Author, Burning for Freedom

Author, Burning for Freedom
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Friday, January 31, 2014

Burning for Freedom, Excerpt 4

 Hi, Everyone! Here is Excerpt 4 from Chapter 16 of Burning for Freedom. The last paragraph is deleted from the book from space considerations.

"October 28: Gandhi left Delhi for his tour of Bengal after concluding, so he said, “his important work”—the swearing in of the Muslim League into the Interim Government …? In Calcutta his nonviolent soul warmly welcomed the perpetrators of this horrendous violence, the League leaders! Did he even ask them to desist? Did he administer to them the mildest of reproofs? No! He claimed them as brothers, expressing a wish to enjoy their hospitality.
Then, spouting advice of nonviolence to the Hindus, the Mahatma set off on November 6—almost a month after the onset of the reign of terror, after the worst of its fury— on his journey of mercy to Noakhali to apply mere Band-Aids to the gaping, bleeding wounds of the Hindus. His safety was assured not only by an Armed Guard but also a volunteer Sikh group …! He was the Mahatma; of course, Gandhi was obliged to sacrifice his “staunch” principle of nonviolence to save his own valuable skin. The Hindu common man now—of what value was his life? He was a mere statistic!
In Noakhali, under the very nose of Gandhi and his relief workers, incidents of rape and violence were perpetrated upon the Hindus! Had the Mahatma, the undisputed leader of Congress, no power to prevent the atrocities committed in his presence? He had no protest, no consequence, to offer the Muslim police who brushed off petitions and encouraged violence? He could not ensure that the relief volunteers sporting the Red Cross badges were not the violent aggressors themselves? Could he not spare one armed guard from his enormous armed entourage, to protect the devastated Hindus? Evidently not!
Unable to bear both, the horror of the League violence perpetrated upon their brethren in Bengal and the lack of response from the Congress and the Viceroy in protecting them, Hindus in the neighboring Bihar went berserk. They indulged in a spree of violence, matching that of the Muslim League, against the Muslim minority living there. But the Government response was drastically different. Nehru and Wavell rushed to Bihar to control the Hindus. Nehru made aerial tours, threatening to throw bombs and open firing into Hindu crowds if they did not desist. And Gandhi brought out his ultimate weapon—he went on a fast, not to be broken until the Hindus in Bihar stopped the violence. This government policy of reprisals for the Hindus only caused an uproar in the media. Even the Congress press was moved to protest: “If Nehru’s body must fall, it must fall in Noakhali. If Gandhi must fast, he must fast for Noakhali. Justice for Noakhali!”
It all fell on deaf government ears.
India was afire, her people in dire, dire straits, and in middle of this crisis, their Mahatma once more indulged in sexual “experiments” of a perverse nature. At the age of seventy-seven—while in Noakhali on his mission of mercy—he “slept” naked in the arms of his naked teenage grandniece, Manu, behind closed doors! She was his personal attendant and gave him his daily bath with massage—among other things.
This scandal threatened to erupt; indeed, Gandhi shamelessly wanted to make a public statement of the “purity” of his sexual predilection for young girls. What was so offensive, he declared, he had been doing such “experiments” for fifty years now …! 
When his ‘purity’ was challenged, the Mahatma flew into a rage until his body was consumed by tremors. Aghast, his devotees would rush to hold him tight until the tremors passed. But, disenchantment with the Mahatma grew in many Hindu hearts."


Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Burning for Freedom, Excerpt 3

Hi, Everyone! Here is the next installment (re Noakhali) of the excerpts from Chapter 16 of “Burning for Freedom.” The Dutt and the inspector incidents are coined from real events that happened; the rest are actual happenings.

“Noakhali, October 10, 1946—an auspicious day of Hindu festival: Golam Sarwar, a member of a pious Muslim family revered by Muslims and Hindus, mobilized his private army, the Miyar Fauj, setting it loose upon the innocent Hindus busy celebrating and worshiping their gods. In the Sahapur market, he was joined by League leader Kasem and his army, the Kasemer Fauj. The shrine of the Hindu Goddess Kali was desecrated, and the familiar pattern of murder and mayhem was embarked upon.
Surendranath Basu, a government servant, was critically wounded by vicious stabbing, tied hand and foot, and burned alive. Rajkumar Pal, a doctor on a mission of mercy to help the wounded, was slaughtered on his way. The Muslim public joined these trained private armies. The violence spread to an area covering three hundred square miles strategically selected. The roads and rails were destroyed and canals blocked to prevent help from coming in. The Hindu minority in this area was at the merciless mercy of the ravening Muslims!

