Memorandum to Pak PM Liaquat Ali Khan by Members of Opposition (Assembly), East Bengal-1950

by Basanta Kumar Dass, Ganendra Nath Bhattacharjee, Munindra Nath Bhattacharjee, Haran Chandra Ghosh Choudhury, Monoranjan Dhar

Members of Opposition submitted a memorandum on 20 March 1950 to Prime Minister of Pakistan Liaquat Ali Khan on the killings and atrocities on Hindus in East Bengal.

DATE: 20th March 1950

To
The Hon’ble Mr. Liaquat Ali Khan
Prime Minister, Pakistan

Dear Sir,

Your visit to this land at the present moment of supreme crisis in our life is heartily welcome. You have come at a fateful time when the ill-fated minority Community here is inexorably faced with a grim prospect of virtual extinction. We are meeting you to-day under lingering shadow of an unprecedented and sweeping orgy of communal disturbances and carnage of recent occurrence, the dreadful enormity and experience of which far surpass those of the hectic days of the holocausts of 1946.

Here in this province took place only one-sided diabolical killing and persecution of Hindus by Muslims. Terrible things of unparalleled magnitude have happened. The way in which the occurrences took shape with unmistakable political manipulation and bearings and the manner in which the administrative authorities generally handled the situation have naturally given rise to an almost irremovable apprehension in the minds of the most miserably plighted minorities in general that something equally or more terrible may happen every moment. Their sense of security thus stands completely shattered. In the midst of this all-encompassing gloom and sufferings, they see no ray of hope as to the protection of their life, honour, religion and property. Tragedy is alround and seems almost complete. To-day the minority community stands here broken in pride and honour, shamed and bleeding. Their lives and properties seem virtually forfeited here. We feel that this tragic state of things is but a culmination and cumulative effect of which in our opinion finds every nourishment from the existing nonsecular political set-up and preaching. These forces of reaction and regress were rearing their heads in a sporadic manner throughout the province since the partition, to the dark forebodings where of we draw the attention of the provincial Government through written and verbal representations on various occasions with fervent requests for taking effective steps for arresting the groth thereof. For a long time a process of squeezing out all the Hindus from East Bengal was being followed in the shape of indiscriminate house-requisition, forcible dispossession, non payment of compensation, illegal exactions, arrests and detention without trial etc. We had also opportunities of drawing your personal attention to those developments with all their ominous possibilities in course of our joint interviews with you two past occasions. During our first interview with you we had submitted a written memorandum embodying therein a fairly long list of typical isolated communal incidents and acts of oppression against minorities. During our second interview with you too, we submitted before you a written representation, wherein we requested your intervention to check the worsening trends of the situation. We pointed out that on the one hand communal fanaticism was gathering force much to the detriment of the minority community and on the other the tone of the General administration was slackening and deteriorating and the machinery of law and order was not asserting itself against the growth of lawless elements.

In December last, when the Assembly was in session our Assembly party as a whole met the Hon’ble Premier of East Bengal and submitted to him a written representation about all these facts. But unfortunately the situation continued unrelieved. Fed and nurtured by persistent and reckless anti-Hindu propaganda of the local Press and rabid communal preachings, by various elements of the majority community including some Muslim League stalwarts, undeterred by an authoritative interference though sought by us, the force of lawlessness had been gathering strength quite demonstrably for the last few months. So, what were so long some scattered patches of cloud with some little breeze blowing about have steadily developed and broken into a furious storm at last tending to sweep of the very existence of the minority community here. The perverse spirits that actuated the isolated incidents for far and that lie behind the slow process of devitalizing and demoralising the minority community in various ways now seem congealed into an organised plan for giving a final and fatal blow to the minority community as will be clearly evident particularly from the nature of the latest happenings with their flaming trails of sufferings for them yet. An irrecoverable atmosphere of prejudice and hatred against the minorities prevails here which is very likely to heighten more and more.

Since your last visit, a few major incidents had taken place in more or less quick succession in the Province, in which Muslim mob violence with the direct connivance of an in collusion with the police and Ansars, with the knowledge of the District authorities even, broke out against the minorities on fairly large scales, letting aside the many minor ones. Let us briefly mention them.

In August 1949, some villages under Bianibazar and Barlekha P.S. of Sylhet district were raided by large band of Muslim villagers in company with the police and Ansars. Houses were looted, broken and burnt. Hindu villagers were murdered and assaulted in large number. Women were assaulted and raped even by policemen. The whole atrocity was committed in a visibly organised manner. We took up the matter with the Provincial Government. We discussed the same on the floor of the Assembly and earnestly demanded remedy, but to no avail. Nothing has been done to relieve the distress of the people nor to punish the wrongdoers. Then followed the incidents in Bhandaria in the District of Barisal, where similar persecution of the minorities was enacted in the whole village and the neighbouring localities apparently under the instruction of the district authorities. We approached the Provincial government for redress but failed to impress upon them the need for taking any just action against the offenders. That seemingly studied indifference of the Government in tackling the growing lawlessness was bound to encourage the outbreak of lawlessness in the country. That happened actually.

