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December 9, 2013

Bengal under English Rule (1757-1905)

By Habib Siddiqui


When Bengal was colonized by the East India Company in the second half of the 18th
century, it was the richest jewel on the British crown. Bengal by then had been ruled
under Muslim rule for nearly six centuries. During this long period from 1203 to 1757,
as the rulers of the territory of Bangalah (Bengal), Muslims held the administrative
positions. And yet, when the territory was divided in 1905 – less than 150 years of
English colonization – into East Bengal, which was to later become the province of
East Pakistan in 1947 and subsequently the independent People’s Republic of
Bangladesh in 1971, and West Bengal, which was to later become a state within the
Republic of India – the Muslims of Bengal lagged behind their Hindu counterparts
economically and politically. Why?

To understand the causes, it is necessary that we have a fairly good grasp of the
political, economic and social landscape of the territory, at least dating back to the
time of the fall of the last independent Nawab of Bengal – Siraj-ud-Dowla in 1757.

The Hindu ascendancy in Bengal was not entirely a British phenomenon. As a matter
of fact, a section of Hindu community had prospered beyond measures during the
Muslim, i.e., pre-1757 English, rule of Bengal. Many of them held important positions
as ministers and generals during the Sultanate period of Ilyas Shah, before the
Mughals came in the political scene of India. (Dr. Abdul Karim, Banglar Etihash, tr.
History of Bengal: the Sultani Period, Dhaka (1998), p. 413) Many Hindus became
filthy rich through such positions, and others through money lending to actually
become the bankers (like the Rothschild family of our time) to the Nawab, and
regrettably played the devious role which facilitated the downfall of the Nawabi rule.

During the Mughal period, Bengal existed mostly as one of its outlying provinces or
Diwans and was locally administered by a Subedar (provincial governor), who acted
as the representative of the Emperor. The Subedar was responsible for collecting
taxes and revenues from subjects, a portion of which had to be sent to the Emperor
and the remainder kept for meeting expenses for welfare of the province. He also
maintained a standing army and police force to protect the territory against any
potential attack from outside and preserve law and order. Land tax collection (usually
a fifth of the agricultural produce) was done through the zamindars. (Ibid., p. 411) [In
rare cases, e.g., in Benapole and Ghoraghat, feudal lords existed who instead of
collecting taxes from the peasants paid an agreed upon sum of money as tax to the
Muslim sultan to show his subservience to the higher authority. (ibid., p. 418)]

In Bengal, which was a Muslim majority territory, most of the zamindars were Muslims
during the greater part of Sultani and Mughal rule (until 1717). But things started
changing drastically from 1717 onward when Murshid Kuli Khan became the Subedar
of Bengal, Bihar and Orissa (today’s Odissa and Jharkhand states of India). He held
the position for ten years until 1727. During his rule, the Izaradar system emerged in
which instead of the zamindars this new group became tax and revenue collectors.
(Jadunath Sarkar, History of Bengal, 2nd vol., Dacca, 1948, p. 409) Within just two to
three generations they were able to replace the zamindars and came to be known as
not only zamindars but also in places as Rajas and Maharajas.

All the chosen Izaradars during Murshid Kuli Khan’s tenure were Hindus. He did this in
order to avoid competition from fellow Muslim nobles who might vie for his high
position. Before him, as noted by renowned historians in their vast works, all the top
administrative positions were held by Muslims, esp. from the Uttar Pradesh.
(Salimullah, Tarikh-e-Bangalah, pp. 403-4, 454)

The latter Nawabs of Bengal simply followed the precedence of keeping Hindu
Izaradars, established by Murshid Kuli Khan. By 1757, when Nawab Siraj-ud-Dowla
became the ruler of Bengal, these Hindu administrators had become strong enough to
conspire and bring about his downfall. But there were some exceptions, as much as
some of the Muslim nobles betrayed the Nawab during the fateful Battle of Plassey
(1757) and sided with the forces of the East India Company that was led by Robert

One such betrayer, Mir Jafar, who came to be known as Lord Clive’s Donkey, became
the next Nawab and his reign lasted only 3 years (1757-60). In a revolving door
politics, he was replaced by Mir Kasim who tried to go against the wishes of the East
India Company. He, too, was dethroned in 1763, and Mir Jafar was put back to power
for the second time. After his death in 1765, his inept son Najm-ud-Dowla (1765-66)
and younger brother Saif-ud-Dowla (1766), followed by son Mubarak-ud-Dowla ruled
in succession.