Rajendra Lal Chowdhury, president of the Noakhali Hindu Sabha, rushed to his terrace. Dear God, he thought, what a mob! A horde of Muslims, armed and yelling slogans of Pakistan, was headed straight to his home. Fortunately, they had arms and ammunition to defend themselves.

“Hurry up, everyone, take positions on the roof!” he yelled to the men in the house. 
“Lock up the house!”

Shutters were brought down, women and children took positions of safety in the center of the big house, and the men, crouching low before the roof wall kept the mob at bay, firing all day from their guns from the decorative openings in the roof wall. The mob retired for the night. The next day, twenty-two members of Chowdhury’s family were slaughtered, his daughters taken captive, and the house gutted. His severed head was presented to Golam Sarwar.

The Muslim mob strained at the shutters to break entry into Chittaranjan Raychaudhuri’s home. He and his family members had sought safety on the roof. Raychaudhuri had one gun and limited ammunition. What protection could it give? The pounding was getting wilder—there was no time to be lost.

Picking up his gun, he said, “Forgive me, my dears, forgive me …. There is no other choice!”

His grandmother, putting her arms around the children, replied stoically, “Hurry up, son, hurry up! Our honor must be saved! There is no time to be lost!”

Raychaudhuri, willing his hand not to falter, held his gun to the forehead of his family members, one by one, and pulled the trigger. When the roof door shattered open, none but he was left standing. The next instant, his brains spattered on the floor.

Dutt and his wife, clutching their kids, wondered desperately: What to do? What to do? The wild crowd was almost upon them.

“Let us hide in the rushes! Quickly!” Dutt shouted, pulling his family toward the river.

“No, no!” panted his wife. “There is no time—we must save the kids. But how?” She looked wildly around.

“There, there!” she cried, pointing to a pile of slats awaiting disposal in the corner of the yard. There was just enough gap for the two kids, eight and six years of age, to squeeze in.

“My babies, crawl in, please!” She pushed them into the space. “Don’t come out, no matter what, do—not—come—out!”

“Ama, Ama, what is going on? Ama!” they cried out as their mother pried her fingers out of their clasp.

Dutt and his wife were on the other side of the yard when the violent mob fell upon them.

“Please,” cried Dutt, clutching his wife close, “take what you want! Spare our lives!”

“Ha!” cried the leader, looking very frightening with red, bloodshot eyes. He held a fishing spear in one hand and a lighted torch in the other. “This land is our Pakistan! No Hindus allowed here! You love your wife? You may die together.”

The two terrified children watched as the crowd forcibly tied their parents and set first them, then their house on fire. Oh, the screams …! Oh, the roar of the fire …! Helplessly, they watched—huddling in their tiny crevice, tears suspended in their eyes, hands squeezed tightly over their mouths.

The mob left in the direction of the river shouting whoops of victory. They were on the hunt for more victims—certainly many must have taken refuge in the rushes at the river bank!

The two children sat frozen with terror. What should they do? Were their parents dead? No … no … Ama … Ama …! Oh—was that their mother moving? Or was it their father? Hard to tell, so badly burned were the bodies, but one was still alive—and writhing in pain. The two frightened children crawled out of safety. It was unbearable to witness their parent’s pain. What could they do? Their home was smoldering. Perhaps water from the river …? They rushed blindly to the river, their mother’s words of warning completely forgotten.

A horrific scene was being enacted on the river bank. Many people had fled to the river for safety. Surely, surely the thick rushes would hide their presence … if they crouched low, very low, in the water? But the Muslims had an answer to everything. They stabbed the rushes wildly with their fishing spears. Pools of blood welled to the surface until one pool joined the other. Only then were they satisfied! They turned to leave and spotted the two innocents. Without any compunction, one man lifted his spear, still dripping blood from his other victims, and speared first one child, then the other to the ground.

In a police station, the inspector reclined calmly on his chair, feet on the table. Screams of terror, the slogans of Pakistan, the roar of the fire, all reached his ears. The smell of blood and death, too, had permeated the police station. He laughed to himself.

