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Religious Conversion: A Major Threat to India's Survival - Part III
|by Dr. Jaipal Singh|
Continued from Previous Page
The Mughal empire gradually eclipsed after the fanatic and tyrant Emperor Aurangzeb and the reign of large parts of the country gradually came under the British colonial rule. Their agenda remained same, albeit they did many such things in the camouflage of reforms and modern education in Hindu society while Muslims remained largely untouched for political reasons. Their discriminatory treatment of the two communities led to a belief among Muslims that they are a special community that needs separate attention, care and treatment. For the colonial rulers, it served a kind of the opportunity to have a policy of “divide and rule” and, thus, their continued special treatment led some Muslim leaders to put forth the concept that Hindus and Muslims are two distinct Quams (nations) which cannot peacefully coexist together. Therefore, Muslim leaders like Sir* Sayyad Ahmad Khan initially advocated a prolonged British rule and later the likes of Sir* Mohammad Iqbal and Muhammad Ali Jinnah pressed for the partition of country to secure a separate homeland for Muslims after independence. Also, any sincere efforts were not made by the state or community leaders to bridge the widening ideological gap between two communities leading to constant conflicts and communal carnage during the colonial rule and thereafter during the last two centuries.
* Title endowed to these Muslim leaders for their loyalty and services rendered to British
Evolution of Two Nation Theory
During the colonial rule and thereafter in the modern age in India, there have been hundreds of communal riots leading to violence, killings, arson, loot and excesses against women. After the British, the successive Congress leadership and governments continued the appeasement and special treatment of minorities, mainly Muslims, even after the partition of the country whereby Pakistan was created as separate homeland for Muslims carving out almost one-third of the total available land and other resources. The large-scale communal violence and killings on partition was unprecedented leading to the death of millions of people and mass movement of affected families across the newly created border of two nations which perhaps ambitious leaders had not been able to prior anticipate or envisioned; consequently, the otherwise expected systematic exchange of the Hindu-Muslim population was abandoned and people stayed hitherto fore although some voluntary migration of people continued for some time even after the communal violence was put to a stop. An unabated persecution of Hindus and Sikhs in Pakistan leading to a drastic reduction of their population by conversion, killing and exodus, and simultaneously disproportionate growth of the Muslim population and allied issues in India in over seven decades of partition is yet another sordid and uncomfortable story to deal with.
While Pakistan carved out from the united India became a professed Islamic nation, whatever was left behind with Hindus in majority pursued its course as a democratic republic with a well laid out written Constitution and features of an ideal secular democracy. Though Constitution mandated similar rights and opportunities for all citizens irrespective of religion, creed, caste and region yet self-proclaimed secularist Congress leadership did everything that they considered was necessary to reform Hindu society but left Muslims untouched for much needed similar reforms; on the contrary, state encouraged and funded their Madrassa education, subsidized Haj pilgrimage, and wooed them in their other orthodox traditions. For instance, after many decades of independence when the Supreme Court of India granted a small monthly amount for the maintenance of the divorced and resourceless woman and children by the belligerent husband, the then Congress government reversed the judgment of the apex court by passing a law with it’s overwhelming majority in Parliament under the influence of orthodox Muslim leaders. Thus, in Muslims, the Congress found a significant vote bank, politically aligned with Muslim league in states and started blaming pre-independence Hindu leaders like Vinayak Damodar Savarkar for the two-nation theory and partition. Mention of these facts might appear out of context now to some but the author has purportedly mentioned it because these factors have largely dictated the fate of two communities in the Indian sub-continent in the modern times.
