Thursday, October 11, 2012

Speech of Haran Chandra Ghosh Chowdhury

Mr. Deputy Speaker, Sir, I move that this Assembly do adjourn its business to discuss a definite matter of urgent public importance and of recent occurrence, namely the situation created by the failure of the Government to prevent a mass uprising of the Muslims of Noakhali and Tipperah resulting in (1) forcible conversion of Hindus en masse of some portions of Noakhali and Tipperah, (2) mass abduction of women of the minority community, (3) forcible marriage of a large number of Hindu women and girls by the majority community, (4) murders of a large number of people of the minority community, (5) destruction of a large number of houses and properties of the minority community by loot, arson, etc. and (6) desecration of temples and objects of worship en masse.

Mr. Deputy Speaker, Sir, after the Calcutta disturbances in August last, the tension of communal feeling in Eastern Bengal districts rose very high and in the district of Noakhali it reached its climax. There was a tendency towards lawlessness in general. Hindus of the district who form a small minority and who are living in a scattered manner, isolated from one another surrounded by hundreds of Muslim families, felt absolutely helpless and insecure and apprehended danger every moment from the rowdy elements of the majority community. The great killing in Calcutta was attributed by the League leaders to the Hindus which naturally inflamed the Muslims. Further, exaggerated newspaper reports about Calcutta incidents and spreading of utterly false and unfounded rumours deliberately planned and engineered by a set of mischief-mongers including the designing supporters of the League still more aggravated the situation.

On the 29th August last, which was the Id day, the designing men and mischief-mongers spread throughout the district a false and flying report to the effect that the Hindus stealthiliy imported Sikhs and arms and kept them concealed in some important houses though not one was ever found. All these rumours spread throughout the districts with electric rapidity. These designing men further seized the opportunity of Id congregations in many parts of the district and openly incited the illiterate masses to violence. At this infuriated mobs armed with deadly weapons raided many Hindu houses and places of worship, killed some, assaulted and injured many more, looted some houses, shops and bazaars in different areas of the district and subjected the Hindus to various forms of oppression and indignities. Idols and temples were broken or desecrated. Cases of conversion and attempt at conversion were also reported. Extortion of money from terror-stricken Hindus in the name of subscription for the Muslim League became a common factor. Journey by road and boat became difficult. All business wa at a standstill due to uncertainty of the situation. In many cases, Hindus did not dare lodge any complaint with the police for fear of further oppression and harassment and some were actually harassed and assaulted. Often for the same reason statements made or reports submitted by the Hindus were withdrawn or contradicted. This was the state of affairs in the first week of September last.

Pir Golam Sarwar Sahib of Shyampur, P.S. Ramganj, who was then opposed to the Muslim League and who actually opposed hartal in his area on the 16th August last joined the Muslim League about the first week of September. Soon after this, big public meetings attended by thousands of Mussalmans were held in many places in the Ramganj thana and its neighbouring areas. These were reported to have been addressed by the Pir Sahib generally and often by Maulvi Abdul Kasem of Gopairbag. This audience in these meetings were exhorted to take revenge of the Calcutta incidents by robbing the Hindus of all they have, by ruining the rich, by removing the educated and intelligent leading men from the face of the earth so that those who would be left behind would either be absorbed in their own society or live a life at their dictation and Pakistan would then be an accomplished fact. The police officers were also threatened if they reported otherwise than what was given by him for report. This state of things continued for days together unchecked. Reports of these meetings were sent to the Superintendent of Police and other high officials from many of the places of the district.

The district authorities were further approached often by the respectable and important citizens of the town and informed of the general situation and often of particular incidents taking place in the far off mofussil areas of the district, and specially of the activities and provocative speeches of the organisers and speakers of these meetings, but no effective steps were taken to prevent their mischievous activities. I hastened to rush to some of the places of occurrence in the district and saw the District Magistrate and the Superintendent of Police later on the 12th of September last and placed before them reports of some of the incidents in mofussil areas of the district and suggested among other things posting of armed pickets at important centres and armed patrol parties to move round villages at regular intervals, prohibition of such public meetings and processions and carrying of offensive weapons, etc., I further informed the District Magistrate and the Superintentdent of Police of the apprehension of serious trouble by the Hindus during the Pujas.

While agreeing with the suggestions the District Magistrate informed me that in spite of repeated requisitions he could not secure additional forces for the district. The Superintendent of Police, Mr. Abdullah, however thought otherwise. Though welcoming contact and suggestions, whenever possible for me, he argued with me and minimised the whole situation telling me, all the while that there was nothing wrong in the district beyond panic and excitement. According to him the people of Noakhali behaved themselves in a very decent manner up till then. He told me however of having received two reports of provocative speeches delivered by the Pir Sahib of Shyampur up to that time and intended to meet him in a day or two.

