting of the head from the torso” (Subjects, Citizens and Refugees: Tragedy in the Chittagong Hill Tracts 1947-1998).It must have been a challenge for Dastidar to write this book, as “documentation of migration is one thing, but the documentation of outright killing of Hindus is extremely complicated, stressful and difficult”. And yet he has done this “painful” job well. Through graphs, charts, photographs and original primary source materials, he brings out the heart-rending story of the Direct Action (August 1946) in Calcutta, Noakhali pogroms and other genocides of 1950, 1964, 1970, 1989, 1992, 2001-2 and many more. This gory story of torture, cold-blooded murder and forced conversion, usually backed by the state power and the “holy” men, makes one devastated. The Bangladesh war of independence itself saw the killing of three million people, with more than 90 per cent being Hindus. He also mentions the plight of the Jumma people in the Chittagong Hill Tracts, and how Khulna, a Hindu-majority district, has been turned into a Hindu-minority district, and how the Muslim population is increasing dangerously in West Bengal.Dastidar rightly wonders why the ruling political parties in West Bengal dominated by Hindu refugees from the east have never uttered a word on the tragedy of their own kinsmen left behind. He is right in asking why no one in India wanted the Pakistanis responsible for killing three million people during the war of liberation to be put on trial. Why have their harassment, humiliation and exodus continued? Why does the international community keep quiet?With the exception of Syama Prasad Mookerjee, who had resigned from the Nehru Cabinet on this issue, no high-profile person — not even Amartya Sen and Mahasweta Devi with their roots in eastern Bengal — has ever uttered a word on this unending genocide.The Appendix provides the famous speech of Dhirendranath Dutta (who was later killed by the Pakistanis in 1971) in the Pakistani parliament, pleading for the inclusion of Bangla as one of the official languages in Pakistan. It also has the letter of resignation of Jogendra Nath Mandal, a Scheduled Caste Minister in the Pakistani Cabinet (who fled from Pakistan to India), CIA’s (Kissinger!) role in the brutal coup against Sheikh Mujib and the elimination of most of his family members.This is a book of rare candour and commitment. The editing, however, could have been more rigorous.
-- The reviewer is professor, University of Delhi, and an expert on Bangladesh
Review in Probini Digest (New York), Spring 2008; p 2 & 4
In his latest book, Empire’s Last Casualty: Indian Subcontinent’s Vanishing Hindu and Other Minorities (2008, Firma KLM, Calcutta: $29.), Dr. Sachi G. Dastidar focuses on the effects of religious communalism on the human rights and survival of the indigenous Hindu and other Christian and Buddhist minorities of Bangladesh/East Pakistan/East Bengal. The book aims to break down what Dr. Dastidar terms the “taboo of silence” in Bangladesh and in the Indian province of West Bengal, as elsewhere in India, with respect to the plight of Bengali minorities since partition by providing quantitative estimates of the vanishing Hindu population principally, but not exclusively. This pioneering study so attempts to provide an answer to the question posed in private by poor villagers and oppressed castes to the author during his travels in the Subcontinent: “Kaku/Babu” (Uncle/Sir), “aamago lokera jai koi?” (Where do my people go?)
Bengal Province in British India is at first described as having linguistic and cultural homogeneity, religious tolerance and peaceful coexistence prior to1905 when it was initially partitioned by the Colonial Administration. Although Bengal was reunited in 1912, Muslim-Hindu communal rioting continued to characterize Bengali politics to the 1947 partition of India into the Dominion of Pakistan (later Islamic Republic of Pakistan) and the Union of India (later Republic of India). While Dr. Dastidar’s main time frame of analysis is the post-1947 era when large-scale population migration and, as he documents, institutionalized intolerance occurred in East Pakistan and in Bangladesh after its independence in 1971, he includes data which illustrates that extensive Hindu migration actually started one year before partition after the massive killing of Hindus during the anti-Hindu Noakhali Danga pogrom. The study uses Indian and Bangladeshi Census figures for 1941-2001 to measure changes in population and flows of migration. Dr. Dastidar laments that it is much more difficult to estimate documentation of loss of life through genocide, pogroms and outright murder. Here, he includes only those estimates corroborated from (often horrific) accounts published in books, newspapers or other reliable sources, while recognizing that a vast number of such deaths still remain to be counted.
The census data reveals that the Hindu population in East Bengal/East Pakistan/Bangladesh has been reduced from a third of the population at the time of the 1947 partition to 8-10 percent in 2001. This loss of population, depending on the rate of growth of population used, ranges from 45 million to 50 million, including a documented estimate of 3.1 million deaths accredited to anti-Hindu violence beginning with the Noakhali Danga pogrom of 1946. The latter figure alone is cited to be larger than 75 of the 189 nations listed in the World Bank’s April 2003 World Development Indicators! While Dr. Dastidar makes a concerted effort to be an objective practitioner of data collection and estimation to avoid any bias, his sadness and outrage speak through the Bangladeshi and Indian Census numbers and the further documentation of the mass murder of Hindus that he attributes to Muslim extremists, the Pakistani Army and Bengali Islamists. As a result of Hindu religious tradition, it is noted, the rivers of the world’s largest delta have washed away the ashes of a great many of these people – but now their deaths, along with the deaths of the other vanishing Bengali minorities, have for the first time, perhaps, been accounted for and brought to the attention of an international audience.