On the 10th December Muslim mob attacked the Putia Rajbari in Rajshahi town and took forcible possession of the house and their treasures. The terrible atrocities of Bagerhat (Khulna) followed, involving mass looting, breaking and burning of houses, killing and assaulting persons, conversion, desecration of images and rape of women on a large scale affecting about a score of villages. Some troubles took place in Santal villages in P.S. Nachole and Gomastipur in Rajshahi district. Apart from other accounts, the local Roman Catholic Missionary Father Thomas Cattaneo in his report on the district of Rajshahi described that entire Santal villages were looted and burnt by the police and the military, the Santal villagers were assaulted, their women in large number were raped and mass arrests were made. Generally every where police, Ansars and Muslim directly and indirectly combined to wreak vengeance. Here also, our attempts at getting remedy failed significantly enough. On January 4, the Police raided and arrested about a hundred Hindus in villages Kalakatti in Barisal district. Mass arrests of assaults on Hindus in Habiganj town in Sylhet District were made following an accidental fire in the criminal court buildings on January 22. Meetings and processions were held, whereafter Sri Suresh Chandra Biswas, M.L.A. was severely beaten and rendered unconscious. Later on he was admitted into hospital. A few days after he was arrested and is still in Jail. In Comilla town, Muslims raided the town hall on January 25 and Hindu shops on January 26 and pulled down pictures of the Hindu deities and leaders. Then followed, a week after, incidents on 2nd February in Feni (Noakhali) involving, stabbing and murder, looting of the shops of Hindu shopkeepers and merchants. Thus the chain of portentious events followed without let or hindrances.

We sought to discuss the situation by means of adjournment motions in the Assembly on the 6th February over the incidents of Nachole and Bagerhat. The motions were disallowed. Thanks to the adverse attitude of the majority party and the Government, that legitimate attempt of ours was thwarted. In reply to our rightful demand of discussion, the Hon’ble Premier made a statement thereby clearly making us feel that we are reduced to the intolerable position of hostages so far as our protection and security is concerned and making our fate clearly contingent upon the conditions of the minorities in West Bengal. This statement was supplemented by highly provocative and offensive observations of some members of the majority party. We were thus prevented from exercising our just right and privileges as representatives of the people in the matter of giving voice to the grievances and sufferings of the minorities which were admitted to be true at least to some extent. Our voice was practically throttled. We cannot accept the position of hostages directly or indirectly. We have always demanded and still demand, as a matter of fundamentals, same rights and protections as are due to any loyal law-abiding and peaceful citizen of the state irrespective of what may happen elsewhere.

We have our position in this respect clear in a statement made on the floor of the Assembly on 7-2-50 wherein inter alia we demanded en enquiry by a committee of the House headed by the Hon’ble Premier into the incidents at Nachole and Bagerhat. That statement was greeted by angry outbursts inside and outside the Assembly. A vitriolic press campaign was started against us. A distorted version as to our stand was catered to the people with view to prejudice them against us, taking advantage of our forced silence. Generally speaking too, press campaign, through comments and presentation of news prejudicial to the minorities assumed a furious character which contributed most towards worsening the situation and inviting crisis and chaos. The local newspapers which have all along been exciting communal hatred by publishing highly inflammable news and articles came on the following day with headlines characterising the opposition members in the Assembly as “Fifth Columnist.” On the 7th February we walked out of the Assembly in protest and absented ourselves for some long period having no other means of ventilating our grievances. The Muslim Press and Muslim leaders and even the Radio started a violent campaign to rouse communal passion to the highest pitch. And even one member of the Cabinet broadcast on the Radio condemning the action of the opposition and distorting their stand. Some incidents alleged to have taken place in West Bengal were exploited by them to the full. Inflammatory leaflets calling for blood were distributed in the city of Dacca and in other places in muffusil areas. Posters of similar nature were also pasted in different places in different districts. Radio Pakistan on the 6th and the afternoon of the 7th February announced the following in between scheduled items of Programme: “Brother, you have heard about the inhuman atrocities being perpetrated on our brother Muslims in India and West Bengal. Will you not prepare yourselves? Will you not gather strength?”

