Chapter 3


The nineteen-forties were not good years for most countries of the world (except perhaps, Switzerland). The decade meant war, deprivation, deaths, the holocaust, rationing, shortages, and all the things that generally make up human misery. For Bengal however, it could be said that the years were quite extraordinarily bad, because the province suffered three major traumas, not counting partition. These have been enumerated in the last paragraph of the last chapter, and it is not pleasant to repeat them. However, one feature stands out from all three traumas: they were all man-made. The first was the result of an incredibly cynical and inhuman scorched-earth policy (called the ‘Denial and Evacuation’ policy) followed by the British, aided in no mean measure by the mischief of the Muslim League ministry that they had just installed. The other two were simply unmitigated horror unleashed by Muslim upon Hindu with active or passive state participation, a foretaste of what lay in wait for the Hindus of East Bengal.

It is here that this chapter is relevant to the subject of this book. Of the three horrors, the first was a result of British misdeeds coupled with Muslim League inaction and mischief ; the last two were deliberate, diabolical acts by the Muslim League, with the British standing by impotently. It is no wonder that Hindus of East Bengal met their fate with the Muslim League in power.

It is fashionable in secular circles in India today to accept a theory unquestioningly, that every communal riot is the result of misdeeds of a few villains, in which the rest of the peace-loving population unwittingly gets embroiled. A street hoarding put up by the Communist Government of West Bengal in Calcutta in 1992 read “Amra Eksonge Chhilam/Amra Eksonge Achhi/Amra Eksonge Thakbo/Dhormo Niye Hanahani Korbo Na” meaning “We (Hindus and Muslims) have always been together/We are together/We shall always be together/ We shall not fight each other for Religion”. The lie of the lines is manifest and does not have to be explained. Ashok Mitra, the veteran administrator also strongly disagrees with this view. He says, in the context of Govind Nihalani’s telefilm Tamas (Darkness), based on the book of the same name by Bhisham Sahni, that this is just wishful thinking and oversimplification, betraying the Ostrich-like attitude of the ‘so-called (Indian) Marxists’
[1]. This is exactly what has been referred to as the Indian ‘Holy Ghost of Communal Harmony and Secularism’ in the preface to this book. Mitra goes on to say that only those who have no first-hand experience of communal riots, or those who refuse to face reality in the name of ‘secularism’ and ‘humanism’ can choose to ignore the terrible violence that religious fervour can bring about.

But it is advantageous to proceed in a chronological order. The Bengal famine of 1943 was the first in line. What makes it particularly horrific is the fact that it was not a result of any flood, drought or pestilence but entirely a man-made tragedy, What was it like?

It was a time when the skeletal remains of what had once been human beings, and were now barely so, used to roam the streets of Calcutta by the thousands, crying Ektu Phan dao go ma (O mother, give us some ‘phan’ – the supernatant starchy liquid that is poured off after rice has been boiled). These were mostly women clutching to their bosoms even more emaciated children with huge heads, protruding bellies and matchsticks for limbs. They died by the thousands on the streets, as often from eating too much after days of starvation as from starvation itself. Corpses floating by on the Hooghly River were a common sight. They used to come from nearby districts, chiefly Midnapore, where the cyclone of October 1942 had killed off an astounding number of people, mostly men who were out of doors when the cyclone surprised them. The womenfolk were then left to fend for themselves, and finding nothing at all to eat, traveled to Calcutta. The people from faraway districts such as those in East Bengal found this difficult, and stayed on where they were, to die there. Ashok Mitra at this time was the Sub-Divisional Officer of Munshigunge in Dacca district and describes these deaths in words that are at once poignant and macabre.

According to Mitra
[2], the real ordeal for the people of Munshigunge began in August 1943. Till July they had somehow survived. One more month was too much. The people that he used to observe in the countryside were emaciated beyond belief, with their skins sticking like paper to their skeletons while the bones protruded out. Their body hair stuck out like thick black pins all over their bodies. Their stare was blank, there was no light left in their eyes, and they used to take quite some time to focus on anything. The mass deaths started next month, and the worst period was between 15th September and 15th October. By this time the district administration had started Langarkhanas (Soup Kitchens) all over, of which there were nearly a hundred in Munshigunge. The fare at the beginning was rice without the phan poured off, later replaced by Khichuri made of three parts rice, one part masoor dal (a protein-rich lentil), some turmeric, mustard oil and salt, some fried potatoes and gourd. This nutritious fare following months of starvation immediately used to cause their bodies to swell up like balloons, and their skins stretched to a translucent state like that of the white of an egg. And then they would die. Mitra says that he had given up all hopes to make these people live, his only satisfaction being that the poor souls had got to eat a bellyful before they died.

According to Rabindra Nath Datta, in the rural areas of Noakhali district during the height of the famine the affected people used to roam around during the day in search of something to eat, and at night used to come and lie down in the grounds of the Haat (weekly market). Every morning around half-a-dozen of them would be found dead. The bulk of these people were cultivators and Muslim. The local Muslims formed parties to identify the Muslims among the dead (by checking whether the males were circumcised or not), and buried them in a mass grave after reading their Namaaz-e-Janaaza (funereal rites). The few Hindu corpses among them would be thrown into rivers or canals. The shrimp and the crabs in these canals would then feast on the dead bodies. The famine-affected people would then catch and eat such shrimp and crabs, and would promptly die from Gastro-Enteritis.

According to Syama Prasad Mookerjee
[3], in Midnapore a starving man fell unconscious from sheer excitement at the sight of food in a Langarkhana before he could put any in his mouth. He died shortly afterwards.

Now what caused this unspeakable human tragedy? Amartya Sen has remarked that a major famine is possible only in a totalitarian and secretive polity, because in any other polity information about famine immediately results in a clamour for corrective measures, and at the same time help pours in from different quarters. On the other hand a Dictator sees a famine as a proof of his failure to govern.. Thus, to him, unless a famine is hidden from the rest of the world – including the rest of his own country as far as possible – it may lead to his own downfall. In recent times such famines have taken place in Asia in Mao Zedong’s China in the late 1950s and in Kim Il-Jong’s North Korea in the 1990s – both totally closed, very secretive, very totalitarian polities. Surely the British in Bengal in 1943 could not have been like Mao and Kim? True, there was a war raging, but the British government was still answerable to the Parliament, and an Indian-run government was ruling at Calcutta albeit under British suzerainty!

In fact, in Bengal of 1943 the British Government was no different from Mao’s and Kim’s – just as repressive, and just as secretive, as we shall see.

The root of the famine lay apparently in two unrelated incidents: primarily in the advance of the Imperial Japanese towards India, and secondarily in the Midnapore cyclone of October 1942. According to Ashok Mitra the process began not with any act of the Japanese, but with the disappearance of Subhas Chandra Bose from his Elgin Road residence on January 27, 1941 (this has been referred to earlier), and later his tying up with the Axis powers
[4]. Nirad C. Chaudhuri differs with this, saying that Subhas was not under any kind of surveillance at all, and his disappearance was of no great significance to the British[5], but most people would accept Mitra’s version. Mitra had much more interaction with Herbert than Chaudhuri did, and as an ICS officer was much better placed or qualified to read the mind the Governor or of the provincial administration than Chaudhuri. Encyclopaedia Britannica also supports the view that he was closely watched. On the other hand probably the incurable anglophile Chaudhuri could never bring himself round to believe that the British police could be outwitted by the desi Subhas and his young nephews.

According to Mitra Herbert took the disappearance of Subhas as a personal affront, a gigantic slap on his face, as Mitra puts it. Linlithgow (the Viceroy) and Whitehall must also have found this particularly galling, because it signified a failure on the part of the Police too. Subhas’s tying up with the Germans and the Japanese made matters worse, because at this juncture the Royal Navy, hitherto considered invincible, was taking a terrible beating at the hands of the Japanese. Japanese kamikaze suicide bombers off Singapore sank H.M.S. Prince of Wales and Repulse, two prize battleships of the Royal Navy, on December 10, 1941. On January 19, 1942 the Japanese attacked the British colony of Burma. A few bombs dropped in Bengal, especially in the Calcutta docks, and the Feni area of Noakhali district near the Burma border. India was apparently the next stop, and Bengal the threshold. The entire British administration was on its edge. It was at this juncture that the Congress started its Quit India movement, and the extent to which Midnapore carried it has already been stated.

Mitra says that the attack on Burma made Herbert lose all sense of proportion. He, on his own, without even consulting the Provincial Government (the Progressive Coalition cabinet at this time) decided to launch a scorched-earth policy of the type followed by the Russians in the wake of the Nazi invasion of Ukraine and Russia. Herbert called it the policy of ‘Denial and Evacuation’. But there was a difference. In Ukraine and Russia the Germans were a reality, not a threat; also the Russians and Ukrainians were not fond of the Germans, to say the least. The scorched-earth policy was therefore spontaneous. As opposed to this the Japanese were a mere distant threat. In fact they never came to India. In all probability they had no intention to come to India – their occupation of Burma was probably directed towards cutting off the land route to China. Also the people of Midnapore had no more hatred of the Japanese than they had of the British. Therefore they had no intention to burn their own produce and run away from their own land. It appears that largely these excesses of Herbert prompted the extent of the revolt in Midnapore in August 1942.

These fine points were totally lost on the fear-crazed Herbert. Also, later in the year, to his fear of the Japanese was added a desire to wreak vengeance on the ‘natives’
[6] for what they did during the Quit India phase. He carried out the twin policies of Denial and Evacuation in Midnapore under a veil of total secrecy and in an absolutely draconian manner. Such was the secrecy according to Mitra that there was neither any reporting in the press nor did anything get recorded in the archives. As a result it will never be known when exactly the policy has first put into implementation in Midnapore and when it was withdrawn.

However what happened in Munshigunge was right in front of Mitra’s own eyes and as the Sub-Divisional Officer (SDO) he was very much part of it. He joined his post on February 5, 1942, and in the manner of ICS officers of those days immediately undertook an intensive tour of the sub-division. There were a number of Gonjo-s (the equivalent of the North Indian Mandi) for storing rice and paddy in the area. In none of them he found any stock of more than a few hundred bags of rice, although he was told that in major gonjo-s like Mirqadim or Louhajang there always used to remain a minimum stock of some ten thousand bags of rice.

What happened actually? Governor Herbert’s scorched-earth policy of Denial, that’s what happened. It worked two ways. First, Government agents, together with the Police, would raid all locations where major stocks of foodstuff could be expected. They would then throw away the rice or forcibly take it away, to be stocked in Government warehouses. Anyone who resisted was not only beaten up severely, but was also not paid a farthing. How much rice or paddy was thrown away in this manner will never be known. What was stocked in warehouses began to be released from June 1944, when rationing was first introduced. Because of total lack of any hygiene or care in these warehouses the rice became putrid and foul smelling and mixed with muck and tiny pieces of stone called kankar – inedible for all practical purposes.

The other aspect of Herbert’s denial policy was the mass destruction of all indigenous means of transportation of foodstuff. This meant the sinking of thousands of country boats (some of them, such as the balam nouka, being as big as small barges) in East Bengal, and the breaking of tens of thousands of bullock carts everywhere. Even bicycles were not spared. This stopped movement of rice from and to the interior. On the other hand movement by rail, steamer or truck was not stopped. However rail wagons manufactured in India were exported in large numbers, causing a serious shortage all over the Indian Railway system. It must be remembered that at that time movement by road was only a small proportion of the total, the major part of bulk movement of food grain being by rail.

With the removal of rice from the market and the destruction of all country transport, the inevitable result followed : prices soared. The price of rice per maund (about thirty-six kilogrammes or eighty pounds) in February 1942 was about Four Rupees. It jumped to Sixteen Rupees per maund in December 1942, and to a Hundred Rupees in September 1943. The little rice that was in the market therefore moved away to where the purchasing power was, namely to Calcutta. The countryside just starved. How they starved has already been described in Mitra’s first-hand account of Munshigunge and Syama Prasad Mookerjee’s description of Midnapore.

According to Mitra the unholy combination of three people at the helm were primarily responsible for this tragedy
[7] in which, according to unofficial estimates, five million people died. These three were Secretary of State for India L.S.Amery ; Lord Linlithgow, the Viceroy ; and, of course, Herbert. Just a nod from Lord Linlithgow to transport foodgrains on a war footing from other provinces to Bengal could have flooded Bengal, because there was no shortage of foodgrains in the North, West or South. No such nod was, however, forthcoming. Both Linlithgow and Amery tried very hard to conceal the facts and the implications of the famine from the British Parliament, although Amery, in his diary, has tried later to put the entire blame for this on Churchill. They also hid the entire tragedy from the food-surplus countries like U.S.A., Australia or New Zealand – these countries would have definitely come to the rescue of the province to whatever extent possible under the conditions then prevailing. Even the Civil and Military Gazette of Lahore, a very British-friendly newspaper, made caustic remarks about the secretiveness of the Bengal Government during this time. All these point to the apathy of an Amery, the cynicism of a Linlithgow, and the unspeakable vengefulness of a Herbert, sick in mind and body,.

