My People, Uprooted, describing the exodus of Hindus from East strangely enough, is one of the very few documentations in English on the subject. Why it is so has been dealt with at length in the book. It was first published in 2001 and won both acclaim and brickbats – the latter from Left-Nehruvian 'secularists' who believed that this story of human suffering had better be kept under wraps. A subsequent edition was published under the title A but in this edition the author has chosen to revert to the earlier title.
Tathagata Roy trained and began life as a Civil Engineer. He subsequently joined the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS – a social reform movement) and the Bharatiya Janata political party in India) and rose to be the state President of the party for West Bengal, and a member of the BJP National Executive. "He is currently the Governor of Tripura. " He has written and been published extensively, both in English and in his native Bengali. He is 71, married, with two married daughters, and has lived most of his life Kolkata.
This book 'is a forceful exposure of atrocious human rights violations in the erstwhile East Bengal, later known as East Pakistan after the partition of India in 1947 and till later as Bangladesh since its independence in 1971. The author, Tathagata Roy, an engineer by profession with a legal background, thoroughly researched books and written documents supplemented by oral history based on interviews of witnesses. Though based in India he has family roots in East Bengal. However, he has tried to get over the personal factor and present an objective outlook.
Hindu-Muslim relationship in India has always been a controversial topic. Anyone speaking on behalf of a particular community is likely to be dubbed as communal. Yet, truth demands outspokenness. Knowledge advances on controversies. Anyone who does not like the author's point of view must come forward with contradiction based on contrary evidence so that truth may ultimately come out in the open. Secularism does not call for the suppression of truth, however unpalatable that may be.
With such an attitude of mind one should go through this book. It may be said that the book presents only one side of the picture. But nothing prevents one from presenting the other side.
This book gives us the details of Hindu-Muslim relations in East Bengal during the British Rule, followed by the Pakistani Government and finally the Independent Bangladesh. The Hindus being a minority there were always at the receiving end. The nadir was reached during the Noakhali carnage which prompted Mahatma Gandhi to lead a peace mission there. Sir Stafford Cripps had to concede about Gandhiji, 11 Almost alone he quelled the disturbances in Bengal which but for the force of his character and teaching would undoubtedly have led to disasters as serious as those in Punjab."(quoted in Dr. Rafiq Zakaria's Gandhi and the Break-up of India, pp. 26 1-262). Candhiji's Noakhali Diary gives us many pathetic details. Gaitdhiji was specially moved by the atrocities committed on women in Noakhali. The present book supplements the existing information with graphic details. Yet Candhiji's peace mission did not totally succeed, for there was an exodus of millions of Hindus from that part upon and after partition of India. This book establishes that the process has not yet stopped. In spite of changes in the Governments the gruesome tale still continues. Now fundamentalist forces muffle the saner elements of that country. New exodus of Hindus follows. Strangely enough, there has been a large scale infiltration of Muslims from Bangladesh in adjoining States in India largely on economic compulsions creating imbalance in India.
The author strongly argues that silence in this behalf is not golden. Secularism, he contends, does not demand suppression of facts.
In my view, the author's marshalling of facts is stimulating and persuasive, Whether one agrees with him or not, one will be impressed by the author's approach towards truth of this painful situation with penetrating zeal. The book may be controversial but cannot be called communal.
This book is a truthful record of the continued human rights violation in our neighbouring country. Without meaning any disrespect the author presses for the remedy of an unbearable situation. This book is recommended for all discerning readers for careful critical study.