Thus a stage was being set for some grave developments. At last the presaged crisis came and overawed us on the 10th February. On the morning of that day four women were shown around the Secretariat offices at Dacca with conch shell bangles on their wrists, vermillion on their forehead and blood-stain on their clothes. They alleged that they were forcibly converted into Hinduism in Calcutta and were victims of oppression by Hindus. The Secretariat staff then left their office at about 11 a.m. during office hours and took out a procession from the gate of the Secretariat building shouting exciting slogans. They held a public meeting at Victoria Park at about 12 noon. As soon as the meeting dispersed, there was a simultaneous flareup in all parts of the city resulting in arson and loot of Hindu houses and shops and killings. Hindu passengers, who arrived at Dacca by steamer and trains, were killed at the stations. Hindu travelling by train and buses were stabbed, murdered and thrown out. Out of hundreds of Hindu shops in the city of Dacca, about 90% were looted and many burnt. By the evening of the 10th February about fifty thousand Hindus in the city of Dacca were displaced from their houses and had to take shelter in refugee centres which sprang up in different parts of the city. Some Hindu officials and M.L.A. also had done so. For more than seven hours loot, arson and murdered continued unchecked. The military were then called out and placed in certain parts of the city and curfew was imposed. On the 12th afternoon, about sixty air-passengers who had assembled at Kurmitola Airport near the military headquarters at Dacca were attacked by a mob with deadly weapons resulting in a large number of death and injuries. So the city of Dacca witnessed one of the worst tragedy that history knows. A reign of terror prevailed. The whole reign was under the sway of the communal brigands. It seemed that the administration abdicated in favour of Goonda-Raj. All manner of crimes were being committed in the metropolis under the nose of the Provincial Government, before the eyes of the police, who were in some places found abetting the same. For all practical purposes, administration seemed to have collapsed. Murder, loot, arson, assaults and attacks on men and women were committed on an extensive scale in broad daylight. The Government must have had sufficient warning as to the coming events.

From all indications the aforesaid procession and meeting were seeming the signal for the disturbances to follow. The Government was still sleeping over the growing crisis. Thus a hell was let loose over the city and surrounding localities. During the following days the flare spread to the other districts and the killings and stabbings of passengers in trains and steamers almost throughout the Province continued for a week or so. The worst riot affected areas in the province were the Dacca city and its suburbs, parts of the Sadar and Narayanganj sub-divisions, the Jamalpur and the Kishoreganj sub-divisions of the Mymensingh district, the town of Chittagong and its suburbs, parts of police stations Hathazari, Fatikchari and Sitakunda in the district of Chittagong, the town of Feni and its suburbs, the town of Sylhet and some rural areas of the Sadar and Sunamganj sub-divisions of the Sylhet district, the town of Barisal and police stations Muladi, Babuganj, Nalchiti, Jhalokati and Rajapur of the Sadar sub-division of the Bakerganj district, and Talshar area of the Brahmanbaria sub-division of the Tippera district. Almost everywhere heinous offences against women were committed. In some places this most barbaric sort of crimes took place on a large scale. Mass conversions also took place in some places, apart from isolated cases here and there.

All outward indications and the manner in which the atrocities have been committed (having regard to almost uniformly timed and followed methods of execution) led to the irresistible conclusion that the whole troubles took place and were allowed to take place according to a preconceived plan.

It is not possible for us to fully deal with the details of all the incidents here. However, we are giving below brief accounts of the incidents and casualties so far as we have been able to gather amidst so many difficulties of free movements and contact. These are by no means exhaustive. These may bear an eloquent testimony to the state of things here and to how miserably the Government have failed to protect the minorities. Confidence of the minorities in the ability and willingness of the Government to protect them is completely shaken. In such a surcharged atmosphere exodus has started. Incidents and persecution of the minorities in isolated manner are still taking place here and there. Particularly the passengers going out of East Bengal are being harassed in various ways. Illegal exactions and extortions of money, unnecessary and obstructive detentions on the way followed by other kinds of molestation of passengers both male and female are still rampant. Difficulties of journey by railway or steamer are manifold. Fresh and artificial obstructions are being created in different points of transit. All these are adding to the confusion and panic. In the wake of this helpless chaotic state of things in rural areas, crimes of theft, assault, intimidations and offences against women are still occurring in large number.

The manner in which the minority problem and their grievances have been so long tackled by the East Bengal Government does not encourage us to believe that we can have any protection and justice from them. They have all along shown a tendency of minimising things, always taking a complacent view of the situation. Even in the midst of troubles we made frantic appeals to them for help and relief, but little or no response came forth. We stand on our fundamental rights as free and law-abiding citizens of the State. We refuse to be treated as political shuttlecocks or mere objects of mercy or generosity of this quarter or that quarter. We feel that this Government of East Bengal have not shown any indication of having such an enlightened democratic outlook as to look upon us from proper perspective. We do very keenly feel that we have entered a critical juncture of our life. Any activity on political or economic spheres on our part on truly democratic line has become practically impossible. The whole situation constitutes a challenge to our manhood in the context of our democratic freedom. The problem should not be tinkered with. Merely any fresh promise of protection of minorities cannot inspire any confidence in their minds. An abiding solution of this problem on inter-state basis is very urgently called for. We beseech you earnestly to direct your attention to this.