Herbert eventually fell so ill while the famine was raging that Sir Thomas Rutherford, the Governor of Bihar had to be asked to take additional charge of the Governorship of Bengal from September 6, 1943. Herbert died shortly thereafter, on December 11. Meanwhile on October 5, 1943 Lord Wavell replaced Linlithgow as Viceroy. Things immediately began to take a turn for the better. Herbert hardly ever stirred out of the Governor’s residence (the present Raj Bhavan of Calcutta), and Linlithgow did not pay a single visit to Bengal during the famine. As opposed to this on October 26, 1943 Lord and Lady Wavell with Rutherford walked the streets of Calcutta to take a look at humanity dying en masse because of the misdeeds of other humans.

Ashok Mitra, self-confessed Communist sympathiser, is full of regret when he tries to describe the role of the Communist Party of India in the famine. Front-ranking leaders of the Party, such as S.A.Dange and P.C.Joshi made long speeches in the first Congress of the Communist Party at Bombay held on May 23-26, 1943. The famine was a reality then, and the worst was yet to come. The entire content of their speeches was full of exhortations to the people of India to strengthen the war effort. Not once did they mention that the famine was a result of the misdeeds of the British, not even that in order to win the war it was necessary that the people should be fed. Their speeches appeared to Ashok Mitra to be directed mainly at pleasing Linlithgow and Maxwell who had lifted the ban on the party a short while ago

Mitra is also quite positive about another aspect of the famine. To this day it is widely believed that the primary cause of the famine was reckless hoarding by Hindu foodgrain traders. The name of one Ranada Prasad Saha, a major wholesale trader of rice in East Bengal, along with a few others, is often mentioned in this connection. According to Mitra the famine was not at all the result of hoarding by traders. True, there was quite a lot of hoarding – but according to him this was not even a tertiary cause of the famine, rather it was the effect. This bogey of hoarding by local traders was mouthed with remarkable consistency by all British officials right up to Amery, presumably to cover their own tracks.

Mitra relates the instance of a raid that he and his colleague in the police, Madanmohan Lal Hooja, did on the warehouses at Mirqadim. He says that there was no way that the traders might have been forewarned about their raid, yet they found only a few hundred bags in one corner of one godown. Still, just to create an atmosphere against hoarding they arrested the owner of the godown, one Basanta Mondal, whom they handcuffed and walked round Mirqadim village with a rope tied round his waist before being put in lock-up. All guns belonging to him and his family were confiscated. Both Mitra and Hooja had to face a lot of flak later for this act, for Basanta Mondal was a nephew of the influential Raja of Bhagyakul (a major Zamindari), and they would both have been in serious trouble were it not for the support given to them by Llewellyn, the District Magistrate

Amartya Sen, in a scholarly study of the famine
[10], has also completely rejected what is known in Economics as FAD (Food Availability Decline) to be the reason for the famine. This was found to be the cause of the famine by the Famine Enquiry Commission. According to the Commission the number of people who died uin the famine was around 1.5 million, but Sen quotes one of the members of the Commission, W.R.Aykroyd, to have said in 1974 that the number was really between 3 and 4 million. As expected, Sen deals primarily with the Economics of the famine, almost to the total exclusion of the Politics of it. The Denial policy of Governor Herbert is disposed of in a single footnote, and Evacuation is not touched at all. Amartya Sen is of the view that the policy of 'boat denial' contributed to a general rise in the price of fish, while that of 'rice denial' caused local scarcities.

Sen's entire analysis is based on published material -- he was only ten years old when the famine took place, too young to even carry a coherent memory of it. Mitra, on the other hand, has written his stuff entirely on first-hand experience. He was also in the thick of the administration and as a member of the exclusive ICS club privy to most of its secrets. They both, however, seem to agree on one central point : the famine was not the result of any scarcity of foodgrains caused by any crop failure, flood, drought or pestilence. In other words it was man-made.

So much for what the British did. Now to the deeds of the Muslim League cabinet that Herbert so lovingly installed in April 1943, and very specially of the Minister in charge of Civil Supplies, Husseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy. Suhrawardy, as we shall see, first made a fool of himself by absurd remarks about the famine, and then attempted to 'do his bit' in the most questionable manner possible. True, the famine was not his creation, it was principally Herbert's – but he did whatever was possible under the circumstances to make things worse.

In a hard-hitting speech made in the Bengal Legislative Assembly on July 14, 1943, Syama Prasad Mookerjee lambasted Suhrawardy and his performance. Certain parts of the speech were so telling that they deserve to be quoted: ". . . . Now, Sir, in one of the statements issued by Mr. Suhrawardy it was said that the worst feature of the last Ministry's food policy (meaning Fazlul Haq's Ministry) was its insistence on shortage. That was on 17th May (1943). Then again, he said 'There is, in fact a sufficiency of foodgrains for the people of Bengal'. I ask specially the members who are sitting opposite, anxious to give their support to the Ministry, to demand an explanation from Mr. Suhrawardy. What were the data before him that justified him to make that remark that there was in fact a sufficiency of foodgrains for the people of Bengal? Not satisfied with this bare statement, he proceeded to remark 'Full statistical details, which will clearly demonstrate that there is a sufficiency, will soon be published'. Where are those statistics? Have they been collected, or are they being manufactured?"

When these words were being spoken neither Suhrawardy nor any of the Muslim League members said a word in protest, because they had nothing to say. Worse than that, each one of them knew that Suhrawardy had been glibly mouthing these falsehoods merely to please Herbert, through whose grace they were now Ministers. And even worse, they all knew that the majority of the victims of the famine were Muslims, mainly artisans, sharecroppers and landless agricultural labour, who had been worst hit by Herbert's policy of Denial and Evacuation.

Syama Prasad went on to say "Mr. Amery declared (in the House of Commons) – ‘Yes, there is some trouble in India and in Bengal, but there is no shortage of foodstuff in the country; there is only hoarding and maldistribution . . . .’ Now Sir, what happened next? Mr. Suhrawardy declared that there was plenty of foodstuffs in Bengal. All that had to be done was to find out the foodstuff even from under the taktaposhes
[11]. After a tired and busy day he seriously made a speech declaring that, if necessary, he would himself go under the taktaposh of every householder and bring out the rice. I know that many householders got nervous. If Mr. Suhrawardy really starts entering into the households and going under the taktaposh at night or even during daytime, heaven protect those householders from the after-effects of those ministerial attacks! Could there have been, I ask, a sillier approach to a problem vitally affecting the lives of millions of people?"

Such comic-opera conduct in the face of an indescribable human tragedy was characteristic of Suhrawardy. He put out a public notification in English and Bangla which ran as follows: "An Appeal and a Warning : You must not grind the faces of the poor (Abedan o Shotorkobani : Gorib jonosadharon ke aar utpiron kora cholibe na)". To this Syama Prasad quipped in his speech "Who is that 'you'? Is Mr. Suhrawardy standing before a mirror and addressing himself, or was he seriously addressing the people of Bengal?"

Ashok Mitra describes a small incident of his personal experience with Suhrawardy which throws a lot of light on the character of the man. Suhrawardy had come to visit Munshigunge on November 28, 1943. By that time the worst was definitely over. Suhrawardy addressed a gathering of about five hundred in the playing field of Haraganga College. In this meeting Suhrawardy first expressed the ritual regrets for the death of so many people. Then a local Advocate, in a fit of sycophancy while delivering his speech, compared Suhrawardy to Goddess Lakshmi (the Hindu Goddess of prosperity) descended from heaven and requested him to investigate why the local administration did not let him know about the starvation deaths. Suhrawardy pounced upon this and said that when he had spent such a lot of money in famine relief during the last few months, he could easily have spent another few Crores and sent a consignment of rice to Munshigunge – if only he had been informed in time. At this Mitra lost his cool, and said in public that the Minister should rather investigate why, in spite of the SDO sending so many telegrams, the news did not reach him.

Mitra says Apurba Chanda (who had taught Mitra in his college, and was now Suhrawardy’s Secretary and had accompanied him to Munshigunge), before leaving left a word of friendly advice. He said Suhrawardy was a very vindictive man. Mitra should therefore collect and carefully preserve all papers which would show that Mitra had indeed repeatedly asked for famine relief. This advice was worth Chanda’s weight in gold, as Mitra put it. Suhrawardy sent officer after officer to Munshigunge who pestered him until early 1944, and it was only these papers that saved him from further trouble

The positive contribution of Suhrawardy to famine relief efforts was the appointment of Sole Purchasing Agents of the Government of Bengal for the purchase of foodgrains from neighbouring provinces with the eventual intention of distributing them through a rationing system. Incredible as it may seem today, Suhrawardy appointed M.M. Ispahani Ltd. (see endnote 50) as such Sole Purchasing Agents without any competitive bidding, without negotiations either with Ispahani or any other agent, without taking the Assembly into confidence, as if he was dishing out some largesse from his personal funds. Not only so, but thereafter the Government, under Suhrawardy's orders, made an advance of Rs. 20,000,000 – Twenty Million or Two Crores of Rupees – to the Ispahanis without any contract, without a single scrap of paper. What followed was what any commercial organisation would do given such unbelievable opportunities. They looted. Ispahani being one of the principal financiers of the Muslim League, it should not be difficult to imagine where a part of the money went, and why Suhrawardy did what he did.

Syama Prasad in his speech before the Bengal Assembly addressed this question also. He said “ I have nothing personal against Mr. Ispahani . . . . it is a question of principle. It was nothing short of a scandal that the ministry should have appointed a particular firm as its sole agent, and what is more, advanced about two crores of rupees to that firm without a single scrap of document. Can Mr. Suhrawardy produce a single contract entered upon between the Ispahanis and the Government of Bengal? It is a mockery”.

Such was the handling of a human tragedy done by The Hon'ble Mr. Husseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy, in reward of which he was made Premier of Bengal in 1946 replacing Sir Nazimuddin. But this bungling was nothing compared to what he did on August 16, 1946, which is remembered to this day as the Great Calcutta Killings. The run-up for this started much earlier sometime in 1945, when he proceeded to change the complexion of the Calcutta Police beyond what Herbert had done earlier.

The constables of the Calcutta Police were, as a rule, recruited according to what was known as the A.B.C.D. rule – which meant that they were drawn all from the districts of Arrah, Balia, Chhapra and Deoria. These are districts around the boundary of the United Provinces and Bihar, in the area generally known as Bhojpur. People from this area are well-built, tough and loyal – almost ideal police constable material. There was just one problem that Premier Suhrawardy had with them. They were all devout Hindus, and moreover, worshippers of Lord Hanuman, the Hindu God who personifies strength, manliness and undying loyalty to his master, Lord Rama. They, therefore, could not be trusted to carry out the designs that Suhrawardy had in mind.

In order to get round this problem Suhrawardy turned to Niaz Mohammed Khan, the ICS officer who, while District Magistrate of Midnapore, had carried out Herbert’s nefarious designs of crackdown on the participants in the Quit India movement. The idea was to Muslimise the Calcutta Police. Why the Calcutta Police in particular? Because Calcutta had already been chosen by the Muslim League as the theatre of the bloodbath that had been scheduled on 16th August 1946, in what they would call ‘Direct Action’, and what the rest of the world would eventually call the Great Calcutta Killings.

Niaz Mohammed Khan, under Suhrawardy’s orders journeyed to the Northwest to recruit Punjabi Muslim and Pathan constables for the Calcutta Police. Pathans are Pashto-speaking Muslim tribesmen inhabiting the barren hills of the frontier, and are divided into a large number of tribes such as Afridi, Mohmand, Waziri, Khattak, Yusufzai etc. Blood feuds among them between different tribes or different groups (called khel) in the same tribe are still very common. These tribes are by nature extremely fierce and cruel – in fact they had been extensively used in British jails in India for application of third-degree methods. Under the benign leadership of Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan and his Khudai Khidmatgar (Servants of God) party a considerable number of them had become mellowed and come closer to the Indian mainstream, but this had made little difference to the people away from towns like Peshawar and Kohat. There was another feature that should be mentioned. Because their womenfolk were all kept in strict purdah – the Pathans are first cousins of the present-day Afghan Taliban – these rural Pathans had no respect for women, nor were they accustomed to seeing women out in the open. This had some extremely unsavoury consequences.

Harrison Road (now known as Mahatma Gandhi Road) is one of the arterial roads of Calcutta, connecting the two Railway terminuses at Sealdah and Howrah. On this road premises no. 100 was a rambling six-storey mansion inhabited by Hindu families. The building was also located at the very boundary of Hindu and Muslim dominated areas. One day several of these Pathan policemen barged into 100 Harrison Road and gang-raped a number of the women in the building. There was a huge furore, but none was prosecuted. One reason why the partition of the province of Bengal found favour with the Hindus of the province was ‘the misbehaviour of Punjabi Muslim policemen who had recently been recruited by the provincial government’

As already mentioned, after Herbert fell ill in September 1943, Rutherford, the Governor of Bihar took additional charge as Governor of Bengal. The next permanent Governor of Bengal was Richard Casey, an Australian, and an engineer by profession. He is said to have been disgusted with the ways of the ‘Poms’ in India and sometime later asked to be relieved. On February 18, 1946 he was replaced by Frederick Burrows, the last British Governor at Calcutta, an ex-Railway Guard, who later played a very questionable role during the Calcutta Killings and the Noakhali Carnage.

