Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Durga Puja: A Colonial Hindu Festival That Took Over India

The annual Hindu festival Durga Puja — a potpourri of events celebrated differently in different parts of India in honor of mother goddess — is popularly regarded as an occasion to commemorate good triumphing over evil.

Mythological significance of the festival is attributed to numerous versions of stories, including those of Goddess Durga killing demon king Mahisha and King Rama killing demon king Ravana.

Interestingly, despite bearing the markings of the ancient Hindu tradition, Durga Puja has fairly modern beginnings and gained mass popularity among the Hindus in their effort to counter a cultural invasion by the Muslims and to subvert the British administrations in 17th and 18th centuries.

“The Mughals and Muslim nawabs of Bengal imposed a festival tax on Hindus, which was relaxed only in the (British East India) Company’s regime in 1765 and fully abolished by Warren Hastings who became Governor General in 1772, and so mass Hindu festivities could be held only after that,” a book, titled “Folklore, Public Sphere, and Civil Society” written by M. D. Muthukumaraswamy and Molly Kaushal, says.

After decades of repression under Muslim rulers, whose power was subdued under the British administration, the Hindu upper class of (the eastern state of) Bengal took the opportunity to “carve itself a special space in the British administrative apparatus” while Durga Puja became “the site of this construction of the Hindu Bengali public sphere promoting its identity as the ultimate comprador class of British imperialism in India,” the authors say.

This process was proved relatively easy under the colonial invaders because unlike the Muslims, the British “did not wish to meddle much in the religious affairs of the natives.”

“The real spread and popularity of the festival emerges not from placating the British administration but from hoodwinking them and thus subverting the whole state machinery,” the authors write. “An annual extravagant event like the Durga Puja became an easy route for (Bengali) zamindars to get major tax reliefs and even manage extra allowances from the British.”

Thus, Durga, a goddess who was virtually non-existent in the pre-eighteenth-century pantheon and a celebration that had few mentions in literary, archeological and even posteriori documents before the 18th century, began their glorious journey eventually spreading across India.

Centuries later, the 10-days event — first nine days called “Navratri” and the last day called “Vijayadasami” — has only grown richer with colorful additions and regional variants.

In Bengal, huge idols of the goddess are worshiped accompanied by devotional songs and dances culminating in a grand procession on the 10th day when the idols are immersed in water.

The occasion of Durga Puja attracts thousands of devotees to Kali Temples across India, the most popular among them being the Dakshineswar Kali Temple in Kolkata, Bengal. Kali is popularized in the West through the story of “Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” as the dreaded god of human and animal sacrifices, and the continuing animal sacrifices in worship of the goddess are met with protests from animal rights activists.

In the western state of Gujarat, ‘Navratri’ is a community event that includes songs and dances known as “Dandiya Raas” and “Garba Raas,” which have links to the story of Lord Krishna and performed for agricultural fertility.

In northern state of Kashmir, the minority community of the Hindu Pandits celebrates “Navratri” in a relatively quieter manner, by fasting and visiting temples.

In other northern states, including Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, the 10th day known as Dussehra is linked to the story of Rama and his triumph over Ravana.

In Maharashtra, Goddess Durga is worshipped continuously for nine days and on the 10th day, Goddess Saraswati is worshipped for blessings in studies.

In southern state of Kerala, Hindus consider the 10th day as an occasion to begin formal education of children normally between ages 3 to 5 and worship Goddess Saraswati for blessings.

In southern states of Tamil Nadu, Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh, the festival is marked by “ Bommai Kolu,” a colorful display of a variety of idols of Gods and Goddesses on wooden steps in Hindu homes according to the ascending order of their godly powers.

For the non-resident Indians, Durga Puja is an occasion for community get togethers and for visiting temples. “For the uninitiated, Durga Puja, is the Bengali-Hindu equivalent of Christmas,” Arnab Ray, an NRI residing in Maryland, writes in the New York Times. “The essence of the festivities lies in coming home and being with all those whom one loves."