By 1765, after the victory at the Battle of Buxar, the East India Company had won the
Diwani (representation) from the Mughal Emperor, becoming the virtual ruler of
Bengal, Bihar and Orissa. Those Nawabs since the fall of Siraj-ud-Dowla were merely
title-holders by name only, and nothing else, for which they earned a pension out of
the share of the collected revenue.

During Robert Clive’s dual rule, until 1774, the task of revenue collection was still at
the hands of the puppet Nawabs who collected the same through their Hindu
representatives – the nayeb-diwans (tax collectors/Izaradars). His EIC did not have
the wherewithal to collect such taxes through its English employees and thus relied
upon already existing system.

As to the share of the collected taxes, here is a breakdown: the Mughal emperor Shah
Alam II in Delhi earned 2.6 million taka, the Nawab of Bengal 3.2 million taka and the
East India Company (EIC) the rest of the collected revenue. (Anisuzzaman, Muslim
Manosh o Bangla Shahitya (tr. Muslim Mindset and Bengali Literature), 1757-1918,
Dhaka (1964), p. 6) [Note: Before Sultan Bahadur Shah Jafar was dethroned in the
aftermath of the Sepoy Mutiny, he used to get a pension of 100,000 taka per month.
Similar to Bengal, although the official date for downfall of the Mughal Empire is noted
as 1857, the actual fall happened much earlier in 14 September, 1803, when General
Lake of the EIC moved into Delhi with his British troops after capturing Aligarh. Since
then Mughal rulers were drawing pension money from the EIC. (Jaswant Singh,
Jinnah: India, Partition and Independence)] Under the EIC administration, taxes
multiplied exponentially and consequently, people suffered miserably.

Muslim peasants (i.e., the Rayats) who were at the bottom of the economic pyramid
were the worst sufferers in this revenue collection system. It is worthwhile sharing here
a letter from Lord Clive, dated 30 September, 1765, published in the Court of
Directors of the EIC. He wrote: “The source of tyranny and suppression opened by
the European agents acting under the authority of the Company’s servants and the
numberless black agents and sub-agents acting also under them, will, I fear, be a
lasting reproach to the English name in this country.” (Romesh Dutt, The Economic
History of India under early British Rule, 3rd ed., London (1908), p. 37) As already
hinted, those so-called black agents were local Hindu tax collectors.

It should be also noted here that before the Battle of Plassey, Bengal was a very rich,
prosperous province with enough for everyone to live a very decent life. As a matter
of fact, the inhabitants of Bengal had a much better standard of living compared to
most Europeans living at the time. But under the British rule, the tax burden became
simply unbearable rising fivefold (from 10% to 50% of the value of the agricultural
product) within a very short period of time. The agriculture sector was ruined by a
faulty system, which encouraged cotton, opium poppy and indigo production over rice
cultivation. Moreover, the EIC cared only about tax/revenue collection and nothing
else. They did not do anything to improve the irrigation system.

To make things worse, the EIC imported products enjoyed duty-free entry into the
local market while the reverse was not true for local made products, e.g., muslin, into
the European market. The entire internal and external trade was monopolized by the
EIC. The weavers were forced to weave cotton yarns beyond their capacity. Even
under such savage, brutal, inhuman and ruthless work environment and tiring and
back-breaking workdays, they would be paid so little that they could ill-afford having a
full meal at the end of the day. Hunger and starvation was their lot. Many cut their own
thumbs to avoid being put to this kind of forced labor, others sold everything including
even their children to escape being punished by the revenue collectors, and many
fled the country. (Ibid., Dutt, pp. 23-27)

In 1769 the EIC directors issued the new directives stipulating that the peasants
should be forced to produce raw material and not finished cotton or silk (resham in
Bangla) products, and that such activities could only be done in company owned
properties (and not at farmer’s cottage). (Ibid., p. 45) Due to unfair trade practices,
soon the entire cotton, muslin and silk industry got ruined. With one-way of flow of
money out to the Great Britain, while nothing spent for the good of the farmers and
the local people, it was only a question of time when a great famine would ravage the
country. That ominous event came in 1770 when a third of the population, nearly ten
million people, starved to death what has been called the Great Famine of Bengal
even though that year the EIC had the highest collection of revenue ever from the
land. (ibid., pp. 52-53)

The EIC also came up with a new system for revenue collection. It is called the Sunset
Law in which if either a revenue collector (i.e., zamindar) or a rayat (land holder) had
failed to pay the previously decreed revenue by a certain sunset time, his territory
would be auctioned off to the highest bidder. Almost all of these bidders were Hindu
administrative officials, previously employed by Muslim zamindars. Many of them
deliberately faulted upon payment on behalf of the Muslim zamindar so that later he
could bid for the same territory using zamindar’s money. Many of the new zamindars
were Hindu officials employed within the EIC’s government. These bureaucrats were
ideally placed to bid for lands that they knew to be under-assessed and thereby
profitable. In addition, their position allowed them to quickly acquire wealth through
corruption and bribery. They could also manipulate the system to possess the land
that they targeted.