SYLHET

The burden of the speeches of different speakers at a public meeting on the eleventh February was, “Blood will flow down the rivers of Sylhet.” A local paper “Ansar” clearly reported some misdeeds and attempts in rural areas on the part of a section of Muslims led and supported by some maulavis at converting Hindus under coercion.

The troubles started in Sylhet town on the 13th February and continued till the 16th. According to official version in Sylhet town itself there were 50 to 60 cases of stabbing of which six proved fatal. In this town some ten or twelve houses are reported to have been looted and burnt. Almost simultaneously the troubles started in the rural areas within P.S. Sadar, Biswanath, Chatak, Fenchuganj, Balaganj and Gopalganj. In all these places a large number of Hindu villages were attacked and have been completely destroyed and some Hindu girls were abducted and raped. Reports of mass conversion of Hindus of several villages have also been received. The modus operandi in these places was as follows.

A few Mullahs first visited the villages and asked the Hindus to save themselves by embracing Islam. Brahmins were made to tear their sacred threads and recite Kalma. Wherever there was resistance the Muslim mob attacked the village and the entire village was looted and burnt and persons killed and women abducted.

In the first part of February 1950 several Muslim leaders of Sylhet town were openly preaching the communal acts of violence and lawlessness were prevailing in West Bengal and Karimganj sub-division of the Cachar district and as a result of that the Muslims of Sylhet must take revenge upon the Hindus. On the 10th February, which was a bazar day and a Friday, a big placard was hung up in a prominent light post on the Bander Bazar Road of the Sylhet town under the caption “Julums in Hindusthan on Muslims” and depicting on it a hand-drawn picture showing the Muslims being dragged by ropes by the Hindus with weapons in their hands and pool of blood, coloured prominently in red, flowing. This placard attracted the attention of the passers by and soon an angry mob gathered round it. On the 11th February there was a public meeting in which some Muslim leaders delivered highly inflammatory speeches. On 12th February there was a rumour in the town that Maulvi A. K. Fazlul Huq had been killed in Calcutta. The whole atmosphere was thus surcharged and trouble broke out from the 13th February and spread into rural areas.

At Manikpur some 25 houses of Naths (weavers) have been looted. In Jalapur area all the Hindu houses in village Senagram, Ajmatpur and Daspara were looted. Deities and idols were destroyed. At Lalbazar all Hindu shops have been looted and all the Hindu houses in neighbouring village have been burnt. All the Hindu shops at Rakhalganj Bazar were looted. Most of the Hindu houses in villages Jhapa and Samalsasan were looted. All the Hindu houses of the Steamer Workshop at Fenchuganj have been burnt. At Maijgaon and Machnabahar within the P.S. several Hindu houses were looted and burnt. In Balaganj P.S. several Hindu houses in villages Sukanpur, Madhurai and Kathalkair were looted. At Kathalkair and in its neighbouring villages there were mass conversions of the Hindus. In Gopalganj P.S. large number of Hindu houses were looted. In villages Fulsain, Dakshinbhag, Purkayesthapara and Sribahar a large number of Hindu houses were looted and two girls of Bharat Choudhury were abducted from the village Dakshinbhag in Gopalganj P.S. These girls were returned on the following day in precarious condition and admitted to hospital. All Hindu houses in Dandapanipur under Biswanath Thana (within half a mile from the thana) were looted. Most of the Hindu houses under Biswanath Thana villages Krishnapur, Kurma, Rajaganj-Akhra, Singerkatch-Akhra, Bulchandergaon, Satpara, Mahabatpur and Tukerkandi were looted. A large number of murders were also committed in all these places and people were forcibly converted on pain of death.