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Sri Kali and Sri Lanka

by Romesh Jayaratnam


(December 04, Kandy, Sri Lanka Guardian) If one were to look at the map of Sri Lanka, one would see shrines dedicated to the Goddess Kali in all four directions. The veneration of the deity goes back more than a thousand years in the island's history.

The famed British archeologist of the late 1800s CE, H.C.P. Bell, had excavated 16 small Hindu shrines between the Jetavanaramaya and Vijayaramaya Buddhist monastic institutions in the northern enclave of Anuradhapura. He termed these the 'Tamil ruins'. One was dedicated to the Goddess Kali. These shrines could be tentatively dated to the 9th century CE. Hindu iconography, that included a statue of Bhadrakali, was unearthed. The temples of modest proportions were built of brick in the Pallava style of architecture. There were two Tamil language inscriptions which recorded a mercantile guild that had borrowed money from a Tamil trader to light a perpetual lamp.

In nearby Polonnaruwa, on the west of the road leading from the Thuparama to the Rankot Vihara, four Hindu shrines were excavated, one of which appears to be a Kali temple. These two sites were in Sri Lanka's North Central Province.

In the deep South of the island, one witnesses a cluster of Hindu shrines of unknown antiquity in Kataragama/Kathirkaamam next to an age-old Buddhist temple. King Rajasinghe 1 of the 16th century had patronized the Hindu shrines, one of which was a Kali temple behind the more famous main shrine dedicated to the God Skanda.

On Sri Lanka's West coast, one likewise observes the presence of a noteworthy Siva Temple of some antiquity known as Munneswaram, next to which is a much sought after Kali temple. Parakrama Bahu VI had patronized this Siva Temple in the 1400s CE. The Portuguese had destroyed the Munneswaram complex in 1600 CE and transferred the temple lands to the Jesuits. However, King Kirti Sri Rajasinghe rebuilt the temple complex around 1753 CE. While the Siva temple belongs to the realm of high Hinduism and is patronized by the old landed Tamil establishment, the Kali temple is frequented by the upwardly mobile and entrepreneurial mercantile and artisan castes of more recent antecedents.

An earlier Kali temple in Bentota in the South West of the island was consecrated by King Parakrama Bahu II in the 1200s CE. This too was destroyed by the Portuguese in the 16th century.

Sri Lanka's East Cost had the famed Siva temple in Trincomalee or Tiru-koneswaram that perhaps dated back to the 4th century, if Sanskrit literary evidence is to be accepted. A kilometer or two away lies an equally sought-after Kali temple that adjoins the Trincomalee Hindu College. This is known as Nagara Kali or the guardian deity of the town. Legend, albeit unsupported by inscriptional evidence, traces the origins of the latter temple to the Chola era in Sri Lanka.

Sri Lanka's far North had the Vira Ma Kali Amman temple on Point Pedro Road in Nallur. This was reportedly constructed either by Magha of Kalinga between 1215 and 1240 CE or by Pararajasekeram between 1471 and 1518. The Vira Ma Kali Amman Temple was the location of an early battle between King Sangili and the Portuguese, one that the Portuguese initially lost. The Portuguese subsequently captured Jaffna and destroyed the temple in 1621, a place of worship which was rebuilt in the 1800s.


So what accounts for the pervasive popularity of the Goddess in Sri Lanka since early medieval times? The Goddess is referred to in the Sri Lalita Sahasranama, chanted to this day in several of the island's Kali temples, as Sri Maharajni, the Great Empress, as Kama-dayani, one who grants all prayers, as Bhaya-paha, who dispels all fear, as Dukkha-hantri, who puts an end to all sorrow, as Dharma-adharma vivarjita, who transcends both good and evil, as Anadhi-nidhana, who exists without a beginning or an end, and as Vijaya who is ever-victorious.