So by 1790 all on a sudden most of the zamindars or revenue collectors happen to
come from the Hindu community who were mostly absentee landlords that managed
their newly acquired zamindary through local managers. Those new zamindars
virtually became the oppressive hands of the EIC imposing heavy taxes on the
peasants. The situation of Muslims simply worsened after the Permanent Settlement
Act, concluded by Lord Cornwallis in 1793, was enacted. Not only did the Muslim
nobility, including the zamindars lost their properties, even the well-off farmers started
losing their farmland as a result of company policy of high taxes, high usury rates
charged by Hindu mahajons (moneylenders) and oppression of the new Hindu

The EIC’s policy virtually ruined not only the agricultural sector in Bengal but
destroyed its rural cottage industry. Consider, e.g., the case of Muslin – the finest
fabric ever woven in the world, which weighed less than 10 grams per square yard. Till
1813, Dhaka muslin continued to sell in London with 75 per cent profit and was
cheaper than the local British make fabrics. Alarmed at this competition, the British
imposed 80 per cent duty on the imported Bengali product. But more than the duty,
the EIC was bent on ruining the muslin trade by introducing machine-made yarn,
which was introduced in Dhaka by 1817 at one-fourth the price of the Dhaka yarn.
The Muslin weavers were also paid so little that their families remained hungry.
Another unsavory fact associated with the destruction of this Dhaka Muslin industry
was that the thumbs and index fingers of many yarn makers were chopped off by the
British in order to prevent them from twisting the finer yarns required for the muslins,
which would reduce the competitive edge that Muslin had enjoyed thus far over its
counterpart fabrics made in Europe. While the machine generated British yarn was
uniform in quality, something which could no longer be maintained by skilled weavers
under inhuman company policy and practices, in 1840, Dr Taylor, a British textile
expert, admitted: "Even in the present day, notwithstanding the great perfection which
the mills have attained, the Dhaka fabrics are unrivalled in transparency, beauty and
delicacy of texture." The count for the best variety of Dhaka muslin was 1800 threads
per inch, while the lesser varieties had about 1400 threads per inch.

With the destruction of the Muslin industry, in Dhaka alone, the population reduced
from 150,000 to nearly 30,000. (Romesh Dutt, The Economic History of India in the
Victorian Age, 3rd ed., London (1908), p. 105)

Next consider the case of rice cultivators who were forced to grow indigo in their fields.
The indigo planters who were Europeans left no stones unturned to make money.
They mercilessly pursued the peasants to plant indigo instead of food grains. They
provided loans, called dadon at a very high interest rate. Once a farmer took such
loans he remained in debt for whole of his life before passing it to his successors. The
price paid by the planters was meager, only 2.5% of the market price. So the farmers
could make no profit by growing indigo. The farmers were totally unprotected from the
brutal indigo planters, who resorted to mortgage or destruction of their property if they
were unwilling to obey them. Government rules favored the planters who owned some
400 plantation sites in Bengal in the early 19th century. (Romesh Dutt, The Economic
History of India under early British Rule, 3rd ed., London (1908), p. 270)

By an Act in 1833, the planters were granted a free hand in oppression of the
peasants. Even the Hindu zamindars, money lenders and other influential persons like
Raja Ram Mohan Roy and Darokanath Thakur sided with those oppressive planters.
Sadly, the latter two Hindu intellectuals, both then die-hard supporters of the EIC rule
in Bengal, propagated the myth that peasants were living happily under the Indigo
Plantations. (A.R. Desai, Social Background of Indian Nationalism, 2nd ed., Bombay
(1954), p. 113) Most of the oppressed peasants were Muslims. Facing severe
oppression unleashed on them the farmers resorted to revolt against the joint forces
of Indigo planters, EIC and the local Hindu zamindars, mahajons and their agents. But
their resistance did not succeed against the superior and more lethal weapons used
by the opposing side. After the failure of the Sepoy Mutiny of 1857, as a matter of
fact, the oppression of the Indigo planters increased dramatically against the Muslim
peasants, which in turn resulted in several protests across East Bengal.

