Chapter 10


In any human society, people who had suffered the way the East Bengali Hindus did at the hands of the Muslim majority in that country would have showed their indignation in some tangible way. Indignation does not necessary mean reprisal, or the counter-expulsion of the compatriots of the people who were the cause of the suffering – although it must be said that, civilized or not, that is a very common method of showing indignation. Among other, and more genteel, methods of showing their hurt are : documenting (or getting others to document) the history of the period, writing novels relating to the period, creating cinema or other audio-visual media, observing one or more days in the year for remembering the suffering, creating catchwords to make people remember (like the European Jews’ greeting, ‘next year in Jerusalem’), observing other kinds of rituals such as lighting candles, and so on.

Moreover, under such circumstances, not only would the suffering people of the country show their indignation but the rest of the world would also commiserate with them, and show such commiseration in various ways ; such as conferring honours upon the persons who provide them with leadership, creating economic and political pressure on the tormentors, passing sanctions, getting eminent journalists to write articles and columns on them. Such articles would give publicity to the injustices committed and mobilize national and international opinion against them.

Consider the experiences and deeds of the following peoples :

The Jewish Holocaust, or the mass murder of the Jews by Nazis during World War II and the preceding years, is known to the whole world. It has been researched and documented extensively and intensively. Persecution of Jews in Eastern Europe, which preceded the Nazi horror, and which has contributed the word ‘pogrom’ to the English language, as well as aberrations like the Dreyfus affair of France (not a country known for widespread anti-Semitism) are also very well known throughout the civilised world. Tonnes – literally tonnes – of books, both fiction and nonfiction, have been written on the subject, cinema has been created, drama has been written and enacted - some of it truly memorable, like 'The Diary of Anne Frank', or the film 'Schindler's List'. People like Simon Wiesenthal on the one hand, and organizations like the Israeli Mossad on the other, have been carrying out a relentless search for Nazi criminals, and ferreting out criminals, people like Adolf Eichmann from faraway South America. West Germany has paid massive reparations to Israel. The whole world knows about the holocaust, and of concentration camps like Buchenwald, Belsen-Bergen, Dachau, Auschwitz, Sobibor, Treblinka. Every day thousands of people visit these camps and pay their respects to the souls who had the misfortune to inhabit and die in these camps for no reason other than their birth or race.

The ‘Young Turk’ government of the Turkey-based Ottoman Empire committed a genocide of Christian Armenians in 1915-16. One and a half million Armenians out of the Two and a half million living in the Ottoman Empire were killed off by the government who set violent criminals released from prison upon the Armenians. First the Armenians in the army were disarmed, placed in labour battalions, and then killed. Then about 300 Armenian political and intellectual leaders of Constantinople were rounded up on April 24, 1915 and killed. And finally, common Armenians were marched through the desert without food and water where most of them died from thirst. Some of them were loaded on to barges and drowned in the Black Sea. Armenians all over the world commemorate this great tragedy on April 24 each year. Armenian organizations throughout the world are also carrying out a relentless campaign to give publicity to this genocide

East European peoples, such as Poles, Czechs, Russians, Hungarians and the Baltic peoples, who had suffered at the hands of the Nazis during the German occupation of their countries, or whose countries were parts of Germany before the war, expelled all the ethnic Germans from their countries after the war was over, and changed Germanic place names to indigenous ones. Thus, Koenigsberg became Kaliningrad, Karlsbad Karlovy Vary, Stettin Szczecin, and so on.

In the wake of independence the erstwhile province of Punjab of British India saw terrible rioting and mass murder, with the result that all Hindus and Sikhs were driven out of West (Pakistani) Punjab, and, in reprisal, all Muslims out of East (Indian) Punjab. This exchange of population of several millions was completed in a matter of only five months, between August 1947 and January 1948. The days are remembered in writings like ‘Train to Pakistan’ (by Khushwant Singh), ‘Tamas’ (meaning ‘Darkness’, by Bhisham Sahni) and ‘Toba Tek Singh’ (the name of a village, by Saadat Hasan Manto) and many others.

The whole world was up – if not in arms then at least through sanctions, boycotts, and other onslaughts – against the white South Africans practising Apartheid against Africans, ‘Cape Coloureds’ and Indians in the Union of South Africa. The country had become a virtual international pariah. The Soviet bloc and the third world boycotted them completely, and even in the West the weight of public opinion against them was so enormous as to make the rulers, the white Afrikaners, eventually capitulate.

Slavery, followed by deprivation of Civil Rights of African-Americans in the U. S. South (and less overt but equally humiliating acts in the rest of the states) has been denounced and censured to a great extent by white Americans as much as by African-Americans.

From the days of John Brown of Harper’s Ferry who used to set slaves free, Harriet Beecher Stowe (author of ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin’) and Abraham Lincoln, down to Harper Lee (‘To Kill a Mockingbird’), Erskine Caldwell (‘God’s Little Acre’) and the Integrationists and the Freedom Marchers of the nineteen-fifties and sixties, white Americans had rendered great service in protesting against inhumanities by their racial compatriots. African-American authors who have written on the subject from their own bitter experience, such as Richard Wright ('Native Son'), James Baldwin (‘The Fire Next Time’) and Alex Haley (‘Roots’) are read by millions both in the U.S. and elsewhere. Through their books the whole world is constantly reminded of what had been done to the African-Americans by the Euro-Americans.

Leaders who have fought against Human Rights Abuses and State-Sponsored persecution of ethnic groups, and authors who have written against them have been awarded the most prestigious prize on earth, the Nobel Prize. The list is impressive : Martin Luther King Jr. (relating to Civil Rights for African-Americans in the U.S.), Albert Luthuli, Bishop Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela (against Apartheid in South Africa), Boris Pasternak, Alexander Solzhenytsin, Andrei Sakharov and Lech Walesa (against oppression in the erstwhile Soviet Union and Poland) and Aung San Suu Kyi (against Human Rights abuses in Myanmar or Burma).

All these injustices, all these inhumanities, culminating in all these tragedies have attracted the attention of the world and have been decried by right thinking people in every country. They are all remembered by the descendents of the people who had suffered them, and such people had devised ways to make sure that the tragedy is not forgotten by their descendents. They have all been carefully researched and documented, and such research and documentation goes on all the time. The facts have been meticulously sifted to find out whether or not the tragedy was indeed of the size it is made out to be, whether there was any fault of the side of the people who had ultimately suffered, whether any group was particularly to blame, whether the tragedy was spontaneous or a state-inspired one. The tragedies are talked and written about, discussed, argued upon, debated, analysed and extrapolated with a view to forecast future behaviour of given human groups. They form the subject of polite drawing-room conversation, the substance of learned dissertations in Sociology and Political Science, the material for political propaganda. Nobody ever suggests that such public and private airing of the memories of the tragedy concerned should not be done, or that such airing might cause disaffection between German and Jew, Turk and Armenian, Czech and German, Indian Punjabi and Pakistani Punjabi, Afrikaner and African, Euro-American and African-American.

Nobody ever says about these tragedies, ‘let’s forgive and forget’, ‘let bygones be bygones’, ‘let’s forget the past and bury the hatchet and live like brothers’, least of all ‘let’s not even talk about them’. Because everyone knows that the past is history, that bygones are history, that it is important to study history, that it is shortsighted and stupid and obnoxious and ill-motivated to try to obliterate history. And it is also that study of history has nothing to do with forgiving and forgetting, only with finding out what had happened, why it had happened and putting it on paper.

Now, how is the persecution, expulsion and mass murder of the Hindus of East Bengal seen in the backdrop of the foregoing ?

Of the personalities among the Bengali Hindus of West Bengal who had occupied or are occupying positions of prominence in arts and sciences, literature, music, medicine, law, sport, politics, public administration and the like, at least fifty per cent, sometimes more, have East Bengali roots. To take just one example, of the seven Chief Ministers that the state has had since independence, four – P.C.Ghosh, S.S.Ray, Jyoti Basu and Buddhadeb Bhattacharyya - are from East Bengal. Some among the political personalities who had been brought up in East Bengal, such as P.C.Ghosh, Prasanta Sur or Promode Dasgupta spoke in the East Bengal dialect or with a clearly discernible East Bengal accent. All these people, together with the nameless multitudes who stand out for supporting a soccer team called East Bengal,
[ii] had lost everything behind the border. Some of them had been driven out by Islamic persecution, while others, like this author, had been fortunate enough to be settled on this side of the border before partition, and never went back to get what little was rightfully theirs on the other side.

In such circumstances one would expect the exodus of Hindus from East Bengal to be a hot issue among Hindus in the state of West Bengal. One would expect hundreds of books to be written on the subject, articles appearing in newspapers every now and then, research being conducted on the political, sociological and economic reasons for the exodus, as well as the fallout in these fields, debates on the question, demands that the property that the Hindus had lost on the other side to be compensated, and so on.

Instead one is greeted with a stunned, eerie silence. The subject is never discussed in polite society, never debated, never written about. If it ever comes up in the course of a discussion, people squirm uncomfortably until the subject is changed, almost in the same manner as they would in a case of incest in the family. Books on the subject are rarer than dinosaurs’ eggs, and the few that are there have largely gone out of print.

The extreme paucity of published material on the subject, particularly relating to the East Pakistan era when the bulk of the persecution took place, is very intriguing and suggests that there was a concerted effort to bury this bit of history. Bengalis, with all their faults, are not the type to keep quiet when they find the weak being persecuted by the strong somewhere, no matter in which part of the globe it is. Thus there have been public outcries, meetings, processions, even bandhs
[iii] at Calcutta to protest against American bombing of Vietnam, imprisonment of Nelson Mandela by the South African white government, American embargo of Cuba, British and French bombing of Egypt during the Suez crisis of 1956, the death of Che Guevara in Bolivia, Israeli shooting of Palestinians, unrest in Nicaragua, and so on. Yet, very strangely, in the case of the killing of minority Bengali Hindus in East Pakistan, their very own people, the majority Bengali Hindus of West Bengal, have never even organised a street-corner meeting or given a call for a 15-minute bandh.

This author had searched high and low all over Calcutta (including the famous Calcutta Book Fair) in search of books on the subject. Hundreds of books had turned up, especially in Bangla, by eminent authors such as Bibhuti Bhusan Mukherjee, Buddhadeva Bose, Sunil Ganguly, Atin Banerjee, Manik Banerjee, Samaresh Basu, Shirshendu Mukherjee, Narayan Sanyal, and others, as well as by numerous lesser-known authors on the subject of the miseries of the East Pakistan refugees after they came to West Bengal, how they had suffered in the camps, how a lot of them had to take to begging, crime and sex work, how they were discriminated against, taken advantage of by the indigenous population, both West Bengali and non-Bengali.

Not a single one on how they had suffered in East Bengal, the insecurity, persecution, rape and mass murders that had made them refugees.

Finally, as late as in August 2000, this author found A.J.Kamra’s book “The Prolonged Partition and its Pogroms : Testimonies on Violence against Hindus in East Bengal 1946-64”, published in 2000 by Voice of India, New Delhi. This is possibly so far the only (though incomplete) treatise in English on the subject. Kamra was himself a refugee from Quetta, Baluchistan, Pakistan. This book could not be completed owing to Kamra’s death. As a result, what appears as his book is really a draft, polished up and supplemented by Koenraad Elst [iv], the Belgian researcher into Islamic persecutions. By going through the bibliography of that book, this author had discovered that a few books had indeed been written on the subject, all of which were now out of print or otherwise unavailable. A list of such books, with all the details that were available in Kamra’s book, is also given in the bibliography to this book. It may be mentioned that Prafulla Chakraborty’s ‘The Marginal Men’, first published in 1990, though very well-researched as well as an honest and forthright book, dealt mainly with the injustices done to the refugees in India, and discussed the repression in East Bengal only in an incidental manner.

Kamra was a West Pakistani refugee and knew no Bangla. This author has been more fortunate in that respect, since Bangla is his mother tongue. However the advantage he got from this fact was slight, since he discovered that the material in Bangla was equally scanty. All such material has been listed in the Bibliography.

Almost simultaneously with the discovery of Kamra’s book the author also discovered another two notables, two very thin books in Bangla entitled Deshbhag, Deshtyag, (Partition, Exodus) and Deshbhag : Sriti aar Satta , (Partition : Memories and Existence) by a relatively unknown author called Sandip Banerjee, which actually contain interviews of Hindus describing their suffering in East Pakistan. In this regard these two books can be termed almost a pioneering effort. However, Banerjee has not tried to draw any conclusions from the facts he had unravelled. On the other hand he has gone into the kind of sentimentalising with which Bangla literature is replete, and has also fallen into the trap of the ‘equal brutality on both sides’ argument. This argument, among others, has been discussed later in this chapter.

