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The Speech of Mr. Sris Chandra Chattopadhya (Opposition to Objectives Resolution, Constitutent Assembly of Pak, 12 March 1949)

This is a historic speech and a document that posterity will re-examine. Seldom has one piece of legislation caused so much trepidation. Thanks to my firebrand friend Usman Qazi, I got to read this speech that I had heard about from many people. Here is the  text of the address of  Sris Chandra Chattopadhya (Opposition to Objectives Resolution, Constitutent Assembly of Pak, 12 March 1949).

Mr. Sris Chandra Chattopadhya (East Bengal : General) : Mr. President, I thought, after my colleague, Mr. Bhupendra Kumar Datta, had spoken on the two amendments on behalf of the Congress Party, I would not take any part in this discussion. He appealed, he reasoned and made the Congress position fully clear, but after I heard some of the speakers from the majority party, viz, Muslim League Party, the manner in which they had interpreted the Resolution, it became incumbent on me to take part in this discussion.
I have heard Dr. Malik and appreciate his standpoint. He says that “we got Pakistan for establishing a Muslim State, and the Muslims suffered for it and therefore it was not desireable that anybody should speak against it”. I quite agree with him. He said; “If we establish a Muslim State and even if we become reactionaries, who are you to say anything against it?” That is a standpoint which I understand, but here there is some difficulty. We also, on this side, fought for the independence of the country. We worked for the independence of the entire country. When our erstwhile masters, Britishers, were practically in the mood of going away, the country was divided – one part became Pakistan and the other remained India. If in the Pakistan State there would have been only Muslims, the question would have been different. But there are some non-muslims also in Pakistan. When they wanted a division there was no talk of an exchange of population. If there was an exchange of population, there would have been an end of the matter, and Dr. Malik could establish his Pakistan in his own way and frame constitution accordingly. It is also true that the part of Pakistan in which Dr. Malik lives is denuded of non-Muslims. That is clear.
Dr. Omar Hayat Malik: On a point of order, Sir, I never said that. He has understood me quite wrongly.
Mr. Omar Hayat Malik: I never said that Pakistan was denuded of non-Muslims. My friend on the opposite has misunderstood me. […]

February 12th, 2010|governance, History, India-Pakistan History, Islam, Pakistan|4 Comments

Bauls of Bengal

Found this translation and music video here

The famous Bengali author Rabindranath Tagore was influenced by Bauls. He translated the following Baul verse into English in his book The Religion of Man. The quote highlights the mystic Sufi focus on celestial love:

Where shall I meet him, the Man of my Heart?
He is lost to […]

April 13th, 2009|Bangladesh, Music, Religion, Sufi poetry, Sufism|1 Comment

Capitulating Rajas: why Taliban might not be resisted

My new piece for The Friday Times

South Asian history is a tale of capitulation of local elites before external invaders. Be it the Aryans, the Mongols or East India Company officials, we have always relented, and sometimes quite painlessly. This is an area of history that remains less explored as it conflicts with the grand narratives of ‘resistance’ and nationalist myths we love to construct.S

A phrase locked into our cultural memory – Hunooz Dilli Door Ast (Delhi is as yet far away) explains this historical pattern. It has become a metaphor for the insularity of the elites and the powerlessness of the common people. The complacency that Delhi, the capital of the Islamic empire was not accessible to the hordes of invaders, was the tragic reaction by debauched kings, local Rajas and their henchmen who were either men of straw or active collaborators. […]

The sway of the Bauls:Oblivious minstrels of soul

Out of the Quagmire

“By Ratnadeep Banerji “The sway of the Bauls:Oblivious minstrels of soul” – Organiser – New Delhi, India
Weekly issue: August 17, 2008

Baul etymologically arises from Sanskrit batul or byakul that literally means divinely inane or fervently eager

The Charyapadas (Buddhist hymns) which gave rise to Bengali bear references to the precepts of Baul. It is conjectured that around 6th century AD, Mahaprabhu Chaitanya, culled this esoteric coterie of Bauls as a formal community though the word ‘Baul’ appeared in Bengali texts around 15th century.

