[Freedom Struggle] Suhrawardy-Sarat Bose agreement, Bengal Pact, Features, Consequences

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Pavan Kumar
  1. Events leading to Bengal Pact
  2. Bengal Pact: Features
  3. Why Bengal Pact failed?

Events leading to Bengal Pact

  • Hussain Shaheed Suhrawardy, then CM of Bengal supported the “Two nation” theory and Pakistan. But He feared India will get Bengal’s industrialized regions and Calcutta, while (East) Pakistan will only get the poor-backward areas of Bengal.
  • Bengali Hindu leader Sarat Chandra Bose believed that division of Bengal between India and Pakistan, will ruin its culture and economy.
  • But Since Hindus would not agree to a “United” Bengal joining Pakistan and Muslims would not agree to a “United” Bengal joining India, therefore Suharawardy and Sarat Bose decided to carve out a Sovereign nation – “United Bengal”, free from both India and Pakistan, and jointly run by both Hindus and Muslims.
  • They sought Gandhi’s help, Gandhi supported this idea in hope to counter Jinnah’s two nation theory. But maintained that all decisions for “united Bengal” should be taken on mutual consent among Hindus and Muslims.

Therefore, Suharawardy and Sarat Bose drafted an agreement. This is known as “Bengal Pact” or “Suhrawardi-Sarat Bose agreement” or “Sarat Formula” on 20th May 1947.

Suharawardi Sarat Bose agreement formula bengal pact

Bengal Pact: Features

  1. Bengal would become an independent state
  2. Bengal’s Constitution will be drafted by an assembly of 16 Muslims, 14 Hindus= 30 members.
  3. Interim government with Muslim CM and Hindu Home minister, until this Constitution is drafted.
  4. Proportional representation of Hindus and Muslims in the legislature.
  5. A candidate who wins majority votes of his own community and 25% votes of other community, would be declared elected
  6. Hindus (including Scheduled Caste Hindus) and Muslims will have equal share in military and Police jobs.

Why Bengal Pact failed?

  • Assam CM Gopinath Bordoloi complained Mountbatten, “if Bengal became a separate country, Assam will be cutoff from India & Calcutta port. This will ruin Assam’s tea business & economy.”
  • Jinnah agreed to separate Bengal country IF Congress gave him WHOLE Punjab.
  • Obviously, Congress, Nehru and Patel opposed.
  • Shyamaprasad Mukharjee’s Hindu Mahasabha also started “Bengali Hindu Homeland Movement” for creation of separate state for Bengali Hindus within Indian dominion.
  • Bengal’s Muslim league also backtracked, “we agree to formation of Pakistan and Muslim dominated Bengali areas joining (east) Pakistan. We have nothing to do with demand for separate Bengal country made by Suharawardy and Sarat Bose.”
  • Seeing no consensus among Congress and Muslim league for “united” Bengal, Lord Mountbatten decided to partition Bengal between India and Pakistan.
  • Now, picture becomes clear that Calcutta will go to India. Chief Minister Suharawardy fears that Hindu will kill him because of his involvement in “Direct action Day”. He runs away to Dubai Dhaka, abandoning the plan of United Bengal nation and accepts to live under Jinnah’s (East) Pakistan (Where he would later become the Prime Minister.)
  • Now, Sarat Chandra Bose is isolated. He seeks Gandhi’s support
  • But Nehru and Patel requested Gandhi not to support Sarat Bose on this matter. Therefore, Gandhi asked Sarat to abandon the idea of United Bengal nation.

And thus, Suhrawardi-Sarat Bose agreement = #EPICFAIL

Mock Question

(GS1) Q. Examine the events leading to Suharawardi-Sarat Bose agreement, why did it fail to create United Bengal nation? (200 words)

Event leading to:

  • Muslim league leader and Bengal CM Suharawardi was in favour of creation of Pakistan, but feared that rich areas of Bengal will go to India.
  • Congress leader Subhash Chandra Bose feared division of Bengal will ruin its economy and culture.
  • Since neither Hindu nor Muslims would agree to a “United” Bengal joining either Pakistan OR India respectively, the only solution was a United Bengal- free from India and Pakistan.

Thus Suharawardi-Sarat Bose agreement / Bengal pact was signed in May 1947, with following features

  1. Bengal would become an independent state
  2. Its Constitution will be drafted by a joint assembly of Hindus and Muslims.
  3. Hindus and Muslims will get Proportional representation in legislature but equal share in military and Police jobs.

Why failed?

  1. Opposition from Assam that it’d cut their link to Calcutta port and rest of India.
  2. Jinnah accepted with caveats, But Congress and Hindu Mahasabha opposed vehemently.
  3. June 1947: Given the lack of consensus, Mountbatten’s partition plan divided Bengal between India and Pakistan. Both Congress and Muslim League accepted.
  4. Suharawardi stepped down as CM, left for Dhaka.
  5. Isolated Sarat Bose did not get support from Gandhi due to opposition from Nehru and Patel.

Thus, Suharawardi-Sarat Bose’s movement fizzed out and their dream for a United Bengal nation could not materialize.
~190 words
Ref:

  • Frontline May 2, 2014. Page 106.
  • Tushar Gandhi’s book “Let’s kill Gandhi”, Chapter 10 “A Lonesome Mahatma” Page 300 to 304

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