Hindu-Muslim Relations in Bengal

Nayabad Mosque, DinajpurIn the British province of Bengal before it was first divided in 1905, Muslims were a small majority. Most Muslims lived in the Eastern districts of Bengal where they were more than three-quarters of the population. In Sylhet district, for instance, Muslims were eight out of ten of the population. There were also large Muslim populations in the capital city of the British Raj, Calcutta, which drew migrants from across India. There were also large Muslim minorities in Bengal's western districts. However, Hindus were the dominant community in the districts that became the state of West Bengal in independent India after Partition.

In the east, Hindus also owned much of the land and had most of the best jobs, despite being a small Radha Krishna, Dinajpurminority. Perhaps one of the most significant fault-lines in modern Bengal has been the one between the wealthy landlord (or zamindar) and the much poorer peasants who were usually tenants who cultivated the soil in return for a share of the crop. The fact that many zamindars were high-caste Hindus and most peasants were either Muslims or lower-caste Hindus meant that this conflict frequently assumed an 'ethnic' or 'communal' colouring. The twentieth century saw the rise of mainly localised conflicts in the countryside between peasants and landlords, or between peasants and money-lenders (many of whom, again, were Hindus).
After Bengal was reunited in 1911, Muslims were the majority community in Bengal, and from the1920s and 30s, took on important roles in local and provincial government. Historians have argued that this was one of the main reasons for Bengali Hindu demands for a partition (dividing up) of Bengal in 1947.

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