Hi Everyone! Here is the second except of Chapter Sixteen from Burning for Freedom:
“August 16, 1946: A public holiday was declared in Calcutta in honor of Direct Action. At 2:00 p.m., Chief Minister Huseyn Suhrawady was making a fiery speech promoting Direct Action to a crowd about a hundred thousand strong. Caltutta was the Jewel of Bengal—the very economy of Bengal depended on her. An East Pakistan without Calcutta—even though of Hindu majority—was inconceivable to the League. It was essential to stake a claim. The local government was Muslim. The police force, too, was largely Muslim. The Hindus were cowards, rendered impotent by Gandhi’s nonviolence—so believed the Muslims, from their experience of years of rioting.
Terrorizing Calcutta was bound to be a cinch!
Muslim mobs armed with weapons, lathis, brickbats, and bottles, descended upon the hapless Hindus—in their homes, in their place of business, on the streets—and gave them a choice: be burned alive inside the buildings or come out and be slaughtered. Screams of terror and pain rang out; streets were filled with mutilated bodies; Hindu homes were invaded; women were raped; flames of fire danced in the backdrop of this murderous scene; and clouds of smoke filled the air.
An immediate report was dispatched to Delhi—but Wavell and the Congress High Command, busy ironing out details to swear in the Interim Government, made no move …! The Calcutta police showed no inclination to take action; Suhrawady stationed himself in the Police Control room, hampering what little action they might have taken. It became crystal clear to the Hindus of Calcutta that they were on their own. In defense of their lives, their homes, and their country, the Hindus picked up arms and entered the battlefield—for survival.
Now, there were quite as many, if not more, Muslim victims as there were Hindus. Now the police took notice. Now Wavell sent out the army. Some measure of peace was restored by August 22.
Wavell himself made a flying visit to Calcutta—to give comfort and assurance to the victims? Evidently not! He met with the leaders of the Muslim League to gauge their intentions and returned to Delhi forthwith, convinced that the Muslim League was bent on traveling this path of murder and mayhem to get what they wanted. From here on, Wavell lined himself up squarely with the Muslim League and followed a policy of browbeating the Congress into giving concessions.
The Direct Action resulted in riots in several places all over India. What action did the Government take to squash it? None! Neither the Viceroy nor the Congress leaders even ask that the movement to be called off. Indeed, even the Bengal government, so implicitly involved in the rioting, was not dissolved!
The League leaders continued with their vituperation against the Hindus, their press continued to incite the Muslims, and the Muslims continued the rioting, killing, and raping—and as a reward for all this the Muslim League was allowed to take their seats in the Interim Government, even as they declared that they were doing so only to hamper the administration of the country.
Hindus were desperate—their life and property was in danger, their homeland was in danger, and the Congress leaders whom they had elected to power with such hopes and aspirations did nothing to ensure their safety. No one—not the British, nor the Congress leaders, and certainly not the League—felt the pain of the Hindus! Should the leaders of the nation sit back and watch such butchery, unmoved? Surely the loss of even one life should be regretted, should be avoided? What to say, when so many are getting slaughtered?
Gandhi outdid himself in callousness—he still advised the Hindus not to defend themselves but to gratify the Muslim need for murder and mayhem by sacrificing so many Hindu lives that the Muslims would be replete …! Just how many Hindu lives would have to be sacrificed on the altar of Gandhi’s nonviolence? The hundreds and thousands of Hindus sacrificed till today were not enough?
But the League leaders had realized that Hindus were breaking free of the shackles of nonviolence that bound them. Their defense of themselves resulted in a loss of Muslim life. Something more drastic would have to be done!”
Next excerpt will be on Noakhali horrors.
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