Indians commemorate the Great Calcutta Killings of 1946
Recently, the Indian city of Calcutta witnessed a large demonstration marking the 69th anniversary of an infamous event, noted in the history books as the Great Calcutta Killings, and The Week of Long Knives.
The initial riots in Calcutta alone claimed some 10,000 lives. In subsequent weeks and months a million more across British-controlled India would follow — a long lost saga of mass-graves, rape and ethnic cleansing. Hushed up by subsequent Indian governments and left-wing historians, today this genocide is all but forgotten and relegated to a footnote in the history.
In 1946, anticipating a British withdrawal from India, the political bloc representing Muslims of India, Muslim League made its intentions clear that it did not want Muslims to be part of a democratic and multi-cultural India. To make the resolve known Muslim League called for the “Direct Action Day” on August 16, 1946. City of Calcutta was the epicentre of the genocide in East India that killed at least a million people and displacing about 14 million.
Since India’s independence in 1947, the subsequent Indian governments stonewalled the memory of Hindu suffering to appease the minority Muslim population. There is not a single national memorial to mark their suffering or even a day of remembrance to recall their plight. In pursuit of Islamist supremacy, Muslim League brought suffering upon millions of Muslims in India as well, who bore the brunt of Hindu and Sikh retaliation.
Some 70 years on, young Hindus are trying to reclaim the memory of their ancestors. They are urging the government to mark the “Noakhali Day”, named after a district in West Bengal that witnessed the most brutal atrocities during that time.
[P]eople carried banners which called for an end to the “torture” of Hindus in Bengal, warned politicians to stop “appeasing” certain groups in the “greed for votes” and called for an end to “Jihadi riots”. A van carried a lurid billboard asking why Kolkata’s intellectuals were silent about the everyday killing of bloggers in Bangladesh.
On a truck, flanked by hectic activity, a man on a public address system drilled everyone about how the march would be conducted: regular slogans, march in line and be peaceful. The [state] government also seemed interested in the last bit: there was heavy police [presence at] event, with scores of policemen milling around, in case things went out of hand.
Ignoring history or failing to learn from it comes with consequences. The tragedy for the Hindus didn’t end in 1947. In 1970s, again they would be the targets of a genocide, this time not from rioting gangs but from well-organized Pakistan Army units in East Pakistan (since 1971 as independent Bangladesh) — killing estimated 300,000 and raping estimated 200,000-400,000 women, in a military campaign aimed predominantly at Hindu population.
In early 1990s, half a million Hindus where driven out of their homes in Muslim-dominated Indian state of Kashmir — homeless in their own country. Indian Journalists and intellectuals who get into regular rage over perceived “plight of Palestinian refugees” or “suffering in Gaza” can’t find it in themselves to acknowledge the real suffering of their own people.
No Indian government would ever announce a remembrance day in honor of Hindus killed, raped, looted during partition.So we must #Noakhaliday
— শাশ্বতী সরকার Saswati Sarkar (@sarkar_swati) August 22, 2015
Today, the memory of Holocaust for the Jewish people is not only remembering the vicious extermination of the European Jews, but is a call for action and vigilance for generations to come.
In the same spirit, Hindus too should reclaim the memory of these genocides. Where Indian intellectuals and academicians have failed, individuals and communities in India and diaspora must step up to keep the memory from fading. Hindus should reach out to Jewish and Armenian communities to foster the common bond of solidarity. Not in the spirit of vengeance or retribution, but in the spirit of ‘Never Again’.
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