The ‘big picture’ of all-India politics was meanwhile changing very fast. In the first post-war British election the Conservatives lost and Labourite Clement Attlee became the Prime Minister. One of his first steps in regard to India was to send a Cabinet Mission to India led by Lord Pethick-Lawrence, the Secretary of State for India, the other two members being Sir Stafford Cripps (of the 1942 Cripps mission fame) and A.V.Alexander. The Mission held a number of meetings with the Congress and the Muslim League and on May 16, 1946 made a set of proposals which fell short of partition of the country. The substance of the proposals was that the country would be constituted as a federal polity with residuary powers to the provinces, and the provinces would be classified into several groups depending on their geographical location and the religious complexion of the population.

The Muslim League, however reluctantly, accepted the proposals and so did the Congress, through a Congress Working Committee resolution of June 26. However Jawaharlal Nehru, who was the President of the Congress at the time, in a press conference held on July 10 in Bombay resiled from this position and declared that the Congress would enter the Constituent Assembly ‘completely unfettered by agreements and free to meet all situations as they arise’ ; and also that grouping of provinces, as proposed by the mission, will not work. Consequent upon this, the Muslim League on July 29 withdrew their acceptance of the Cabinet Mission proposals.

Maulana Azad
[15], in his autobiography ‘India Wins Freedom’ has termed this act of Jawaharlal Nehru an ‘astonishing statement’ and one of those unfortunate events that change the course of history[16]. He also deeply regretted that on April 26, 1946, while stepping down from the Presidency of the Congress he had issued a statement proposing the name of Jawaharlal Nehru and had appealed to all Congressmen that they should elect him unanimously. He called this the greatest blunder of his political life. He goes on to say that his second mistake was not supporting Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel who, had he become the Congress President, would never have committed the mistake Jawaharlal made, and which gave Jinnah the opportunity of sabotaging the Cabinet Mission plan[17]. The book was first published in 1958, after his death, but in accordance with his wishes, thirty pages of the book were withheld, to be published thirty years later. In this part of the book he writes “Jawaharlal Nehru was one of my dearest friends and his contribution to India’s national life is second to none. I have nevertheless to say with regret that this was not the first time that he did immense harm to the national cause. He had committed an almost equal blunder in 1937 when the first elections were held under the Government of India Act 1935”[18]. M.C.Chagla in his autobiography has also been critical of this terrible mistake of Nehru[19].

Together with withdrawal of acceptance of the Cabinet Mission proposals the Muslim League also announced that August 16, 1946 will be a day of ‘Direct Action’ by the League in support of Pakistan. No explanation was forthcoming as to what would constitute such ‘Direct Action’. An editorial in ‘The Times’ of London of July 30 called the Direct Action call of the Muslim League a most regrettable one. On the same day Sardar J.J.Singh of the India League of U.S.A. made an appeal to the United Nations to intervene in the matter to prevent a bloodbath.

Jawaharlal thereafter, faced with a fusillade from his partymen for having exceeded his brief, tried to eat his words and work out a solution with Jinnah. This time however Jinnah would not budge. Viceroy Wavell asked Jawaharlal to call upon Jinnah at his house in Bombay, and try to prevail upon him. Jawaharlal did so, and again Jinnah did not budge. In fact, while on August 15 Jawaharlal was sitting with Jinnah at his house in Bombay, trying vainly to persuade him to withdraw the threat of Direct Action, Suhrawardy in Calcutta was applying the finishing touches to the plans for the morrow.

Suhrawardy in 1946 had just been installed as Premier of Bengal by Governor Burrows with whom he had a very cosy relationship. A handsome and imperious man, he openly moved around with his handpicked set of personal guard. Unbelievable as it may seem today, these were Muslim criminals, the scum of Howrah’s bustees
[20], Bengal’s very own Hell’s Kitchen. One of these, Meena Peshawari, earned special notoriety during the killings. Bhabani Prosad Chatterjee quotes Leonard Mosley as having remarked that Suhrawardy was the kind of party boss who firmly believe that a politician who can control a polling booth with his private army of goons will always be in power[21]. Ashok Mitra describes Suhrawardy as a ‘rough, tough bully’ compared to Nazimuddin who was said to be a very quiet, gentle person. According to Mitra Burrows was very close to Suhrawardy ; also, the British Government had decided that only a man like Suhrawardy could establish the suzerainty of the Muslim League in Bengal, and such suzerainty was in British interests[22].

Suhrawardy declared a public holiday on Friday, August 16. The Congress staged a walk-out in the Bengal Legislative Assembly on August 12 in protest against declaring a public holiday in response to a call by a particular political party without taking the Assembly into confidence. On August 15 an adjournment motion demanding a debate on the same question was defeated in the Bengal Legislative Council (upper house of the Provincial Legislature).

Ashok Mitra writes that when the City of Calcutta went to sleep on the night of August 15, 1946, no one, including perhaps the plotters for the 16th, could gauge what was going to happen in the next few days. However the rest of his account of the killings, written quite meticulously, indicates that on the contrary the gameplan for that day had been circulated among

Muslims of the city, at least a substantial number of them, by word of mouth. The pro-League newspaper ‘Dawn’ of Karachi on August 16 published an advertisement which gave a call to use of force as being the only way to achieve what the Muslims want. S.N.Usman, the Mayor of Calcutta and the Secretary of the Calcutta Muslim League circulated a leaflet in Bangla which read “Kafer! Toder dhongsher aar deri nei! Sarbik hotyakando ghotbe!” (“Infidels! Your end is not far off! There will be a massacre!”). Another pro-League newspaper ‘Morning News’ said in its editorial that hurting a Britisher was not only against the Bombay resolution of the League, it was also against the tenets of Islam – thus obliquely telling its readers that hurting Hindus was quite permissible

According to Leonard Gordon, the biographer of Sarat Chandra and Subhas Chandra Bose, and Richard Lambert, a researcher of the University of Pennsylvania the pamphlet circulated by Usman, the Mayor of Calcutta read as follows : "The call to the revolt comes to us from the Qaid-e-Azam (epithet applied to Jinnah by Pakistanis - author). This is the policy for the nation of heroes (meaning Muslims) . . . . . The day for open fight, which is the greatest desire of the Muslim nation has arrived . . . . . by fighting you will go to heaven in this holy war . . . . . Let us all cry our victory to Pakistan, victory to the Muslim nation and victory to the army which has declared jihad"

The black day began with a large public meeting of the Muslim League in the Calcutta Maidan. Stanley Wolpert writes “Major L.A. Livermore reported from his perch atop Fort William that ‘there was a curious stillness in the air’, and . . . . . .as dawn broke, . . . . . . . . Muslim workers from Howrah’s Jute Mills began pouring into the city headed toward Ochterlony’s needle monument for the mammoth meeting to ‘celebrate’ Direct Action day”
[25]. No one from any non-Muslim press was present at the meeting. Suhrawardy and the supposedly gentle Nazimuddin both made very rabid speeches. Suhrawardy’s speech was monitored by the Army intelligence, and he is quoted by Wolpert as having said that he would see how the British could make Mr. Nehru rule Bengal. Direct Action day would prove to the first step towards the Muslim struggle for emancipation. He advised them to return home early and said . . . that he had made all arrangements with the police and the military not to interfere with them. Military intelligence patrols further noticed that the crowd included a large number of Muslim goondahs (hoodlums) and that their ranks swelled as the meeting ended. They made for the shopping centres of the town where they at once set to loot Hindu shops and houses[26].

According to Mitra the gathering was peaceful to begin with. A little later, however, some skirmish was noted at one end of the Maidan abutting Chowringhee, Calcutta’s main thoroughfare. Then the real bedlam started. The people who had come to attend the meeting had also come prepared to kill and loot and were suitably armed with muskets, crowbars, huge daggers and swords, large pieces of stones, and of course, the Muslim League flag. They then spread out, howling their battle cries “Allaho Akbar (God is Great), Pakistan Zindabad, Muslim League Zindabad (Long Live Pakistan and the Muslim League), Lekar Rahenge Pakistan, Ladke Lenge Pakistan (We shall achieve Pakistan by force)"

At about 10 A.M. a gun shop on Chowringhee was looted. The mob fanned out and started setting upon Hindus all over the city. In the South Port Police area there was a small Oriya Hindu pocket in a Muslim majority area. Some three hundred of the Oriyas were butchered in fifteen minutes
[28]. It was a patient, painstaking process in which the marauders ferreted out Hindus and killed them in cold blood, usually by stabbing or bashing their heads. For those who do not know, it is very easy to tell Hindu from Muslim. In those days any Hindu home would have some deity, and any Bengali Hindu married woman would always wear vermillion on the parting in her hair. And ultimately the acid test always remained – a Muslim male had to be circumcised. The marauders were not just goondahs or ruffians. Seemingly suave, sophisticated young men, quite a few college students among them, crazed by the spirit of Jihad, participated in the mass murders. A hapless Bengali Hindu family had just alighted from a train at Sealdah station and were trying to find their way home. The rioters caught up with them, stripped a fifteen-year-old girl to nothing, and made her stand at the crossroads in full view of the world. Not a single policeman was in sight anywhere. Then the torching began. Hindu-inhabited areas such as the southern part of Amherst Street, Bortola, Jorasanko were in flames in no time. The fires burnt right through the night, punctuated by the war-cries of “Allaho Akbar, Ladke Lenge Pakistan”. The only exception was in the Northern part of Amherst Street where people from both communities got together and stayed unmoved by the mayhem all around them. Similarly it was a few well-meaning Muslims who rescued the unfortunate teenage girl at Sealdah.

The process continued unabated the next day. An Additional Judge of Alipore Court was killed while trying to save a little boy who was fleeing for his life from the goondahs. A fruitseller in Jorasanko shot dead his neighbour’s wife. Muslim crew on the steam launches on River Hooghly rammed country craft of Hindu boatmen and drowned them. Until midmorning of this day, that is the 17th there was no sign of any policemen anywhere.

Amal Chakraborty, then about 15, and a student of Class IX in the Metropolitan Institution of Sealdah at Calcutta used to live at that time in the YMCA's Overtoun Hall at the junction of College Street and Harrison Road. From his window he observed battle lines being drawn up. The northern footpath of Harrison Road was Hindu, the southern Muslim. There were stabbings, cries for help and water, and corpses lying on the carriageway. No one removed them, and they rotted and bloated there, and Chakraborty and his fellow inmates had to live in the stench.

Suhrawardy was camping at the Control Room of the Calcutta Police at Lalbazar, busy ‘watching the situation’. No police officer had the authority to move any men without his personal orders. It is believed that some officers defied him on his face and took out their forces. Generally the police, especially the Pathan policemen specially recruited by Niaz Mohammed Khan and the Anglo-Indian sergeants showed supreme indifference to whatever was going on. It also appeared that at least a section of them were under orders to foment trouble, not prevent or stop it. As for the Army, Wolpert writes that the Brigadier in charge of Calcutta, J.P.C.Mackinlay, had ‘ordered’ his troops to be ‘confined to barracks’ that day (quotation marks Wolpert’s), and observes that thus India’s largest, most crowded and most communally volatile city was left virtually naked
[29]. The Fire Brigade worked overtime right through, but were stopped at many places by marauding Muslim mobs.

Lieutenant-General Sir Francis Tuker, General Officer Commanding-in-Chief of India’s Eastern Army, called the killings “unbridled savagery with homicidal maniacs let loose to kill and kill and maim and burn. The underworld was taking charge of the city . . . the police were not controlling it”. Major Livermore observed that Calcutta was the battlefield of a battle between mob rule and civilisation and decency. When the 7th Worcesters and the Green Howards (both British troop formations) were called out they found College Street ablaze and the few unburnt houses and shops completely sacked, in Amherst Street the litter of mass looting, in Upper Circular Road the rubble left by the fire-bugs, on Harrison Road the cries of wounded and terrorised residents

From the next day however, that is August 18, Suhrawardy’s goons and compatriots (some of whom had nothing to do with the riots) started getting a taste of their own medicine. The lead was taken by the Hindu Kalwars (ironmongers and scrap dealers) from Bihar and U.P., who were then joined by Sikhs and Hindu Bengalis. Armed with crowbars, Kripan (the Sikh dagger), swords and other lethal weapons they set out to avenge the last two days’ depredations. In this they showed an incredible ferocity that was not hitherto known to exist in them. As with Hindu dwellings, there was also widespread torching in Muslim areas. Suhrawardy was probably not prepared for any reprisals from Hindus whom he must have taken as followers of Gandhi, and therefore necessarily incapable of violence. The massacre of Muslims in retaliation therefore took him by complete surprise. It is primarily these reprisals that forced him to call a halt to the devilry that he had, by unspeakable abuse of state power, unleashed. Meanwhile the atrocities rolled on to the 19th, by which time the Hindus had more than evened the score. A senior Imperial Police officer told Ashok Mitra that on the 18th Suhrawardy was found sitting forlornly at the Lalbazar control room table, mumbling to himself ‘My poor, innocent Muslims’!

