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The “Cow-Life Controversy” and the Bengali Muslim Public Sphere, 1889-1890

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Abstract:

Mir Mosharraf Hossein (1847-1912), pioneering author of the Musalmani-Bengali novel Bishad-Sindhu, was a social commentator and journalist as well. In reaction to the socio-political disharmony in Bengal, exacerbated by “cow-protection” movements and the Bengal Tenancy Act of 1885, Hossein penned a series of articles in the periodical Ahmadi in 1889. The articles, collected and published as Go-Jiban (Cow-Life) in pamphlet form, exhorted Muslims to eschew cow-slaughter. This caused vicious controversy. There were protesting editorials in the Akhbare Islamia and Hossein was accused of apostasy. He retaliated, instituting a libel-case and writing opinion pieces in the Sudhakar. The controversy deepened with the publication of a refutation of Go-Jiban by Pandit Mashaddi. The perodicals were published in Kushtia and Tangail in rural East Bengal.

Through a study of the controversy, my paper analyzes two issues. First, this controversy, articulated in the vernacular, non-elite public sphere through Musalmani-Bengali periodicals and pamphlets, provides a rare insight into the formation process of political identities and networks of intra-communal information exchange revolving around a religiously sensitive issue. Through delineation of differences of ideological engagements between the Hindu “Other” and the Muslim “Self”, these apologias sought to ascribe primacy to “swajati” vs. “swadesh” – imagined community vs idealized nation. Two, by examining the rhetorical use of religious customs and rituals in the pamphlets, this paper offers an understanding of the liminal spaces of intellectual discourse aimed at the Bengali Muslim social imaginary, and in the process, complicates the notions of “good” vs. “bad” Muslims in colonial India.
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Association:
Name: Association for Asian Studies - Annual Conference
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http://www.asian-studies.org


Citation:
URL: http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p1195150_index.html
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MLA Citation:

Banerjee, Mou. "The “Cow-Life Controversy” and the Bengali Muslim Public Sphere, 1889-1890" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Association for Asian Studies - Annual Conference, Sheraton Centre Toronto Hotel, Toronto, Canada, <Not Available>. 2017-07-17 <http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p1195150_index.html>

APA Citation:

Banerjee, M. "The “Cow-Life Controversy” and the Bengali Muslim Public Sphere, 1889-1890" Paper presented at the annual meeting of the Association for Asian Studies - Annual Conference, Sheraton Centre Toronto Hotel, Toronto, Canada <Not Available>. 2017-07-17 from http://citation.allacademic.com/meta/p1195150_index.html

Publication Type: Panel Paper
Abstract: Mir Mosharraf Hossein (1847-1912), pioneering author of the Musalmani-Bengali novel Bishad-Sindhu, was a social commentator and journalist as well. In reaction to the socio-political disharmony in Bengal, exacerbated by “cow-protection” movements and the Bengal Tenancy Act of 1885, Hossein penned a series of articles in the periodical Ahmadi in 1889. The articles, collected and published as Go-Jiban (Cow-Life) in pamphlet form, exhorted Muslims to eschew cow-slaughter. This caused vicious controversy. There were protesting editorials in the Akhbare Islamia and Hossein was accused of apostasy. He retaliated, instituting a libel-case and writing opinion pieces in the Sudhakar. The controversy deepened with the publication of a refutation of Go-Jiban by Pandit Mashaddi. The perodicals were published in Kushtia and Tangail in rural East Bengal.

Through a study of the controversy, my paper analyzes two issues. First, this controversy, articulated in the vernacular, non-elite public sphere through Musalmani-Bengali periodicals and pamphlets, provides a rare insight into the formation process of political identities and networks of intra-communal information exchange revolving around a religiously sensitive issue. Through delineation of differences of ideological engagements between the Hindu “Other” and the Muslim “Self”, these apologias sought to ascribe primacy to “swajati” vs. “swadesh” – imagined community vs idealized nation. Two, by examining the rhetorical use of religious customs and rituals in the pamphlets, this paper offers an understanding of the liminal spaces of intellectual discourse aimed at the Bengali Muslim social imaginary, and in the process, complicates the notions of “good” vs. “bad” Muslims in colonial India.


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