Kali grants us protection while we are in danger and shows us a way out when we are trapped in a quagmire. Often situated on the margins of high Hinduism, she remains much sought after by those in distress. Her petitioners include women and men in all walks of life, throughout the Hindu world, be it in Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Singapore, Sri Lanka or elsewhere. Kali negates conventional day to day morality and responds to the instinctive pleas of the dispossessed, the sidelined and victims of injustice. She is the solace for those who have no option where all else has failed. In short, she is the last resort for a person in need of a respite during the harsh trials and tribulations of life.

Kali did not derive Her power or authority from any male consort. Her iconography and religious practice refused to concede male conceptions of propriety, hierarchy and restraint. Her strength lay in a directness of approach, not to mention an immediacy of succor provided to the defeated.

The Sadharma Ratnavaliya, a 13th century Sinhalese translation of the Dhammapada Attakatha with popular stories conveyed to illustrate a Buddhist moral, in turn recasts the fierce Goddess Kali to embody Buddhist concepts of redemption. This illustrates that Dharmasena Thera, the medieval Sri Lankan monk-author of the poem was familiar with the veneration of the Goddess in the Sinhalese heartland and sought to transform her into a guardian deity guided by Buddhist principles.

May Sri Kali continue to direct and guide the residents of this fair isle as they navigate life's manifold and often treacherous currents.

Sri Veerama Kaliamman – pregnant goddess Kali guards on the roof

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Speeches of Hindu leaders against Noakhali genocide in 1946

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.

Speech of Dhirendra Nath Datta

Mr. Deputy Speaker, Sir, it is really painful that in a motion like this it is impossible not to refer to the communal situation in the country and it is impossible to talk with restraint in the midst of so many lies that have been propagated by the other side. It has been stated by Maulvi Mujibar Rahaman, Secretary of the [Noakhali] District Muslim League, that since the outbreak of the incidents in Noakhali no further incidents took place after the 16th of October. Sir, Mr. Rahaman is a criminal legal practitioner for the last twenty years and knows the art of lying very much. Mr. Deputy Speaker, Mr. R. Gupta, a senior member of the I.C.S., was deputed as a special officer by Government to enquire into the incidents and he was attacked by a Muslim mob there. He would have been killed but for the police firing on the spot by one Satish Chandra Chakravarty, a police officer. This Satish Chandra Chakravarty who saved the life of Mr. Gupta was suspended by this Muslim Government. Sir, this incident took place after the 16th of October. Then on the 6th or 7th of November Mr. Haran Ghose Chaudhury’s cousin, Sachin Ghose Chaudhury, was murdered. On the 29th October, five villagers were murdered.

On the 10th November two men were murdered. In the 8th November, Suren, Akshay, Kshitish and Satish Saha were murdered and a relief officer was found missing since 8th November. It is impossible in this short time at my disposal to enumerate the incidents that had taken place after the 16th October. Sir, after the 16th October, within a month the unfortunate Hindu population of Noakhali were marooned and they were not allowed to get out of that area without a passport. He has said that the Muslim League has got nothing to do with the occurrence. How is it that it was un-organized affair? It is useless to deny the fact that from the 10th to the 16th October large numbers of Hindu population of Noakhali, about 150,000, were forcibly converted to Islam. That was the case of forcible conversion. All the houses of the Hindu population were looted during this period. And what is still more painful is that Hindu women were abducted. Mrs. Ashalata Sen has told the House that the Muslim League, that the Government which is in power, wanted to minimise the gravity of the situation. Any attempt to minimise the gravity of the situation is to put a premium upon lawlessness. Even today they are not repenting.

Mr. Mujibar Rahaman was telling the house that nothing had happened in Noakhali and Tipperah – very slight things happened. He can tell like this. He is the Secretary of the District Muslim League of Noakhali. He is reported to have told the other day that Mahatma Gandhi should leave Noakhali very soon. Mahatma Gandhi is trying his utmost to restore good feeling between Muslims and Hindus and Maulvi Mujibar Rahaman, Secretary of the Muslim League, is now describing today that nothing had happened in Noakhali and that Mahatma Gandhi should leave Noakhali.