Simultaneously with searching for books in Calcutta this author had also searched the Internet for material available on the subject. What he came up with was again, very scanty, and has been listed in the bibliography. Two shining jewels in this scanty material are the websites and operated principally by some Hindus of Bangladeshi origin in the U.S., U.K. and India wherein instances of persecution of Hindus in present-day Bangladesh are recorded in great detail - so much so that the Bangladesh government is understood to be exerting diplomatic pressure to block these sites. The remaining few sites are of very indifferent quality. However some of the material was interesting, in the sense of revealing a clear intention to conceal one aspect of the repression : that of the guilt of the majority Muslims of East Bengal. Actually it has been attempted to be done quite cleverly, through euphemisms.

Consider the following passage - a typical example of intelligent obfuscation - from the website /east_bengal_refugees.htm :

“East Bengal Refugees : . . . In 1951 Census found only 33.2 per cent of Calcutta’s inhabitants to be city-born. The rest, including a small group of non-Indians, were migrants . . . . 26.9 per cent from what had become East Pakistan in 1947.They were primarily Hindu refugees, dislocated by the events arising out of the partition of British India and the creation of Pakistan” (italics by this author). The ‘events’ in the italicised part above were obviously atrocities committed by the majority Muslims in East Pakistan upon the Hindus, and the sense of insecurity thereby created. The fact that no hint was given as to what those events were is evidence of that mindset to conceal.

The search of the net also revealed that no attempt was made by India to give publicity to this refugee movement in international fora, with the result that the rest of the world knows practically nothing about the atrocities, the persecution and the exodus. Consider what the official website of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), which contains a page on India
[v], has to say : “Historically, relations between the UNHCR and the Government of India have not always run smoothly. India abstained from voting on the 1949 General Assembly Resolution which established UNHCR, and publicly took the view that since India was not directly involved with what was at the time an essentially European refugee problem, it did not wish to participate. This position was maintained during the 1950s despite several UNHCR missions to New Delhi. India continued to believe that association with the UNHCR would affect its neutrality”. The question that arises is, what had prompted India to take such a stand when it was admittedly deluged by refugees from both wings of Pakistan? An answer has been attempted later in this chapter. It is however significant that the exodus of Hindus from East Pakistan does not constitute a major refugee movement according to the annals of the UNHCR, and does not appear on the webpages relating to India, Pakistan or Bangladesh, though the much smaller movement of Tibetan refugees into India does appear as such.

This author had also tried to access the authors, or their successors, of the books which had thrown some light on the subject, mainly with a view to get at background material containing information over and above what the books revealed. On September 10, 2000 the author had a short interview with Aloke Banerjee, son of the late Hiranmay Banerjee of the ICS whose 'Udbastu' has been extensively quoted from in Chapter 5 and 6. The objective was to get any background material for his book, such as notes, letters etc. which did not find a place in the book when it was published. Aloke asked the author exactly what kind of material he was after. Upon being told, he promptly remarked "Oh, the sort of thing that happened when a Hindu woman had gone to take a dip in a pond? No, that was considered too explosive, and my father did not keep any notes other than the one relating to the pond incident".

Tushar Bhattacharyya, a correspondent from Manindranagar, Murshidabad, wrote a letter in the Ananda Bazar Patrika of September 9, 2000 quoting the eminent and popular West Bengal novelist Sunil Ganguly : "It is not advisable to write a substantial novel about the partition of Bengal, because such a novel can provoke a communal riot." Ganguly, it will be remembered, is himself a refugee from Madaripur, Faridpur. Tushar Bhattacharyya wrote this letter in response to a feature entitled 'Na, Aamra Bhulini' (No, we have not forgotten) by Subhoranjan Dasgupta in the same newspaper of August 20, 2000, wherein the feature-writer, in very ornate and obscure Bangla, has tried to prove that Bengalis on either side have not forgotten the tragedy of partition and the mass movement of human flotsam. In the process Dasgupta has quoted a number of authors on either side of the divide, such as Narayan Ganguly, Atin Banerjee, Jyotirmoyee Debi, Samaresh Basu, Ramesh Chandra Sen, Akhtaruzzaman Ilyas, Selina Hussain and a few others, and the highly talented but equally dissipated filmmaker Ritwick Ghatak. The entire composition, to the extent some sense can be made out of the effusive prose, is however, a repetition of the usual 'refugee stories' : the same tendency to equate the guilt on the two sides, the same glossing over of the persecution of Hindus on the Pakistani side and the overemphasis on their plight after they had crossed over, the same overplaying of unrepresentative facts like the kind deeds of isolated Muslims in Pakistan.

Prafulla Kumar Chakraborty's 'The Marginal Men' has been discussed at some length in Chapter 5. It is an unusually bold and painstaking work. The author has concentrated on the plight of the refugees in India rather than what happened to them in Pakistan - but unlike other authors he has not done so to jerk tears out of readers' eyes. Instead he has shown the individualism of the refugees, how they fought for their upliftment despite deep official apathy.

A 'highly secular' Hindu journalist of West Bengal, known for his whitewashing of Muslim misdeeds, has written a critique of Chakraborty's book. In that critique he has seriously tried to challenge Chakraborty's contention that the Muslims of East Pakistan had benefited by the exodus of Hindus from that country. Since he has no facts to support this challenge, he has taken recourse to widespread obfuscation of the basic issue by bringing in the oppression of East Pakistani Muslims by West Pakistani ones, and various other questions, including some statistics, of varying degrees of irrelevance. Finally he has justified the wrath of the Muslims on the fact that Hindu businessmen had repatriated all their profits to India. He has also said that the Muslims killed Communists rather than Hindus

Mani Shankar Aiyar, a self-confessed Pakistan lover
[vii], a friend of the Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, and a Member of the Indian Parliament, had been with the Indian Foreign Service before he had joined politics. He had been assigned to the desk for forging economic relationships with Bangladesh the very day Dacca fell. He remained at that desk for some time and made several trips to Bangladesh. He was subsequently posted as the Indian Consul-General in Karachi. He has published some of his reminiscences and observations in a short volume entitled 'Pakistan Papers'. Considering the experience he had in the early days of Bangladesh when the crimes of the Pakistanis and their collaborators were in the process of being discovered, and his subsequent stint at Karachi, one would have expected that there would be some mention of the bestialities. There is none.

Shyamal Datta Chaudhuri, a close friend of the author, a sensitive and well-informed literary person, and also a Hindu with East Bengali roots, raised a question to the author : "Must you write such a book? Why don't you let the sores heal?"

People like Shyamal Datta Chaudhuri, Aloke Banerjee and Sunil Ganguly are not atypical among the Bengali Hindus of West Bengal and the rest of India. They are typical. To take a very charitable view, these people genuinely believe that for the good of humanity, for the sake of good relations between Hindus and Muslims hereafter, this bit of history, the history of persecution of Hindus by Muslims in East Bengal ought to be buried, ought not to be made public, and not a word should be breathed about it, much less written, till all the people who saw it happen die away. After that, anybody’s attempt to document it can always be dismissed as hearsay.

What do such people have to say when told that the truth must out, that burying history is not a good idea? Generally they come forward with one or more of certain stock arguments which can be conveniently summarized as follows :

The 'Forgive and Forget', or 'Let bygones be bygones' argument

The 'Two wrongs don't make a right' argument

The 'There's a reason, they were also wronged' argument

The 'Equal brutality on both sides' argument

The ‘Many Muslims saved Hindu lives too’ argument.

The ‘It’s all the fault of the British’ argument.

The ‘Their religion is like that, what can you do’ argument.

The Classical Marxist argument, ‘This was an economic struggle’.

The Negationist argument, ‘It never happened’.

The first argument has already been discussed at length in the foregoing. The second argument presumes, before the questioner has had a chance to say anything, that he is suggesting expulsion of Muslims from West Bengal This comes to one’s mind very naturally because Muslims had been expelled from East (Indian) Punjab in retaliation of similar treatment of Hindus and Sikhs in West (Pakistani) Punjab. However, no one in right mind would now suggest such a thing in 2000 A.D. – if for no other reason then for the reason that the clock cannot be turned backwards. So there is no question of doing a second wrong, and the argument dies.

The third and the fourth arguments are a lot more pernicious. Most people would give these arguments because they have been brainwashed for so many years into believing such things, and they would say such things unthinkingly, believing these to be the politically correct things, even the fashionable things to say. There are two answers which can be given to these arguments. First, they are untrue. Secondly, even if they were even partly true, still that is no reason why the subject should not be gone into at all.

The ‘there’s a reason, they were also wronged’ argument is expressed often in East Bengali dialect as ‘Musolmandere amrandaoay uthte dei nai, niche dara karaiya katha kaitam’ (We made the Muslims stand outside the house while we talked to them but would not let them get on to the floor). A similar sentiment is expressed by the Hindus’ (especially upper-caste Hindus’) refusal to eat anything that has been touched by a Muslim, and so on. The sentiment or the conduct expresses the disdain the relatively well-to-do Hindus had for Muslim peasants, and implies that what the Muslims did subsequently to the Hindus is sufficiently justified by such behaviour on the part of the Hindus. The ‘equal brutality on both sides’ equates this sentiment and conduct on the part of the Hindus with mass-scale rape, torching, murder and expulsion practised by the Muslims upon the Hindus, and also magnifies beyond all proportion the rioting against and the expulsion of Muslims from West Bengal that took place in March 1950.

One of the reasons why these arguments seemed to be so acceptable to so many people is that they contain some truth. On the other hand these arguments totally ignore the scale of wrongs or brutalities done by the parties and, so to say, try to equate an ant to an elephant because they are both living beings. These arguments also ignore the role of the Indian state, as opposed to the Hindu mob vis-à-vis those of the Pakistani state and the Muslim mob.

The ‘equal brutalities on both sides’ argument thus conveniently ignores the facts that the total number of Muslims killed in the 1950 riots in Calcutta was acknowledged by Radio Pakistan to be no more than twenty, and that the Governments of West Bengal and India did their utmost to quell the rioting and ensure the safety of the beleaguered Muslims ; that, following the Nehru-Liaquat pact the bulk of the Muslims who had left West Bengal came back, whereas practically no Hindu went back to East Pakistan ; and that the state-owned Radio Pakistan openly spread canards about atrocities committed on Muslims in West Bengal, and put the number of Muslims killed in Calcutta to be around 10,000 (a figure which they themselves later scaled down to twenty) and practically incited Muslims to kill Hindus. It ignores the facts that during the Calcutta or Noakhali killings of 1946, or the killings of 1950, 1964 and 1971 in East Pakistan, the role of the Muslim League government of Bengal, or the Pakistani state was openly supportive of the killers, and that constitutes Human Rights Violation. As opposed to this the Indian state did its best, in both word and deed, to quell disturbances. And this was possible because India is a Hindu country, and Hindus are an incredibly forgiving people - perhaps to a fault!

No example of this particular aspect of the Hindu mind is more telling than a quotation from Abul Mansur Ahmad, a prominent East Pakistani politician. He had stayed on for some time in Calcutta after the partition of the province. After the assassination of Gandhi on 30th January 1948, the Government of West Bengal decided to bring out a volume containing the reactions of people of various walks of life under the editorship of Prafulla Chandra Sen, then Minister in charge of Civil Supplies (later Chief Minister of the state). Ahmad was one of the persons invited to contribute to the volume. He wrote "the greatness of the Mahatma is justified by the rottenness of the Hindus. . . . . only someone as low and disgusting as a Hindu could think of killing such a person. His death proved that he was the greatest man of our times ; it also proved that Hindus are the worst people on this earth. Allah had sent him to this earth to reform this sick bunch of people".

Ahmad then remarks that this observation was appreciated by many Hindus, including Sen, the editor ; also that he later realised that it was possible only for Hindus to appreciate such a comment about them by a Muslim in Hindustan. If he had said such a thing about the Muslims he would have to follow Gandhi and depart this world. And finally he realised that while Hindus are indeed rotten, they are great enough to comprehend the extent of their own rottenness

Quite definitely, in some of the contemporary civilisations of the world, by no means intolerant, such behaviour as of Ahmad's would have resulted in widespread protest. The conduct of people like P.C.Sen, on the other hand, would have provoked a question like 'are these human beings or mice' (in fact there is a word in Sanskrit, for such people, Kleeva)? Is or is not the question justified?

Similarly, the ‘they were also wronged’ argument sidetracks the fact that the disdain that the Hindus used to feel for the Muslims was only partly a result of Hindu orthodoxy. The rest was the result of the economic backwardness of the Muslims, and certainly the Hindus were not to blame for such backwardness. As has been said earlier, with the coming of the British, while the Bengali Hindus took full advantage of the western education that became available, the Muslims withdrew into a collective cocoon, and the Atrap among them refused education, remained illiterate and became prey to the exhortations of the semi-literate village mollah, and it is this that basically caused them their economic backwardness. Disdain by the economically superior for the inferior, however immoral, is a fact of life, and exists throughout the world. No Hindu would have dared to talk that way to the Muslim Daroga (officer-in-charge) of the local police station, or to a Muslim zamindar.