In 1860 the British Raj was forced to investigate the matter and come up with new laws
to curtail the oppression of the Indigo planters. A year earlier, in 1859, likewise the
Bengal Rent Act allowed certain allowances to peasants against the zamindars and
money-lenders. (Dutt, The Economic History of India in the Victorian Age, p. 263)

Many of the Hindu zamindars were outright bigots and would penalize Muslim men
heavily for keeping beard. In Sarfarazpur when the Muslim rayats declared not to pay
such fines, they were attacked by Hindu vandals and their mosques were burned
down. When their complaints were unheard in the police thana, the matter was
brought to the notice of the Magistrate who also did nothing against the offenders.
Then the matter was eventually brought to the notice of Calcutta Commissioner.
When he, too, did nothing to redress the matter, Muslim peasants revolted under the
leadership of Titu Mir. In Laoghata the oppressive Hindu zamindar Debnath Roy was
killed. Muslim peasants also attacked Indigo plantations. But their resistance against
the joint forces of the EIC, Hindu zamindars and mahajons could not last long against
heavy weapons used by the English magistrates Alexander and Scott. Titu Mir and
many of his gallant revolutionaries died in the battle field, and many were taken
prisoners to serve long terms.

Hindu zamindars also imposed several types of taxes on Muslim peasants for Hindu
festivals like the Durga puja. When Muslim peasants refused to pay such taxes they
were beaten and their properties grabbed by Hindu zamindars. Dudu Mia (d. 1860),
son of Haji Shariatullah, led a peasant’s revolt against such practices in Faridpur. To
discourage such revolts, the Hindu zamindars filed false cases against Dudu Mia and
his lieutenants. Dudu Mia was imprisoned and died in Alipur Prison in 1860.
[Interestingly, in Sheikh Mujib’s Incomplete Memoirs (published in Bangla by the
University Press, Dhaka) he also mentions how the Hindu zamindars and landlords
were adept in making those false cases against Muslim peasants in the early 20th

An analysis of the post-Nawabi period in Bengal, thus, shows the very dismal state of
Muslims. They had not only lost the political leadership at the top but had also fallen
behind in all other counts.

As William Hunter’s report showed, Muslim upper and educated class before the EIC
rule held mostly four important positions – defense, tax and revenue collection (which,
as we have already noted, was transferred to Hindus by the time Nawab Murshid Kuli
Khan), judicial and political administration. (W.W. Hunter, The Indian Musulmans, 3rd
ed. London (1876)) With the replacement of the Muslim local nawabs and zamindars
by the Hindu new masters, many Muslims started losing their jobs, and their economic
conditions suffered miserably. With the EIC acquisition of Muslim Waqf properties
through a series of laws enacted between 1793 and 1828, Muslim education, social
and cultural institutions started suffering also. (A. R. Mallick, British Policy and the
Muslims of Bengal, Dacca (1961), p. 32-3)

When English eventually replaced Farsi as the official language, Muslims found
themselves in much disadvantage in the government employment sector, and they
were no match against better educated and prepared Hindus. Between 1793 and
1814, the task of English education was essentially led by Christian missionaries, who
with their too obvious aggressive missionary zeal and anti-Muslim bias helped further
to discourage Muslim parents from sending their children to such English institutes.
Many conservative Hindus, too, did not like to send their children to those Christian
missionary schools.

For educated Hindus replacing Farsi with English was, however, not as emotionally
challenging as it was for most Muslims, who resisted the change for a plethora of
reasons. It is always difficult for the vanquished to adore anything from the victor. The
Hindus, on the other hand, who were, politically speaking, second-class during the
Muslim rule of India, saw the emerging opportunity with the old order being replaced
with the new, and grabbed it faster and strongly. To further accelerate their climb up
on the new ladder, set by the EIC, and later the British Raj, some of the Hindus did not
mind even converting to Christianity.