Even in the recent past, while opposing the Citizenship amendment bill in 2019 passed to rehabilitate persecuted refugees from the neighbouring Islamic nations, several prominent Congress leaders opposed the law and made allegation that the foundation for the two-nation theory was laid by Savarkar at a Hindu Mahasabha session in 1935 at Ahmedabad and that became the cause of the partition of country in 1947. Both the Indian Muslim League and Hindu Mahasabha were political organizations which are often blamed by rival politicians for the communal divide and alienation of Muslims leading to the creation of Pakistan. Let’s briefly analyze the sequence of events leading to formation of these alleged communal parties and the role of the community leaders. The All-India Muslim League was formed in 1906 by Sir Khwaja Salimullah Bahadur, the then Nawab of Dhaka and a leading Muslim leader in British India. This was soon followed by the British Government granting a separate electorate for Muslims under the Morley-Minto reforms of 1909. The aforesaid events and hectic activities of one community in league with colonial powers naturally made many patriotic Hindus apprehensive about their own political rights and survival in the country. Consequently, after many failed attempts, Hindu Mahasabha was formally constituted in 2015 in the presence of Gandhi and Swami Shraddhanand with an aim to protect the rights of Hindu community; of course, precursors were Lal Chand and UN Mukerji who started a provincial Mahasabha in Punjab in 1909.
If we look back further, Sir Sayyad Ahmad Khan (1817-1898), considered as an Islamic reformer, philosopher and educationist, is found on record to have opposed the formation of the Indian National Congress in 1985 as he was worried about dominance of elite and educated (Bengali) Hindus in the Congress which, in his opinion, would harm Muslim interests at large. He made several social and political speeches across the country among the most audience comprised of Muslims, of which ones at Lucknow and Meerut in 1988 are most significant. Rather than the author making any personal evaluation of the personality or event, a few excerpts from his 14th March speech addressing the gathering at famous Nauchandi Fair, Meerut are reproduced here:
“…But my friends the Bengalis have made a most unfair and unwarrantable interference with my nation (Quam), and therefore it is my duty to show clearly what this unwarrantable interference has been, and to protect my nation from the evils that may arise from it…”
“…that some Hindus — I do not speak of all the Hindus but only of some — think that by joining the Congress and by increasing the power of the Hindus, they will perhaps be able to suppress those Mahomedan (Muslim) religious rites which are opposed to their own, and, by all uniting, annihilate them. But I frankly advise my Hindu friends that if they wish to cherish their religious rites, they can never be successful in this way.”
“Now, suppose that all English, and the whole English army, were to leave India, taking with them all their cannon and their splendid weapons and everything, then who would be rulers of India? Is it possible that under these circumstances two nations — the Mahomedans and the Hindus — could sit on the same throne and remain equal in power? Most certainly not. It is necessary that one of them should conquer the other and thrust it down. To hope that both could remain equal is to desire the impossible and the inconceivable. At the same time you must remember that although the number of Mahomedans is less than that of the Hindus, and although they contain far fewer people who have received a high English education, yet they must not be thought insignificant or weak. Probably they would be by themselves enough to maintain their own position. But suppose they were not. [] Then our Mussalman brothers, the Pathans, would come out as a swarm of locusts from their mountain valleys, and make rivers of blood to flow from their frontier in the north to the extreme end of Bengal. This thing — who, after the departure of the English, would be conquerors — would rest on the will of God. But until one nation had conquered the other and made it obedient, peace could not reign in the land. This conclusion is based on proofs so absolute that no one can deny it.”
“…It is, therefore, necessary that for the peace of India and for the progress of everything in India, the English Government should remain for many years — in fact forever!”
The author would only like to add that the noted Muslim Islamic leader and educationist was frightened with the educated and elite Hindu leaders in the Organization yet instead of adopting a progressive modern education professed by him, the subsequent Muslim leaders, intelligentsia and followers have done hardly anything to upgrade communities’ education, skills and understanding of the changing world order. Even after independence, massive subsidies have been sought for mainly thousands of Madrassas imparting religious education and Haj pilgrimage. Such measures could only nurture and escalate the medieval mindset and practices responsible for so many evils but cannot usher in peace and progress of the community in the modern age.
Picking up the threads from the ideology of Sayyad Ahmad Khan and making common cause by PAN-Islamic Khilafat Movement joined by even nationalist Muslim leaders of the time, the idea of a separate nation-state comprising of four provinces in North-West British India rationalising two-nations concept was outlined by Muhammad Iqbal of “Saare Jahan Se Achchha Hindostan…” fame in his presidential address to Muslim League on 29 December 1930.