Mr. Salam, another Secretary of the Chandpur Muslim League, is reported to have told on the 12th November that nothing happened in Chandpur. I know, Sir, Hon’ble Mr. Suhrawardy will tell like this. Sir, immediately after the occurrence the Hon’ble Mr. Shamsuddin Ahmed went to the locality and he is reported to have said that such things did not happen during the British rule, such things did not happen during the Moghul rule. That was the version of a Minister after going there after the incidents had happened. What is the use of telling that nothing had happened. Where are the reports of the two officers? Mr. Simpson is a senior officer. He was a District and Sessions Judge, not only a Sessions Judge, he was a Judge of the Hon’ble High Court for some time. His report was not published. Why his report was not published? His report will not be published. What had happened at Haimchar? Such a destruction had not taken place by the Atom Bomb. Only the other day I went to Haimchar and I saw the scenes of destruction. All the houses had been burnt and it is impossible to describe here today sitting in the Legislative Assembly the scenes of destruction that was committed upon the innocent people. It is impossible to describe the scenes of destruction committed upon the Namasudra community, 20,000 Namasudras in Haimchar in the district of Tipperah. I ask the Government not to minimise the seriousness of the situation. They should repent for it.

Speech of Jogendra Chandra Das

Mr. Deputy Speaker, Sir, in last October, the atrocities done to the minority Hindu community by the majority Muslim community in Chandpur, Hajiganj, Faridganj, Laksham and Chauddagram thanas of Tipperah District is unprecedented in the history. They have torched the houses of the Hindus and looted all the belongings by driving them from their houses. By beating the Hindu men and women brutally, converted them into Islam, and forced them to wear Pakistani cap. The hooligans raped the women, kidnapped them, broke the conch shell bangles (shankha) of the married Hindu ladies, wiped out the mark of vermillion and killed those who declined to be converted. They have desecrated the Hindu idols, broken some, burnt temples, plundered the shops and torched which was amounted to loss of crores of rupees to the Hindus.

On the 13th October atrocities held first in the Chandpur subdivision and when I heard the news of attack in the villages of Dhamra, Ashatoli, Ragoi, Sorshap, etc. under P.S. Hazigunj and informed the Government officials. But none of the local officials took any action for the security. Hence I sent a telegram to the Prime Minister. Sir, I read the telegram – “Ruthless attack made on hundreds of Hindus of Ramganj thana, Noakhali and villages of Hajiganj thana, Chandpur by thousands of Muslims proceeding from Ramganj area. Hundreds of houses burnt, looted and several casualties reported. Further depredation is being carried on in Chandpur villages. Situation most terrible. Implore immediate protection. Pray proceed to area – Jogendra Das, M.L.A.”

But I am sorry to state the Prime Minister did not reply. We do not believe that after having received the telegram, the Hon’ble Prime Minister did not take any measure to protect the properties and honour of the people. Because for about a month after 13th October the incidents of torching houses, plundering, arson, rape of women continued unabated. Thousands of Muslims unitedly murdered, loot, arson, forcible conversion and other offences against women that had become matters of daily occurrences. From 15th of October they in thousands raised slogans – Ladke Lenge Pakistan, Marke Lenge Pakistan etc. and attacked the villages of Haimpur, Charsoladi, Gazipur, Manipur, Charhasadi, Charbhanga etc. under P.S. Chandpur. All of them carried dangerous weapons – some of them possessed guns also. About 95% of the population were Scheduled Caste who are said to be Namasudras and in taken all villages they are accounted about 35,000.

You might have heard the inhuman torture of these people in the newspapers. Due to the riot they have been uprooted from their houses and became beggars overnight and while 19 villagers refused to accept Islam, were brutually murdered. There were continuing arson, loot, kidnapping of women, rape for three days. Those villages were within the radius of ten to eleven miles from Chandpur Headquarters. Sooner we received the news of atrocities, we informed the nearby police stations, Sub-divisional officer and District Magistrate and demanded police and military enforcement. But no positive action was taken by the authority. Timely requisitions of military then such carnage could have been resisted. As the civil authority failed to taken any measure to protect us, I again on 16th October sent a telegram. Deputy Speaker, Sir, I have already read out the telegram to you – “Inhuman attack by Muslims on thousands of Hindus irrespective of scheduled caste, Noakhali villages, Hazigunj, Chandpur, Faridgunh thanas thousands of scheduled castes rendered homeless destitutes. Houses looted, burnt, forcible conversion, several casualties reported. Most Namasudra houses in Haimchar circle burnt. Apprehension spreading throughout districts. Situation most terrible. Pray immediate protection. Proceed area – Jogen Das, MLA.”