Dr. Becke Kalmans, February 25, 2008
Dr. Kalmans is a professor at State University of New York at Old Westbury
From Partha P. Roy
I have special interest in the book written by you since in the first place it deals with a subject with which all Bengalis should have specific concern and also because you are my brother. Therefore, I have gone through it with due attention and thought that I should volunteer my comments for your consideration. In my view, inclusion of certain details and explanations, as pointed out by me, would perhaps increase value & acceptability of this book. Of course, I do not want to enter into any polemic with you and would leave the matter at that, from my side.
My comments are as follows:
A. Passionately compiled PRAISEWORTHY & useful hardcore research work.
B. Would generate awareness on this tragedy OF historical & CONTEMPORARY IMPORTANCE.
C. ALL BENGALIS SHOULD FIGHT COMMUNALIST PERSECUTIONS & TENDENCIES IN BANGLADESH & INDIA
D. Expectation of Hindu Bangals staying back and fighting it out IN BANGLADESH is impractical.
E. AMBIVALENT ATTITUDE TOWARDS HAPPENINGS IN BANGLADESH IS PERHAPS DUE TO ALL INDIANS LOSING THEIR ETHNIC IDENTITIES IN A PAN INDIAN NESS
F. THE ROLES OF USA & USSR DURING 1971 LIBERATION NEED TO BE INCLUDED
G. ROLE OF USA IN GENERATING TALIBANISM ETC. & ITS EFFECT ON MUSLIM FUNDAMENTALISM NEEDS TO BE DISCUSSED
H. FUNDS FLOW TO FUNDAMENTALIST ORGANISATIONS SHOULD BE DISCUSSED
I. DATA ON TOTAL CRIMES IN BANGLADESH & PROPORTIONATE DISTRIBUTION AMONGST COMMUNITIES – AS ALSO COMPARISON WITH OTHER COUNTRIES NECESSARY
J. DATA ON MIGRATION OF VARIOUS RELIGIOUS GROUPS TO INDIA SHOULD BE ELABORATELY DISCUSSED
K. DISCUSSIONS IN YOUR BOOK SHOULD BE CARRIED OUT IN A MANNER SO THAT YOUR BOOK DOES NOT GENERATE ANIMOSITY TOWARDS MUSLIM COMMUNITY AS A WHOLE.
Some Details on the above points
1. You have done some hardcore research work and passionately compiled a host of data on the atrocities committed on Hindus in Bangladesh. This is a very praiseworthy compilation and would be of help for researchers who are interested in this subject. Also for generating awareness this work would be very useful.
Also I appreciate the help Probini extends to the poor.
2. You have also given your own interpretation of various historical events and expressed dismay at the ‘apathy’ of Bengali Hindus towards these atrocities.
These interpretations and rebukes would attract debate – as normally happens in the case of any sensitive issue of historical importance.
Just to take one example, you feel that the Hindu political leaders, particularly those left leaders who are in power in West Bengal now, should have stayed back and fought for the interest of Hindus in Bangladesh.
Joytibabu and some other leaders were actually born in present day Bangladesh and most of them came to India with their parents when very young - I do not know exactly what was the case with Joytibabu. Anyways, most of them are either dead or very old now. The present day leaders were either born in partitioned India (like you) or came here with their parents( like me) as a baby or a child. If guilty, they are no more that than their ‘genuine’ Ghati counterparts. Whether Joytibabu and his contemporaries should have stayed back or not is also a debatable point – our parents did not.
3. You are shocked at the ambivalent attitude of the Hindus living in West Bengal towards these atrocities. Personally I think that you have a point there and the main reason may be that all different ethnic identities are gradually getting lost by being sucked into the strong vortex of an emerging pan Indian identity. So, by and large, ethnic ties with Bengalis living in Bangladesh has become weaker and weaker over the years. The concept of a separate Bengali identity is perhaps noticed on the stages of Bangasanskriti Sammelans and hardly anywhere else.
This is true of other ethnic groups living in India also. A recent example is the response or the lack of it in Tamil Nadu, when LTTE was being demolished and in the process large numbers of innocent Tamils were annihilated in Sri Lanka. Even though LTTE is a terrorist organization, the large number of innocent Tamils who lost their lives in the fierce army action has attracted worldwide condemnation. Yet in Tamil Nadu, besides tokenism no serious movement was launched by anybody.
4. You have pointed out 3 major mass deaths/murders during 1943, 1947 & 1971. Of these you have attributed the first two on British Imperialists, though in the second case you have also blamed the extremist Muslim leaders – again a creation of BI. I agree with you.