What transpired in their meeting at Pir sahib’s house later is not known to the public. But the Pir Sahib and his lieutenants went on with their activities vigourously. When the Superintendent of Police met the Muslim population of Sahapur, Karpara, Lamchar and the other adjacent village in a huge gathering in the same day, many Hindus approached him with their grievances and asked for armed patrols, but the Superintendent of Police waived away all arguments remarking that everything they said was inference and imagination. As a sequel to these speeches and activities of the organisers of the meetings and inaction of the police, the miscreants and the hooligans were encouraged to go on with their depredations with redoubled energy.

I tried to draw the attention of the Government and the members of the Assembly to the serious matter during the last Budget Session by a cut motion on the Police Grant on the 23rd September last. No notice of this however was taken even after warning.

On 1st October 1946, about two thousand Muslim mob surrounded the houses of Hindu leading men of Sandwip town, viz. Rajendra Kumar Nag, Debendra Kumar Nag, Sarada Kanta Banerjee and Jogesh Chandra Banerjee and got signatures forcibly on a piece of paper purporting that theu would never perform the Durga Puja in the local Kalibari in the future. At this very late hour when almost every boat passing through Ramganj was looted, the Superintendent of Police issued an appeal and warning to the public on the 7th October last, to the effect that if they circulate rumours, carry on goondaism and loot, etc., no good to anybody would come out of it. They were asked to inform the police about the goondas, otherwise collective fines might be imposed and leaders might be asked to serve as Special Police Officers. Though the order was dated the 7th October, printed copies of the same did not reach the people before the organised riot at all. Beyond issuing notice what active steps were taken by the Superintendent of Police are not known to us. The whole situation of course was gradually worsening and heading towards a crisis.

Then came the fateful day 10th of October, the Lakshmi Puja day. This day a big meeting was held at the Sahapur High English School ground which was attended by about 15,000 Mussalmans. They were exhorted by the Pir Sahib to attack the kutchery bari of Rai Sahib Rajendra Lal Roy Chowdhury of Karpara, loot their properties, murder them and present their heads to him. Immediately after this the mob burnt down the Hindu shops at the Sahapur bazaar in front of Sub-Inspector of Police who was present all the time. After this the mob proceeded to Narayanpur kutchery with deadly weapons and surrounded and set fire to it. When the double-storeyed house was in flames Surendra babu jumped down from the first floor and fell before the Muslim mass who immediately cut him to pieces, and threw them into the flames and are reported to have presented the head to the Pir Sahib who was waiting at a distance. Some of his attendants shared the same fate.

Telegraphic messages informing the activities of the masses were sent to the Superintendent of Police and other high officials of the district. Representative men from several parts of the district saw the Superintendent of Police and the District Magistrate and sought immediate protection and police help. But the Superintendent of Police disbelieved many of them and told them that the report of murder of Suren babu was a pure myth.

Even on the night of the 11th October the Superintendent of Police disbelieved the story of a midnight loot at a village near Duttapara where his own car was also blocked about an hour afterwards. He was the type of a high official of the district to whom the Hindus had to seek for protection of their lives and properties!

Next day, in the morning, when Rajendra babu and his family were taking the morning tea, a gang of about two hundred attacked their house, but was repulsed with difficulty. Rajen babu informed the Ramganj police of the explosive situation and sought police help. The district authorities were also telegraphically informed but no help was to be had. In the afternoon several thousands of Mussalmans armed with guns and deadly weapons led by some ex-soldiers who had military uniforms fell upon his house for the second time, looted their properties and set fire to the corrugated tin houses. Meanwhile all the inmates of this house and the neighbouring houses took shelter in his building for their lives.

(At this stage the Hon’ble Member reached his time limit but was allowed to continue.)

After the destruction of the houses Rajendra babu’s building was set on fire with petrol. At this the inmates climbed upon the roof. Taking advantage of this hooligans fired a few shots. The inmates saved themselves by going behind the garret. A few minutes afterwards a portion of the roof collapsed and some went under the debris and lost their lives. Meanwhile the hooligans devised a way to get upon the roof by felling down a high coconut tree and using the same as ladder. One by one the male inmates were brought down and mercilessly butchered on the spot. The female inmates were brought down and cordoned off and taken to the Pir Sahib who was waiting in a boat at a distance. He ordered them to be taken to some other house. Heads of Rajendra babu and some others were reported to have been presented to Pir Sahib. Thirty four persons including about half a dozen unknown figures were killed on the spot. Similar incidents took place in other places in the district. From this quarter as centre, the organised fury of the Muslim mob broke out in a violent form and spread in all directions to the other parts of the Ramganj thana, the neighbouring thanas, namely Raipur, Lakshmipur, Begamganj and Sandwip in the Noakhali district, Faridganj, Hajiganj, Chandpur, Laksham and Chauddagram in the Tipperah district.

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