An extreme case of the the third and fourth arguments, with minor variations but with all the trappings of serious history-writing, is to be found in Joya Chatterji's "Bengal Divided: Hindu Communalism and Partition, 1932-47"
[ix]. Presuming to be an 'original and thoughtful interpretation of the History of Bengal', the book is really a diatribe against the Hindu Bhodrolok class of Bengal for what Chatterji considers an unforgivable crime : having moved away en masse from nationalism and into Hindu communalism, directed against their fellow Bengalis, namely Muslims. This heinous movement is held to have manifested itself in the fact that the Hindus, who had opposed the partition of 1905 had actively promoted the partition of 1947. It is of no consequence to Chatterji that the Muslims were a totally communalised group, and moreover in the majority, and in no mood to allow any concessions to the Hindu minority (see Chapter 2, Nirad Chaudhuri and Rajsekhar Bose on the subject). It is of no consequence that the Muslim League had actively engineered two major bloodbaths, one at Calcutta, and the other at Noakhali, and scores of minor ones throughout Bengal. In describing the Calcutta riots she rues the fact that "Hindu culpability was never acknowledged. The Hindu press laid the blame for the violence on the Suhrawardy government . . . ", completely forgetting Major Livermore, General Tuker, Stanley Wolpert and Abul Mansur Ahmad (see Chapter 3), while she does not even mention the Noakhali pogroms. For her it was merely the Bhodrolok class making a last-ditch attempt, aided by the Marwari trading class (scared of the rise of the Ispahani empire) to retain their traditional privileges[x]. Writing the book in 1989, eyes tightly shut so as not to see all that happened to Hindus in East Pakistan in 1950, 1964 and 1971, she persists in her perception that the partition of Bengal was the handiwork of a reactionary, decadent Hindu elite. In conclusion she states " If, by challenging the Hindu Communalists' claim to the nationalist past, the book has gone some way towards denying the legitimacy of their claims to India's future, it will have served a useful purpose.[xi]"

It ought to be said that Chatterji need not have had any such fears. Her writing has been rubbished by contemporary historians who can, by no stretch of imagination, be called 'Hindu Communalists'. Amales Tripathi has called her explanations 'totally without foundation', adding that these are "fit to be researched only at Cambridge" [xii]. Partha Chatterjee has observed that her arguments seem to flow "from an astonishingly naïve view of nationalist politics"[xiii].

Now we can return to the argument that the Hindus looked down upon the Muslims badly, and the pogroms were a natural reaction to that. Now, granting that the disdain affected the common Muslim very deeply, and literally got under their skin, still can it be accepted as any kind of mitigating circumstance, let alone justification, for what the Muslims did in starting the Great Calcutta Killings, during the carnages of Noakhali in 1946 or all over East Pakistan in 1950 and 1964? Can it justify the promulgation of the laws from 1965 onwards whereby the Hindu was deprived of his de jure position despite being a born citizen of the country, and never having done anything disloyal? It has never been alleged that the Hindu had done any anti-national activity in East Pakistan like espionage, sabotage or terrorism, as they had done in the British days in the same locale! Can it justify the Biharis’ attacks on Hindu-filled trains at Santahar and Meghna Bridge, can it justify the massacres of Hindus by Bengali Muslims at Muladi and Madhabpasha in Barisal in 1950? Can it justify the mass murders of Bengali Hindus following the alleged theft of the holy relic from Hazratbal Mosque in Srinagar, Kashmir in 1964, with which the Bengali Hindus did not have the remotest connection? Can it justify the butchery by the West Pakistani soldiers at Jagannath Hall and countless other places, or the written orders to the armed forces of a country to kill their own Hindu citizens? Can it justify the pauperization of the huge Hindu proletariat of the country by driving them out of the country and usurping the little property that they had?

Now to the fifth argument : that many Muslims saved Hindu lives is a fact, and has been repeatedly mentioned wherever applicable in the chronicle of atrocities in the foregoing chapters – for example in connection with the flight of Nalini Mitra from Khilpara in Noakhali (1946), or the care bestowed by Muslim students led by Sheikh Mujibur Rahman on the surviving Hindus after the Fulbari station massacre (1950). It is also a fact, and this has also been mentioned, that the ‘silent majority’ among the Muslims did not participate in the atrocities – only a large number of Jihad-crazed bigots, and those who stood to gain politically or financially from the killings did so. However this is also a fact, that the upshot of it all was that Hindus left the country by the millions, their belongings were plundered, their men were killed and their women raped by the thousands. The efforts of a few kind and sensible Muslims could not prevent the Hindu population of the country from dwindling, not only through the East Pakistan period but also through the Bangladesh era. So what does this show? First, it shows that those kind, sensible, and necessarily brave Muslims were only in a very small minority. Secondly, and more importantly, it shows that the Pakistani state supported the killers, plunderers and rapists; and therefore, even if the sensible Muslims had been many times more in number it would have made no difference. Those whose lives and belongings had been saved, and whose women were saved from rape and molestation will remain eternally grateful to those brave Muslim souls. On the other hand, taking a macrocosmic view of things, in the face of state sponsorship of the persecution, the efforts of these brave few were largely irrelevant – neither here nor there.

Blaming the colonial British for all the ills of the South Asian subcontinent is a very politically fruitful and safe exercise, and subcontinental politicians do it all the time. This is because the British do not bother to answer back. And even if they did, that would have immediately branded the accuser as anti-British, and therefore, by extension, a patriot. A Marxist former Mayor of Calcutta, in a talk delivered at London, blamed the ancestors of the largely British audience as responsible for ills of the hapless city, such as waterlogging and traffic jams, conveniently forgetting that there were no hawkers on the streets or garbage all over the city when the British ruled.

This is not to say that the British had no role to play in the animosity that existed between Hindu and Muslim that eventually resulted in partition of the country, and the expulsion of all non-Muslims from Pakistan. The public pronouncements of Bamfylde Fuller, Governor of the erstwhile province of Eastern Bengal and Assam, prompted by his boss Lord Curzon, and the misdeeds of John Herbert and Frederick Burrows, British Governors of Bengal during the nineteen-forties, have been mentioned earlier. These were particularly overt cases, but even Annada Sankar Ray of the ICS has admitted that it was an article of British policy to prevent Hindu-Muslim amity from developing. There is no doubt that the British had a very major role in sustaining ill-will between the two communities.

This is merely to say that that ill-will was not the creation of the British. It had existed since the days of Mahmud of Ghazni’s plundering of Hindu temples, and Mohammed Ghauri’s invasions into India. The British merely took advantage of it, fomented it, and sustained it. It is an absolute travesty of truth to say that relations between Hindus and Muslims were extremely cordial till the British began to rule the country. On the other hand there is no reason why such cordiality should not exist now. But for that it is not necessary to take recourse to falsehoods. In other words, it is not necessary to whitewash the past in order to secure the future.

On the other hand, given all their base deeds, it seems hardly fair to blame the British for a series of anti-Hindu pogroms that had taken place long after they had left. This is especially so when, during their rule, Hindus suffered no such pogroms (except the Great Calcutta Killings and the Noakhali carnage of 1946, by which time the British had lost their will to govern) and could live in East Bengal with dignity. And if it was indeed the machinations of the British that resulted in the persecution of Hindus several years after the British left, as a kind of time-bomb action, then surely the Pakistanis would have realized their error by now and would have made public declaration of it! No such public declaration has so far been made, neither by the Pakistanis, nor by Bangladesh, and it is very difficult to accept the view.

The ‘their religion is like that, what can you do’ argument accepts that the Islamic code permits, if not encourages, the elimination of all infidels (through the provision of Jihad). The argument then turns over this acceptance to constitute a defence for repression, rape and mass murder. Thereafter it extends this defence and postulates that since it is ‘a matter of their religion’, no value judgement can be passed on such a provision and conduct, least of all by any infidel, and Hindus ought to accept what was done to them, and ought not to complain about it. Put slightly differently, because the majority Muslims, according to this argument, were acting in accordance with the tenets of their religion when they were practising this repression, it was the duty of the minority Hindus to suffer such repression in silence. The only recourse the Hindus had was to run, and run they did, so what is there left to talk about?
But what of the Hindu religion, don’t Hindus have a right to defend themselves, or even protest? “Ah, but there you have a different kettle of fish altogether”, such people would argue. “Hinduism, you see, is a very liberal, very wide, very all-encompassing religion, quite different from Islam and other Semitic religions. The Hindu accepts the right of any person to practise his religion. Therefore the minority East Bengal Hindu can only keep his mouth shut if the majority East Bengal Muslim, in the course of practising his religion, chooses to persecute the Hindu. And further, because the Pakistani state was an Islamic state [xiv], there was nothing wrong in the state permitting such repression, and no Human Rights violation was involved”.

Is this not the ultimate in defeatist logic, or illogic, or of standing common sense on its head? Does it not amount to saying that if your code tells you to slit my throat then I have a duty not only to respect that code, but also to proffer my throat? Or that I don’t even have a right to protest against your cutting of my throat, because it is sanctioned by your religion? Does it not erase the line between liberty and licence, something all of us learnt in high-school civics?

That brings us to the Classical Marxist view, that all this is really all an economic struggle, between the Hindu haves and the Muslim have-nots, and religion was merely the vehicle for the struggle. Just as Marxism been largely rejected by the world, so is this argument rejectable, if for no other reason then for the reason that it tries to make the facts fit the theory, and is also tainted with over-simplification. The facts were not that most Hindus were rich exploiters and the Muslims were the poor downtrodden. It is true that there were several rich Zamindars among the Hindus, and the moneylenders who practised usury on the poor Muslim peasants were also largely Hindu. It is, however, equally true that the bulk of the Hindus were artisans, fishermen, cultivators, poorly-paid clerks and schoolteachers, small shopkeepers and the like, who cannot be called ‘haves’ by any standards. Likewise, there were a fairly large number of Zamindars and Darogas (petty police officers) among the Muslims who enjoyed a premier position in society.

The facts are that Muslim Zamindar and peasant had combined to oust Hindu Zamindar and fisherman. The reason for the fight was religion, plain and simple, and the sustaining force for the inhumanities was the inviolable doctrine of Jihad. Moreover, the atrocities were begun, encouraged and sponsored by the theocratic state, the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. Definitely there was an economic motive in the whole process, namely that of usurping Hindu property. However, to contend that is was the only real motive and the rest are all incidental is, equally definitely, an oversimplification.

Finally we come to the negationist argument : that all these never happened, that these are mere canards spread by ‘Hindu communal forces’ in India. What is this argument like? The following would be a very typical example.

“Well, maybe there were a few fights here and there, but nothing worth mentioning. There was no en masse persecution, no massacres, very few rapes, some isolated robberies and snatching, and even these were committed mostly by West Pakistanis, in a few cases by Bihari Muslims, almost never by Bengali Muslims”. “But then why did so many Hindus leave their home and hearth of several centuries and cross over to India?”

“Oh, they did so because they perceived that they could no longer have the privileged position in East Bengal under Muslim rule that they used to have under British rule ; they would also have to look upon Muslims as their equals, something that they were not prepared to do, so they left.”

“Well that may be the case with a few privileged Bhadralok, but why did the artisans, the fishermen, the cultivators, the Namahshudras, the Santhals leave? And even in the case of Bhadralok is it believable that all of them would leave their homes and hearths where they had been living for centuries and set out to a unknown country, into an uncertain future merely because otherwise they would have to look upon Muslims as equals? And if the Bengali Muslims were quite innocent of all guilt then why did they not take the side of the Hindus and try to stop the Biharis or West Pakistanis from tormenting them? Why didn't they, at the very least, regret these incidents and call the Hindus back after their own country, Bangladesh, came into being?”

“ I don’t know. But this much I know that Hera amadere taray nai, amra ichchha koirai aisi (They, meaning the Muslims, did not drive us out, we came away of our own)”.

The conversation above is not imaginary but a real one, between a 60-year old Hindu gentleman from the Bikrampur region of Dacca district of East Bengal and the author. He has wished that his identity be kept withheld. He was about twelve years old when they came away, and that was in 1947, immediately following independence and partition. As described earlier, there was no major disturbance in East Pakistan till January 1950, and as such the gentleman could see no reason for leaving except the volition of his father and uncles. In truth his father and uncles were very wise. They came away when there was not much plundering of their money and belongings, few cases of rape of women on the way, when there was still room in West Bengal and the exodus had not started in right earnest. As a result they could transfer their money and buy a reasonable-sized property on which the entire extended family was rehabilitated. After that he had not kept serious track of what was happening in East Bengal because he did not need to. Had he done so, he would have known that Hindu families from his village who had to leave in 1950 were neither so lucky nor as wise as his ; and also, they left not out of volition but for dear life.

A variant of the negationist argument is the argument that, granting that there were ‘a few cases’ of persecution, rape, murder or forcible conversion, the bulk of the Hindus came away for no reason at all other than sheer panic. If they had stuck to their soil and stayed on, sense would have eventually dawned on the Pakistani state as well as the general populace, and the atmosphere of cordiality would have been restored.

This argument really amounts to telling a would-be refugee “So what if so-and-so’s house has been set on fire, his sister raped, his brother beheaded and the rest of his family forcibly converted to Islam? Your house is intact, your sister is still chaste, your brother still has his head on, you are still a Hindu! Don’t listen to rumours and run to West Bengal. Instead, wait for good sense to dawn on the government. They are not all demons”. This was the argument of Dr. Sudhamoy Datta in Taslima's Lojja described in the previous chapter, and the result was that he had to suffer, and eventually migrate. If this argument is accepted, the word ‘insecurity’ would have no meaning, and one would have to wait till one’s own sister, not one’s neighbour’s, was raped. Apart from being thus rejectable, the argument also sidetracks the fact the state-sponsored persecution of Hindus was not a one-time, but a continuing affair, of which 1950, 1964 and 1971 were merely the worst cases.

Yet another negationist ploy would be "I can't believe that human beings could do such things to humans. Not in this century - this is not the middle ages!" Now here is something for such non-believers to consider : in 1941, in the village of Jadwabne in North-eastern Poland, the entire Jewish population of the village was massacred, not by the Gestapo or some other German outfit, but by their Gentile neighbours, Poles, with whom the Jews had lived for centuries. This is not all. One man was knifed, then his tongue was cut and his eyes gouged out while he was still alive. The general population, including women and children, were put inside a barn, doused with kerosene and burnt alive. People would believe this, because the Jews have not, unlike the East Bengali Hindus, chosen to forget the atrocities

The negationist view is thus based mainly on the lack of personal experience, or on faulty logic, or is coloured by personal experience – unless it is a result of political ill-motivation. In the face of the documentary evidence and the interviews, the negationist view falls flat on its face. Also now in 2000, sufficient people are still alive who have seen the atrocities with their own eyes. Yet, negationism is very common in whitewashing the record of persecution all over the world, and is particularly common in India in regard to atrocities committed by Muslims.

Looking at it in a different way, these arguments are but manifestations of the proverbial Hindu tolerance, carried to the illogical extreme. It is often said that the Hindu is tolerant to a fault - not just about religious persecution but about other things like governmental apathy and corruption, public hygiene or the lack of it, down to violation of traffic rules.

Koenraad Elst, the Belgian researcher into Islamic persecutions, has masterfully analysed the negationism practised and preached in India by the Left-Nehruvian intellectual and political establishment (see later in this chapter for explanation of this term). According to him
[xvi] this negationism can take one or more of several forms. The first is head-on denial, generally in the form of a general statement such as 'Islam is tolerant'. The implication is that people who subscribe to Islam can never commit such atrocities, and therefore, if all the atrocities took place there must be a reason other than religion (such as the Hindus' looking down upon the Muslims, economic disparity or exploitation, etc.). The second, the one most applicable to the instant case, consists of ignoring the facts. In this case the media and textbook writers simply keep the vast corpus of inconvenient testimony out of the readers' view. Another form is minimising or whitewashing of facts, or playing up unrepresentative facts. Of these the third is particularly relevant in the case of the exodus of Hindus from East Bengal, and is typified in the argument, mentioned earlier, that 'Many Muslims saved Hindu lives too'. As has been explained in relation to this argument, that many Muslims saved Hindu lives is indeed a fact - but it is an insignificant fact, an unrepresentative fact.

Among other methods that Elst has observed are accepting the facts but denying the motive, or blaming fringe phenomena. Of these the classical Marxist argument, that this was all an economic struggle of the Muslim have-nots is an example of the first, while Ashok Mitra's blaming of the devaluation of the Indian Rupee in 1949 as the reason for the 1950 killings typifies the second. Elst further mentions throwing up a smokescreen, in which the very terms of the debate are questioned, which in this case would be raising questions like: "who is a Muslim and who is a Bengali? And who, indeed, is a Hindu?"

The last resort is the use of slogans, in which the entire evidence is summarily rejected by calling it 'myth', 'communalist propaganda', 'blind prejudice', and so on.

The central point in stating the above arguments and countering them, and in explaining Elst's observations on negationism is not to convince everyone that the arguments are untenable, or that Elst is necessarily right. After all this, quite a few people can remain unconvinced that there were atrocities against the Hindus or that if there were, the Hindus had not brought these atrocities upon themselves by talking disdainfully to the Muslims, or by looking down upon them, or for any of the other reasons mentioned. All such people who remain unconvinced have a perfect right to remain so. The central point is to question why these questions should not be argued at all, why they should be hidden, why there should be a conscious effort to obliterate history by contending that this might provoke a communal riot? What can justify the total, complete, almost eerie silence prevailing in India, especially in West Bengal, when the country and the state have been totally at the receiving end of things, having to provide rehabilitation to all the Hindu refugees without (unlike Punjab) any space having been created by departing Muslims?

It ought to be mentioned, even if in passing, that Elst was not the only foreigner who has expressed surprise and consternation at Hindu behaviour when faced with facts of Muslim persecution. Francois Gautier of the Figaro, a journalist resident in India, and a regular contributor to many papers, notably the Indian Express, wrote a web article on the website , entitled 'Are Hindus Cowards?'
[xvii]. The article used strong language, and was withdrawn from the net in a matter of hours, but this author was fortunate to get a hard copy. Parts of it, relatively mild parts, are reproduced below (because the article may not be easily available otherwise).

". . . . . . . The truth is that there are two standards in India - one for the Hindus and one for the Muslims. Did the 'fanatic' Hindus who brought down the mosque at Ayodhya (and brought shame on to secular India according to the Indian media) kill or even injure anyone in the process? No. But the Muslims do not have such qualms. When Gandhi said they were bullies he was being very nice or very polite. . . . . . Yesterday and today when the Muslim world feels it has been slighted in even a small measure by the Hindus, these infidels who submitted meekly to Muslim rule for ten centuries, it retaliates a hundred-fold - this is the only way one intimidates cowards. After Ayodhya Pakistan, with the help of some Indian Muslims, planted bombs in the heart of Mumbai and killed a thousand innocent human beings, most of them, once more, Hindus.

Unfortunately for India the British, when they were here, had created an intellectual elite to act as via media between themselves and the 'natives' which today, thanks to the successive Congress governments, looks at its own country not by means of its own Indian eyes but through a western prism, as fashioned by the white colonisers and the missionaries. These brown sahibs, these true children of Macaulay, the secular politicians, the journalists, the top bureaucrats, in fact the whole westernised cream of India, are very critical of anything Hindu. And that is even more paradoxical when 98 per cent of them are Hindus. . . . .

. . . . They will grow up like millions of other western clones in the developing world who wear a tie, read the New York Times, and swear by liberalism and secularism to save their countries from doom. In time they will reach elevated positions and write books and articles which make fun of their own country, ridicule the Bal Thackerays
[xviii] of India and put them in jail ; they will preside over human rights committees, be 'secular high bureaucrats who take the wrong decisions and generally do tremendous harm to India because it has been programmed into their genes to always run down their own country. .

. . . . One would be tempted to say in conclusion "Arise O Hindus, stop being cowards, remember that a nation requires Kshatriyas, warriors to defend knowledge, to protect one's women and children, to guard one's borders from the enemy".

And do Indians need a Bal Thackeray to remind them of that simple truth?"

No comment is offered on this piece. It should be clear from the part quoted why the article was withdrawn so fast. However, and more importantly, it should be equally clear why the Hindu attitude has been found to be inexplicable.

Eric Hobsbawm had observed
[xix], while defining history, that "All human beings are conscious of the past (defined as the period before the events directly recorded in any individual's memory) by virtue of having lived with people older than themselves . . . . To be a member of any community is to position oneself with respect to one's past, if only by rejecting it". Yet what has been attempted so far to be done, in India, West Bengal and Bangladesh is to refuse to so position oneself by maintaining this silence. With Bangladesh it is understandable, though certainly not excusable - but why India, and especially why West Bengal?

We shall now proceed to investigate the reasons for this inexplicable silence prevailing in India, a country that is about 85 % Hindu and is the fountainhead of Hindu thought and culture to the extent of being almost synonymous with Hinduism ; and also to find out whether and to what extent the observations of Elst and Gautier are correct.

India had been blessed with many bright, outstanding and multifaceted political personalities during its years of struggle for independence from British rule. There were people like Gokhale, Tilak, Surendra Nath Banerjee, C.R.Das and others who would have done any nation proud. As the nation’s luck would have it, all these stalwarts were gone either before or within six years of independence. Gandhi was assassinated in 1948, Subhas Chandra Bose was not traceable after 1945, Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel died in 1950. Syama Prasad Mookerjee, whose greatness the nation has begun to appreciate only lately, died under very questionable circumstances in a prison in Kashmir in 1953. Of all the pre-independence figures of any stature, only one remained as the supreme head of the country, one whose word was law, one whose thought translated itself into state policy without any serious challenge. His name was Jawaharlal Nehru, and he ruled India rather like a gentle, dreamy, slightly confused benevolent king than a democratically elected leader in the years between Patel’s death in 1950, and his own in 1964.

In order to understand the silence it is necessary to go into one aspect of Nehru’s political thinking, that of ‘secularism’ as practised in India. What we have to look at is not the classical or the dictionary meaning of the word, but the construction Nehru put on the word, which became the accepted construction in the years to follow, and which his daughter introduced into the Constitution of the country through the forty-second amendment.

Nehru absolutely detested religion, and considered it anathema to science and the thinking of a modern man. According to him Indian thinking was required to be moved away from religion and into science
[xx]. It was of no consequence to him that to the multitude of Indians, religion had an abiding and deep significance, that they could not conceive of life without the sheet-anchor of religion. This position, incidentally, has not materially changed at the beginning of the twenty-first century, thirty-six years after Nehru's death, and fifty-five years after his 'Discovery of India' had appeared in print. The late Promode Dasgupta, the all-powerful secretary of the ruling Communist Party of India (Marxist) of West Bengal, is said to have once rued that a Comrade of thirty years tonsured his head according to traditional Hindu rites when his father died. It has already been mentioned in Chapter 2 (see endnote 54) that the great Hindu monk Swami Vivekananda considered religion to be so fundamental to Indians that according to him “even if it were possible to push the River Ganga back to its source in the Himalayas and make it follow a new course, it would still not be possible to take religion out of the hearts of Indians”. Gandhi was equally conscious of the unique place of religion in India, which is why he tried to make (unsuccessfully) religion the vehicle of a unifying political movement in the Khilafat era, and later made religious sentiments, like his Ramdhun song, and his own mysticism (like his listening to his ‘inner voice’, his vows of silence, his fasting) an inseparable part of his politics. However although Nehru was perceived as Gandhi’s disciple in every way, in this aspect the two could not be further apart.

Equally, it was lost on Nehru that Indians had been fighting a Civil War among themselves in the years preceding independence on no issue other than religion, and that one group, the Muslims, had forced a partition on the country on grounds of religion, and had thereafter forced out all non-Muslims out of their Pakistan. To him these were all temporary aberrations, and India could still remain one and united on the basis of absence of religion, or in other words, secularism. This is why Benoy Mukherjee, Chief Press Adviser and Registrar of Newspapers, Government of India having observed Nehru at close range, called him a political somnambulist (see Chapter 6).

However, such was the mixture of atheism and libertarianism in Nehru that while on the one hand he tried to mould his party, the government and the country according to his thoughts, on the other hand he did not interfere in any manner with the practice of minority religions in any manner. Thus, he modernised and codified Hindu Personal Law, but shied away from doing the same for the Muslims. In any case, during the 1950s he came to be excessively occupied with Foreign Affairs (he was his own Foreign Minister), and had very little time left for his own country. He even did not mind religion being made the basis of a political party, so long as that religion was not Hinduism. Thus the Congress party under his leadership had no difficulty in aligning with the Muslim League, the very antithesis of the Congress during the pre-independence era, in the state of Kerala in 1959. This happened after the elected Communist-led government of Kerala of E.M.S. Namboodiripad was overthrown following an agitation in the state led by Father Vadakkan, a Catholic priest. One thing he was not prepared to put up with, and that was the emergence of any politics founded on Hinduism or Hindu thoughts. He detested Hinduism even more than religion per se, and described himself as a ‘Hindu by accident’.

At the time the political scene of India was dominated by the Congress which was in government at the centre as well as in every state. Among the opposition parties there were the Communists, various offshoots of the Congress like the Praja Socialist Party, Socialist Party, and others, and the fledgling party founded by the late Syama Prasad Mookerjee, the Bharatiya Jan Sangh
[xxi], the only party professing a Hindu basis. Although there was little love lost between the Communists and Nehru’s Congress, Nehru’s views on secularism coincided with their Leninist teachings wherein religion was considered to be the opiate of the masses. The ex-Congressmen in the offshoot parties also found no reason to differ with Nehru’s views on the subject. Only the Bharatiya Jan Sangh steadfastly differed with Nehru, and termed his secularism nothing other than undue appeasement of minorities.

Meanwhile, along the way, the political parties in India had discovered a political truth. They had found out that even after the creation of Pakistan a very substantial number of Muslims were left in India constituting more than 10% of the population, that they were largely backward, and that these Muslims voted in a bloc, usually at the bidding of their religious leaders. This was quite different from the Hindu voting pattern. Hindus were divided along linguistic and caste lines, and moreover were much more individualistic, and switched their political loyalties frequently. The parties also found out that progressive and liberal Muslims of India, intellectuals like Syed Mujtabaa Ali, Danial Latifi, Sahil Brelvi, Rafiq Zakaria, Asghar Ali Engineer, Hossainur Rahman and others had no influence whatsoever on the Muslim masses, and were moreover a quiet, timid lot, and could safely be ignored. The key to these masses lay with the fire-breathing Jehadi types, like the Shahi Imam of Jama Masjid, Syed Shahabuddin and his cohorts of the self-styled All-India Muslim Personal Law Board, and the like.

This truism about Muslim voting pattern has been criticised at different points of time, and it has been sought to be established that there is no such thing as the 'Muslim Vote', that it is a figment of 'Hindu communalist' imagination, that Muslims are just as discerning as Hindus while casting their vote. However the alacrity with which 'secular' politicians try to woo Muslim votes, and fall over each other in trying 'to be nice to them' at election time effectively exposes this myth. Paul R. Brass, in a commendable analysis of the voting patterns in India
[xxii], has always chosen to take the Muslim vote as a whole, and has shown how it remained with the Congress solidly till 1962, and how it thereafter shifted to Jaiprakash Narain's Janata Party, then back to the Congress, and so on. The voting pattern of Uttar Pradesh, politically the most important state of India, in the Nineteen-Nineties, had clearly showed that Muslims in the state had voted for that candidate in a given constituency who stood the best chance of defeating the Bharatiya Janata Party. The choice is usually worked out and disseminated to the voting public at the time of the Khutba, temporal advice given by the Imam to the congregation after the Friday afternoon prayers.

It ought to be mentioned that the Muslims of India are hardly a united lot. They are divided first by language, and second by their own great religious divide between Shia and Sunni sects. In regard to language, the Muslims of North India and Hyderabad speak and write Urdu, which is identified as a 'Muslim language', while Kashmiri Muslims speak Kashmiri but write Urdu. West Bengal, Assam and Kerala have substantial Muslim minorities, and they speak and write in the language of the state, Bangla, Asomiya and Malayalam respectively. The Shias and the Sunnis very often clash, especially at the time of their religious festival Mohurrum. In fact it may not be an exaggeration to say the number of riots in India between Shias and Sunnis has been no less than those between Hindus and Muslims. Yet all these different sects and language groups exhibit the same political characteristic, that of block voting at the bidding of their religious leaders.

As any student of Political Science knows, a sizeable group that votes steadfastly as a group is the darling of all political parties. All these parties, with one exception, therefore set about wooing the Muslims as a group, and their religious leaders, their Mullahs, Ulemas and Imams individually. To do this they decided to give a go-by to all Constitutional provisions that could be taken as abridging Muslim religious rights, notably Article 44 of the Indian Constitution. Article 44 belongs to the Chapter of the Constitution known as ‘Directive Principles of State Policy’ which lay down certain directions that the Government is required to take. Of these principles, Article 44 states that the State shall strive to have a Uniform Civil Code for all its citizens. This required that Muslim practices like a man being allowed to take four wives, and then being allowed to divorce any or all of them at will, be outlawed. Fundamentalist Muslim outfits, like the self-appointed All-India Muslim Personal Law Board, had always been against such an action, decreeing that Muslim Law had been given to them by the Quran, which was given to them by their God, Allah, and the state had no jurisdiction to change them. The Congress, the Communists, and the offshoot Congressmen all supported this demand of the fundamentalists, camouflaging their support by saying that any move for change in Muslim Personal Law must come from the among the Muslims themselves. The fact that abominable Hindu practices, such as those of Sutee (burning of widows) and Human Sacrifice had been earlier outlawed by an alien government, the British, was ignored. Only the Bharatiya Jan Sangh differed.

But the advantage of the fact that Muslims voted in a block would be negatived if Hindus, much more numerous than Muslims, also voted in a block. Fortunately for the Left-Nehruvian establishment (this term has been explained later in this chapter), there was little chance of that. Just as Hindus prayed individually and not in a congregation, so also they voted individually. And if at all there was any group behaviour noticeable among them it was on the basis of caste. It is this phenomenon of caste which was used to great advantage by the establishment to keep the Hindu vote split so that it could not offset the effect of the Muslim block vote. In fact the only organisation in the country which has so far seriously tried to erase caste and language differences and unify the Hindus, the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, has been roundly maligned and condemned by the establishment as brazenly 'communal', 'fascist', forever trying to obliterate the 'essential plurality' of India.

The Nehruvian construction of secularism, and its acceptance by Congressmen and ex-Congressmen as well as by Communists and assorted Leftists was endorsed by a large body of like-minded intellectuals who thrived on patronage from politicos of these parties. These intellectuals were financed by the political leadership by way of lavish research grants, given plum professorships, and generally held up as the 'top brains of the country' in the field. The intellectuals, in their turn, supplied the politicians with the appropriate brand of history which was required to preserve what was according to them 'the secular ethos' of the country. The relationship was naturally very cosy, and no one was too finicky about how public funds allowed for research were actually spent. The eminent journalist Arun Shourie, now India's Minister for Disinvestment, has written a scathing expose on the subject in his book 'Eminent Historians'
[xxiii], and the reader is referred to that book for a detailed study of the subject.

The combination of intellectuals and politicos, a very motivated, powerful and cohesive team, emerged as the think-tank of the country in the matter of Hindu-Muslim relationship. This team has been collectively referred to hereafter as the Left-Nehruvian intellectual and political establishment, or simply the 'establishment'. They worked hard, and gradually a firm political proposition, backed by a powerful propaganda machine supporting that proposition began to emerge. The proposition was, put very simply, ‘A Muslim could do no wrong’. Those who supported the proposition were called ‘Secular’, of course in the Left-Nehruvian sense. Thus a totally fundamentalist or traditionalist Muslim religious leader, or a Hindu political leader who embraced (physically) such a Muslim religious leader in public for the sake of Muslim votes, were ‘Secular’. On the other hand, people who did not accept the proposition or who differed with this view of secularism, came to be known as ‘Communal’. Thus any person who chose to point out that a number of Muslim rulers of India, such as Mohammed Ghauri, Firuz Shah Tughlaq, or Aurangzeb had committed untold atrocities upon non-Muslims, or that a lot of Hindus were converted to Islam upon threat of death, was a ‘Communal’ person. Any person who said that such atrocities, even if committed should not be mentioned for the sake of communal harmony, or that lower-caste Hindus converted to Islam voluntarily because of the egalitarian appeal of the latter (without bothering to explain why so many others of these lower-caste chose to remain within the Hindu fold) was ‘Secular’. Further, by definition, only a Hindu could be ‘Communal’. A Muslim was always considered 'secular'.

A few examples of the hard work done by this establishment quoted in Shourie's book make very interesting reading. One example
[xxiv] relates to the state of West Bengal, the state worst affected by Muslim persecution in East Bengal. Shourie mentions a report in the newsmagazine 'Outlook' that the Board of Secondary Education in Marxist-ruled West Bengal had issued a circular in 1989 to the effect that "Muslim rule should never attract any criticism. Destruction of temples by Muslim rulers and invaders should never be mentioned". Some concerned teachers from West Bengal brought to Shourie's notice a circular (no. Syl/89/1 dated 29 April 1989) issued by the same Board which deleted, from Class IX-level text books of history, passages relating to forcible marriage of Hindu women by Muslim invaders, forcible conversion to Islam, Sultan Alauddin Khalji's lusting after Rana Rattan Singh's (ruler of the Rajasthani state of Chittor) extraordinarily beautiful wife Padmini, and his subsequent invasion of Chittor, imposition of the poll tax jaziya upon non-Muslims, and so on.

The gulf between the so-called ‘Seculars’ and ‘Communals’ thus created by the establishment was made to widen and deepen further, and to take on undertones of respectability or otherwise, thereby giving rise to a clear value system. According to this value system it came to be civilized, liberal, polite and respectable to be ‘secular’. On the other hand it was boorish, fundamentalist, unrefined to be ‘communal’. Myths, stereotypes started being manufactured and making the rounds. A ‘secular’ person was pictured as gentle, liberal, peace-loving, urbane, cultivated, one whose friendships reached across religious barriers, or as a simple, God-fearing, peaceable villager who was full of love for all mankind ; a ‘communal’ person as a quarrelsome, narrow-minded rumour-monger, an alarmist, a bigot, a half-educated country bumpkin, generally a detestable character. Prominent people, especially politicians, fell upon one another to declare themselves more ‘secular’ than the rest in order to garner the Muslim vote bank. Moreover, ‘Secularism’ became a cure-all for other kinds (such as economic) misdeeds. Thus Laloo Prasad Yadav, Chief Minister of the Indian state of Bihar, who was forced to resign his post upon being named in a criminal proceeding for having an active hand in a scam involving billions of Rupees relating to purchase of animal fodder, was considered ‘all right’, because he wooed the Muslims and was therefore ‘secular’. The Chief Minister himself, when he was out of Jail Custody, termed his prosecution a conspiracy by 'upper-caste communal forces'.

It ought to be mentioned that there were serious flaws in this secularism. All one had to do was to ask a Hindu ‘secular’ person whether he was prepared to give his daughter in marriage to a Muslim (most marriages in India are 'arranged' by parents, a system in which the bride and the groom do not get to know to each other till the moment of wedding). The questioner would be met with a glare, an uncomfortable silence, perhaps a mumble ‘Don’t get personal’ or something to that effect.

It is this value system that absolved the Muslims of East Bengal of all their guilt in the terrible atrocities that they did upon the Hindus, and caused the Hindus of West Bengal to meekly accept the whitewashing of history by the establishment with a view to hide this dastardly crime from posterity. A mild dislike between the Ghotis and the Bangals, (natives of West and East Bengal) had existed until the nineteen-eighties - in fact there was relatively little intermarriage between the two groups, even within the same caste. This was played upon, and stories were spread - often by Marxist Bangals themselves - that what the refugees were saying about Muslim atrocities were gross exaggerations. Caste had ceased to be a political factor in Bengal after independence, and there was an apprehension among Leftists that hearing about Muslim atrocities in East Bengal might unify the Hindus in West Bengal in the name of Hinduism, and might cause them to stray from the path of Leftism. There was therefore a conscious effort to conceal the history, misinterpret it, dilute it, and use every trick in the book to make sure that it was forgotten.

The hard work of the establishment was rewarded with success. Gradually the value system struck deep roots, and it became taboo, unacceptable, verboten, in polite Bengali society to talk about the atrocities. No one among the Bengali Hindus said, unlike the European Jews, 'next year in Dacca', 'next year in Barisal' etc. In fact, if questioned why they had left East Bengal, the majority of West Bengali Hindus of East Bengali origin, even if they themselves were among the victims, would stare open-mouthed, as if suddenly leaving one's home was the most natural thing to do ; or they would squirm in their seats uncomfortably. Some would try smart-alecky answers, euphemisms, and the like. Few, if any, would say that the Muslims drove them out. And among these, most would immediately qualify their answers by saying 'but there's a reason, they were wronged too!' or 'but that doesn't mean that I bear the Muslims any ill-will - I don't ', before the questioner had a chance to ask him how he felt about the Muslims.

It is not as if the establishment worked among the Bengalis alone. It is merely that nowhere has the work of this establishment found greater success than in West Bengal, ironically, the state which has been the worst sufferer as a result of the persecution of Hindus in Eastern Bengal. The bi'gest factor in this success is the mindset of the Bengali Hindu in West Bengal that has been created over the last fifty-odd years, the value system that determines right and wrong among these people. But why are we particularly interested in the Hindu in West Bengal? Because this is where the bulk of the Bengali Hindus live, and without their being conscious of the problem neither will it be possible to ensure their own survival, nor will the Bangladeshi Hindus be ever secure.

Nowhere else in the world, arguably, has a set of people's sense of history been made to become so warped through systematic brainwashing, nowhere else do people imagine themselves to be politically conscious and yet live in a virtual world of political make-believe made of a glorious past, frog-in-the-well present, and foreseeably, little future as among the Hindus of West Bengal. This warp manifests itself in a strange pretension to being World Citizens not bound by the mundane bonds of nationalism or religion. The Hindus of West Bengal are more aware of the problems of the Chechens of Chechnya, and the late Che Guevara's in Bolivia and probably of the penguins of Tasmania than they are of those of their hapless cousins in Bangladesh. This warp has to go if they are to survive.

There are other aspects of the warp too. By way of example, the average West Bengali Hindu also believes, in a vague utopian way, that socialism is the best economic system possible, that poverty is a desirable state, or at any rate, something to be proud of, that industries, generally, ought to be nationalised, that it is quite permissible occasionally to bring the entire state, or parts of it, to a standstill in order to protest against some real or imagined wrong by calling bandhs or putting up roadblocks. It is this mindset that tells him that it is not nice to call oneself a Hindu any more than strictly necessary or that atrocities done by Muslims should not be talked about.. It has been possible to develop such a mindset by feeding over long years on a strange amalgam of Gandhiism and Marxism.

Is such an amalgam possible, what is this amalgam like, and how exactly has it worked? To answer the first question, take the recent tendency of the Communist Party of India (Marxist) (the party ruling West Bengal since 1977) of eulogising Gandhi, and trying to identify its arch-rival, the pro-Hindu Bharatiya Janata Party (the main party in the ruling coalition at the centre) with Gandhi's assassin Nathuram Godse. It is an exercise in total falsehood, because the Communist party of India had called Gandhi (as also other leaders of the Indian freedom movement, especially Subhas Chandra Bose) the foulest names during his 'Quit India' movement of 1942, and had exhorted the people to help the British government in its war effort. On the other hand, the Bharatiya Janata Party, or even its forerunner, the Bharatiya Jan Sangh, was not even born when Gandhi was assassinated. This amalgam is lately being actively promoted by the Marxists because they have discovered that, after the disappearance of the Soviet Union, the name of Gandhi sells better than those of Marx or Lenin.

The Marxists, it would seem, are terribly scared of any political opinions forming among the people of West Bengal along Hindu-Muslim lines. Strangely enough, the chief opponents of the Marxists, namely the Trinamool Congress of Ms. Mamata Banerjee, and the venerable old Indian National Congress are equally scared of the same thing - which is why these two parties have lent their full support to the Marxists in this effort. The Bharatiya Janata Party, with 5-6% of the vote share in the 2001 State Assembly elections, is not yet a very strong force in West Bengal. Yet it would seem from the earnestness with which the Marxists are pushing their Forget-History programme with their characteristic political efficiency that they have some real fears on this score. It should be remembered that the West Bengal branch of Communist Party of India (Marxist) is perceived by most political observers as a superbly efficient political machine where nothing is left to chance, nothing is decided without due deliberation and nothing is done half-heartedly.

As to the nature of the amalgam, it is a set of amorphous beliefs which are supposed to mark a person as 'secular', which is desirable, as opposed to 'communal', which is loathsome. These beliefs are the product of the value system that has been discussed at length earlier in this chapter.

There is an interesting parallel, however, to this collective forgetfulness of Bengali Hindus. In a very thought-provoking book titled 'The Holocaust and Collective Memory', the author Peter Novick has shown how the American Jewry, by far the most powerful section of Jews in the world, had kept practically silent about the Jewish Holocaust until the 1960s, but made up for it in the later years. In trying to analyse the causes of this behaviour Novick has delved deep into the psychology of persecuted masses, something this author is not trained or equipped to do. The only thing that he can observe with regret is that while the American Jews did wake up belatedly, no such tendency is yet discernible among the Hindus of West Bengal.

This author is a Bengali Hindu who has lived for most of his life in West Bengal, and it is not easy for him to say such things about his very own people, yet they must be said. Nowhere else in the world could the arguments that Elst had studied, and which are discussed earlier in this chapter, apply with more force and exactitude than in West Bengal.

Another factor which caused the Hindus to remain silent about their persecution in East Bengal must be mentioned. It is the large number of incidents of rape. Rape, or even molestation for a Hindu woman is a disaster of cosmic proportions for her and her relatives. It is, moreover, a social disaster, not merely a psychological trauma. There was a time when raped women were simply abandoned, on the grounds that they had been 'defiled', by their husbands, sometimes even by their parents, for fear of social ostracism, with the result that the raped women were driven to suicide or prostitution. Much later a novel in Bangla titled 'Louhokopat' (in Bangla meaning 'The Iron Gate') written in the 1950's by a jail official pseudonymed 'Jorasondho' and a film titled 'Adalat o Ekti Meye' (in Bangla, meaning 'The Court and a Girl') in the 1980's poignantly showed what social opprobrium was heaped on an innocent woman who had suffered the trauma of rape. It must be said that Syama Prasad Mookerjee's exhortations to rehabilitate Hindus forcibly converted to Islam in Noakhali (which also included an exhortation to rehabilitate the thousands of Hindu raped women - see Chapter 3) brought about a sea-change in the attitude of Hindus in this regard. Still, under these circumstances it is not at all unexpected that the near and dear ones of these women would keep silent about the pogroms, because it would bring to the fore the fact that their women were raped.

Now back to the secularist value system. The value system, it must be said, was a subtle device which worked in the minds of West Bengali Hindus to absolve the East Bengali Muslims of all guilt for the persecution of Hindus there. When it was a question of fighting for Indian Muslim votes all these subtleties were forgotten, and the secular politicos resorted to brazen appeals for Muslim block votes. Thus Siddhartha Sankar Ray, a former Chief Minister of West Bengal and an outstanding lawyer, who has been dispossessed of his ancestral village of Hasari in Bikrampur, Dacca, had no hesitation in getting photographed hugging a Mollah on Id day, while he was Chief minister in a secular country ; nor in declaring that he would fight the case of the Babri Masjid Action Committee without any fees.

Was it this tender concern for the Muslim vote bank that caused Indira Gandhi to release all the Pakistani soldiers after the Simla accord without putting them to a Nuremberg-type trial for their bestialities. Not at all unlikely. Benoy Mukherjee
[xxv], former Secretary, Press Council, who has been discussed in Chapter 6 above, however, differs. According to him it was simply that Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, the Prime Minister of Pakistan, outwitted and outmanoeuvred her with his suave charm and diplomacy during the Simla negotiations. Bhutto had argued that he would like to implement all that Indira Gandhi told her (like stabilising the situation in Kashmir by accepting the Line of Control as the International Border), and in fact he himself had thought of these things. However to implement these he needed to have credibility in his own country, and there was no way he would be believed by his countrymen unless he could secure the release of the Pakistani prisoners of war. After the loss of Bangladesh his credibility in Pakistan was very low. Once he secured the release of the prisoners he would implement all his assurances.Indira Gandhi, upon the advice of P.N.Haksar (himself a Kashmiri Hindu) decided not to insist on these assurances in writing, a fact that Haksar deeply regretted before he died[xxvi].

Indira Gandhi, a very shrewd politician otherwise, thus got completely taken by this line of argument, and released all the ninety thousand soldiers and officers, some of whom were guilty of bestialities that would have put the likes of Rudolf Hoess or Josef Kramer, concentration camp officers belonging to the SS, to shame.

One thorn in the establishment's flesh hurt very deeply, and that thorn is called Taslima Nasrin. What the thousands of Hindu secular Left-Nehruvian intellectuals, compatriots of the victims, fought shy of even hinting at, was written with brutal clarity by this frail young Bengali Muslim woman, a doctor-turned-writer from the northern Bangladeshi town of Mymensingh. The Left-Nehruvian intellectual establishment in India, especially West Bengal, which worries itself sick with the injustice done to Salvatore Allende in Chile, kept its customary eerie silence when the Bangladeshi Muslim Nasrin was driven out of her country by fundamentalist pressure, including a futwah for her death, and sent to exile in Europe. The political wing of the establishment even refused her a visa to visit India so long as they were in power, lest such visit should turn away the Muslim vote. There was not a murmur of indignation from the establishment when she had to wrap herself in purdah to return to Bangladesh to see her mother, terminally ill with cancer, and the fundamentalists bayed for her blood.

Such is the force of the secularist mainstream. Very few people in India or Bangladesh have dared to swim against this tide, or to take on the value system. Of them, Kamra, Elst, Gautier, Taslima Nasrin, Salaam Azad and Arun Shourie have already been mentioned. Among the others, special mention must be made of Swapan Dasgupta, Tavleen Singh, Pabitra Kumar Ghosh, Suhas Majumdar, Shiva Prasad Roy (the last three write in Bangla) and a few others.
How does this author know all this? He does because he grew up in this society and found himself deeply troubled by this behaviour, which extended to his own family and relatives, many of whom spoke the East Bengali patois, and yet would not blame the Muslim majority for the atrocities. But how can he say that he is right about his views, his analysis, his conclusions? How does he know that Taslima, Shourie, Elst and Gautier are substantially right and the entire Left-Nehruvian intellectual and political establishment is wrong, the elders of his family, who saw the partition and the exodus with their own eyes are all wrong - in short, how is he so sure of himself? The answer is that he isn't, but if anybody has a better explanation for a whole people, the Bengali Hindus, so completely forgetting a tragedy of this magnitude within such a short time, he is prepared to listen.

One question survives : why did the Bengali Hindus give up their homeland without a fight? Why did the East Bengal revolutionaries, Hindu to a man, who had braved the imperial power of the British, succumb so meekly when challenged by the might of the much less powerful Pakistani state and their rag-tag Lungi-clad Muslim rioters? Why did such people run away from places that were their homes for hundreds of years? This question has been rarely, if ever, asked. This question had been posed in Chapter 2, and an answer will now be attempted, based on interviews of a few knowledgeable people, followed by this author's own analysis.

Firstly it is not as if the Bengali Hindus never put up a fight. Dinesh Chandra Sinha records in his "Syamaprasad, Bangabibhag o Pashchimbanga"
[xxvii] (in Bangla, meaning, Syamaprasad, the Partition of Bengal and West Bengal) that during the Noakhali carnage (see Chapter 3), Surendra Nath Basu, a patriotic Zamindar of Narayanpur, Noakhali, kept the marauders of 'Kasem's fouj' at bay for several hours by shooting at them with his rifle. The marauders shielded themselves with corrugated roofing sheets, and stormed his house, caught him, trussed him up together with a few of his Hindu employees and burnt him alive. Advocate Rajendra Lal Roychaudhuri, the Hindu Mahasabha leader of Noakhali had put up a similar fight, and shared, together with his brothers, the same fate as Surendra.

Dhananjoy Basak, formerly of Nawabpur, Dacca Town, relates how they literally ambushed a bloodthirsty Muslim mob that was coming in a procession towards their area, armed with lethal weapons. They had come to know a few days earlier that such a procession would be visiting them from a Muslim police inspector called Nurul Islam who used to regularly visit one Rasaraj Basak, a distant cousin, for drinks on the house. Dhananjoy at the time was about eighteen tears of age and full of youthful vigour. They gathered together an enormous load of brickbats on the terraces of the houses at the entries into the narrow lanes between Raisaheber Bazar and Bongshal More (Junction). Also, there were a lot of Hindu confectioners in the area who prepared several vats of sugar syrup and kept them boiling on the terraces. As soon as the Muslim mob tried to enter into the lanes they pelted them with brickbats and poured the boiling sugar syrup on them. The mob never expected any resistance, and dissolved in no time.

These acts of courage were, however, possible in the British days when there was some semblance of fairness in the state, some hint of the rule of law, some trappings of a judiciary independent of the executive, and the police force was mixed, comprising both Hindus and Muslims. In the Pakistani times the state openly sided with the marauders, the police was totally Muslim and openly partisan, and the majority population was either inclined towards them or indifferent. In the circumstances the Hindus could see that they had no chance at all.
Pratik Saha (not his real name) is one of those rare people who had seen the partition on both fronts. His family came from the Bikrampur region of Dacca, and his father was an Senior Executive of the North Western Railway, posted at the time of partition at Lahore where Saha went to school. His family narrowly escaped being slaughtered by moving to Delhi just in the nick of time. According to him his elders were all of the view that since the country had been partitioned anyway, an exchange of population must follow, and it should be allowed to take its natural course in a peaceful manner. There was no point in fighting, resisting or 'digging in', or doggedly persisting in living in Muslim East Pakistan. In pursuance of that line they all moved to Calcutta and its environs without wasting any time. This was during the relatively tranquil period of 1947-49, and they had no difficulty in doing so. They were given refuge by their relatives India, such as Saha's father who already had an establishment there. They were an intelligent and enterprising lot, and it took them no time to get absorbed in the Bengali Hindu mainstream in India. After that they all forgot that there was ever a country called East Bengal.

Sukomal Talukdar, who came to India from East Pakistan through clandestine channels following a pogrom in 1964, and is now a U.S. citizen, was of the view that leadership among Bengali Hindus was always provided by the upper castes, the Brahmins, Kayasthas and Baidyas. The revolutionaries had also come form these castes, as had political leaders and ICS men. These upper castes had 'run away' (his words) to India at the first opportunity, with the result that there was no one to provide the political leadership, and the Hindus who were forced to stay on were sitting ducks for the Jihad-crazed Muslims.

Prafulla Kumar Chakrabarti, in his 'Marginal Men' mainly blames geography and demography for the helpless state of the Hindus. The whole of Eastern Bengal is a delta, criss-crossed by innumerable rivers, canals and major and minor water courses. Every bit of land is thus, in a sense, an island, approachable usually by river craft (and, in some districts like Barisal, only by river craft). The Hindus lived in these islands in an isolated, scattered manner, surrounded by the Muslim majority. It was not easy for them to escape when set upon suddenly by a marauding Jihad-crazed mob. The Hindu-hatred of the East Bengali Muslims had reached such a pitch that most Hindus considered it better to leave instead of putting up a fight.