How many people died in the killings? No official estimate is available, the reason for which is probably that the killings were started by none other than officialdom. Bhabani Prosad Chatterjee puts the figure at about five thousand, with another fifty thousand or so grievously injured. The damage to property, of course, was beyond estimation. Lord Wavell had remarked that more people lost their lives in the Calcutta Killings than in the Battle of Plassey
[32] and had informed Pethick-Lawrence that the toll was 3,000 dead and 17,000 injured. Wolpert quotes unofficial claims of “as many as 16,000 Bengalis . . . murdered between August 16-20, 1946”[33]. The number of dead was presumably determined by body count, and it is here that the estimates varied, because a large number of bodies had been thrown into the River Hooghly, or in the canals that pass through the city, or were pushed into manholes. Ashok Mitra at the time was living at Chandernagore, then a French possession, about thirty-five kilometres from Calcutta, on the other bank of the River Hooghly. A colleague of his, Noor Mohammed Khan, had his wife in hospitalised at the School of Tropical Medicine at Calcutta. When Khan was beside himself with worry for his wife, Ashok Mitra with his wife and Khan set out in his car on August 21 (his chauffeur refused to drive to Calcutta) and drove down to Calcutta over Grand Trunk Road, Willingdon Bridge, Barrackpore Trunk Road, Shyambazar five-point crossing and Central Avenue. On the way, all the way from Dunlop Bridge to the School of Tropical Medicine, he found the road littered on both sides with rotting corpses, severed limbs, and charred remains of houses, the air thick with the stench of putrefaction[34].

Muslim League’s call for ‘Direct Action’ was supposed to have countrywide operation. Why, then, was Calcutta singled out? Several reasons have been suggested. Bhabani Prosad Chatterjee thinks one reason might be the fact that staging the bloodbath in Calcutta would have attracted the attention of the whole world to the might of the Muslim League, since at that time Calcutta was the most important city in India, indeed the second city in the British Empire. Another reason might be that Suhrawardy was trying to curry favour with Jinnah, and the killings gave him an opportunity to do that

Maulana Azad remarks in his 'India Wins Freedom' : "Sixteenth August 1946 was a black day not only for Calcutta, but for the whole of India.The turn that events had taken had made it almost impossible to expect a peaceful solution by agreement between the Congress and the Muslim League.. This was one of the greatest tragedies of Indian history and I have to say with the deepest of regret that a large part of the responsibility for this development rests with Jawaharlal

Whatever might have been the reason, there is no doubt that The Calcutta Killings of 1946 were a result of a sinister, diabolical plot hatched by some very cynical, criminal minds who thought nothing of sending a few thousands of their countrymen (including a lot of them from the community whose interests they were supposed to be protecting) to a premature end in the most ghastly manner imaginable. Jinnah, asked about the killings by a foreign news agency later in August showed no signs of regret, replying “If Congress regimes are going to suppress and persecute the Mussalmans, it will be very difficult to control disturbances”
[37]. As an example of deliberate abuse of state power to cause mass murders it compares well in intensity, though not in breadth, with the Nazi holocaust and the Killing Fields of Pol Pot in Cambodia.

Judging from the timing of the editorial in ‘The Times’ of London, and the appeal by J.J.Singh of the India League of U.S.A., it is clear that the plot for staging the killings could not have been unknown to the British, certainly not to Burrows or Wavell. Yet the killings were allowed to proceed unabated for the first day, and a part of the second, before Burrows decided to call the Army in. The orders of Brigadier Mackinlay, mentioned earlier, to confine British troops to their barracks, and Suhrawardy’s assertion in his Maidan speech that the police or military would not interfere with what the Muslims did, unmistakably points to a nefarious conspiracy between Suhrawardy and Burrows. The British, as the sovereign power, were certainly guilty of standing by and amusing themselves while Suhrawardy’s goons stabbed and torched.

A Muslim view of the Killings has been recorded in Mizanur Rahaman’s book ‘Krishna Sholoi’ in Bangla, meaning ‘Black Sixteenth’
[38]. Mizanur Rahaman is an important contemporary literary person of Dacca, and is the editor of a trimonthly publication called Mizanur Rahamaner Patrika (Mizanur Rahaman’s Magazine). His is an eyewitness account, for he was then about thirteen, and a student of class eight in Mitra Institution (Main) of Calcutta at the time, and used to live in the predominantly Hindu area of Garpar. Mizanur Rahaman cannot, by any standards, be called a particularly communal or partisan Muslim, and yet in his writing there is a constant effort to whitewash the guilt of the Muslim League in the killings. He describes a conversation between himself and some of his Hindu classmates, in which he describes the call for ‘Direct Action’ to be one of a strike against the British. He describes how he was caught in a crossfire of hurled brickbats between the two communities on Raja Dinendra Street in North Calcutta, and in that state was badly hit by a stick-wielding Bihari milkman. He has tried to establish that the rioting started not after Suhrawardy's Maidan speech, but early in the morning, and Muslims were casualties from the very beginning. And he has laid the blame for the riots squarely on the Bihari community of Calcutta, absolving both Bengali Hindus and Muslims from any complicity in the process.

It is very difficult to accept Mizanur’s efforts in whitewashing of Suhrawardy’s and Nazimuddin’s misdeeds in the face of independent testimony by people like General Tuker and Major Livermore, the research done by Wolpert, and the detailed, intimate descriptions of people like Ashok Mitra. His style of describing the incidents of the fateful days is very diffuse and imprecise, and is moreover overlaid by frequent sentimentalising, with the result that it is very difficult to sift fact from observation. It is quite possibly true that the riots had started early in the morning, at least in some parts of the city, or that there were some Muslim victims among them, or that the primary role in the rioting had been taken by Bihari Gowalas (Milkmen), Kalowars (Ironmongers) and Bihari Muslims. However, to deny Suhrawardy’s cardinal role in giving a murderous twist to the riots, or to deny the role of Bengali Muslims and Hindus is also equally incorrect.

On the other hand, Abul Mansur Ahmad (who was already an important Muslim politician close to Fazlul Haq) gives a different account altogether. He quotes Nazimuddin as having said that their struggle was not against the British, but against the Hindus. He also says that the murder hysteria of the Muslims had been taken to such a pitch that he was once he was asked by a friend (ordinarily a sensible, humane person) "how many Hindus have you killed? All your love for Muslims is just lip service"

Ashok Mitra, ardent Nehru-admirer, has expressed great regret at the fact that even after the killings were over, not to mention during them, neither Nehru nor Gandhi saw it fit to visit Calcutta. Mitra could attribute this only to the fear that any such visit immediately following the killings (in which, according to Mitra, the guilt of the Muslims was many times that of the Hindus) might have resulted in their being dubbed anti-Muslim
[40]. Thus, the observation must be made that, to the secular Congress leaders, the right or wrong of the situation was of no consequence. They would never be caught in public, so long as they could help it, saying that what the Muslims did was wrong.

Calcutta was not the only city affected by Jinnah's 'Direct Action'. Dacca, the second city of the province was equally affected, with the difference that here the Hindus were completely at the receiving end, and did not get any chance to retaliate. This author interviewed an eyewitness, Rabindra Nath Datta, a retired Insurance Executive now living in Calcutta in his modest flat at Salt Lake City. Datta is an idealist, a dynamo of energy at seventy-one, inspite of having to tend to his wife suffering from Alzheimer's, and an ardent admirer of Swami Vivekananda and Abraham Lincoln (framed photographs on his wall). He was a student at Dacca Collegiate School then, and used to live on Wyer Street in the Wari area of Dacca. This is what he had to say :

" On 16th August 1946, a large number of Hindu dwellings in Dacca were set on fire. Wari was a solidly Hindu area, and we were relatively safe, but for further safety's sake a large number of Hindus went and took refuge in the estate of Hardeo Todi. We could see the fires in the distance. Hardeo Todi was a wealthy Hindu businessman of the Marwari community who used to own a glass factory, and lived in a sprawling estate together with his sons Dhanulal and Brajlal. Hardeo gave refuge unreservedly, and there were no casualties among the Hindus of Wari.

Five or six days after the riots subsided a strange phenomenon was noticed. The atmosphere was still very tense, and very few people ventured out at night. One morning some eight or ten bloated and partially decomposed naked corpses were found to have been dumped beside the railway line running between Wari and Tikatuli. One look at the males among them (it was not easy to take that look) told one that the males were not circumcised, and were therefore Hindus. These corpses were clearly those of Hindus killed elsewhere and brought by truck during the night and dumped in the Hindu-majority areas of Tikatuli and Wari to scare the Hindus. This went on for quite a few nights. I took a photograph of the corpses. A few other boys and I formed a party to take the bodies during the day to Shyampur cremation ground and cremate them there. Meanwhile in school we were told by our Muslim fellow students that we would also have to share the fate of the corpses if we (meaning the Congress) did not concede Pakistan".

As usual, the person to rise in the most vociferous protest against this mass crime was Syama Prasad Mookerjee. A no-confidence motion was moved in the Bengal Legislative Assembly after the killings. In the debate that followed he again made a memorable speech, lambasting Suhrawardy and his cohorts for their open incitement to mass murder, at the same time emphasizing the irresponsible self-centeredness exhibited by the resident Whites (then called Europeans) of the city. Excerpts from his speech :

"Mr. Speaker Sir, since yesterday we have been discussing the motion of no-confidence under circumstances which perhaps have no parallel in the deliberations of any Legislature in any part of the civilised world. What happened in Calcutta is perhaps without a parallel in modern history. St. Bartholomew's Day of which history records some grim events of murder and butchery pales into insignificance compared to the brutalities that were committed in the streets, lanes and bye-lanes of this first city of British India. . . . . let me say this that what had happened was not the result of a sudden explosion, but it is the culmination of an administration, corrupt, inefficient and communal which has disfigured the life of this great province. But so far as the immediate cause is concerned . . . . it is said on behalf of the Muslim League that the Cabinet Mission proved faithless to Muslim interests and thereby created a situation which had no parallel in the Anglo-Muslim relationship in the country. What did actually the Cabinet Mission do? The Muslim League, the spoilt and pampered child of the British Imperialists for the last thirty years, was disowned for the first time by the British Labour Government . . . . (Loud noise from the Government benches) . . . . When Mr. Jinnah was confronted at press conference in Bombay on the 31st July and was asked whether direct action meant violence or non-violence, his cryptic reply was 'I am not going to discuss ethics'. (The Hon. Mr. Mohammed Ali : Good.). But Khwaja Nazimuddin was not so good. He came out very bluntly in Bengal and said that Muslims did not believe in non-violence at all. Now Sir, speeches like these were made by responsible League leaders. . . . All this was followed by a series of articles and statements which appeared in the columns of Newspapers -- the Morning News, the Star of India and the Azad. If . . . my friend Mr. Ispahani . . . . reads these documents . . . he will be able to find out that there was nothing but open and direct incitement to violence. Hatred of Hindus and jehad on the Hindus was declared was declared in fire-eating language . . . and the general Moslem public have acted according to the instructions. . . . . Sir, there is one point I would like to say with regard to the Britishers in this house. My friends are remaining neutral. I cannot understand this attitude at all. If the Ministry was right (then) support them, and if the Ministry was wrong you should say so boldly and not remain neutral. Merely sitting on the fence shows signs of abject impotence. (Laughter). My friend Mr. Gladding (a leader of the European group in the house) says luckily none of his people were injured. It is true Sir, but that is a statement that makes me extremely sorry. If a single Britisher, man, or woman, or a child had been struck, they would have thrown the Ministry out of office without hesitation but because no Britisher was touched they can take an impartial and neutral view! . . . . . It is therefore vitally necessary that this false and foolish idea of Pakistan or Islamic rule has to be banished for ever from your head. In Bengal we have got to live together."

But of course reality turned out to be quite different. Pakistan was born, to be broken up a quarter of a century later. In Hindu-majority West Bengal Hindus and Muslims learnt to live together, as Syama Prasad had wanted. Muslim-majority East Bengal, as we all know and shall see later in this book, was a different story altogether.

Now on to Noakhali from Calcutta, for the next horror. Everyone knows where Calcutta is, but very few know about Noakhali or what had made the place notorious. A few words about this forgotten corner of the world, which saw another bloodbath in 1946, would therefore be in order.