MYMENSINGH DISTRICT

In Mymensingh district the worst affected parts are within the Jamalpur and Kishoreganj sub-divisions. Several incidents of arson and stabbing took place in Mymensingh town too. One teacher was stabbed to death. Trouble started in Jamalpur sub-division from the 13th February and continued till the 18th. The worst affected parts are within P.S. Jamalpur, Dewanganj and Islampur. Quite a large number of stabbings, arson and loot took place within the Jamalpur town. Stray cases of arson, loot and stabbing also occurred in other thanas of this sub-division. At least 25 villages in Jamalpur and Sherpur P.S.s and almost an equal number of villages of Dewanganj and Islampur P.S.s were seriously affected. At those places 4 Hindu villages were completely burnt down. At Kursha within a mile of Jamalpur town all the 24 Hindu houses were completely looted and at Kochgar 20 Hindu houses were looted and 6 persons including 2 women were killed. Almost all the Hindu shops of Jamalpur town were looted. In and around Jamalpur town itself as many as 18 deaths took place and some 305 houses in 15 villages and all the Hindu houses in 10 other villages have been completely looted. In Kishoreganj sub-division P.S. Kishoreganj, Kotihadi and Astagram were the worst affected. More than 20 houses in these thanas were raided and Hindu houses looted and burnt. There were also a number of stabbings in these places. the most dastardly murder was committed as the house of Babu Prafulla Dutta Roy, President, Kastul Union Board. Prafulla Babu was murdered in his own house by some Muslim friends whom he had called to tea to form a Peace Committee. His daughter aged about 18 years, who came to her father’s help, was carried away by the miscreants and her dead body was found in the field in the following morning. It is suspected that she was raped before she was done to death. During this holocaust even Hindu officers of the East Bengal Government were not spared at some places. Out of a number of such cases to mention only one, Babu Nagendra Nath Chatterjee, an Inspector of Civil Supplies of East Bengal government with his son aged 7 years, a daughter aged 4 years and a nephew aged 27 years were all killed in the train at Bhairab Bazar while he was proceeding to his station in Bakerganj district. His wife and another daughter aged 1 1/2 years were also stabbed and thrown into the river below the Bhairab Bridge. Thereafter they were rescued under very thrilling circumstances, wounds on their persons. The whole story has been obtained from the wife. Some more murders under such circumstances took place. The house of Sri Rohini Choudhary of Rahoulpur in Sadar sub-division was raided. Altogether five members of the family including Rohini Babu’s daughter who was to be married next day were killed. The girl was taken away first and raped before killing.

BAKARGANJ DISTRICT

At Barisal town the disturbances started on the 13th February following a rumour that Mr. A.K.Fazlul Haque of Barisal and his nephew were killed in Calcutta. 25 Hindus were stabbed on the 13th and 14th of whom six died. About a dozen houses were burnt and looted including a Government Civil Supply Godown and the rest belonging to the Hindus. The flare spread to the rural areas in Sadar sub-division and continued till the 22nd. Total number of villages affected are about 50. Some of the worst affected villages are Lakutia, Sarshi, Madhabpasa, North Kashipur, Kalasgram, Rahamatganj, Kaunia, Khanpur and Khapura. Most of the Hindu -houses in these villages were looted and some burnt. More than a thousand Muslims the morning of the 16th February attacked the Lakutia Rajbari and set fire to the heaps of straw and branches places around the house. Compelled by the smoke and fire, the Hindus who took shelter there came out and ran towards their homes. A large number of them killed, whose number is estimated at about 100. Fifty females after abduction were recovered from one village and another 50 taken away. At Sharshi 50 dead bodies were found in a pit in the village, and a dead body of a woman was hanging near her house even on the 4th March. Vultures were seen eating the dead bodies. In this village the total number killed was estimated to be 80. The worst happenings took place at Muladi which is a thana headquarters in the Sadar sub-division. When loot and arson broke our in this village hundreds of Hindus ran for shelter to the thana premises where they stayed on the 18th and the 19th February. On the 20th they were driven out from there and they took shelter at Muladi Bunder, half a mile from the thana where they were robbed and killed. The total number killed at the Bunder is estimated at five hundred and about 200 more dead bodies were lying scattered in the village. A considerable number of abduction of women and forcible conversion are reported to have taken place in these areas. Even as late as 3rd March Hindu shops in Bhandaria in the Perozepur sub-division of the same district were looted. Under Rajapur than in village Kaibartakhali about 37 were killed, and in village Rajapur 17. The total number of persons killed in areas under this thana will be about 150. At Ilshaghat in one family eleven were killed. Unwarranted arrested of respected leaders like Sj. Satindra Nath Sen, M.L.A. and some other leaders of the minorities during the riot period have added to the existing great panic in the minds of the people.

CHITTAGONG DISTRICT

In the Chittagong town the disturbances broke out on the 13th February, which continued till the 16th with a few cases of stabbing. On the 14th and 15th the disturbances spread out to the rural areas, Patenga, Kumira, Fatikchari, Rouzan, Anyara, Boalkhali Patiya and Sitakunda. Hindu pilgrims numbering about 130 who had gathered at Sitakunda fair during the Shivaratri Festival also reported to have been killed. In Patenga 27 Hindu families and in Kumira 47 Hindu families lost their all. At Patenga women were abducted, 3 of whom were recovered later on by the police, one being recovered on payment of ransom money.

During these disturbances Mrs. Nellie Sen Gupta, M.L.A. who was at Chittagong at the time and wanted to visit the disturbed areas was not allowed by the District Magistrate to go out for 4 days. Definite names have been received of the killed numbering 143.

