Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Each Kojaagari Laxmi Puja brings back horror of Noakhali

There is a well-known saying across India – whatever may be the extent of disaster in social life Bengali Hindus can’t steer clear of celebrating Puja, especially Kojaagari Laxmi Purnima – it’s a part of their social entity. Who did state this at first, it’s not known but without doubt this is valid for two factors mainly – Kojaagari Laxmi Puja is celebrated in almost each Bengali Hindu household and had Bengali Hindus desired to end it, they could have done it with the infamous, horrendous Noakhali genocide. But it never happened.

The Islamic pogrom against Bengali Hindus in Noakhali and Tipperah, positioned in the then Chittagong division of pre-partitioned Bengal, started on October 10, 1946 – on the day of Kojaagari Laxmi Puja. And when I am writing this article it is also another day of Kojaagari Laxmi Puja, dated October 11, 2011 – almost 70 years have passed by now but the religious persecution of Bengali Hindus in Noakhali, enough to put even Gestapo and perpetrators of Soviet Gulag to shame, haunts Hindu psyche on each Puja day.

As per history, Noakhali genocide affected the areas under the Ramganj, Begumganj, Raipur, Lakshmipur, Chhagalnaiya and Sandwip police stations in Noakhali district and the areas under Hajiganj, Faridganj, Chandpur, Laksham and Chauddagram police stations in Tipperah district. A total area of over 2,000 square miles turned into a cremation chamber of Hindus completely. The whole saga took place to avenge defeat of Muslims on Direct Action Day, August 15, 1946 – a face-to-face fierce battle started by Muslim jingoists to wrest Calcutta, the second city of the British Empire after London, from Hindus, ended with valiant reprisal by Hindus.

An assortment of reports, investigations do authenticate that 6,000 – 7, 000 Hindus were killed on the whole but above all massacres, rapes, abductions and forced conversions of Hindus and loot and arson of Hindu properties, perpetrated by the Muslim community in the districts of Noakhali caught the attention of humanity worldwide. The event not only sealed the fate of dreams of a free, undivided India but also of Bengali Hindus once and for all.

Now the subject remains of the extent of tortures on Hindus in Noakhali.

Here are some excerpts.

“Worst of all was the plight of women. Several of them had to watch their husbands being murdered and then be forcibly converted and married to some of those responsible for their death. Those women had a dead look. It was not despair, nothing so active as that. It was blackness…….the eating of beef and declaration of allegiance to Islam has been forced upon many thousands of as the price of their lives” – written by Miss Muriel Leister, member of a relief committee sent to Noakhali, on 6th November, 1946,(V.V. Nagarkar – Genesis – p 446).

October 23, 1946 edition of Amrita Bazar Patrika stated clearly:

“For the 13th day today, about 120 villages in Ramganj, Lakshmipur, Raipur, Begumganj and Senbag thanas (police stations) in Noakhali district with a Hindu population of 90,000 and nearby 70,000 villagers in Chandpur and Faridganj thanas in Tippera (Comilla) district remained besieged by hooligans. Death stares the people of these areas in their face and immediate rushing of supply to these areas with the help of military, who alone could do it, would save the lives of these people, most of whom have been without food for the last few days.”

On 16/10/1946, The Statesman reported:

“In an area of about 200 sq miles the inhabitants surrounded by riotous mobs, are being massacred, their houses being burnt, their womenfolk being forcibly carried away and thousands being subjected to forcible conversion. Thousands of hooligans attacked the villages, compelled them (Hindus) to slaughter their cattle and eat. All places of worship in affected villages have been desecrated. The District Magistrate and the Police Superintendent of Noakhali took no step to prevent it.”

Noakhali carnage took place due to several factors, one of them was the need of Muslim vengeance to defeat in Great Calcutta Killing by Hindus. On October 10, 1946 the pogrom started with the rabble-rousing speech of Gulam Sarowar, an ex-M.L.A of Muslim League at Begumganj Bazar. A dreadful anti-Hindu speech by quoting verses of Quran exhorting Muslims to kill the Kafirs and idolators and perform religious duty was given. This was followed by violent assaults of Muslim mobs on Hindu properties, killings of hundreds of Hindus, rapes of Hindu women – a complete savagery.

When the correspondent of 'Amrit Bazaar Patrika' S.L.Ghosh reached noakhali, he reported:

"The horror of the Noakhali outrage is unique in modern history in that it was not a simple case of turbulent members of the majority community (Muslims) killing off helpless members of the minority Hindu community, but was one whose chief aim was mass conversion, accompanied by loot, arson and wholesale devastation... No section of the Hindu community has been spared, the wealthier classes being dealt with more drastically. Abduction and outrage of Hindu women and forcible marriages were also resorted. The slogans used and the methods employed indicate that it was all part of a plan for the simultaneous establishment of Pakistan."

Each Kojaagari Laxmi Puja brings back horror of Noakhali more and more – an episode that remains unparalleled in the history of savagery even, in every sense of the term.

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