Inspite of our report conveyed to the local administration and the Hon’ble Prime Minister no action was taken for our protection and resistence. I have personally visited devastated area and found that in every Hindu village there have been destruction as if by an atom bomb. It is also to be observed that the inhabitants of the Tipperah district who were the victims were mostly poor tillers and fishermen. The hooligans forcibly took away the bullocks, plundered everything, even the plough and seeds have been destroyed by burning. The houses and thin nets have been burnt in Ramchar, Charmugra, Mandartali, Kanchiara etc. all the villages under P.S. Faridgunj. The only assets of these poor illiterate fishermen who are dependent on the boats and fishing nets for their earnings have become penniless overnight and turned into beggars due to the riot.

Speech of Haripada Chatterjee

Hon’ble Deputy Speaker Sir, the Government of Bengal is seated here. We make arrangements of the administration and judiciary of Bengal from here. So, in one respect we Opposition are also responsible for the acts of governance.

What are we doing at present on behalf of the Government of Bengal is really pathetic. We have already set some remarkable precedents – in case of building, boats, wastage and pilferage of food grains, in controlling famine and starvation, in mishandling the civil supplies department. However what we had done in maintaining the law and order of the state is unparallel in the history of the world e.g. the communal riot in Calcutta. I don’t want to be bothered about the fact who started it – the Hindus or the Muslims. Every government have the primary duty to give security to the people, to protect the weakest from the strongest. We failed to deliver that. After that what had happened in Noakhali and Tipperah only put us in further shame. Communal violence is a national scandal.

The incidents of violence in Noakhali, Tipperah, Bihar, North Western Frontier Province, Garmukteshwar etc. have failed us. Only the third party reaped benefits. Those who have read the letters of Morley, Minto etc. have already understood how much elated is the third party today. The day when they made us to gulp the bait of separate electoral system, they made no efforts to hide their elation. If we can truly unmask the ulterior motives of the third party and make people aware of them, then we can justify our position. The Hindus and the Muslims are the ‘same-boat-brothers’. When we have almost crossed the ocean and reached the shore of freedom, we have resorted to infighting and violence. But if the Government himself is communally inclined, then who will exorcise the ghost of communal feelings? Whatever happened in Bihar is surely regrettable. But how can we overlook our faults? The Bengal Government has become a puppet in the hands of the third party. The last weapon of the imperialist is the venom of communalism. Their weapon is far more lethal than atom bomb or bacterial warfare. Atom bomb or bacteria can kill severals at a place at a particular time. But this poison of communalism which the imperialists have poured upon us, will act for many years. It is getting severe day by day and if we still do not become cautious, the poison will spread all over the body of the race and we will die, contaminated by it.

I have direct experience of Noakhali and Tipperah. I have visited the four thousand square miles of affected area. i started cycling from Chandpur and visited many parts of the affected area of Noakhali and Tipperah. I will never forget the heart-rendering scenes. Please listen to what I am saying and if you have hearts and brains just think. I went across several devastated villages and thought that I was going across a necropolis. Every house was gutted. The coconut trees were standing singed or burnt. Palatial buildings were even turned into debris. Everywhere one could find ashes. I have brought with me burnt remains of a little boy, an old man etc. I have seen at least twelve gutted houses at one village. At places like Chandipur, Mosimpur, Changirgaon 1,835 houses were annihilated.