“I would like to see the Punjab, North-West Frontier Province, Sind and Baluchistan amalgamated into a single state. Self-government within the British Empire, or without the British Empire, the formation of a consolidated Northwest Indian Muslim state appears to me to be the final destiny of the Muslims, at least of Northwest India.”
The aforesaid were Muslim population regions that ultimately became the part of Pakistan on partition. Such aggressive speeches only encouraged partisan approach and communal divide between two communities leading to constant conflicts, riots and massacres, then the demand of the Muslim League headed by Muhammad Ali Jinnah for a separate homeland for Muslims led to ultimate partition of India in 1947. The aggressive and often violent approach of one community and the mainstream Party’s failure to protect the interests of the other community compelled Hindu nationalist leaders like Savarkar to press for the counter measures. Hence attempts to rewrite narratives of the history in the post-independence era by some political leaders carrying the legacy of erstwhile Indian National Congress appears grossly unfair distortion of facts. The foundation of two-nations concept was laid by Sir Sayyad Ahmad Khan in 1888 and concept further developed and escalated by the Muslim League leaders of the ilk of Muhammad Iqbal and Muhammad Ali Jinnah by the end of the second decade of the twentieth century. In such case, the attempts of some modern age politicians to drag Savarkar or any other leader in this controversy for selfish interests appears only ill-conceived and motivated.
In the colonial period and more recently in the twentieth century, before and after independence, the Indian sub-continent experienced dozens of horrendous riots and pogroms such as Moplah riots in Malabar region in 1921, Kohat riots of 1924 in North-West Frontier Province, Kolkata riots in 1946, Noakhali riots in undivided Bengal in 1946, Hyderabad massacre in 1948, Bengal (East Pakistan) riots in 1950 and 1971, Bhiwandi riots in 1984, Gujarat riots in 2002, just naming a few. The characteristic and common features of the most of these riots were large scale arson, violence, rape and killings of Hindus. The Gujarat riots of 2002 was an exception because Hindus and Muslims were killed in a ratio of 1 to 2.5, respectively. The precursor of Gujarat (Ahmedabad) riots was burning of two train coaches with at least 58 Hindu karsevaks, women and children by a mob of Muslim rioters. The backlash that ensued following this outrageous arson and killing claimed the life of over one thousand people with many more injured. The Western media and some Indian political parties termed it "Gujarat Pogrom" and accused Mr Narendra Modi, then Chief Minister of Gujarat of partisan ways and extreme bias against Muslims. Later, independent inquiries made by a judicial commission and SIT (Special Investigating Team) under the supervision of the Supreme Court found these charges unfounded and far from truth. Thus, during the post-Mughal period, the Islamic agenda remained same but modus operandi changed. Only a few aforesaid instances are illustrated in the following paragraphs for the sake of knowledge with brevity.
Sordid Kashmir Tale & Exodus of Kashmiri Pandits in 1990
Rajatarangini, a historical chronicle of the North-western part of Indian subcontinent, particularly Kashmir till twelfth century, written by Kalhana, and it’s subsequent sequels by Jonaraja and others present a fairly illustrated and reliable account of the history of the Kashmir region. The original book in Sanskrit in eight volumes with 7,826 verses illustrates the life and events of the kings in succession, starting from the Gonanda dynasty in 1182 BCE to the Lohara dynasty in 12th century CE during Kalahana’s time. During the recorded history of over 2500 years, the entire lineage of the civilization belonged to Hindu origin and faith till Shah Mir captured power in 1339 CE following the death of Lohara King Suhadeva. During the 3rd century BCE, Emperor Ashoka had also introduced Buddhism in the Valley. Kashmir remained a major hub of Hindu cultural and religious traditions with predominant Hindu sect “Kashmiri Shaivism” and some of the greatest Sanskrit scholars till early fourteenth century CE.