In his doctoral work Professor Anisuzzaman challenged the notion that Muslims lagged
behind Hindus in picking up English education on grounds of religion. With the closure
of Islamic endowments and institutions, and lack of funding from the top, especially
the EIC, the number of Muslim students declined. (Anisuzzaman, op. cit., pp. 28-36)

But more importantly, it was the poor economic condition of the Muslim peasants
overall which did not allow them to send their children to modern English schools. For
them to have some rudimentary Islamic education in the madrasa and then help out in
the agricultural sector was considered more fruitful. Most of the schools where English
was initially taught in the early 19th century were also located in and around Calcutta,
and not around northern and eastern parts of Bengal where Muslims comprised a
solid majority. As Professor A.R. Mallick argued, the EIC educational policy favored
the Hindus rather than the Muslims. (Op. cit., pp. 189-93) Even when in 1833, English
was included as a subject within the madrasa curriculum it did not help much in
improving literacy rate amongst Muslims of Bengal, again because of poverty.

Economically, the Hindu community was better off during the EIC rule and could,
therefore, afford to send its children to schools to get better educated, which helped
them to get employed easily. These educated Hindus also favored their own
community in every field further narrowing down the scope for upward mobility
amongst the already disadvantaged Muslim community. A Hindu zamindar would often
discourage Muslim education in his territory and would rather force a brilliant Muslim
student who was desirous of attending college to become Magistrate one day to work
in his office as a clerk or an attendant. If the Muslim father resisted such suggestions,
often times he would be punished and his properties grabbed by the zamindar.

By 1851 only two Muslim students appeared in the Junior Scholarship Examinations
from Kolkata Madrasa (one was Abdool Luteef). In the same period, likewise, only two
Muslim students appeared in the same exam from Hooghly College, established by
philanthropist Haji Mohsin. (Bimanbehari Majumdar, History of Political Thought,
Calcutta (1934), vol. 1, p. 392) It is also worth noting here that tuition fees charged in
madrasas were less than a quarter compared to Hindu schools where English was
taught. But English was not introduced in Calcutta Madrasa until 1854. By 1856, the
Muslim students comprised only about ten percent of the entire student population of
Bengal – e.g., 731 out of a total of 7216. (Mallick, op. cit., pp. 277-8) In the school
year of 1856-57 a total of 158 Muslim students took the English education and 7
passed the Junior Scholarship Exam in 1856. (ibid., pp. 253-5)

The Hindu community also had community leaders like Raja Ram Mohan Roy and
Ishwar Chandra who not only approved the British policy in Bengal, but also
encouraged its folks to quickly adopt the English education which would benefit them
in every aspect, and this their community did almost religiously. In 1816, Ram Mohan
Roy collaborated with English educationists to establish the Hindu College. The
graduates of this college played a vital role later. In 1824 the Sanskrit College was
established to preserve and educate on Hindu culture.

Under British patronage, the history of India started to be rewritten distorting facts,
periodizing her history along religious lines, showing that the majority Hindus were
better off under British rule compared to under Muslim rule. Many of the educated
Hindus enthusiastically participated in this divide-and-rule game, seeding the ground
for partition of India in 1947. The poisonous role of Bengali Hindu writers like Bankim
Chandra was highly problematic who helped to further widen the religious divide. The
middle-class Hindus created social clubs, exclusively for Hindus, to propagate
Hindutvadi philosophy, towards a future Hindu (Ram) Raj. Even the latter-formed so-
called revolutionary, essentially terrorist, cells suffered from distinct anti-Muslim bias
and Hindutvadi ideas. (Abul Kalam Azad, India Wins Freedom, Calcutta (1959), pp. 4-
5) In 1882, Dayanand Saraswati organized a movement to ban slaughter of cows in
India. And then in 1885 when Bal Gangadhar Tilak introduced Shivaji festival probably
the death-bell for a united India was rung. As many of the Hindu extremists,
Hindutvadis, became important party members within the Indian National Congress, it
was not a question of if but when the country would be sliced along religious lines.

In contrast, Muslims were disorganized centrally and their struggles were mostly
economic-centric and local, which were directed against oppressive British Raj and
their planters, traders and agents – the zamindars and the mahajons. Although the
local agents were all Hindus, the revolt movement was never anti-Hindu by any
definition. Many Muslim leaders, especially the religious ones, did not call for or dream
about the partition of India, and surely not Bengal, along religious lines, and as a
matter of fact opposed it wholeheartedly almost to the bitter end.

Muslim community could not compete with and, thus, lagged behind the Hindu
community without a modern, savvy intelligentsia, an educated middle class that has
learned English and a bourgeoisie, on a substantial scale. What they needed was an
intellectual uprising. And this was provided by a very unlikely character – a non-
Bengali from Delhi by the name of Sir Syed Ahmed (1817-1898), who in so many ways
was what Raja Ram Mohan Roy was for the Hindus of the early 19th century. He, too,
like Roy, was a great admirer of the British Raj, and felt that salvation of Muslims lied
in English education and cooperation, and not resistance or revolt.

