The ideological conversion process in Bengal began in earnest after 1793 when the zamindari system was formally introduced. It had two major objectives.

A. To ensure a formal band of loyalists in which the colonizers were successful.

B. The zamindari system - Permanent Settlement-would also ensure regular income through taxation and a profitable ago-capitalism system. But both failed due to two main reasons. a. the incompetence of the Kolkata based babu class, the new zamindars. b. the absence of the conditions that allowed such a model to work in England.

It's the older zamindars and the middle class particularly in the rural areas, many with tax collection links that were hurt most by the British colonial regime and they began to resist with the peasantry as allies. It was based on experience of common oppression not class or cultural identity. It was an asymmetric alliance but an alliance nevertheless. History made them allies.

The first resistance against colonialism that was at a mass scale was the Fakir-Sannyasin resistance (1760) which exemplifies this historical reality of alliance. These religious mendicants were tax collectors operating in the villages and this tax was based on faith traditions. So the first mass resistance to colonialism came from an alliance between the two classes- ousted middle whose livelihood was lost and the peasantry who suffered the most in every aspect including livelihood protection. And the two resisting networks-Hindu and Muslim- were entirely religious in nature. Hence its role in organizing resistance was significant.

The Faraizi transition

The most widespread social resistance before 1857 was the Faraizi movement (1812- 1905) and echoes the Fakir -Sannyasin movement had similarities at several levels.

It was led by the ousted middle class tax collectors but powered by the angry and poor peasantry.

It was anti-colonial in nature as a cluster resisting the new elite zamindars and the British using the counter strength of the religious networks.

It was rooted in opposing taxation. While the Fakir-Sannyasin was based on the protest against violation of their tax practices, Faraizi was based on the repression through taxation by the zamindars.

It was however not similar in several ways. The new content was its exclusivist nature triggered by Faraizi leadership's socio-theological ideology.

Dominant population identity of zamindars were Hindus but poor Hindus were excluded from the movement. Hence it was anti-elitist but naturally ended up as an exclusively Muslim peasant community based movement. This was however both a subjective and an objective reality of the period as it saw the rise of the Hindu community based elite replacing the Muslim community based Turko-Afghan elite.

Faraizis demonized local culture and upheld Arab culture as superior. It considered local Muslims including the peasantry as "non-Muslims", defined by the Wahhabi ideals they picked up during their Makkah days.

In Bengal, the Wahabi slogan against the then current monarchy in Saudi Arabia which were mixed with "puritan" Islam ideas thus became anti-monarchic- colonial rulers- but its social ideology made it exclusivist to a single community, Muslims.

The movement was produced by the growing failure of the Zamandars and zamindari which was personified by the Hindu Kolkata elite. Hence it was socially well packaged making the social division between the beneficiaries and the denied clear and useful for political mobilizing.

The main issue in understanding the movement is not its ideology which was not significant. It was largely a borrowed mish-mash of Saudi Wahabi Islam which had little social influence in Bengal. Peasants remained "non-Muslims' culturally as they had done before and even now. However, both the Islamist leaders and the peasants were part of a wider resistance against colonialism and formed an alliance based on different objectives which is where their appeal lay.

With all their slogans and Islamist purity, the Faraizi leaders had to depend on the "impure Muslim" -peasantry- as their main infantry to carry out their objectives. To the peasant, it hardly mattered what the middle class elite - Islamist or liberal- thought of them. What mattered to them was livelihood protection. It was the second phase of this alliance - social resistance linked to political objectives- that ultimately through stages reached the state seeking phase after 1857.

Exclusion of the Hindu poor

A major fact and impact was the exclusion of the Hindu peasantry who were equal sufferers of the zamindari regime. But events had already split the two communities politically which had a great impact on later history. Two factors stood in the way of a wider alliance. The middle classes from both communities didn't have common objectives like the Fakir-Sannyasin movement did. By the early 19th century, the Hindu Middle class had become the prime beneficiary of colonialism so the question of resisting colonialism didn't arise.

However, the peasant objective was clear for both Hindus and Muslims which shows why the poor peasantry didn't see the Faraizi movement as an exclusivist religious movement. Prof. Muin ud Din Ahmed Khan writes, "the spread of the Faraizi movement drew to its fold not only numerous Muslims who so far stood aloof but also the Hindus and native Christians who sought Dudu Miyan's protection against the oppressive landlords." (Banglapedia)

Thus, the peasantry was looking for a socio-economic liberator not an ideological goal. The social element was greater than its religious content as peasantry of other faiths- few no doubt- joining shows. The religious character had more appeal to the elite while the peasants saw the livelihood question.

The consequence of this meant that while the lower class Hindus suffered most they didn't have any middle class champions and were thus marooned as a helpless part of the peasant community. Their leadership was prime collaborators and thus all were forced to become dominantly what may be called a "compliant" community.

As West and East Bengal shaped up with separate historical identities and the sub-state of East Bengal emerged with its own characteristics and history based on denial and resistance, it was the Bengali Hindu poor who were marginalized the most. Forced into an unshared historical space, abandoned by the politics of their leadership and subjected to the dynamics of collaboration and competition of which they were not a part, they became the ultimate outsiders in this history.

The concept of the one Bengali community incorporating all indicators needs more interrogation in the light of a non-sentimental interpretation of history.

Maulana's political roots and trajectory

Bhashani's roots are located in the peasantry and yet he was not a functioning peasant. He was most close to their world but his education and activism gave him the space to negotiate with the elite on their behalf. His education is an indicator of his class culture as he travelled down the madrassa lane and not colonial education corridors to become a babu in the so-called secular world.

Western secularism based interpretation schemes can't locate him politically because his roots were distinctly in the peasant resistance world, not faith identities. It was linked to the thoughts of the resisting peasants, madrassa and religious activism of various institutions.

It was an alternate world of Western educated notions of "liberation" and liberalism as Maulana Bhashani never lived in those spaces. Thus his Saviour was Allah and not some Germans espousing European models of saviorhood which were carried by the intellectual torch bearers of Western thought. These ideas, based on interpretation of European history and offered as the global solution made in Europe, was in many ways typically "Wahab" universalist in nature, prescribing a global solution to the world's woes. However, in the East, the peasant was always more practical and behaved accordingly.

The streams that the socialists swore to were fundamentally European in nature but Maulana Bhashani ideas of social justice were located in "Islam" in general but as understood best by the peasantry. It was not theological but social. It was in many ways homegrown that took peasant aspiration to a militant level. It existed in the aspiration to be free from poverty.

Under colonialism, the peasantry chose those messages which suited them and remained theologically uninterested all through. For them it's access to livelihood that is theology not the dogmatic prescriptions of the Western idea world.

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