A look at the map at Fig.1 is called for. The mainstream of the holy Ganga leaves its holiness to the tiny Bhagirathi and enters present-day Bangladesh to become the ordinary but wide Podda or Padma. Padma then meets the mighty Brahmaputra (Jamuna in Bangladesh) coming from the north, and flows south-eastwards with its enormous volume of water. This combined stream is then met by the rain-fed Meghna flowing in a south-westerly direction. The river, which continues to be called Meghna beyond this confluence, then becomes virtually an inland sea, nearly twenty kilometres wide, flares out, and flows for another hundred kilometres before it meets the sea, the Bay of Bengal. The sluggish flow of this huge mass of muddy water also causes extensive siltation in and around its mouth which gives rise to formation of delta, roughly triangular islands known locally as char. Some of these chars in course of time got connected with the mainland, but their names remained.

The district of Noakhali, as it existed in the British times (all districts of undivided Bengal have since been divided up many times in independent Bangladesh - Noakhali of those days now consists of the districts of Noakhali, Lokkhipur and Feni), lay on the left flank of the combined Meghna as it was meeting the sea, and included a number of these islands or chars. It is dangerous to live on the chars as they are often less than a metre above high water level, and are the first prey to any cyclone. Nevertheless, the fertility of the soil on the chars, combined with the pressure of population on the mainland, causes many people to settle on these islands. The district was, and still is, almost totally rural and agricultural, the main produce being paddy, jute, coconut, paan(betel leaves) and supari (betel or areca nut). The district included a number of char islands, of which two – Hatia and Sandip – were quite big. Among the smaller ones were Char Alexander, Char Lawrence, Char Bele and several others. Another feature of Noakhali was its remoteness. In order to reach the district from Calcutta one had to take from Sealdah station a Broad Gauge train which would reach a steamer station called Goalondo. Then one had to take a steamer down the Padma till one reached another station called Chandpur on the Meghna near the confluence of Padma and Meghna. Then one had to board a slow Metre Gauge train which would take one via Laksam junction to Noakhali town, the district headquarters. Thereafter to reach a village or one of the chars one had to take a bullock cart or a country boat. It took nothing less than forty-eight hours to reach such a village from Calcutta. The means of transportation within the district were also primitive, being confined largely to bullock carts and country boats. Also, the district was criss-crossed by innumerable small rivers, canals and water courses, and transportation over land even by bullock carts was limited.

The population in the British days was overwhelmingly – more than eighty per cent – Muslim. Now it is around ninety-five per cent so. The minority Hindus were largely schoolteachers, lawyers, moneylenders, doctors, shopkeepers, small businessmen, artisans and the like. A few were small Zamindars. The Muslims were largely cultivators, the majority of them sharecroppers or landless agricultural labourers. On the whole the Hindus were financially somewhat better off than the Muslims. It is this financial disparity that was made use of by the Hindu-baiters in the run-up for the carnage. There was another disparity – not economic, not political, not social. It was the fact that Hindu women were considered prettier than their Muslim sisters, and being in the minority, and infidels at that, were considered fair game. This is not being facetious. Words to this effect were spoken by no less a person than Sir Frederick Burrows, Governor of Bengal, when the widespread incidents of molestation, kidnapping and rape of Hindu women in Noakhali were reported to him

The carnage at Noakhali was begun by a Muslim League leader called Ghulam Sarwar assisted by a Moulvi (Muslim Priest) Rashid Ahmed and a Mukhtar (Lawyer) Majibar Rahman. Sarwar was a fire-breathing rabble-rouser from a Peer’s (Muslim holy man) family who had lately wrested the leadership of the Krishak Samiti (Cultivators’ Association) from milder leaders such as Khan Bahadur Abdul Gofran. Once begun, the violence gathered its own momentum and rolled on. The inspiration of course came from Suhrawardy’s launching of the Calcutta Killings (including the Hindu reprisals), and the assurance that under Suhrawardy’s benign rule and Burrows’s indifference the police could be trusted to look the other way while Muslim plundered Hindu. In fact that is what happened in the Calcutta Killings, and that is what would have continued to happen, had not the tide of rioting turned against the Muslims. There was no such fear in Noakhali. The overwhelming numerical majority of Muslims, and the remoteness of the area would ensure that there would be no retaliation, nor any official action in a hurry.

Sarwar’s motivation in starting the carnage was simple, and remarkably similar to Suhrawardy’s. Just as Suhrawardy wanted to curry favour with Jinnah and elevate himself to a National Level, so did Sarwar want to curry favour with Suhrawardy and raise himself to Provincial Level. He had won the 1937 elections on a Muslim League ticket, but had been refused a ticket by the League in 1946. He was determined to show his political bosses that he deserved a ticket. He began with touring the district, making rabid speeches and provoking isolated incidents of harrassment of Hindus, outraging the modesty of Hindu women, even killing. The Hindus looked for help from the Congress, but predictably, no help came. They then turned to the Hindu Mahasabha. Syama Prasad immediately promised them help, and came to Noakhali town and held a mammoth rally of Hindus at Arun School grounds. If this did not instil any confidence among the Hindus, it at least drew the attention of the District Administration to the fact that something sinister was in the offing.

Meanwhile Sarwar went round making his speeches. Just how provocative these speeches were can be made out only by a person who understands the Noakhali dialect (a lot of Bengalis, even East Bengalis, do not). Dr. Dinesh Chandra Sinha (b.1935), a retired Deputy Registrar of the Calcutta University, is himself a fugitive from Noakhali, and now lives near Calcutta. Dr. Sinha has quoted the main points of the speeches verbatim in the dialect in his work ‘Noakhalir Mati o Manush’
[42]. An English translation is given below, with the caveat that it can never capture the explosive potential of the words.

1. Brothers, all the rice that you grow – who eats it? – Hindus!
2. Brothers, all the fat bananas that you grow – who eats them? – Hindus!
3. Brothers, when our women fall ill who paw and feel them all over? – Hindu doctors!
4. Brothers, why are we Muslims thin and underfed? – because we do not get enough to eat!
5. Brothers, why are the Hindus fat and greasy? – because they get all the best things to eat!

These are lies of course, however much one might want to see the struggle between the haves and have-nots in them. The twenty per cent Hindus of Noakhali could never eat up even a quarter of the rice and bananas that the eighty per cent Muslims grew. The bulk of the Hindus, who were mostly either in the white-collar professions or small tradesmen or artisans could be only marginally better off than their Muslim brethren. The third allegation is particularly provocative, for obvious reasons.

These words were very similar to those that unemployed ruffians and goons used to go around preaching, in a country far away from Noakhali and Calcutta. These ruffians and goons had names like Heinrich Himmler, Hermann Goering, Ernst Roehm, Alfred Rosenberg, Julius Streicher, Gregor Strasser ; and they were led by an discharged Austrian corporal called Adolf Hitler. The name of the country was Germany of the Weimer Republic, the time was in the nineteen-twenties, and the people about whom all this was said were called Jews, whose only fault was that they minded their own business and prospered while doing so. Nobody paid the goons any attention, and the Austrian corporal eventually became the Head of the German state. Rather similarly, the Congress or the rest of the country did not pay attention to what was happening in Noakhali. What happened in Germany thereafter was the War and the Holocaust about which everyone knows ; what happened in Noakhali was the Carnage which even the victims’ children do not know of.

The carnage began on October 10, 1946, the full moon night of Kojagari Lokkhi (Lakshmi) Puja when Bengali Hindus traditionally worship Lakshmi, the Goddess of Wealth. Sarwar and other League leaders had already created the necessary atmosphere by moving from village to village, making inflammatory speeches to the congregations at the daily prayers, describing in vivid detail what the Hindus had done to the Muslims during the Calcutta Killings, duly skipping the other part. As with the Calcutta Killings, elaborate arrangements had been made beforehand to ensure the success of the operation. The hinterland was cut off from Noakhali town by breaking the Sanko-s (one-pole bamboo bridges crossing canals). The boatmen in country boats were all Muslim. There was no way a Hindu could get away once the killings started. Still, to make doubly sure, Muslim League volunteers guarded all routes leading to railway stations.

There were qualitative differences with the Calcutta Killings. In Calcutta the intention of the marauders appeared to be primarily to loot and kill, or at least maim. In Noakhali the objective seemed to kill selectively, but mainly to rape and convert forcibly and to desecrate Hindu places of worship. The process was begun as usual with the familiar slogans of Nara-e-Takbir, Allaho Akbar, Pakistan Zindabad, Ladke Lenge Pakistan, Marke Lenge Pakistan, Malauner Rokto Chai (We want the blood of infidels). The areas attacked were Ramganj, Begumganj, Lokkhipur, Raipur, Senbag, Sandip, and some of the adjoining areas of Tipperah district. The atrocities then spread to Karpara, Narayanpur, Shaistanagar, Gopairbag, Noakhola, Gobindapur, Nandigram, Dalalbazar, Panchgaon, Sahapur and many other places.
[43] The attackers had organised themselves into parties each of which they gave the fancy name of Fouj (Army). There were several of them, such as Mian’s Fouj (led by Ghulam Sarwar himself), Akbar’s Fouj, Qasem’s Fouj, and so on. The task of these Fouj-s – a few thousand bloodthirsty, Jihad-crazed peasants surging forward to kill, rape and forcibly convert a few hopelessly outnumbered victims – would be the envy of any army in the world.

The story of the escape of Nalini Ranjan Mitra (1892-1978), a schoolteacher of the village of Khilpara and a Hindu Mahasabha leader, from sure death at the hands of Sarwar’s goons is quite hair-raising and has been described in Dr. Sinha’s Noakhalir Mati o Manush (The Land and the People of Noakhali) in graphic detail. This escape was made possible only by the goodwill and ready wit of two illiterate Muslim youths. Likewise, a number of Hindu lives were saved by Muslims, although their continued security could not be guaranteed, and eventually all of them were forced to leave for Hindu-majority West Bengal. A shortened and abridged version of Dr. Sinha’s account, as heard from Mitra and his son Usha Ranjan Mitra, appearing in Bangla in his book
[44], is given below:

Nalini Ranjan Mitra was at the time teaching at Khilpara (Noakhali) school which he had himself founded. He declared the Puja holidays for the school and came home to his home village of Sindurpur (also in Noakhali). Sindurpur was about four miles from Advocate Rajendra Lal Roy Chaudhuri’s house in Karpara. Roy Chaudhuri was the President of the district Hindu Mahasabha. Ghulam Sarwar had a hit list in which Nalini Mitra’s name figured just below that of Roy Chaudhuri. Nalini came to know upon reaching home that the entire extended family of Roy Chaudhuri, some twenty-six of them, had been butchered on October 11. He immediately set out with his wife Shobhonabala and the rest of his family in a boat manned by a boatman he knew very well, bound for the village of Dadpur, where Shobhonabala’s brothers lived and where the bedlam had not yet started. A little while later they heard shouts ‘There, there, Nalini master is running away – catch him’.”

What followed was a nightmare. A bloodthirsty mob came running and caught and fastened their boat. The family was saved from being butchered by the ready wit of a well-meaning Muslim peasant Qadir Ali, who pacified the mob by saying that there was no point in killing Nalini right away, he could be kept incarcerated in his home, until orders from Ghulam Sarwar were received. The family was sent back home.

That night it rained very heavily and there were no further raids. The family held a council of war and decided that the only way for Nalini to be saved was for him to go to Nandigram, a nearby village where a police platoon had camped. This itself was a very tall order, because to go to Nandigram Nalini would have to penetrate the seige thrown by Muslims all around his house. However, there was no alternative. Nalini therefore set out dressed as a Muslim for Nandigram, accompanied by Ramesh Das, a Hindu Barui (paan or betel leaf cultivator) and a Muslim called Ali. One advantage at the time was that the jute and paddy fields were all flooded and covered with fully grown plants. The jute plants grew at least five feet above the water and provided excellent cover. Ramesh and Ali left Nalini on the edge of a jute field and returned home by daybreak.

By that time the weather had improved and a raiding party arrived. They ransacked the house but could not find Nalini. One of the Muslims who had been laying seige the previous night meanwhile let it out that they had seen Ali, Ramesh and an unknown Muslim that night going out into the rain. The raiders immediately understood that Nalini has escaped and ran for the jute fields. By that time Nalini was nowhere near Nandigram. The raiders surrounded the fields and, shouting Allahu Akbar started combing the fields. Nalini lay hidden in the jute fields with just the tip of his nose above the water. In this state he lay still, for more than a day without food, with only the turbid and stinking water of the jute field to drink, bitten black and blue all over by insects, lacerated by the sharp edges of the plants, while the raiders watched for tell-tale signs of movements in the jute plants. Finally in the dead of night he managed to reach the house of the Pal family at the edge of the same village. This family had saved themselves by converting en masse to Islam. The Pals hid Nalini in a loft. The raiders came to search the Pal household a number of times but Nalini managed to stay hidden. After about four or five days Ramesh and Ali arrived at the Pal household and again in the dead of the night escaped with the half-dead Nalini to the police camp at Nandigram. Upon reaching the camp he fell unconscious, and thus he lay for more than twenty-four hours. Meanwhile the raiders, on a suspicion, killed Ramesh and mercilessly beat up Ali, but still continued with their search until a partially decomposed headless torso was found floating in a jute field. They then took this to be Nalini’s body and called off their search.