In 1858, Sir Syed Ahmed founded a modern school in Muradabad. In 1864 he
established the Translation Society. In 1869 he published a newspaper – Mohamedan
Social Reformer. In 1873, he founded the Muslim Anglo-Oriental College in Aligarh,
which was to become later Aligarh University and to breed scores of luminous leaders
who led the cause of Muslim subjects under the British Raj.  

Not to be overlooked here is also the role of Nawab Bahadur Abdool Luteef Khan
(1828-93) of Faridpur who was the first Bengali Muslim to have founded in 1866 the
Mohamedan Literary Society in Calcutta, which had dual objectives: discussion
around western (European) culture so as to encourage and reform Muslim thinking
along that line, and to advise the British Raj through its advisory committees on
matters pertaining to Muslims. It was the first of its kind in entire India for the Muslim
community. Within four years its membership grew to 500. (Anisuzzaman, op. cit., p.

The titles of Nawab and later Nawab Bahadur were bestowed on Abdool Luteef in
1880 and 1887, respectively, by the British Raj. He, too, like Sir Syed felt that English
education was a must for Muslims for moving up the social and economic ladder. He
vigorously campaigned for higher education of Muslims, and as a result of his work,
the famous all-exclusive Hindu College in Calcutta was renamed Presidency College
in which for the first time Muslims could enter.

As noted above, Sir Syed’s Translation Society was contemporary to Luteef’s Literary
Society, which enjoyed some financial benefits from the government, usually from the
office of the Lt. Governor of Bengal. Many English men of high rank within the British
Raj used to join in its meetings. Many Muslim dignitaries like the Sultan of Mysore,
Nawab of Oudh (Ajodhya), Nizams of Hyderabad and Murshidabad were its active
members. Many of the Literary Society’s pro-British Raj activities ran opposite to
those propagated by more conservative elements within the Muslim society which
advocated self-rule and resistance and not subjugation and collaboration. It also
opposed views of Justice Syed Ameer Ali who had founded the National Mohamedan
Association in 1877 and was highly critical of educational policy of the British Raj on
matters pertaining to Muslims.

It is obvious that there were serious divisions and disagreements within the Muslim
community – from top to bottom. Many of the pro-British Muslim subjects like Sir Syed
did not want to join in the national convention for Indian Muslims in 1882 that was
called by the National Mohamedan Association.

Nevertheless, the efforts of pro-British pioneers within the Muslim community paid off
to better the dismal economic condition of their lot. The awareness level about the
benefit of English education under the Raj was much higher, and there were more
educated people within the community. With better economy, esp. in the late 18th
century, as a result of growing demand of jute and rice, which were mostly produced
in Muslim-majority East Bengal, the overall condition of Muslims started taking an
upturn. Many of the previously poor Muslim peasants now for the first time could
afford to send their children for higher education. Hunter’s report also provided the
necessary background for the British Raj to establish madrasas in Chittagong,
Rajshahi and Dhaka where English was taught. (Anisuzzaman, op. cit., p. 89) The
inclusion of Bengali, Farsi and Arabic subjects as part of the optional curriculum for
the bachelor’s degree in Calcutta University and appointment of Muslim teachers for
teaching English at the high school level greatly reduced the educational
backwardness of Muslims. The scholarship from the Haji Mohammad Mohsin Fund
also helped greatly to spread education amongst poor Muslims who previously could
not afford paying the tuition and boarding bills.

As a result, in 1871, 14.7% of the Muslim population in Bengal had education at
school and college levels. This number rose up to 23.8% by 1881-2. But such
advances in literacy rate did not necessarily translate into higher percentage of
government jobs since there was no quota system for Muslims in the employment
sector, and they had to compete with Hindus for such jobs.

With competition in jobs came rivalry – social and political, and the short-lived division
of Bengal in 1905, which was popular amongst most Muslims but unpopular with
Hindus who felt that their monopoly in Calcutta-based trading and commerce was now
threatened by raw material producing East Bengal. This rivalry would lead to the
foundation of the All India Muslim League in 1906 as a counter weight to the Hindu-
dominated Indian National Congress, which was formed much earlier, and eventually
to the emergence of a truncated Pakistan with two wings – East Pakistan (formed
mostly out of East Bengal) and West Pakistan (which comprised parts of the territories
of Punjab, Sindh, North-West Frontier and Baluchistan) separated by India in the