It is a matter of some satisfaction that the first edition of this book from its present publisher, published under the title A Suppressed Chapter in History got exhausted fairly quickly, considering the limited section of people to whom the book, I thought, would appeal. Before being published by the present publisher, it had earlier been published under the title My People, Uprooted by another publisher. That way this edition qualifies as a third edition. For a variety of reasons I have chosen to revert to the original title,
As time goes on, more and more material comes into my possession, and whatever is relevant in that is sought to be incorporated in the new edition. But it is a matter of some anguish that relatively little of that material relates to the bloodiest, the most bestial and the most tragic pogrom of Hindusin East Bengal, that of February-March 1950. In fact, in much of this material, written by both Hindus and Muslims, there seems to be a conscious effort to pretend that 1950 never happened. What made the 1950 pogrom particularly hateful is, in my view, the fact that it was the result of a conspiracy hatched by a government, namely that of East Pakistan, and implemented with government resources, like the Nazi pogroms. However, things changed by the time of the next big pogrom, also government sponsored, that of 1971. Because physical accessibility of different parts of East Pakistan had improved in the meanwhile, and because it was interwoven with Bangladesh's liberation struggle, and because many Muslimsalong with a huge number of Hindus also got killed during this one, the material on this pogrom of 1971 is a lot more voluminous than that of 1950. The declassification of some documents in the United States has enriched this collection. And because of the revolution in Information Technology and Publishing that took place in the 1990s and the birth of the Internet, the material on the post-2001 pogrom is a flood compared to the earlier ones. As such, unlike 1950, there was no scope of denying that 1971 and 2001 did happen.
The reviews that the book has so far received have been, to be frank, mixed, largely adverse. Which does not surprise me, because I had, in my small way, mounted a point-blank attack on the Left-Nehruvian version of Indian secularism and its interpretation (read suppression) of the continuing pogrom; and also on the deliberate and politically correct Indian-Bengali- Hindu forgetfulness. I have contended that this version, and the value system based on it, had been instrumental in the concealment of this gigantic violation of human rights, comprising murder of tens of thousands, rape and abduction of countless women and uprooting of more than ten million Hindus. Those who subscribe to that version of secularism naturally did not like it, and it came out in their critique. At least one of them dwelt at length on my BJP background and gave me credit for the fact that I did not try to hide it. That person also accused me of not presenting the' opposite point of view', although I have repeatedly said that the opposite point of view was deliberate, dead silence. Clearly the reviwer either wrote the review without reading the book, or deliberately chose to ignore inconvenient truths. Another one, in Bengali media, refused to deal with the contents of the book and presumed to advise me on what it should have contained, namely, Gujarat! However, it is of some satisfaction that no one among the critics recommended that the book be ignored. Nor did any of them dare to contend that the atrocities mentioned never happened.
As I had said in the preface to the first edition, one of the principal objectives of writing this book was to trigger furtherresearch on the subject. That objective has been only partially achieved. People now, at least in West Bengal, no longer pretend (they may not know - which is another matter) that none of these atrocities took place. A research effort, called 'The Partition Documentation Project' has been started By Dr. Sac hi G.Dastidar (who, I am proud to say, was my classmate in Bengal Engineering College, Sibpur, West Bengal, India, 1961- 66), lately Distinguished Service Professor, Politics, Economics and Law Department, State University of New York, Old Westbury, NY, USA. In particular, I would be very happy to see archival sources in India and Bangladesh fully tapped. On the other hand, the political, societal, academic, and financial impediments to undertaking research into the subject still exist, and it is still considered politically incorrect in the extreme, at least in West Bengal, to bring up this topic in conversation. School textbooks too still go on assiduously avoiding reference to the subject, and Bengali fiction, when referring to the times, obfuscates it in flowery rhetoric as only Bengalis can.
I have made a few structural changes. As for example, the Bibliography section has been streamlined by separating the books in English from those in Bengali. Also, the end notes have been brought to the end of each chapter, instead of all together at the end of the book.
I cannot resist mentioning a quote from the celebrated American Nobel-Laureate author Toni Morrison that I came across recently, and which encapsulates, like nothing else, my entire motivation for beginning to write this book way back in 1998 - though I did not realize it at the time. Said Morrison, "If there is a book you really would like to read, and it has not been written yet, then you must write it".
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