The entire family of Nalini was forced to convert to Islam. The men were driven to offer Namaz at the local Mosque. The women were placed under purdah and forbidden to come out. A group of Moulvis came and changed the names of the family members. A girl called Niru was named Nurjahan, Monu was named Mumtaz. The women were told to hold one end of a piece of cloth which passed out below the curtain (purdah). The other end was held by the Moulvis who recited verses from the Quran and the Haadis.

Meanwhile Nalini convinced the police at Nandigram to conduct a raid on Sindurpur to rescue his family. By this time the Police had been reinforced by a Military Contingent. All Hindu families who had been forcibly converted into Islam were rescued and taken to Choumuhani. They all renounced their conversion to become Hindus again. Dr. Syama Prasad Mookerjee had meanwhile set up a Relief Committee at Choumuhani and Nalini busied himself in this relief work. Nalini eventually, like everyone else, moved to West Bengal and became the Headmaster of Nangi High School near Batanagar in the district of South 24-Parganas. Nangi, incidentally, was and still is a Muslim majority area. It must also be mentioned that Nalini later got a letter from his Muslim students of Khilpara, regretting the incident and urging him to come back.

Louis Fischer, the American journalist, describes the Noakhali carnage thus
[45] : "Mr. Arthur Henderson told the House of Commons on Nov 4, 1946 that the dead in Noakhali and contiguous Tipperah districts had not yet ben counted, but will, according to estimates, be low in the three figures category. The Bengal government put the number of casualties at 218; some families, however, hid their victims out of fear. Over ten thousand houses were looted in the two districts. In Tipperah 9,895 persons were forcibly converted to Islam ; in Noakhali ineaxact data suggested that the number of converts was greater. Thousands of Hindu women were abducted and married to Muslims against their will. . . . to convert Hindu women, Muslims broke their bangles and removed their 'happiness marks' on their foreheads which showed that they were not widows. Hindu men were compelled to grow beards, to twist their loincloths the Muslim way instead of the Hindu way, and to recite the Quran. Stone idols were smashed and Hindu temples desecrated. Worst of all, Hindus were made to slaughter their cows if they had any, or in any case to eat meat. It was felt that the Hindu community would not accept back into its fold one who had killed the sacred beast or partaken of its flesh."

In fact, one of the very few good things to have come out of the unmitigated evil of the carnage was the fact that the Hindus who had been forced to eat beef, or Hindu women who had been raped or brutalised by Muslims, were indeed accepted back into the Hindu fold. Rabindra Nath Datta had journeyed to villages in the far interior of the district with Gandhi's entourage. Here he had found Hindus in such a stage of demoralisation as to be reduced to the level of animals. Some of them had been tied up and incarcerated in huts. Most of the young, and even some middle-aged women had been raped and brutalised , some of them in the presence of the local Muslim womenfolk. Some men, including little children, had been killed. A common method of disposing of the latter was to toss them into a pond. All of them had been forcibly converted. Datta asked them to come with him so that they could be rehabilitated. Most of them were very sceptical about such rehabilitation as they had been made to eat beef and their womenfolk had been touched by the Muslims. Datta was prepared for this and had carried several copies of a booklet published by the Ramakrishna Mission. The booklet quoted a number of venerable Hindu religious and scriptural authorities emphatically saying that people subjected to forcible conversion, molestation and eating of forbidden food could come back to the Hindu fold without any difficulty. With this he had persuaded them to come with him (in this connection see Syama Prasad Mookerjee's remarks below and endnote on Prayashchitta). The local Muslims did not object, because the Hindus' departure would mean their property being available for grabbing.

Syama Prasad Mookerjee toured the affected areas of Noakhali and Tipperah districts and made a statement in Bangla which is quoted in Dr. Sinha’s Noakhalir Mati o Manush
[46]. A freely translated version of the same is given below. “What happened in Noakhali and Tipperah have certain features which have no parallels in the history of communal riots in India. The Carnage at Noakhali was, of course, not a communal riot in any sense. It was a planned and concerted attack by the majority on the minority (the name for this in Eastern Europe, when practised against the Jews, was ‘Pogrom’ – Author). The central purpose of this attack was to effect mass looting, conversion and total desecration of Hindu temples and deities. Killing was mainly for the influential Hindus and for those who resisted the rampage. Rape and kidnapping of Hindu women was an essential part of the plan. From the slogans used in the attacks it is clear that the design was to cleanse the district totally of Hindus, and to establish Pakistan. The attackers were all Muslim League supporters and knew that it was their own Government which was ruling at Calcutta. This had emboldened them in their task to a very considerable extent.

It is not a fact that this pogrom was the act of a few hoodlums or that they had all came from somewhere far away. Practically all the atrocities were committed by local Muslims and the Muslim population of the district was generally sympathetic to what they were doing. There were a few exceptions among the Muslims who had managed to save Hindu lives. Their number is negligible. The Hindus who had been saved in this manner but who had not been able to run away have all been forcibly converted. Those who have run away have been looted of all their belongings. That such a carnage was in the offing had been brought to the notice of the district administration repeatedly and well in time, but the administration took no steps against the persons who were inciting hatred. These administrators have proved themselves to be totally unfit to hold their posts. So long as they continue in their posts it would be very difficult to restore peace in the district. After such a calamity only some fifty persons in Noakhali and a few in Tipperah have so far been arrested. Thousands of people have run away from their homes with only the clothes on their backs. They are now housed at camps at Comilla, Chandpur, Agartala and a few other places. The total number of such destitutes would be somewhere between 50,000 and 75,000.

Apart from these people another 50,000 or so are still marooned in areas where the administration has no say. These people need to be rescued immediately. They have all been forcibly converted. Their belongings have been looted, their spirit is broken. They are hardly human beings any more. Their names have been changed, their women have been ravished. They are being forced to wear Muslim clothes. The men have to attend mosques. The women are given religious instructions at home by Moulvis. All steps are being taken to ensure that they are totally cut off from their moorings and made to surrender completely to their tormentors.

They have lost the courage to even protest. They dare not meet any Hindus from outside who come to visit them unless they are with armed guards. Handbills are being printed in the names of influential Hindus in both their Hindu and Muslim names which say that they have wilfully embraced Islam. They are being forced to write to the Sub-divisional Officers to that effect. They can leave their villages only with the written permission of the local Muslim leaders. A few of them managed to meet me at Choumuhani near Noakhali and told their heartrending tales.

The immediate task at hand is to rescue the minorities who are still marooned, and completely in the clutches of the majority community. Until recently the rioters had kept the villages inaccessible by cutting off the means of communication. This has now partially been set right by the Military, but just access is not enough. Our volunteers will have to visit the villages to restore the morale and confidence of the thousands of Hindus.

It is a welcome development that the Military have decided to visit each and every village. They must remove certain officials from these villages, failing which they will find it very difficult to do any work. Punitive taxes must also be imposed. Such taxes were imposed on Hindus alone during the 1942 movement. This time punitive taxes upon the Muslims alone would be in order as they have not been able to give protection to the Hindu minority. When I discussed this aspect with officials I was told that there were a lot of Muslims who had helped the Hindus. I propose that if any Muslim can produce sufficient proof that he had helped the Hindus then he may be exempted. The destitute Hindus must be compensated from the money realised by way of punitive taxes and also from general funds.

Rehabilitation must be taken in hand immediately. Harvesting time is near. Those who have been ousted from their homes may not get their share of the harvest, in which case they will have nothing to eat. In order to be rehabilitateted the Hindus must be made to feel secure. They must be housed in temporary camps for the present until their homes and temples in their villages are rebuilt and their deities are reinstalled. This alone will restore their morale.

I do not accept that so many brothers and sisters of ours who had been forced out of the Hindu fold have left that fold. They were born Hindus, they are still Hindus, and they shall die Hindus. I have said this to all and sundry: there cannot be any question of any Prayashchitta (atonement for sins
[47] ) for them to come back to the Hindu fold. There shall be no talk of any Prayashchitta.

Any woman rescued from a disturbed area and found to have been forcibly married to a Muslim shall go back to her family. All unmarried women and girls should be given in marriage as far as possible. Hindu society must get out of this horror with a clear sight and a view of the future. Else, its future is dark.

I have constituted committees for rescue, assistance, and rehabilitation at Noakhali and Choumuhani. Ten groups of five volunteers each, together with armed escorts, will shortly leave for the affected areas.

I make this statement only upon observing a small part of East Bengal. What we have seen and heard have no parallels in civilised society. There are disturbances and tension in many other parts of Bengal, including Calcutta. The administration has practically collapsed, for which the Governor and the Provincial cabinet are squarely responsible. We have warned them repeatedly, but with no effect. We can clearly foresee that lawlessness will get worse if these people continue in the administration.

In this hour of its peril Hindu society will have to realise something very important : it must stand unified, or else it will perish. It is perhaps God’s will that from this destruction the reawakening of Hindus will begin.

We are not to forget, at this hour of darkness, that we are 30 million Hindus living in Bengal. If we organise ourselves, and if at least some of us dare to brave all odds with resolution and without fear then we shall be able to vanquish our enemies and restore our rightful position in our motherland”.

The Noakhali carnage came to be widely known because of Gandhi’s famous visit to the district. Gandhi arrived at Choumuhani on November 7, 1946, almost a month after the carnage began and stayed in Noakhali till February 1947. Even before this, as information about the atrocities began to trickle out, well-meaning people from all over Bengal flocked to the district, wanting ‘to do something’, generally to give relief to the affected families. Of these the efforts of Syama Prasad Mookerjee have already been mentioned. Mrs. Ashoka Gupta, wife of Saibal Gupta of the ICS, was at that time at Chittagong, quite close to Noakhali. Nellie Sengupta
[48] was at that time also at Chittagong and convened a meeting on October 26 to organise women’s teams for relief work at Noakhali in which Ashoka joined. A number of leaders accompanied Gandhi, others came along to join him. Among the prominent people who congregated in remote Noakhali then there were Acharya J.B.Kripalani and his wife (and a prominent congresswoman in her own right) Sucheta Kripalani, Sarat Chandra Bose, Surendra Mohan Ghosh, Muriel Lister, A.V.Thakkarbapa, and others. Among these Ashoka Gupta has recorded some of the reminiscences in a short volume entitled Noakhalir Durjoger Diney (During the Dark Days in Noakhali)[49]

Descriptions of atrocities recorded by Ashoka Gupta fall in the familiar pattern: pillage, rape, forcible conversion, occasional killing. A Hindu widow’s only means of livelihood was a cow. Her house was burnt down, the cow was slaughtered, and she was forced to eat the beef. Among the victims a large number of people were from the depressed classes – known then as Harijan and today in India as Scheduled Castes. A.V.Thakkarbapa, a longtime adherent of Gandhi, was the General Secretary of the Delhi branch of the Harijan Sevak Sangh, and had previous experience in relief work. His experience in the villages of Char Mandal and Char Ruhita have been recorded by Ashoka Gupta
[50]. Most of the Hindu houses in the two villages had been either torched or looted. Two thousand people had been forcibly converted, six girls forcibly married to Muslims, one person was killed. Thakkarbapa noticed that even six weeks after the atrocities ended people still wanted to flee their villages. A major reason for their insecurity was the attitude of the Police Stations. The police would either not record complaints or would threaten or harrass those who came to complain.

Ashoka Gupta’s personal experience
[51] was identical. Months after the atrocities, the Hindus were still deathly scared to speak out. As she was crossing a river in a ferryboat, a Hindu pointed at the Muslim boatman wearing a Red Cross armband and whispered that this very man was the leader of a bloodthirsty mob. She had somehow convinced a tormented young Hindu couple to come to Lokkhipur police station to record a complaint. The wife pulled a long ghomta[52] over her face and said, between sobs, that even two months after the riots were over, two or three Muslims came to their home every night, took her away and returned her early in the morning. The police officer asked for their names. The husband replied that telling their names would mean sure death for him. Was there any other way in which they could be saved from this unbearable state? Of course there was none, and the couple had to flee their village.

At Mojupur village two orphaned babies, a boy and a girl, were being brought up by their Mama (mother’s brother) and his wife, a childless and well-to-do couple. Their house was first looted, then they were asked to convert. When they refused they were set on fire alive, along with their belongings. Meanwhile news had reached Lokkhipur thana, where the District Magistrate McInnerny
[53] happened to be present. He rushed to Mojupur with his force. The couple by then were near their end. The last words they said to McInnerny was to save the two babies. McInnerny handed over the babies to Ashoka. She sent the boy to Prabartak Sangha in Chittagong, but had to send the girl away to Comilla[54].