NOAKHALI DISTRICT

At Feni on the 2nd February 7 Hindus were murdered and their shops looted. On the 13th February disturbances broke out throughout the sub-division. At Feni town itself 15 Hindu houses were burnt. In a single village Banspara, P.S. Chagalnaiya, the houses belonging to 42 families were burnt down. The number killed in the sub-division is reported to be 15 and one missing.

At Noakhali town 3 persons were killed on the night of the 19th February.

TIPPERA DISTRICT

On the night of the 11th February and the following day 7 Hindus were stabbed to death and 11 others injured in the town of Brahmanbaria. On the 12th February all the Hindu houses except one and all the Hindu shops at Talshahar Bazar were looted. This was one of the richest Hindu localities in the Brahmanbaria sub-division. Loss of property here is estimated to be very high.

DACCA DISTRICT

The disturbances in the city of Dacca have already been dealt with above. Looting and arson on a large scale also took place in P.S. Joydevpur, Tejgaon, Kaliganj, Kapasia, Sripur, Rupganj, Sibpur, Monohardi, Narsindi, Fatulla and Narayanganj of the Sadar and Narayanganj sub-divisions, Harirampur and Shivalaya P.S. in Manikganj sub-division covering about 150 villages including Hats and Bazars. At Kotbari a village adjoining Mirpur all the Hindu houses were looted and completely razed to the ground. Most of the Hindu houses of villages Mirpur and Ghosepura were similarly looted and Hindu temples desecrated. In this area seven Hindus including a woman were killed. At these places even the corrugated iron sheets, door and window leavers and posts were uprooted and taken away. At Tongi and Pubali Bazars all the Hindu shops were completely looted on the 12th February. Other worst affected villages in the Sadar sub-division were Dattapara, Baradewara, Jazhar, Dakhinpara, Sataish, Gatcha, Harbaid, Udhur, Joynagar, Patertek and Gusain. At Harbaid alone as many as 40 Hindu houses were burnt on the 12th and the 13th February. On the 13th February local Muslim Matbars spread the rumour that the Biharis were coming to attack the village and unless the Hindus embraced Islam their lives could not be saved. On the following day a meeting was called in the compound of the local Zamindar where about a hundred Hindus were forced to recite the Kalma and say the Namaj.

In Rupganj P.S. of the Narayanganj sub-division nearly all the Hindu houses of 10 villages including Majhina, Baruna, Nowrah, Nagari, Pashi and Icchapura, were looted and many of them burnt on the 13th night. Several thousands of Hindu refugees flocked to the thana premises for shelter but the police did not take any action to stop the loot and arson which continued till the 14th. The dead bodies in the Nowrah village lay in the houses for two days and two nights but the police took no action to take charge of the bodies and they visited the spot after the bodies had been disposed of by the Muslims.

At Jatrapur on the outskirts of the city of Dacca large number of Hindus were killed. In one house alone a woman with her 4 children were killed and their dead bodies were thrown into a well and were left there for a few days. For more than 10 days no police officer visited this area, which is a suburb of the Dacca city and was one of the worst affected areas. In Dacca city several Hindu temples were desecrated and idols were broken. The 70-year-old priest of the Anandamoyee Ashram at Dacca, which is within a stone’s throw from the Prime Minister’s residence, was stabbed to death in broad daylight and the Ashram was looted.

KILLINGS IN RAILWAYS AND STEAMERS

Besides these killings in town and villages of different districts a very large number of Hindu passengers travelling by train, steamer and buses during this period were killed. Most of such killings took place at Talshahar and Bhairab Bazar stations where trains were stopped and armed goondas got into the compartments and butchered the Hindu passengers. At Bhairab Bazar the trains were stopped on the bridge to allow the murderers to throw the dead and injured into the river below. At other places the dead and the injured into the river below. At other places the dead and the injured were just thrown out into the fields along the railway line. There is a large number of eye witnesses to these cold-blooded murders. To cite only two, we may mention the names of widows of Professor Jyotish Chandra Das of the Kishoreganj College and Babu Nagendra Nath Chatterjee, an Inspector of Civil Supplies of the East Bengal Government posted at the time of his death in Bakerganj district. Similarly a large number of Hindu passengers on board the steamers as well as those waiting at different steamer stations were killed.

Apart from the above killings on trains steamers and buses three passenger trains were attacked by armed mobs, one at Surjanagar near Rajbari station on the 25th February and two at Santahar on the 28th February. The attack on the last two trains were made within an hour of each other and in all cases in the presence of armed guards travelling in these trains. The casualties caused in the first train are reported to be seven dead and 25 injured and those on the other two trains near 200 dead and injured.