However, in the case of 1971 you have not mentioned the very dubious role played by USA and the helpful attitude of USSR. I am therefore quoting below from Wikepedia the following passage:
“USA and USSR in 1971 war
The United States supported Pakistan both politically and materially. U.S. President Richard Nixon denied getting involved in the situation, saying that it was an internal matter of Pakistan. But when Pakistan's defeat seemed certain, Nixon sent the USS Enterprise to the Bay of Bengal, a move deemed by the Indians as a nuclear threat. Enterprise arrived on station on 11 December 1971. On 6 December and 13 December, the Soviet Navy dispatched two groups of ships, armed with nuclear missiles, from Vladivostok; they trailed U.S. Task Force 74 in the Indian Ocean from 18 December until 7 January 1972.
The Nixon administration provided support to Pakistan President Yahya Khan during the turmoil.
Nixon and Henry Kissinger feared Soviet expansion into South and Southeast Asia. Pakistan was a close ally of the People's Republic of China, with whom Nixon had been negotiating a rapprochement and where he intended to visit in February 1972. Nixon feared that an Indian invasion of West Pakistan would mean total Soviet domination of the region, and that it would seriously undermine the global position of the United States and the regional position of America's new tacit ally, China. In order to demonstrate to China the bona fides of the United States as an ally, and in direct violation of the US Congress-imposed sanctions on Pakistan, Nixon sent military supplies to Pakistan and routed them through Jordan and Iran, while also encouraging China to increase its arms supplies to Pakistan.
The Nixon administration also ignored reports it received of the genocidal activities of the Pakistani Army in East Pakistan, most notably the Blood telegram.
The Soviet Union had supported the Bangladeshis, and supported the Indian Army and Mukti Bahini during the war, recognizing that the independence of Bangladesh would weaken the position of its rivals - the United States and China. It gave assurances to India that if a confrontation with the United States or China developed, the USSR would take counter-measures. This was enshrined in the Indo-Soviet friendship treaty signed in August 1971. The Soviets also sent a nuclear submarine to ward off the threat posed by USS Enterprise in the Indian Ocean.
As a long-standing ally of Pakistan, the People's Republic of China reacted with alarm to the evolving situation in East Pakistan and the prospect of India invading West Pakistan and Pakistani-controlled Kashmir. Believing that just such an Indian attack was imminent, Nixon encouraged China to mobilize its armed forces along its border with India to discourage such an eventuality; the Chinese did not, however, respond in this manner and instead threw their weight behind demands for an immediate ceasefire. China did, however, continue to supply Pakistan with arms and aid. It is believed that had China taken action against India to protect West Pakistan then the Soviet Union would have taken military action against China. One Pakistani writer has speculated that China chose not to attack India because Himalayan passes were snowbound in the wintry months of November and December.
Though the United Nations condemned the human rights violations, it failed to defuse the situation politically before the start of the war. The Security Council assembled on 4 December to discuss the volatile situation in South Asia. USSR vetoed the resolution twice. After lengthy discussions on 7 December, the General Assembly promptly adopted by a majority resolution calling for an "immediate cease-fire and withdrawal of troops." The United States on 12 December requested that the Security Council be reconvened. However, by the time it was reconvened and proposals were finalized, the war had ended, making the measures merely academic.
The inaction of the United Nations in face of the East Pakistan crisis was widely criticized. The conflict also exposed the delay in decision making that failed to address the underlying issues in time.”
5. Various other atrocities committed on the Hindu community in Bangladesh and continued to be done are of course a matter of concern. But a remedy for that does not merely depend on protests from Bengalis alone. Talibanism created and nurtured by USA for long, the flow of funds from its allies like Saudi Arabia and others and moral & material support in all conceivable manners have created a monster of a threat and the saner elements in the muslim society have been pushed into the background. Public awareness and pressure to correct this root cause (which need not only be found in Koran which gives saner advice also) needs to be generated and post 9/11 the opportunity is greater for that.
6. India was intrumental in liberating Bangladesh. Also, India has for long followed a sort of a open door policy for all Bangladeshis to come and settle in India. Taking advantage of that more of Hindus (India has no moral right to stop them) than Muslims have come to India. How much the depletion of Hindu population in Bangladesh is dependent on that is a matter of a research which somebody may perhaps take up someday. The contribution of pogroms, forced conversions etc. towards this depletion also needs to be accurately ascertained.
However it may be interesting to note that the total crimes in Bangladesh in 2006 was 130578 (visit: http://www.police.gov.bd/index5.php?category=48 ), in India it was 1878293 (visit: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Crime_in_India#Crime_over_) and in USA 11401511 (http://www.disastercenter.com/crime/uscrime.htm. These stats show that whereas the population ratios for Bangladesh:USA:India are1 : 1.89 : 7.18 ( http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_countries_by_population) the total crime ratios are 1 : 87.31 : 14.38. Firstly, this shows that total crimes in Bangladesh are on the lower side. Considering that most of these crimes are happening against the Hindu community in Bangladesh the inevitable conclusion would be that the Muslims in Bangladesh are living in a sort of crime free atmosphere, if we accept that the total number of crimes remains the same . Is that true! Also Muslims are trying to leave Bangladesh for India as much as Hindus are doing why that is so! How is it that Muslims are attracted to a relatively much higher crime prone atmosphere!
With best wishes for public appreciation of your book.
Partha P. Roy, a Bangladeshi-Indian, a retired senior engineer, a Left activist, lives in Calcutta, India