Sucheta Kripalani
[55] once brought to the notice of McInnerny an incident of a kidnapped Hindu girl living as a daughter-in-law in a Muslim household. McInnerny met the family with his police force in the presence of Sucheta. The head of the family said that this was a marriage out of love between his son and the girl, there had been no force used. McInnerny sent for the girl. She seemed very broken and unable to talk, but she told McInnerny by gestures that she was here of her own free will. Sucheta asked McInnerny to take the girl aside and question her. McInnerny said that was hardly necessary, since this seemed to be a simple case of love followed by marriage. Sucheta burst out “Please Mr. McInnerny, please give me one case of love affair between the communities from 10th October to this day, after the riots. This is not a case of love marriage. Take evidence in a separate room so that the girl can speak the truth”. McInnerny relented and took her to a room separately. As soon as the girl was alone with McInnerny she fell on his feet howling, begging to be rescued. At Sucheta’s insistence McInnerny had to take the girl away immediately[56].

According to Rabindra Nath Datta, Ghulam Sarwar had it put out that whoever could rape Sucheta Kripalani would be honoured with the title of 'Ghazi' (Hero). For this reason Sucheta carried a capsule of cyanide on her while she was in Noakhali.

Datta had further heard that Rai Sahib Nagendra Kumar Sur, a leading lawyer of the Noakhali district bar, was kidnapped, taken to a lonely spot, and asked to dig his own grave. He had the guts to ask his tormentors why he should oblige them, since he was going to be killed anyway. They replied that if Sur dug the grave he would be beheaded in one stroke, but if he refused he would be tortured to death. Sur is said to have obliged them. His son Prasanta Kumar Sur fled to West Bengal, became a prominent Communist politician, Mayor of Calcutta and a Minister in the Government of West Bengal. This author had occasion to meet him and his son several times. At no point of time, either in public or in private, did he mention the death of his father. In this connection the reasons for Hindus to hide the atrocities committed on them are relevant, and these have been described and discussed in Chapter 10.

Ashoka did not find the slightest signs of remorse among the local Muslim population. To them Gandhi and the entourage had come to help only the Hindus. A Moulvi told her ‘You have come simply to help the Hindus. What do you care about the poor Muslims
[57]’? Ashoka retorted that they had given sarees to poor Muslim women who did not seem to have one intact saree to wear, but the Moulvi was not impressed. At one point of time, near Dalalbazar, their Jeep got stuck in the soft soil of the new road embankment built out of ‘test relief’ funds. The Muslim workmen who were still working on that stretch of road refused to help out[58]. Bakul Guha Roy (later Mrs. Ganguly), a Hindu woman social worker and an associate of Ashoka, was on the way to Noakhali, and at Chandpur steamer station, in order to get to know the rural folk, went ahead to meet some rural families (all Muslims) along the riverbank. They were roundly abused, and generally received very badly. Prafulla Chandra Ghosh (longtime associate of Gandhi, first Chief Minister of West Bengal 1947-48, and again 1968-69) who was escorting them told them, after they came back crestfallen, that he had let them go only to let them find out for themselves what sort of odds they were up against[59].

One small voice of conscience heard among the Muslim Leaguers must be mentioned. This was that of Mr. Shamsuddin Ahmed, the Labour Minister in Suhrawardy's ministry. In one of Gandhi's prayer meetings at Choumuhani on November 7, 1946 he roundly condemned the misdeeds of the Muslim goons, and has been reported in Sinha's Noakhalir Mati o Manush.
[60] Parts of his speech made on the occasion, freely translated, are quoted below.

". . . . I have myself toured the areas and spoken to the affected people. There is no denying that over a wide area, stretching from Ramganj to parts of Chandpur subdivision of Tipperah to Begumganj, there has been widespread violence and torture practised on Hindus. Hindus have been forcibly converted to Islam, they have been forced to wear lungis and round caps, their names have been changed, their women have been ravished. . . . . It has been said that the poor Muslims avenged their persecution by the Hindu Zamindars. If that is so then why was it necessary to convert them forcibly? In Noakhali there was no killing by the communities of each other ; there was just the killing of the minority Hindus by the majority Muslims."

Addressing the Hindus Mr. Shamsuddin said " There is no denying that you have been subjected to Zulm (or Julum, meaning use of force to achieve an improper objective). Islam does not teach Zulm. No one can be converted to Islam by Zulm. Those who have been forcibly converted have not really been converted at all. . . . . It is the duty of every right-thinking Muslim to persuade the Hindus of his village to come back and get rehabilitated there". This speech of Mr. Shamsuddin was very adversely commented upon by the pro-Muslim League newspaper Azad.

How did those in faraway New Delhi view the incidents in remote, inaccessible Noakhali? V.P.Menon, considered to be one of the architects of the transfer of power from British to Indian or Pakistani hands, writes : “ In about the second week of October 1946, there was large scale outbreak of lawlessness and hooliganism in the Noakhali and Tipperah districts of East Bengal. Large forces of armed police and military had to be employed to control the situation. The loss of life was not great, but the loss of property was considerable. Referring to these disturbances, a prominent politician, who himself hailed from East Bengal reported that whereas the lawlessness had been given the colour of pure goondaism, it was in fact not so ; it was an organised attack engineered by the Muslim League and carried out with the connivance of administrative officials (this is what would have been termed today as Human Rights Violation – author). The attacks, he said, were made by people armed with guns and other deadly weapons; roads were dug up and other means of communication cut off to prevent ingress and egress ; canals had been blocked and strategic points were being guarded by armed insurgents. Two of the Muslim League’s nominee to the interim Government were openly indulging in belligerent speeches. One of them went so far as to declare that the events in East Bengal were but part of the all-India battle for Pakistan”

Gandhi's trip to Noakhali brought the obscure area to the front page of every newspaper of the country, and is still celebrated as one of the great journeys undertaken by the apostle of peace to restore sanity among his fellow human beings. Now the time has come to ask a few critical questions. What did Gandhi attempt? And with what success?

His mission was to restore confidence in the Hindus so that they could come back to their villages, and his method, according to him, was abiding, endless love for one’s fellow men. He chalked up a very punishing schedule for himself in visiting remote villages to hold prayer meetings there and kept it, moving over the very difficult terrain on foot at an incredible speed from strangely named hamlets like Toomchar and Qazirkhil to Atakhora and Lamchar. He had told Ashoka Gupta and others at the very beginning of their project : “Bear no ill-will towards anyone. Work without fear, mix intimately with the villagers. Success will come your way only if you remain completely fearless, stay on the path of truth, inspire confidence in the weak. The rioters will respect you only when they see true fearlessness in you, not any fake bravado

Louis Fischer, the American journalist who described Gandhi as something of a combination of Jesus Christ and Tammany Hall
[63], had covered the Noakhali carnage quite extensively in his biography of Gandhi[64]. He described the journey of the Mahatma theorugh Noakhali as a pilgrimage of penance, in which the pilgrim wears no shoes. Sometimes hostile elements, obviously Muslim Leaguers, strewed broken glass, brambles and filth in his path. He was once sitting on the floor of a hut in the midst of Muslims and discoursing on the beauties of non-violence. Sucheta Kripalani passed him a note saying that the man on his right had killed a number of Hindus. The Mahatma smiled and went on speaking. In the village of Palla, on January 27th, he was asked "What should a woman do if she is attacked? Should she commit suicide"? His prescription was in the affirmative[65].

Not one word about bringing the guilty to book. Instead he was advising rape victims to kill themselves!

Did Gandhi succeed in his mission? The simple answer seems to be a big NO. Can anyone succeed in convincing a large populace that they did wrong upon the minorities, when what they did is sanctioned by their religion in the name of Jihad[66]? His central purpose was to get the Hindus back to their villages in Noakhali where they would, if he had his way, live happily ever after in perfect harmony with the majority community, the Muslims. Did it happen? No, of course not, the good intentions and deeds of a large number of sensible Muslims notwithstanding. In 1946 while he was touring the district, Muslim Leaguers en masse excreted on the route that he was due to take, and also spread glass shards, nails and similar objects to make his journey difficult. Today, in 1999, fifty-two years after partition, and twenty-eight years after the formation of independent Bangladesh, there are practically no Hindus in what used to be the district of Noakhali in British India. The number of Hindus in that Noakhali used to be 411,291 as against 1,608,337 Muslims, namely 18 per cent,[67] while the percentage of Hindus in the land mass today known as Bangladesh was around 28 per cent. Today it is about 5% according to 1991 census, taking together the present-day Noakhali, Feni and Lokkhipur zillas (districts) of Bangladesh. The proportion of Hindus in the whole of Bangladesh is currently 10.5%.

Therefore Gandhi, the apostle of peace, advocate of universal love and brotherhood failed and Ghulam Sarwar, the sectarian, murderous loudmouth, succeded. This is not an isolated case of failure. Gandhi succeeded in packing the British off, but failed in every case where it was his intention to establish Hindu-Muslim amity. The case of his espousal of the Khilafat movement has already been mentioned. He could not prevent the recurrence of riots that rocked the country since the 1920s, culminating in the Punjab bloodbath of 1947-8. He could not prevent the partition of the country nor the expulsion of Hindus and Sikhs from what became Pakistan – total and one-time expulsion in the case of West Pakistan, partial and gradual in the case of the East. All that he could prevent was the reciprocal expulsion of Muslims from India (and that too not in Punjab). This is being mentioned as a matter of fact, without comment on the right and wrong of it. He failed in convincing the Muslims, where they were in a majority, that it was their duty to protect the Hindu minority. And he failed in all these cases because he was in gross error in regard to the basic nature of Hindu-Muslim relationship in India.

What was Gandhi’s error? The error was twofold : first, not being able to appreciate the significance of Jihad in the Islamic code ; and secondly, inability to foresee what a superbly skilful and powerful politician like Jinnah could do, and actually did, with the Muslim masses by wielding this aspect of the Islamic code, and the powerlessness of his own code of Ahimsa, love and non-violence, or passive resistance in the face of Jinnah’s brand of politics (see Chapter 11 for further treatment of this aspect). The Indian habit of deification of a great man has not let the nation comprehend the enormity of Gandhi’s failure.

Perhaps Gandhi alone understood it, because he was truly a great politician, and he died a very sad man in partitioned India.

About Jinnah’s emergence as the unquestioned leader of the Muslim masses towards the end of the nineteen-thirties, the eminent historian R.C. Majumdar had this to say[68]: “His (Jinnah’s) clarion call to the Muslims went home and changed the Muslim political outlook almost overnight. He touched the chord of religious feelings of Muslims which have always proved a potent factor in Muslim politics". The Mullahs in the countryside were soon up in arms against the Congress propagandists . . . . It was blasphemy, they told their flocks, to say that politics is a purely secular affair, and they reawakened in them all their old suspicions of Hindu intentions towards their faith.’ The Congress mass contact movement, which had made some headway, collapsed under the attack of the Mullahs. The Congress made frantic attacks to counteract Jinnah’s propaganda and passed resolutions guaranteeing full rights to the minorities, assuring them of the widest possible scope for developing in the fullest measure their political economic and cultural life along with the other elements of the nation and asking the Muslims to cooperate with the Congress for the common good and the advancement of the people of India. But all these fell on deaf ears”.

What people like Jinnah, Suhrawardy and Sarwar were trying to do was the same as what the Confederates did when they fired upon Fort Sumter in South Carolina in the faraway United States of America. They were trying to wage a Civil War. Meanwhile Gandhi and Nehru were happy in their pet perception that their party, the great Indian National Congress, represented Hindus and Muslims alike, that the Muslim League was an aberration and therefore its appeal could not last. They were lulled into a very strong belief in this perception by the results of the 1937 election. Therefore they not only underestimated the strength but mistook the very nature of their adversary and his designs. They were also in basic error regarding the Hindu-Muslim relationship in India, as has been explained earlier.

A Civil War cannot be won with love and non-violence, especially when those waging the war did not suffer from a bad conscience for having done so. Gandhi's Ahimsa or non-violence succeeded against the British because the latter always had among themselves some people who genuinely believed that the British in India were in the wrong, and in the process gave their whole British nation a bad conscience about India. Add to that the facts that the West had a tradition of Rule of Law and Libertarianism and also that Britain already had had a similar problem with the Irish in the very recent past, and it is not difficult to see why Gandhi's non-violence succeeded against them. After all, Non-Violence and Civil Disobedience were ideas that Gandhi got from the writing of a liberal western thinker, Henry David Thoreau of Walden Pond, Massachusetts. In this regard it is useful to recall what Henry Kissinger had remarked “In my view, India had survived its turbulent history through an unusual subtlety in grasping and then manipulating the psychology of foreigners. The moral pretensions of the Indian leaders (during and before the Bangladesh liberation) seemed to me perfectly attuned to exploit the guilt complexes of a liberal, slightly socialist West; they were indispensable weapons for an independence movement that was physically weak and that used the ethical categories of the colonial power to paralyse it.”[69]

On the other hand, Jinnah, Suhrawardy and Sarwar were not Westerners or foreigners, and the subtlety that Kissinger had observed among Indians in dealing with foreigners was not in evidence here. Moreover, these gentlemen had no problems of bad conscience like the British, because their conduct was endorsed by the inviolable religious doctrine of Jihad. Gandhi's non-violence would not have lasted half an hour against Aurangzeb, or the present-day Taliban of Afghanistan, and it did not last against Jinnah, Suhrawardy or Sarwar.