INCIDENTS AND HARASSMENTS STILL CONTINUING

Before the situation could settle down to normalcy reports of fresh outbreak of lawlessness in isolated way and in trains are pouring in… unauthorised and humiliating searches and harassments of persons and belongings of the travellers in railway and steamer stations and on the way persist everywhere. Gold ornaments and other valuables are seized and taken away. The ladies are subjected to personal searches by males, customs, police, Ansars and other non-official elements in almost all places in an objectionable manner. Extortion of money from the passengers by threats and other coercive method takes place. Snatching away of articles is often reported. Unnecessary oppression by prolonging searches is being indulged in so that the travellers may fail to pursue the normal journey, while their belongings and thrown pell-mell. No remedy from any quarters. Station staff was found generally callous and indifferent. There is also unchecked high-handedness of the coolies, coolie hire charges varying from Rs. 5 to Rs. 10 for each load. Accommodation in and guarding of railway compartments reserved for minorities is insufficient. Similar is the case with ferry steamer at different points.

Economic boycott has also started. Hindus are not allowed to sell their movables or other articles or properties. Houses vacant or otherwise, are being forcibly occupied in rural areas also.

Generally persons leaving the province are not finding any safe passage yet. 13.3.50, daughter-in-law of Sri Umes Dev of Mymensingh town was robbed of her trunk and sewing machine at Pradyotnagar railway station on her way to Mymensingh. Gopal Chandra De was attacked just near the Narudi railway station and robbed of his suit-case and wrist-watch. 14.3.50 Jatindra Karmakar of Mymensingh town went to railway station with a platform ticket to see off his daughter. He was subjected to search by customs official unnecessarily and Rs. 43 in Pakistan currency was taken away. On other’s intervention money was later on returned but in Indian currency.

15.3.50. 30 to 40 persons of Halija village in Jamalpur sub-division of Mymensingh district were searched by a ‘Daroga’ at Dharmakura railway station while coming to Mymensingh. From him Rs. 300 were extorted by the Daroga.

The wife of Lalit Karmakar of village Paratala under Sibpur P.S. in Dacca district was taken away and returned next morining after ravishing her. Six Hindu houses in village Shampur under P.S. Melandah in Jamalpur sub-division were raided and looted twice on 14-3-50 and 15-3-50.

Robbery took place in the house of Jamini K. Paul of Manki under P.S. Melandah in Jamalpur sub-division in Mymensingh district and two unmarried daughters of Jamini Babu carried away. A girl from Noapara under P.S. Kendua (Mymensing) was forcibly taken away in the evening and returned in the morning after rape.

16-3-50. Some incidents were reported from Kaorai locality (Dacca district) involving looting and murder.

A telegram from Bar Library, Jamalpur (Mymensingh district) reads: Lawlessness rampant in villages, spreading daily. Evacuees passing raided on way. No stern action.

18-3-50. Three or four days back the house of a Hindu widow in village Kumargata under P.S. Muktagacha (Mymensingh) was raided and looted. The widow was stabbed to death.

The above account of complete lawlessness throughout a large part of the province for a period of nearly 15 days is merely illustrative not exhaustive. The magnitude of the loss of life and property can be correctly estimated only by a thorough enquiry by an independent tribunal. The aftermath of this widespread disturbances is more terrific. Vast masses of people have been rendered destitute and homeless within a few hours and they are now either moving about from door to door to eke out a miserable existence or are so panic-stricken that they are trying to leave this country for places of safety. The problem of restoring confidence and sense of security among these millions and rehabilitating them in their original homes needs the immediate attention of the government. Up till now nothing tangible appears to have been done in this direction. A rehabilitation grant of Rs. 10 to Rs. 20 per family which was doled out to some of the refugee camps in the city of Dacca was insufficient even for the purpose of their daily existence for a week.

Circumstances surrounding us are so bewildering that we naturally feel a bit hesitant to offer any suggestions as to the way out of crisis. Still we felt that we should put forward some points for your dispassionate consideration in regard to the fundamental approach to the problems and the background thereof. Politically judged, all the present maladies in our opinion, are traceable to the theocratic (Islamic) concept of the State, is which an idea of discrimination between different elements of the state on religious basis is inherent. Such an outlook has already been engendered in the minds of the general people (whether administrative personnel or not) much to the detriment of the interests of the minorities resulting in treating the minorities as mere ‘limmies’ with all its obnoxious implications and humiliations. Unless this outlook is fundamentally got rid of, there seems to be no possibility of any change for the better being effected in the lot of the minorities. Constant and unremitting emphasis on the character of the state as an Islamic one, evokes the proselytizing and general communal zeal of the dogmatically minded members of the majority community. From our bitter yet long experience we can make bold to say that this outlook has inevitably created prejudices against the minorities and has its extensive and intensive and beneful reaction in all spheres of our public life, political, economic and administrative. Particular mention in passing may here be made of the evil effects of this outlook as reflected in the actual application of the policies of education, gun seizure, house-requisitioning, detention and arrests. This outlook requires a radical change to prevent any recurrence of troubles, major or minor.