Bauls are essentially mystic minstrels hailing from the hinterland of West Bengal and Bangladesh. Baul is not just a music tradition but it’s also a syncretic religious sect out of Vaishnavite Hindus, Sufi Muslims and Hindu tantric sect of the Kartabhajas as well as Tantric Buddhist schools like Sahajia. […]

September 3rd, 2008|Personal|1 Comment

Kabir, Bulleh and Lalon – Petals of a mystic lotus

Also published in the Weekly Friday Times July 24 issue

The subcontinent during the 15th century witnessed the coming of age of a process that started brewing with the arrival of Central Asian Sufis, those eternal travellers who arrived in India with a message of Islam and mystic love. When Sufi thought, an off-shore spiritual undercurrent to the rise of Islam, met its local hosts, the results were terrific. There was no shortage of fundamentalists and communalists in that cultural landscape; and the gulf between alien rulers and the native subjects was a stark reality as well.

Nevertheless, a synthesis of sorts was navigated by hundreds of yogis, Sufis and poets of South Asia. Very much a people’s movement from below, the Bhakti movement articulated a powerful vision of tolerance, amity and co-existence that remains relevant today. This is many centuries before the suave, Western-educated intelligentsia coined the “people-to-people” contact campaigns. Yes, much has been lost in the tumultuous 20th century and perhaps these histories are irreversible. But a vast and complex common ground was nurtured by mystic poets of northern India, now comprising India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. […]

The story of an ivory chair – Murshidabad’s gift to Hastings

Dr Amin Jaffer, the expert on Indian arts and furniture, currently working at Christie’s holds forth in a conversation below. The chair above is a fine work of craftsmanship and amalgamation of Eastern and Western aesthetics in the eighteenth century India. The chair was presented to the infamous Warren Hastings by the female Rani (ruler) of Murshidabad. Amazing that it survives…

we’re very lucky to have found a group of correspondence relating to Warren Hastings and the ruler of Murshidabad, the old princely capital of the state of Bengal and she was the regent, she was called Mani Begum, who was originally a dancing girl and she married the Nawab and when the Nawab died and there was a sort of power vacuum, Warren Hastings installed her as the regent and she thanks Hastings and his wife Marion by giving them, over a number of years, pieces of very, very high quality ivory furniture.
And when Hastings comes back to England, it’s his agent in Calcutta who’s transacting the shipping of the furniture and Hastings asks him repeatedly to give letters to the Begum to thank her or to tell her how fantastic the furniture looks in the house in Dalesford – Warren Hastings’ great house which he built in the Cotswolds and that’s how we really know that this piece, one of a pair, belonged to this great important commission.

June 5th, 2008|Arts & Culture, History, India-Pakistan History|1 Comment

Songs of Lalon Fakir – the Bengali mystic

these two poems by Lalon Fakir – the singing mystic of Bengal who echoes Bulleh Shah, Kabir and the tradition of Bhakti.

A Strange Bird

Look, how a strange bird flits in and out of the cage!
O brother, I wish I could bind it with my mindís fetters.
Have you seen a house of eight rooms with nine doors
Closed and open, with windows in between, mirrored?
O mind, you are a bird encaged! And of green sticks
Is your cage made, but it will be broken one day.
Lalon says: Open the cage, look how the bird wings away!


People ask, what is Lalon’s caste?
Lalon says, my eyes fail to detect
The signs of caste. Don’t you see that
Some wear garlands, some rosaries
Around the neck? But does it make any
Difference brother? O, tell me,
What mark does one carry when
One is born, or when one dies?
A muslim is marked by the sign
Of circumcision; but how should
You mark a woman? If a Brahmin male
Is known by the thread he wears,
How is a woman known? People of the world,
O brother, talk of marks and signs,
But Lalon says: I have only dissolved
The raft of signs, the marks of caste
In the deluge of the One!

Translated by Azfar Hussain

More details on Lalon are below: […]

March 5th, 2008|Bangladesh, Poetry, Sufi poetry, Sufism, World Artists|15 Comments