“Saab, Saab,” cried a constable rushing into his room, “there is a crowd coming here.”
The inspector was intrigued. He snapped his feet to the floor. “Let me see!”
He moved ponderously to the door and gaped. “Oy, what a treat!” he cried, rubbing his hands together gleefully—what a treat indeed!

Hindu women and girls stripped of every stitch of clothes and jewelry—stripped of their modesty, dignity, and honor—were being marched along the road toward the police station. The blood of their slaughtered menfolk, mingling with their own, was spattered on their bare skin. They were being ushered along like cattle—poked, prodded, and groped. Any protest they made, any movement to cover themselves, brought more humiliation upon them; yet there was more to come—gang rape and a vicious death, coming sooner for some, later for others. Death, vicious though it may be, was still a merciful release.

Noakhali was a living hell for Hindus."

When this reign of terror—of murder, mayhem, rape and forcible conversions to Islam—began, Chief Minister Huseyn Suhrawady and his secretary were, very conveniently, vacationing away from Bengal.”


Sunday, January 26, 2014

Burning for Freedom, Excerpt 2

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.


Saturday, January 25, 2014

Burning for Freedom, Chapter 16, Excerpt 1

Hi, Everyone! For a long time now I have been thinking of posting this particular chapter of my book Burning for Freedom in small excerpts. I thought the January 26, the Republic day of India, might be a good time to give a thought to the terrible events that took place right before independence.

The year is 1946. Treachery and tragedy were running rampant on Indian soil, beating a direct path to partition and a free India.  The Indian National Congress had won the elections (Hindu electorate) with a landslide and the Muslim League had captured the Muslim seats. Free India was to be handed over in the hands of these two parties. Hindu Mahasabha stood nowhere in these negotiations. While many may be aware of the gist of what took place, the actual details are not commonly known. I had to read so many books to nail down the nitty-gritty of it all. This chapter gives a quick run through of the events from August 1946 to June 1947. If anyone is taken over by a feeling of disbelief or feel that I am “re-inventing” history, click here for the  documentation.

Chapter Sixteen
August 1946-June 1947
fter the elections, Atlee sent three of his cabinet ministers from London to sort out the Indian political mess. The need was pressing. The Indian navy had revolted; the army, too, had refused to follow orders at times. Britain had managed—just—to curb them, but she needed to get out of India, fast! The wrangling and squabbling between the British, Congress, and Muslim League commenced.

An agreement being impossible, the Cabinet Mission announced a plan: formation of a Union of India, embracing all the provinces and Princely States, which would deal with the foreign affairs, defense, and communications along with the power to raise the finances required for them; provinces to be divided into three sections—effectively representing what could be West Pakistan, Hindustan, and East Pakistan; a provincial autonomy to be established by vesting all other subjects and residuary powers in the provinces; a Constituent Assembly to be formed to map out the constitution of free India; and an Interim Government to be formed immediately for the day-to-day running of the country in the transition period, while a permanent deal was negotiated with Britain.

Both parties after a spate of objections and qualifications agreed to go ahead, with reservations, accepting the spirit of the plan. Jinnah put his Pakistan demand aside …! A tenuous, very tenuous, agreement had been reached. There was great hope of saving the integrity of India!

At this very, very delicate juncture in the politics of India, Nehru came out with very unwise—to express it kindly—statements in a press conference. He admitted: that in agreeing to Wavell’s plan, Congress had done nothing more than start a process; they were not bound by any provisos regarding minorities; there was no certainty about grouping of the sections; and the union would have more say in the running of the provinces than was suggested by the Mission.

In effect, he publicly refuted the spirit of the Mission’s plan in toto …! What was the purpose of this move by the Congress leaders? Smashing the hopes of an undivided, United India? Surely they weren’t naïve enough to imagine that Jinnah would acquiesce meekly to this!

Even so, Jinnah did not immediately break the tenuous bond of agreement; he approached Wavell and sought an assurance that Britain would provide a guarantee against the treachery of Congress. Wavell was unable to do any such thing. On July 27 the Muslim League opted out of the Mission’s plan. Declaring that their goal for a Pakistan was back on the table, they announced a policy of “Direct Action” to reach it.

The brutality of Genghis Khan would not be a patch on them as they wreaked vengeance upon the Hindus, they promised!

And indeed, they lived up to their word—while the Viceroy, Nehru, and Gandhi lifted not a finger, official or otherwise, to protect the helpless Hindus.

The next excerpt is on the Direct Action.