So, we humbly suggest that the state should be declared to be “secular democratic” and further that the minorities should be treated as equal citizens with equal rights and obligations as the members of the majority community.

As we have stated earlier, we are solely interested in the permanent solution of the problem. Nothing short of that can meet the situation as it has developed, which essentially calls for a thoroughly radical approach. Mere platitudinous statement from high or low quarters cannot instill the desired confidence and sense of security, unless these are backed up by concrete, straight and drastic actions and implementations. Still to meet some immediate demands of the stern realities we are in, we venture to suggest the following:

(1) Drastic punishments to the wrong-doers in different affected parts of the province. For that purpose immediate intensive and impartial investigation should be made to find out and arrest the wrong-doers. There should be vigorous and extensive searched for looted articles also. Having regard to the colossal nature of the havoc caused by the happenings and to the fact that the causes and facts thereof are so patent, self-evident and telling that there is hardly any necessity for merely any fact-finding committee.

(2) The investigation should be conducted in such a way as would demonstrably help removal of insecurity and panic from the minds of the actual sufferers and of other members of the minority community in general.

(3) Imposition of punitive tax in the affected areas on the section of the people who are responsible for the happenings.

(4) District authorities are to be warned not to be lackadaisical about complaints of the minority members regarding complaints of oppression on them of any nature whatsoever.

(5) For fostering confidence in the minds of the minority community and to bring back their sense of security, intensive propaganda throughout the province should be organised with the help of responsible leaders and persons of good will and sympathy.

Vigilance committee composed of persons of influence and integrity in different areas should be set up. Strict control of the press and radio should be ensured so that writings tending to foster communal hatred and sitting class against class may be altogether stopped.

(6) Steps should be taken to find out persons missing while travelling by trains, steamers and other means of transport or otherwise untraced in the wake of troubles and also to find out the wayfarers on foot still missing.

(7) Immediate and effective steps for recovering the abducted women should be taken.

(8) Trains and steamers should be provided with armed guard more adequately.

(9) Enquiries should be undertaken to find out the railway officials on the train and at different stations, who are alleged to have taken parts in murder and stabbing of passengers and looting of properties from trains.

III. Particular enquiries into the conduct of the G.R.P. should be undertaken for neglect of duty in regard to prevention of crimes and non-arrest of persons committing crimes in trains and at various stations openly in broad daylight even.

(10) Independent enquiry should be held as to the conduct of those government officials, police or Ansars who are alleged to have helped or connived at the commission of atrocities.

(11) Release of all persons of the minority community arrested during the period of disturbances. Particular mention may here be made of a fairly large number of arrests in Khulna in a sweeping manner.

(12) Full compensation for life should be paid to the families of those persons who were done to death in different places during the disturbances including persons murdered during the course of journey train and steamer, etc.

(13) Full compensation should be paid for the loss of properties. Immediate relief in the shape of free rations and rehabilitation grant and house constructions should be given.

(14) Full compensation for temples desecrated and looted should be paid.

(15) Generally the precautionary and protective arrangements throughout the province (in urban and rural areas) should be more tightened.

(16) Those who want to go away should be ensured uninterrupted and safe passage. Due facility and protection should be given to them. No customs searches should be held on the way inside the province. Customs formalities at the transit point at the borders also should be fairly relaxed, if not without temporarily.

(17) Measures should be taken so that no restriction or obstruction may be put in the way of selling the movable and immovable properties of the minorities.

(18) A Board should be set up consisting of the members of both the communities to examine writings in newspapers and report to Government from time to time against any newspaper that may be found offending against maintenance of good relations between two communities by encouraging communal and class hatred.

(19) Indiscriminate arrests on mere vague allegations of anti-State activities without sufficiently tangible grounds should be stopped.

(20) Indiscriminate requisition and forcible occupation of house of the minority community members should be stopped.

(21) Payment of rent of the requisitioned houses should be speeded up with definite objective of clearing of all arrears within a period of two months.

(22) Requisitioned guns of the members of the minority community (even if sold out) should be immediately returned to them. Fresh licenses should be granted to these members of the minority community who may apply for the same for protection of their life and property.

Yours sincerely,

Sd/- Basanta Kumar Dass
Sd/- Ganendra Nath Bhattacharjee
Sd/- Munindra Nath Bhattacharjee
Sd/- Haran Chandra Ghosh Choudhury
Sd/- Monoranjan Dhar

20th March 1950


%d bloggers like this: