Fatema Miah:

Bengali people were blessed with fertile land.

Bengal was a very fertile land for rice. Only Bengal itself produced rice to feed most of the entire world’s population.  Between East Bengal and West Bengal regions, the rice farming fields’ had vast rice growing capacity. Frankly, amount of rice harvested from field of Bengal was sufficient to feed two third of world’s population, recorded in British History.  The rice price rose up and suddenly there was a rice crisis due to shortage of rice in Bengal, rapidly rice shortage bought recession in India. The poor Bengali working class hard labouring people were deprived and were dying of hunger. According to Cambridge Economic History of India, it is recorded that one and half million of Bengal people died of starvation during Bengal famine of 1943.  Further millions of death was reported in Bengal from small pox epidemic, which total up to three and half million. Before, there was another famine known as the Great Bengal Famine in 1769 to 70, During British Rule in India, affected more than ten million, a third of the Bengal’s population of the time in Bihar, Northern and Central Bengal regions.

During the interwar years, British Authorities collected vast amount of rice into warehouses, then shifted into their ships and transported out of India and distributed to their other colonies to feed their colonial people and marketed in Europe. There in India, it caused shortage of rice and due to shortage of rice the rice price rose up throughout India. Bengali people the main and vast rice eaters were affected by the price of rice and the poor Bengali people were deprived. Another concern was cotton. Besides rice, large amount crops of Jute plantation was grown in Bengal for cotton especially, in the south Eastern region in East Bengal current Bangladesh. Due to British exportation of Cotton, Price of cotton material was made far too expensive also for Indian. Throughout British reign in India, British Authorities gradually collected most cotton materials and shifted out to their British European markets presenting for its finesse dainty quality. In exchange, they delivered to Indian market and introduced to Indians the synthetic material that is produced in British Industries. The foreign fabrics that was imported to India that too had an import duties tax added on it.

On the other hand Indian Nationalist movement were growing out strongest against British. Indian people Specially Bengali People strongly were asserting Swadeshi Rule. Because recession was forced in the country by British imbalanced import and export, in resentment against British Policy, Bengali Nationalists began Boycott of foreign products on wide spread.  Indian ordinary public face suffering. There wasn’t enough Indian goods available to their fulfilment further, the boycotting foreign goods caused more complication for the poor suffering people. When the Second World War broke out, and British authorities urged to take Indian People to participate in war alongside British, though, Gandhi Wrote a letter to Hitler suggesting all peace, no war. Anyway, the War broke out, Congress negotiated with British administration, for Indians’ participation in Western War of the World War II. Gandhi pushed for Tagore’s initial demand of (Swadeshi movement) self-Ruled India in exchange of Indian’s participation in war. There was a tag of war between Congress and Muslim League. Indian People from all over the continent were taken to war. Among them, there were my late Paternal Uncle Al-hajj  and Walama Guljar Ali and his two late cousin brothers along with many other citizens from Sylhet District of Bangladesh. When Bengali people went to participation in World War II, they had to leave their families behind in their home towns.

While the Bengali people went ahead endangering their dear lives for the British war, their families behind faced and suffered the hardship in the recession climax.  For an example; there was restriction on grocery and a limited amount of rice each family were allowed to buy in their local bazar. The landlords (talukdhardher) harvested rice was taken by British authority by given them a very low price, and later on, even the Landlords family had to buy little amounts of rice at a time from the Bazar at a very highest cost, said my eldest paternal late aunty, a sister of late Al-hajj and  Walama Gulzar Ali (the British war volunteer participant).

Salt price was another issue took priority in India. Salt is a vital daily essential ingredient for general people. British Authority put tax on salt. There was already a crisis of rice, price of food rose up to unaffordable beyond the purchasing capability of Ordinary Indian people. In addition, salt price gone up when a tax was added on, salt is a daily essential and vital ingredient for Indians in the hot climax, all together poor Majority Indian people suffered.

Fatema Miah, Solihull, uk. fatemamiah@mail.com