August 28, 2011 12:35:13 AM
The three books have one thing in common — that Partition was one of the most tragic moments in the history of the entire humanity, says Saradindu Mukherji
Partition, Bengal and After: The Great Tragedy of India
Author: KP Mukhopadhaya
Publisher: Reference Press,
Price: Rs 575
The Great Calcutta Killings and Noakhali Massacre
Author: Dinesh Sinha, A Dasgupta
Publisher: H Maiti
Price: Rs 500
In Freedom’s Shade
Author: Anis Kidwai (translated by Ayesha Kidwai)
Price: Rs 450
In his book, Partition, Bengal and After: The Great Tragedy of India, Kali Prasad Mukhopadhaya, a refugee from East Pakistan, provides a detailed eyewitness account of the horrible sufferings of Hindus, including his own family, after Partition — from the barbarism of Noakhali to major pogroms of 1947-48, 1950 and 1964. The book also tells us several grim stories, including the 1971 genocide of 300,000 people and the ongoing Arabisation/Islamisation in that country. He surveys the mass exodus of harassed Bangladeshi Hindus to India, the illegal immigration of Muslims from Bangladesh, the growing number of madarsas, and their demographic consequences.
Mukhopadhaya shows the tragedy of Trailokynath Chakrabarty (‘Maharaj’), a revolutionary, who had spent 30 years in British jails (Andaman and Mandalay), and then suffered humiliation in East Pakistan. He tells us the story of freedom fighters like Pravash Chandra Lahiry and communist leader Ila Mitra who were tortured in East Pakistani jails, like thousand other Hindus. The ongoing genocide of the Jumma people (Chakmas/Buddhists) in the Chittagong Hill Tracts, along with Christians, is also mentioned.
In the second book, The Great Calcutta Killings and Noakhali Massacre, Dinesh Sinha and Ashok Dasgupta write, with personal experience, about the Great Calcutta Killings (1946), and the pogrom unleashed on Hindus in Noakhali and Tipperah districts.
Before the Muslim League’s call for ‘Direct Action’ in Calcutta, “Bengal Muslim leaders were sharpening their weapons for jihad in Bengal”. League leader Abul Hashim had warned that “shining steel would decide the day”, while Khawaja Nazimuddin proclaimed that the Muslim League was no believer of non-violence” and it had 150 ways of causing “trouble”. Inspiring their followers with their ideology of massacring “others”, making mohalla-wise preparations, Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy and Osman (Mayor) arranged coupons for petrol for their volunteer-assassins.
A state-sponsored attack was let loose on Hindus with help from mosques and butchers’ shops, without harming any European establishment. Muslim policemen were blatantly partisan, and Governor Frederick Burrows lent full support to this jihad. Hindus hit back late. One of the tragic victims of this pogrom was the son of Sir Jadunath Sarkar.
Hindus in six police stations — Raipur, Lakshmipur, Ramganj, Begamganj, Senbag and Sandwip — suffered immensely at the hands of local Muslims. Muslim League leader Pir Golam Sarwar led the “holy” ulema to unleash loot, murder, rape and forced conversion of about 150,000 Hindus to Islam and forced marriage (nikah) of Hindu women. Desecration of Hindu temples and deities were extensively reported. When Mahatma Gandhi visited Noakhali, all was over.
Some editing glitches apart, the extensive eyewitness accounts, official reports, letters, debates in the legislative assemblies, petitions from the traumatised Hindus and photographs make the book an authentic but painful account.
The third book — originally in Urdu — written by Anis Kidwai, deals with the Hindu-Muslim relations in and around Delhi in 1947. And, in the 70 pages added by the translator — Ayesha Kidwai — there are references to “many pogroms witnessed in independent India”, including the post-Godhra Gujarat violence. She, however, ignores Hindu sufferings in independent India — from West Bengal and Assam in the east to Kashmir in the west.
The personal tragedy — Anis Kidwai’s husband was murdered — had more do with the “vested interest” than the communal factor, as she accepts. This fact is, however, smothered by the translator’s/writer’s communal preferences, but that’s expected in a work inspired by the likes of Gyanendra Pandey, Ramachandra Guha and Mushirul Hasan.
Any work on Partition, and the consequent human tragedy, must begin with the core idea of intolerance and its theological sanction — jihad, momin, kafir, katle aam, dar-ul-Islam and dar-ul harb. North India, particularly Delhi, was a prime witness of such doctrines being ferociously implemented, as it saw the destruction of 27 Hindu/Jain temples and the construction of the Quwwat-ul mosque at that place. The destruction of these temples and the accompanying mayhem must be the beginning of what the author calls the act of “demolishing of our past”, and not just a few sporadic cases of attacks on Muslim sacred spaces in the Capital.
What’s also ignored is the fact that the disturbances in Delhi were used in Pakistan as an excuse to decimate minorities in West Pakistan. Hindu/Sikh refugees never went back to their original homeland in Pakistan, while many Muslims returned to Delhi subsequently. Many new Muslim settlements have sprung up in Delhi, forming about 13 per cent of its population. Fresh Hindu/Sikh settlement is unthinkable in Pakistan and Bangladesh.
–The reviewer is Professor of History, University of Delhi