Anil Kumar Sen saw in the caste division of Hindus the main reason for their inability to put up a fight. The upper-caste Hindus are anything but fighters - in fact in those days they used to consider it beneath their dignity to do any physical labour at all. The fighting could have been done by the lower castes, the fishermen, the boatmen, the Bagdis, Namahshudras and Kaibartas, who in the olden days had provided the Paik-Barkandaj (musclemen) cadre of the Zamindars. They however, needed direction. There was no one to give them direction, because the upper castes had mostly already left for India. They were, moreover, a totally beleaguered lot, surrounded by Muslims who were either hostile or indifferent, and a police force which was cent per cent Muslim and which identified itself totally with the marauders. These circumstances had made their morale sink so low that there was no way they could fight.

Sen pointed out another feature of the Hindu populace which was, according to him, responsible for this state of affairs. It is extremely difficult to mobilise Hindus in the name of their religion, while it is equally easy to do so with a Muslim. It is not that the Hindu, or specifically the Bengali Hindu, is incapable of fighting, but to fight he has to be motivated beyond a point. This ignition point is very high, but if it can somehow be reached then Bengali Hindu youths can be made to perform extraordinary feats, as they had done during their revolutionary phase. During their persecution in the Pakistan, and later the Bangladesh era there was no one left in East Bengal to enthuse them beyond that ignition point. .

All these persons appear unanimous on one point : that the exodus of the upper-caste Hindus early in the day, and after that their being totally oblivious of what was happening to their kinsmen in what used to be their home once, was a very material factor responsible for the total lack of any resistance from the Hindus of East Bengal. It must indeed be said that it was downright selfish of these people who had found safe berth in India (among whom this author's family is also included) not to have spared a thought of all their compatriots that they had left behind in East Bengal. The least they could have done was to raise a hue and cry in India for their brethren in East Bengal. Even that they did not do, especially after the death of Syama Prasad Mookerjee (who was a West Bengali) and Meghnad Saha. It must therefore also be said that this total indifference and self-centredness of the Hindus of West Bengal (whether indigenous or transplanted, and thereafter rehabilitated) had contributed in no small measure to the insecurity of the Hindus left behind in East Bengal.

It has already been already been seen in Chapter 5 what plight befell those Hindu leaders who had chosen to stay on in East Pakistan. Jogendra Nath Mandal, Depressed-class Hindu leader of Barisal, had to literally run away to India despite having been a Cabinet Minister in Pakistan's Central Government. His letter of resignation described incidents of Human Rights abuses against Hindus that he had observed as a Central Minister. It is an important document, and has been reproduced in the Appendix. Dhirendra Nath Datta of Comilla was the first East Pakistani leader to raise the flag of Bengali nationalism in the Pakistani Parliament. He was tortured and killed by the Pakistani Army at Comilla Cantonment during the holocaust of 1971. Satindra Nath Sen, an upper-caste Congress leader of Barisal, was incarcerated in prison and died there. Kamini Kumar Datta of Comilla also rose to be a Cabinet Minister in the Central Cabinet of Pakistan. He had the great good luck of having died a natural death. Prabhas Chandra Lahiri of Rajshahi, the Finance Minister in the East Pakistan cabinet headed by Abu Hossain Sarkar, and Basanta Das of Sylhet, a Minister in the Pakistan central cabinet headed by Ismail Ibrahim Chundrigarh, were disqualified under the Elected Bodied Disqualification Order (EBDO) issued by Ayub Khan's Martial Law regime (EBDO-ed, to use the expression then in use) and had to flee to India.

The truth is that when the might of the Pakistani state incited, aided and abetted the Muslim majority in the country to persecute and drive out the Hindu minority in the name of religion, the Hindus stood no chance, and no Hindu leader could have done anything to save them. The only thing that could have saved them is gesturing by the Government of India, and fear of reprisals against Muslims in India, especially in West Bengal (observation made without passing any moral judgement). Both the Government of India and the Hindus of West Bengal were supremely indifferent to what was happening to their co-religionists in East Bengal.

A mitigating factor in favour of the Hindus of West Bengal must be mentioned. The time was the nineteen-fifties and sixties, and the Bengali Hindu psyche was permeated by Leftism and Nehruism as explained earlier in this chapter. According to both these isms it was anathema to even mention the persecution of their own kinsmen in the hands of Muslims - what will the minority Indian Muslims think, what will the world think of us? Thus, once again we are back to the value system. There was none in Bengali society to take on this perverted value system, and the whole community played along, while the Hindus in East Bengal stewed.

The studied indifference of the Government of India to the plight of the East Bengali Hindus was another factor that had emboldened the marauders of East Bengal. Nehru, the political somnambulist, would never admit that anything could go wrong in East Bengal, because that would also mean admitting that the Nehru-Liaquat pact was a failure, which it was. The jehadis of East Bengal thus knew that after the pact the Indian government, merely from a misplaced sense of prestige of its Prime Minister, would thenceforth refuse to recognise that any atrocities were being committed on the Hindus in the East, and, at the same time, would bend over backwards to ensure that no Muslim of India suffered in any way. The jehadis had, therefore, nothing to fear. They had only to ensure that the persecution of Hindus never reached such a pitch as to cause a public outcry in India.

The ultimate reason for the Hindus not putting up a fight can, therefore, only be their utter helplessness. It should not be difficult to imagine their plight. They were a totally beleaguered and threatened minority, devout idol-worshippers in a Muslim-majority country. The state offered them no protection, and incited the Muslims to harass and kill them and generally did all that is necessary to make them insecure. Every bit of news about some atrocity against the Hindus, every sight of yet another friend, relative or neighbour leaving for India made them increasingly insecure. Neighbouring Hindu India did nothing to help them stay on in Pakistan. Many among their Muslim neighbours were lusting after their riches, their land, and their women. In such circumstances all that they could do was either to leave, or to suffer in silence.

The same thing had happened to the Jews in Nazi Germany and occupied Europe, to the warring Hutus and Tutsis in Rwanda, to the Bosnian Muslims in Serb-occupied Bosnia-Herzegovina, and all of them had to run or suffer, often run and suffer. There are however, important differences. The Hindus of East Pakistan had another option which the Jews or the Hutus or Tutsis did not : the Hindus could convert to Islam. As already mentioned, very few opted for this choice. On the other hand, the Hindus of East Bengal chose to forget their slaughter and uprooting. The Jews of Europe did not.

And how do the later generations of the tormentors of the Hindus, the Muslim majority of present-day Bangladesh, look upon these atrocities? Incredible as it may seem, those among them who did not see the atrocities with their own eyes do not know or do not believe that these at all took place (except for the one of 1971 associated with the Bangladeshi freedom struggle). On the other hand the ones who saw it have chosen - with great deliberation - not to remember them or talk about them, in fact to deny them outright. The East Pakistani and later Bangladeshi state, as well as informed people, politicians, journalists and historians have taken great care to make sure that the forcible expulsion of Hindus from their land, the persecution, the torture, the mass torchings, the bestialities, the rapes of Hindu women are erased from their recorded history.

Consider Abul Mansur Ahmad's reminiscences. In 1950 he was an established lawyer and a politician of considerable standing, and had also a stint as a journalist as the editor of the Calcutta-based Muslim periodical Ittehad. It cannot be said in any way that he was an ill-informed person. Moreover, he had not moved to his native Mymensingh immediately after partition, but stayed on in Calcutta and continued to practise in the District Court at Alipore. He moved to East Pakistan only in April 1950. The preceding two months had seen some of the worst anti-Hindu pogroms in Bengal, including the Meghna Bridge massacre, the Muladi and Madhabpasha carnages, and general mayhem all over East Bengal, resulting in mass exodus of Hindus from that country. The newspapers of Calcutta were full of stories of the killings, gathered from the survivors themselves.

Under these circumstances there was no way Abul Mansur Ahmad, lawyer, alert and conscious citizen, and above all, practising politician, could have been unaware of what was going on in East Bengal. Even before this there was the Noakhali carnage of 1946 which attracted the attention of the entire world. Yet what does he have to say? In his 'Fifty Years of Politics' he says : "The historical truth is that, compared to other places, there were very few communal riots in East Pakistan - in fact there were practically none. But the Hindus were leaving the country en masse. This was not out of fear of communal riots, but for other reasons. The empty slogans of 'Islamic State' and 'Administration based on the Sharia (Islamic scriptures)' mouthed by the Pakistani state had scared the Hindus. They were not scared for their lives but for their honour, for their culture and religion. . . . . The Pakistani administrators had a duty to make them feel secure, but were instead content with merely giving them a terror-free administration"

What is one to make of such blatant lies? All that one can say is that Abul Mansur Ahmad was indulging in verbal casuistry, implying that what had taken place was not rioting but pogrom. He has not even bothered to explain why, after having lived in Calcutta for nearly three years, with his right to abuse Hindus unimpaired (see his remarks on the assassination of Gandhi earlier in this chapter) he suddenly decided to move back to Mymensingh in April 1950! He mentions that he was suffering from a serious case of dysentery, but he certainly did not stand a better chance of getting medical treatment in out-of-the-way Mymensingh as compared to metropolitan Calcutta! The reason could only have been that after the intensity of the pogroms in East Bengal in February-March, 1950, and the few reprisals that took place in West Bengal, he must have felt unsafe here, but saying so would open a veritable Pandora's box. Ahmad himself clearly was not a rabid anti-Hindu, but all this must be the result of a misconceived sense of a duty to hide the heinous crimes of his compatriots.

This author visited Dacca in February 2001, and was introduced to M.R.Akhtar Mukul, a handsome, brilliant, engaging and multifaceted personality who has already been mentioned several times in the foregoing in connection with his book 'Purbapurusher Sandhane' (in Bangla, meaning 'In Search of our Ancestors'). Mukul has been a freedom fighter, broadcaster, politician, diplomat, author and publisher in the seventy-two years of his life. Mukul is not the sort of person to mince words, and made it be known, in no uncertain terms and at the very outset, that he was at once a proud Bengali and a devout Muslim, that he received unequalled love and approbation in Calcutta during his brief sojourn in the city during the days of the Bangladeshi freedom struggle, that he had Pathan blood in him (he is rather unusually big-built for a Bengali) ; and also that he disapproved of Hinduism (which he called the 'Brahminical Religion') and especially of West Bengali Hindus, including those of East Bengali origin. He said all this in such bonhomie that it was impossible to take offence at the man.

This author had gone to see Mukul to find out what he saw and how he felt about the exodus of Hindus in 1950 and 1964 - Mukul was around twenty in 1950, and had certainly seen some of the atrocities for himself. However, upon Mukul's introducing himself in the manner described above, the author decided that he had better follow Leonard A. Gordon's (biographer of Subhas Chandra and Sarat Chandra Bose, mentioned in Chapter 3 above) method, and 'just listen'

Mukul said nothing about the atrocities, thus following the familiar Abul Mansur Ahmad line. He however said a rather interesting thing. According to him Muslims were tenacious by nature, and would not move from their homestead even if persecuted. On the other hand, Hindus were alarmist by nature ; and, to use his own words, the death of a 'Hindu cat' in Dacca could start an exodus of Hindus to India.

This author had heard about and bought Mukul's Kolkata-Kendrik Buddhijeebi (Intellectuals Centred at Calcutta) the previous day from the Book Fair at Dacca, but got a chance to read it only upon his return to Calcutta. The book is rather voluminous and heavy reading but unsubstantial. It is full of vituperations against Bengali Hindu intellectuals of the nineteenth-century renaissance, principally because they ignored the Muslims and harped on their all-India Hindu traditions. A person chosen for special abuse is Bankim Chandra Chatterjee mentioned in Chapter 1. All attempts to get at the subject of this book, namely the underlying causes of the anti-Hindu pogroms, failed.

Similarly, 'Khandakar theke Khaleda' (From Khandakar to Khaleda), a collection of essays by Mukul, describes the injustices and the tyranny practised in Bangladesh during the years 1975-1996, that is from the assassination of Sheikh Mujib and his family to the coming to power of his daughter, Sheikh Hasina. Some of the worst atrocities against Hindus were committed during these years, especially in 1989 and 1992 - see the writings of Salaam Azad and Taslima Nasrin, described above. There is even mention of supposed jubilation in New Delhi's 'South Block' (the Indian Prime Minister's office) at the assassination of Sheikh Mujib. The word 'Hindu' does not appear in the entire booklet of thirty pages.

To summarise, it may well be said that the Hindu genocide and exodus from erstwhile East Pakistan and Bangladesh has been sought to be wished away by Bangladeshi Muslims and secular Hindus of India. It is not mentioned in history in either country. The people who should have been the most concerned, the Indian Bengali Hindus of East Bengali origin, including a large number who had lost their near and dear ones in the pogroms, are the most indifferent. The reasons for this inexplicable conduct have been discussed in this chapter.

Three final questions : First, what is the number of Hindus who had to leave, or could not go back to their homes in Eastern Bengal, as a result of Islamic persecution in that country? Second, what is the number of Hindus killed and Hindu women raped? And third, what is the value of property that Hindus were forced to abandon in Eastern Bengal?