In four thousand square miles area the villagers, mainly Hindus, suffered a lot. The League Secretary Hasem Sahib said that no woman was assaulted. But it was a lie. From my direct experience, I can say that in devastated area mass raping on hundreds of women were committed; hundreds of women were kept in custody for 8-10 days and raped. Many women are yet to return home. At one home eight members were killed. Sons were killed in front of their mothers. At another place nineteen out of twenty one members of a family were killed. I have seen the skeletons and skulls there. Skeletons can be found in ruins as well. In some places people were burnt alive. Husband was killed on the lap of the wife. Hasem Sahib has said that Congress supported Gholum Sarwar is responsible for the carnage at Noakhali and Tipperah. I thank him for not saying at least that Congress perpetrated the violence. I don’t know when did Sarwar Sahib became a staunch supporter of Congress. Why are we making him the scapegoat? Was he not ably backed by the police? Were not the League and the third party connivers of the act? If it was not so, how could Sarwar Sahib instigate people by his speeches so freely? If we can evict thirty thousand homes in no time for fear of the Japanese, why can’t we prevent Sarwar Sahib? Police could be seen nowhere in the vicinity when violence ripped apart Calcutta. Police actually instigated the violence at Noakhali and Tipperah. For fourteen days there was no Government. Repeated pleas to the police had fallen into deaf ears. However, it is a pity that we have enhanced the administrative efficiency of the police by procuring arms, aeroplanes, wireless systems for them.

At one place the locals showed me two persons as the prime accused of mass killing. They also showed me the petitions submitted against the two to the police and the Magistrate. Surprisingly, no investigation has started so far. Several petitions of serious allegations of plunder, murder, rape are lying with the police with no actions taken. Everything is fair in love and war, I suppose. At our district (Santipur) the police have arrested only people belonging to a particular community, whereas both the communities are equally affected. People ranging from a ten year old boy to a sixty year old man are sent behind the bars. In most cases, the bail petitions are rejected outrightly.

Hindus and Muslims both belong to the same motherland The infighting between us should be stopped immediately. The third party wants us to be engrossed in violence and infighting. They have planted the poison tree of separatism which has grown up to become a full-fledged monster which will destroy the whole country. The Government should take stringent measures to stop riots and communal clashes.

Speech of Ashalata Sen

Hon’ble Deputy Speaker, I don’t want to cite again what had happened in Noakhali and Tipperah, because a lot have been discussed and deliberated upon these incidents in the House. However, I want to express my sincerest grief about the oppression of women in Noakhali.

I haven’t come to talk about communal or sectarian partisanship. I have always worked for Congress and talked against the British imperialism. I have no inclination to create division among our countrymen. We always struggled against British imperialism and now we are witnessing how we are fighting within ourselves which is a matter of indefinite shame. The women are always the true representative of human kindness. They showered their affection and kindness upon everyone, irrespective of religion or caste. Today, the women are the worst sufferers. Today, in Bengal, we are resorting to communal violence. The Hindus and the Muslims raising fingers against each other.

Consequently, our Bengal is witnessing a downslide. Carnage in the name of religion is the death of humanism: I wish to draw everyone’s attention to that. I visited many relief camps in Noakhali and Tipperah to get to know more about the sufferings of women. It is a matter of great regret that nowadays we often try to cover up communal strife or violence; but a covered up wound like this can destroy the whole national fabric of our country. At Noakhali and Tipperah many women were abducted and made to undergo the crudest form of torture and the number of these oppressed women is kept under the wraps. Some people are trying to conceal the truth. We should try to rectify our ways. I have visited many home of the Hindus and Muslims.

No righteous Hindu or Muslim will tolerate the inhuman torture upon women. In our culture, we always repect the women as the ‘mothers’ – full of the milk of human kindness. At Noakhali (which is my birthplace) the Hindus and the minorities are living for ages and generations together. So, what has happened all of a sudden that resulted in such inhuman acts? We should not deny the truth. Those who are trying to gloss over the whole issue or to overlook the incident are actually going against human values and running through a path of self-destruction. People of all religions and communities should join hands together to put an end to what had happened in Noakhali and Tipperah and should try to bring perpetrators to justice.