Likewise, Lincoln's opponents were fired with the idea of "Cotton, Slavery and States' Rights", and did not for a moment stop to think that African-Americans were human and slavery was evil, or that there was anything wrong in wrecking their Union. Lincoln, therefore, did not wait to convince the Confederates through negotiations or lofty moralising. He sent forth his soldiers, won the war with brute force, saved the Union, and then made his Gettysburg address declaring ‘malice towards none’.

India, unfortunately, had no Lincoln. Not only so, but its leaders were not prepared to fight to maintain the unity of the country, and described themselves as ‘tired men, getting on in years too’[70]. Therefore the country was partitioned.

As the succeeding fifty years would show, the partition did not solve a single problem, neither for India, nor for Pakistan, neither for Hindus nor for Muslims. On the other hand it created insurmountable problems for both countries and communities. In fact Mountbatten knew beforehand that it was going to be a disaster. He wrote in his diary "Partition is sheer madness, and no one would ever induce me to agree to it were it not for this fantastic communal madness that has seized everybody and leaves no other course open. The responsibility for this mad decision must be placed squarely on Indian shoulders in the eyes of the world, for one day they will bitterly regret the decision they are about to make"[71].

Nor could the dreaded ‘civil war’ be avoided. What happened in Punjab in the wake of partition and later in Eastern Bengal in 1950, 1964 and 1971 was nothing less than a civil war. Worse still, an inconclusive variant of a civil war is still in progress in Kashmir.

Perhaps the only similarity between the two parallel cases of Gandhi and Lincoln was that both of them were assassinated shortly afterwards. Here again the similarity ends. The victorious Lincoln was killed by a Southerner, from the other side; the beaten Gandhi, by a Hindu, from his own.

One of the first persons with any say in the politics of the country, to understand that this indeed was Civil War, and should be fought as such was Syama Prasad Mookerjee. In his diary (in Bangla), on 10th January 1946 he writes, “If Hindus and Muslims unitedly try to maintain Indian culture and traditions, and live side by side according to their own beliefs then there should be no problem. But if Muslims show overmuch of devotion to their own religion and try to dominate the Hindus then should the Hindus not think how they can defend themselves? The Hindu-Muslim problem will not be solved without a Civil War. We do not want a Civil War – but if the other side prepare themselves for it, and we do not do so, we shall lose the war”[72]. Earlier, on 4th January he wrote (in English) “Force must, in the last analysis, be met with force. An internal policy of non-resistance to armed violence would eventually condemn any society to dissolution”[73].

These were prophetic words, for these were spoken when no Hindu believed that the country would be partitioned, when neither the Great Calcutta Killings nor the Noakhali Carnage had taken place[74]. Nobody listened to him. His own party, the Hindu Mahasabha, was too small to be of any lasting impact, and in any case the Hindu consciousness in the country was dominated by the Congress and its stalwarts led by Gandhi. The Hindus listened to what the Congress told them, and the result is today well known. Only now, fifty years after his death under questionable circumstances, people are beginning to appreciate the greatness of the man, and the truth of what he had said, and what could have happened if they had listened to him. As Lord Keynes had said, human beings will do the sensible thing, but only after all alternatives have been exhausted.

[1] Tin Kuri Dosh, ibid. Part II p. 217

[2] ibid. p. 161-163

[3] Syama Prasad Mookerjee, Rashtrasangram o Ponchaser Monnontor, (Bangla) Mitra & Ghosh, Calcutta, 1st Ed., 1998, p. 43. The title of the book in Bangla means “Struggle for Power and the Famine of 1450”. 1450 in Bengali era (solar) corresponds to April 1943-April 1944.

[4] Tin Kuri Dosh, ibid. Part II p. 135

[5] Thy Hand, Great Anarch, ibid p. 646

[6] ‘Native’, meaning Indian, as opposed to ‘European’, meaning British, was a derogatory term in those days. The term ‘European’ was often conveniently extended to include Anglo-Indian, Indian Christian, or even anyone wearing western clothes.

[7] Tin Kuri Dosh, ibid. Part II p. 133, 143

[8] ibid. Part II p. 156

[9] ibid. Part II p. 150

[10] Poverty and Famines, by Amartya Sen, Oxford University Press, 1st Ed., third impression paperback 1999, p. 52-85

[11] A taktaposh is a spartan bedstead, a variant of what is known in other parts of India as a charpoy. It consists of a few cheap hardwood planks nailed together to form a horizontal surface suitable for lying upon, supported by four wooden posts of square cross section. It was a widespread practice in Bengal to stock the family's provisions and other possessions below the taktaposh.

[12] Tin Kuri Dosh, ibid. Part II p. 156

[13] This episode is based on an interview with Rathindra Nath Sengupta of the Indian Administrative Services (IAS – successor to the ICS of the British times), former Chief Secretary, Government of West Bengal.

[14] The Transfer of Power in India, V.P.Menon, Orient Longman, 1st Ed., 1993 Reprint, p. 355

[15] Maulana Abul Kalam Azad (1888-1958) Congress President 1940-46, Education Minister in Nehru's cabinet 1947-58, was the foremost among the so-called 'Nationalist Muslims' of India, Muslims who had aligned themselves with the Congress rather than the Muslim League,and who opposed Pakistan. Jinnah used to call him the 'show boy of the Congress'. His autobiography 'India Wins Freedom' was first published after his death in 1958, but some thirty pages of the text were withheld according to his will, and were added thirty years later in 1988. The book was dedicated to Jawaharlal Nehru, and quite a bit of those thirty pages are very critical of Nehru.

[16] India wins Freedom, by Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, Orient Longman, Complete Version, Reprinted 1993, p. 164

[17] ibid. p. 162

[18] ibid. p. 170

[19] Roses in December, ibid, p. 81

[20] A bustee is a slum in Calcutta, usually a single storey construction of very cheap material and corrugated sheet or tiled roof. The equivalent terms in Mumbai and Delhi are, respectively, Zopadpatty and Jhuggi-Jhonpri colony. Dominque Lapierre’s Ananda Nagar, City of Joy, was modelled on Pilkhana, one of the worst bustees of Howrah. Pilkhana (literally, a stable for elephants) is a slum of unimaginable poverty and squalor located in Howrah, across the river Hooghly from Calcutta.

[21] Deshbibhag : Poshchat o Nepottho Kahini, ibid. p.87

[22] Tin Kuri Dosh, ibid. Part II p. 224, 226-227

[23] Deshbibhag : Poshchat o Nepottho Kahini, ibid. p.86

[24] Brothers against the Raj : A biography of Sarat and Subhas Chandra Bose by Leonard A.Gordon, 1st Ed., Viking, New Delhi, 1990 (quoting a Sociology Ph.D. dissertation by Richard Lambert, University of Pennsylvania, 1951), p. 566

[25] Jinnah of Pakistan, ibid. p. 284

[26] ibid. p. 285

[27] Tin Kuri Dosh, ibid. Part II p. 229

[28] Interview with Nirupom Som, Indian Police Service, ex-Deputy Commissioner, Port Police, ex-Commissioner, Calcutta Police, ex-Director-General of Police, West Bengal.

[29] Jinnah of Pakistan, ibid. p. 284

[30] ibid. p. 285

[31]Tin Kuri Dosh, ibid. Part II p. 229-232

[32] Deshbibhag : Poshchat o Nepottho Kahini, ibid. p.87

[33] Jinnah of Pakistan, ibid. p. 286

[34] Tin Kuri Dosh, ibid. Part II p. 232-233

[35] Deshbibhag : Poshchat o Nepottho Kahini, ibid. p.87

[36] India Wins Freedom, ibid.p. 170

[37] Jinnah of Pakistan, ibid. p. 287

[38] Krishna Sholoi, (Bangla, meaning ‘Black Sixteenth’), by Mizanur Rahaman, Sahana, Dacca, 1st Ed.,

[39] Amar Dekha Rajneetir Ponchas Bochhor, ibid., p. 196-197

[40] Tin Kuri Dosh, ibid. Part II p. 232

[41] Spoken to J.B.Kripalani, husband of Sucheta Kripalani (see later for her struggle in arranging relief for the Noakhali victims). Kripalani says he felt like hitting Burrows, but restrained himself. See India's March to Freedom, by D.P.Mishra, Har-Anand Publications, 2001, 1st Ed., p. 566

[42] Noakhalir Mati o Manush, ibid., pp. 95-96

[43] ibid. p.120-122.

[44] Noakhalir Mati o Manush, , ibid. pp. 129-138

[45] The Life of Mahatma Gandhi, ibid., p. 450

[46] ibid. pp. 122-126

[47] A very unfortunate custom prevailing in Hindu society until recently was that anyone who converted out of Hinduism, even if he was forced to do so, could not ordinarily come back to the fold. Prayashchitta was one way of doing this. Return to Hinduism is today actively administered by several organisations, among them the Arya Samaj and the Vishwa Hindu Parishad.

[48] Nellie Sengupta (1986-1973) British-born wife of ‘Deshapriya’ Jatindra Mohon Sengupta, Congress President, 1932. Nellie herself was the President of the Congress in 1933 when the party had been declared illegal. She stayed on at Chittagong in Pakistan even after partition, and worked for the Prabartak Sangha.

[49] “Noakhalir Durjoger Diney” (Bangla, During the Dark Days in Noakhali) by Ashoka Gupta, Naya Udyog, Calcutta, 1st Ed. 1999.

[50] ibid. p.33

[51] ibid. p. 34

[52] Ghomta (Ghunghat in Hindi) is the end of the sari made into a hood to cover the head of a woman for modesty. Once very common among Bengalis of both varieties, it has practically gone out of use among Hindu women, especially urban women, in West Bengal. Muslim women however still use it because of their religious compulsion to cover their hair.

[53] McInnerny, Irishman, ICS Officer, District Magistrate, Noakhali 1945-46. He stayed on in Pakistan after independence. He was fluent not only in standard Bangla, but also in the dialects of Noakhali and Chittagong, which most Bengalis from outside these districts do not follow..

[54] ibid. p.37

[55] Sucheta Kripalani (1908-1974) Congresswoman, Gandhian, Bengali-born wife of Acharya J.B.Kripalani. Sucheta was an irrepressible character, and has been described as such very fondly by Ashoka Gupta. She was the Chief Minister of the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh, 1963-67.

[56] ibid. pp. 62-63

[57] ibid. p. 14

[58] ibid. p. 20

[59] ibid. p. 73

[60] Noakhalir Mati o Manush, ibid. p.127-129

[61] The Transfer of Power in India, ibid. p. 318

[62] Noakhalir Durjoger Diney, ibid. p. 13

[63] Tammany Hall is the headquarters of the Democratic Party in New York City, supposed to be the abode of wheeling-dealing politicians

[64] The Life of Mahatma Gandhi, ibid.

[65] ibid., p. 450-454

[66] Jihad, Holy war upon infidels, the duty of every Muslim. 'A religious war with those who are unbelievers in the mission of Mohammed' (Dictionary of Islam by Thomas Patrick Hughes, 1999 Edition, p. 243). It has been argued that Jihad does not condone atrocities upon innocent unarmed non-Muslims, that it necessarily includes an inner struggle that every Muslim must wage within himself to cleanse himself of all that is impure, and so on (based probably on the distinction made by Sufi writers between al-Jihad'ul Akbar, the greater warfare against one's own lusts, and al-Jihad'ul Asghar, the lesser warfare, against infidels, ibid.). The duty of religious war (which all commentators agree, is a duty extending to all times) is, however, quite explicitly laid down in the following verses of the Qur'an, and no such fine distinctions are made there: Surahs ix, 5,6; ix, 29; iv, 76-79; ii, 214, 215; viii,39,42. The Traditions are equally explicit on this score -- see Sahihu Muslim, Sahihu Bukhari. The academic Sufi interpretations are, it is submitted, rather unimportant to hapless non-Muslims who have been the victims of Muslim mobs baying for their blood in the name of Jihad.

[67] Noakhalir Durjoger Diney ibid. p. 76

[68] The History and Culture of the Indian People, R.C. Majumdar, General Ed., Vol. XI, Struggle for Freedom, Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan, Mumbai, 2nd Ed., 1988, p. 606, quoting Coupland, R., The Constitutional Problem in India, Oxford University Press, 1945.

[69] White House Years, Henry Kissinger, Little, Brown & Co., Boston, 1st Ed., 1979, p. 879

[70] Nehru’s conversation with Leonard Mosley, quoted in The History and Culture of the Indian People, Vol. XI, Struggle for Freedom ibid., p. 768. A yearning to grab power at any cost is discernible.

[71] Freedom at Midnight, ibid., p. 151

[72] Syamaprasader Diary o Mrityu Prasanga (in Bangla) (The Diary of Syama Prasad and about his Death) Uma Prasad Mookerjee, Ed., Mitra & Ghosh, Calcutta, 1st Ed., 1988, p. 74.
[73] ibid., p. 58

[74] Much later, in early 1947 George Abell told Lord Mountbatten that the country was heading for a civil war. See Freedom at Midnight ibid., p. 95