Strangely, or perhaps not so strangely, there is no official statistics on any of these questions. Which is not surprising, since Pakistan, Bangladesh, and India have all together, as if by some unwritten conspiracy, tried to pretend that any of the above never took place. This is a subject that must be researched in great detail. This author is not equipped to undertake that research and must, therefore, relegate that work to professional historians in the future. All that this author can hope to do is to kindle their interest in the subject. Yet this book would not be complete without at least some indication, however approximate, of these figures.

Decennial figures of population of Bangladesh (the term 'Bangladesh', for the purpose of this analysis, may be taken to include the land mass that now constitutes Bangladesh, and was earlier known as 'East Pakistan' or part of the British Indian Bengal Presidency), split religion-wise, are available from the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics' website,

These figures show a decennial growth of 12.4 % in the Hindu population of Bangladesh between 1931 and 1941. Since during this period there were no unusual circumstances which could cause a sudden jump or fall in the Hindu population, this figure can reasonably be taken to be the normal decennial rate of growth of the Hindu population of this land mass for the purpose of extrapolating populations right up to 1991. If at all, this will produce post-1941 figures which are on the low side, because the rate of growth has itself increased all over the subcontinent due to advances in medical science and fall in infant mortality.

If the actual population of the land mass (which in every case is less than the population so extrapolated) is deducted from the extrapolated population we get a figure which represents the number of 'missing Hindus', that is to say the number that must have been either killed or migrated to India. These figures are given in the following table.

Total 'Missing Hindu' population, 1941-1991 = 6,888,000

To this must be added the population of Hindus of East Bengali origin (speaking the East Bengal patois, owning some property in East Bengal, claiming a 'native village' in East Bengal, etc.) who were in West Bengal or some other part of the world at the time of partition, and never went back to East Bengal, like this author's family. It is impossible to determine this figure today, but a very conservative estimate would be somewhere between one and two million. If these two figures are added they would yield a figure of about eight million, which is the total number of East Bengali Hindus uprooted (and a small number among them killed) by Islamic persecution in Eastern Bengal.

Interestingly, another approach yields the same approximate figure of eight million. According to figures quoted by Hiranmay Banerjee
[xxx], the total number of refugees who had sought rehabilitation from the government stood at 2,662,601 on 31st December 1954. These figures may be taken as completely authentic, considering the access Banerjee had to official statistics, his mental makeup and his reputation for righteousness. This figure now must be extrapolated to take care of the following :

(a) Hindus of East Bengali origin who were in West Bengal or elsewhere in the Indian Union on 15th August 1947, and never went back to Eastern Bengal.
(b) Hindus who moved from East to West Bengal after 15th August 1947, but did not seek any rehabilitation from the government.
(c) Hindus who came to India after 1954, including those who participated in the mass movements of 1964 and 1971.

No reliable statistics could be found which could help in this extrapolation. However considering the facts that the pogrom of 1964 was milder than that of 1950 but that of 1971 was definitely worse, an extra two hundred per cent over the 1954 figure to take care of all the above considerations would not be altogether unjustified. This would also put the total number of Hindus ousted from Eastern Bengal because of their religion at around eight million.

This figure, incidentally, is a little more than the current population of Switzerland.

Jogendra Nath Mandal, Pakistan's Central Minister for Law and Labour, in his Letter of Resignation put the number of Hindus who had left East Pakistan till October 1950 at Fifty Lakhs or five million - see paragraph 31 of his resignation reproduced in the appendix.

A sidelight about the population figures : the official Bangladeshi figures are much more accessible on the Internet than the Indian figures (see Bibliography for list of websites accessed). The official Indian website <>, apart from being poorly designed, crashed repeatedly, with the result that it proved to be of very limited use. On the other hand the Bangladeshi site <> of the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics is very well-designed and user-friendly and proved extremely useful.

The second question is even more difficult to answer. Because the crimes of rape, torching and murder took place in East Pakistan, and there was no point in the Hindus trying to register a complaint with the local police - in fact at many places the police themselves were the perpetrators - there is absolutely no official statistics. Also the Pakistani police or administration were not like the SS officers of Auschwitz or Sachsenhausen who, with their German penchant for keeping meticulous records, had left all the necessary details for posterity. The only basis for estimation can be the figure of the total number of rapes during the 1971 holocaust that the Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wajed made before the United Nations millenium summit
[xxxi]. The figure was 200,000. This figure of course was not accepted by the Pakistanis, who called it a gross exaggeration. Even if this figure is scaled down to half to exclude exaggerations as well as raped Muslim women, and then extrapolated by 200% - an eminently justified figure - to take care of the rapes committed during the period from 1950-1970 and 1975-present, the total would stand at 300,000. And if we take it that for every rape of a woman there was at least one murder of a male, the same figure would result. One relatively reliable figure is available, namely that of Hindus killed during the 1950 pogroms. This is the figure quoted by Jogendra Nath Mandal, Pakistan's Central Minister for Law and Labour in his Letter of Resignation (see Appendix, paragraph 22). The figure is 10,000 Hindus killed, out of them 2,500 in the district of Barisal alone.

Now about property of which the Hindus were dispossessed. This is definitely determinable by going through the Land Records of the districts available with the Sub-registry offices, provided the Bangladeshi authorities permit it. However this would require a stupendous amount of research and is quite beyond the means of this author. This figure is also likely to be quite astronomical, considering the enormous estates that Hindu Zamindars had - including the famous ones of Muktagachha, Susang, Teota, Natore, Tajhat, Dubalhati and so on. This is, of course, if one has decided not to get involved in the Marxist controversy of whether the Zamindars could at all claim any value on the estates. In addition to that one must consider what Meghnad Saha had said in a speech before the Indian Parliament. He had said “ . . . the city of Dacca, the biggest city in Eastern Pakistan, had a population of 200,000 before partition. 70 per cent of it were Hindus - 140,000. They owned 80 percent of the houses there. . . . . I know it because I come from Dacca”. The other, lesser towns of East Bengal such as Comilla, Sylhet, Mymensingh, Chittagong, and Rajshahi, were all Hindu-dominated. The same position is stated by Annada Sankar Ray. The whole of Khulna district was Hindu-majority. Considering all these, the total value of property that the Hindus were forced to abandon in East Pakistan could run to hundreds of millions of Takas (Bangladeshi currency), even at prices prevailing at the time when they had to leave.

One interesting statistic could however be found.. According to research carried out by a group of scholars, the size of vested property in Bangladesh in 2001 stood at 2.1 million acres or 8230 square kilometres, constituting a little over five per cent of the land area of Bangladesh, a little more than five times the area of Greater London. The total number of households affected was 925,050

[i] University of Michigan – Dearborn, Fact Sheet : Armenian Genocide

[ii] Bengalis are avid football (soccer) watchers, and the clubs of Calcutta occupy a premier place in the game as it is played in the country. Of these clubs the most important are Mohun Bagan and East Bengal.

The first is traditionally supported by West Bengalis, and the second, as the name implies, by East Bengalis.

[iii] A Bandh (also called Hartal, Aam Hartal or General Strike) is a phenomenon peculiar to Eastern India, especially Bengal, when a call is given by a political party to bring all normal activities, mainly business and transport, in a particular region to a complete standstill for a particular duration, say 12 or 24 hours. Those who try to carry on with normal life despite the call usually get manhandled, even killed. The government usually obliges by being a passive spectator.

[iv] Koenraad Elst (b.1959) of Leuven, Belgium.

[v] United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, Country Profiles-India

[vi] West Bengal Bangla Academy, monthly publication on literary criticism, November 1999

[vii] Mani Shankar Aiyar's Pakistan Papers, by Mani Shankar Aiyar, UBSPD Publishers' Distributors Ltd., 1st
ed. 1994, p. 99

[viii] Amar Dekha Rajneetir Ponchas Bochhor (Fifty Years of Politics, as I saw it) ibid., p. 220-221

[ix] "Bengal Divided : Hindu Communalism and Partition, 1932-47", by Joya Chatterji, Cambridge University Press, 1st Indian Edition, 1995.

[x] ibid., p. 253

[xi] ibid., p. 268

[xii] Swadhinatar Mukh, (Bangla)(The Face of Freedom), by Amales Tripathi, Ananda Publishers, Calcutta, 1998, 1st ed., p. 186

[xiii] The Present History of West Bengal, Essays in Political Criticism, by Partha Chatterjee, Oxford University Press, New Delhi, 1998, 1st Ed., p. 35n.

[xiv] Bangladesh, it should be mentioned, is not an Islamic state. In fact it began as a secular state under Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. However, subsequently President H.M.Ershad made Islam the ‘State Religion’, or ‘Mazhab’ and that position still continues.

[xv] Newsweek, March 5, 2001, Asia-Pacific edition, article by Andrew Nagorski.

[xvi] Negationism in India : Concealing the Record of Islam, by Koenraad Elst, 2nd Ed., 1993, Voice of India,
Delhi, p. 87-92


[xviii] Balasaheb Thackeray (b. 1926), one of the most remarkable and controversial characters in contemporary Indian politics, founder and supreme leader of the regional party Shiv Sena (the soldiers of Shivaji, the legendary Hindu hero). The party is quite powerful in the important Indian state of Maharashtra (of which Mumbai or Bombay is the capital), but exists in other states also. Thackeray began life as a cartoonist, and entered politics on a chauvinist, Maharashtra-for-Maharashtrians platform, but changed soon to a militant all-Hindu platform. He has since been outspoken against the secularism practised in India, and was the only major political leader to publicly own up the demolition of the disputed structure often referred to as the Babri Mosque of Ayodhya. He is decried as Fascist by Left-Nehruvian seculars, but had won the sneaking admiration of many among them for some of his actions, such as banning of proceeding for Haj pilgrimage through Mumbai after Pakistan-trained Kashmiri Muslim militants declared a ban on the pilgrimage to the Hindu shrine of Amarnath in Kashmir. Both bans were subsequently withdrawn.

[xix] On History, by Eric Hobsbawm, 1st Ed., Weidenfeld and Nicolson, London, p. 10

[xx] See Discovery of India, by Jawaharlal Nehru, Jawaharlal Nehru Memorial fund - Oxford University Press ed., 1999, pages 509, 520

[xxi] The Bharatiya Jan Sangh is the forerunner of the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), the principal party among the ruling coalition in the Indian central government since 1999. The former was founded in 1951 by Syama Prasad Mookerjee through a joint effort of him and M.S.Golwalkar, the leader of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), a social organisation dedicated to awakening the Hindus as Hindus. The party later merged into the Janata Party of Jaiprakash Narain in 1977, but separated and formed itself as the BJP when the other constituents of the Janata Party objected to its association with the RSS. The Janata Party does not exist any more.

[xxii] The New Cambridge History of India : The Politics of India since Independence by Paul R. Brass,
2nd Indian Ed., Cambridge University Press / Foundation Books, Delhi, 1994, p. 237-238

[xxiii] Eminent Historians, their Technology, their Line, their Fraud by Arun Shourie, 1st Ed., ASA, New
Delhi, 1998

[xxiv] ibid., p. 63-68

[xxv] Interviewed January 28, 2001

[xxvi] G.Parthasarathy, former Indian High Commissioner to Pakistan, in India Today, July 16, 2001, p.34.

[xxvii] published by Grantharashmi, Calcutta, India, 1st Ed., 2001

[xxviii] Amar Dekha Rajneetir Ponchas Bochhor, ibid., p. 238

[xxix] Leonard A. Gordon, in the preface to his "Brothers against the Raj : A biography of Sarat and Subhas Chandra Bose" mentions an amusing incident when he had gone to Stuttgart, Germany to interview erstwhile Captain Wilhelm Lutz who was associated with Subhas Chandra Bose when the latter was in Germany in 1941. Gordon writes " I was greatly helped by Captain Wilhelm Lutz who told me among other things that Hitler's only fault was that he had lost. My Jewish identity had never entered directly into the research process before, but at Captain Lutz's home his wife asked me 'Is Gordon a Scottish name?' Since I wanted further frankness in my talks with Lutz, I simply replied 'Yes'. I did not go on to say that it was the name assigned to my Jewish grandfather when he got off the boat from Russia in New York . . . . I asked (Lutz) about the slaughter of the Jews. He used the old metaphor of having to break some eggs to make an omelette. I decided that I would just listen."

[xxx] Udbastu, ibid., Appendix, p. 343

[xxxi] Mrs. Sheikh Hasina Wajed, Prime Minister of Bangladesh, addressing the U.N. Millenium Summit, 7th September 2000, quoted in the Times of India, Mumbai Ed. 9th September 2000, p. 12

[xxxii] An Enquiry into the Causes and Consequences of Deprivation of Hindu Minorities in Bangladesh through the Vested Property Act - Framework for a Realitic Solution, Abul Barkat, Ed., Prip Trust, Dacca, Bangladesh, 1st Ed., 2000, p. 42