In a way, Bengal was Britain’s Gaza

Insurgency then and now: British India’s rebels and Israel’s Hamas

Arpan Roy writes in Dawn: In the same way that the British cited terrorism as the reason why India was not ready for self-rule, so do the Israelis and their Western benefactors in denying freedom to Palestinians.

Illustration: Dawn

Videos released by Hamas’s media team towards the end of October and broadcast on Al-Jazeera showed the militant group releasing Israeli hostages captured on October 7. The videos also showed Hamas fighters behaving with unexpected kindness while doing so — they hugged and gave dap handshakes to elderly ladies, cared for puppies, held hands with children, exchanged terms of endearment with their captives in Hebrew, and made sure everyone had bottles of water. The scenes looked like family farewells, but surreal, with the fighters saying goodbye from behind balaclavas and slinging kalashnikovs. Watching Hamas’s etiquette and decorum, I was reminded of a phrase gleaned from the archives by the historian Durba Ghoshgentlemanly terrorists. The words do not normally go together. The amalgam was coined in the context of British rule in India — a juxtaposing of the Bengali bhadrolok, roughly meaning “gentleman,” with “terrorists,” that which the Empire thought many of these gentlemen to be.

The gentlemanly terrorists are not considered terrorists in Bengal. In Bengal, once the cradle of the armed anti-colonial struggle in British India, they are simply biplobi [revolutionaries]. Their names adorn major intersections and railway stations, they are taught in schools as national heroes, and their biographies are the subject of television programs. Elsewhere, they are a largely forgotten chapter of the Independence story. It was because of their constant agitation, however, that the British moved the imperial capital from Calcutta to Delhi in 1911 — a move that established a symbolic genealogy with Indian kingship (Delhi having been the Mughal seat of power), but also acquiesced that Bengal had become ungovernable. In a way, Bengal was Britain’s Gaza. More here >
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