Shah Mir became the first Muslim ruler of Kashmir in 1339 CE by establishing Salatin-i-Kashmir (Swati dynasty). Thereafter, successive Muslim rulers ruled over Kashmir for the next five centuries, including the Mughals and Afghans until 1820. Shah Mir (1339-1342) and Sikandar Shah Miri alias Sikandar Butshikan (1389-1413) gained notoriety for a drive of the systematic destruction of the Hindu temples and shrines, forced conversion to Islam of the Hindu population and exodus of Hindus from the Valley to other parts. Sikandar Butshikan is more remembered for his cruelty against Hindus and Buddhists. He got the title ‘Butshikan’ for his zeal of the destruction of Hindu temples and Idols of Hindu deities across the empire. His cruel methods of torture forced a large number of Hindus to convert to Islam, many others either fled away or got killed. He had strictly prohibited dance, drama, music and iconography as also application of Janeu, tilak on forehead etc., by the Hindus and Buddhists. Reportedly, more than a lakh Hindus were brutally killed near Rainawari alone. The outcome of the constant persecution through conversion, killing and migration was the gradual shift in population becoming predominantly of Muslim origin in the Kashmir Valley.
Emperor Akbar conquered Kashmir in 1587 AD and Mughal rule lasted until 1752 AD, which was followed by the Afghan rule (1752 – 1819). During the sustained reign of Muslim rulers too, more and more Kashmiris Hindus and Buddhists were forcibly converted to Islam, leaving Kashmiri Hindus mainly Brahmins (Pandits) in minority. Despite being in minority, they remained a cohesive community of highly literate and socially elite in the valley all along the colonial rule. Following a brief Sikh rule after Muslims, the Hindu Dogra kingdom was established in 1846 and their rule lasted till 1947. At the time of independence, Kashmiri Pandits constituted about 15 percent of the Kashmir Valley population. A significant portion of this population left valley during Muslim riots in 1948 and slow exodus continued thereafter too because of the insecurity and uncertainty to their life and property in the Valley. With the upsurge of insurgency in the late seventies that continued through eighties and nineties, the militants systematically targeted Kashmiri Pandits with least protection or support from the state or central governments till their last exodus in 1990s. Thus, Kashmir is a sordid tale of how a culturally rich and peaceful majority Hindu community was systematically decimated to a minority over the centuries, and eventually uprooted and expelled from the valley through unabated persecution and violence.
The final thrust for the aforesaid nemesis of Hindu Kashmiris came in 1990s. Undoubtedly, the conspiracy of the separatists and militants was brewing for the months together as is apparent from the prelude of few high-profile murders of influential Kashmiri Pandits in the Kashmir Valley, when the loudspeakers suddenly started playing from the top of the masjids on a cold, dark and dreary night of 19 January 1990 around 9 PM with the simultaneous screaming of the frenzied crowd of jihadis on the roads and open spaces of Srinagar and other Valley towns:
Ralive, Tsaliv ya Galive
Ever since, several authors, eye-witnesses and those who suffered but survived have recorded those frightful experiences in books, articles and interviews. For illustration, an excerpt from Col TK Tikoo’s book “Kashmir: Its Aborigines and Their Exodus” is reproduced here:
"As the night fell, the microscopic community became panic-stricken when the Valley began reverberating with the war-cries of Islamists, who had stage-managed the whole event with great care; choosing its timing and the slogans to be used. A host of highly provocative, communal and threatening slogans, interspersed with martial songs, incited the Muslims to come out on the streets and break the chains of 'slavery'. These exhortations urged the faithful to give a final push to the Kafir (non-believers; Hindus) in order to ring in the true Islamic order. These slogans were mixed with precise and unambiguous threats to Pandits. They were presented with three choices - Ralive, Tsaliv ya Galive ...”
On that fateful night, thousands of Kashmiri Muslims came in open into the streets, markets and open spaces in Srinagar and elsewhere in the Valley, ranting and trumpeting 'death to India' and ‘death to Kafirs’ among the loud and thunderous Islamic and pro-Pakistan slogans. Indeed, a strange scenario was unfolding on the roads, streets, squares and open spaces of Srinagar on that fateful night with the crowd of the majority population comprising of the young, old, woman and even children out of their homes, energetically gesturing and yelling slogans in the name of Islam and Pakistan. The writing on the wall was very clear for the Pandits. If they are not ready to convert, they must instantly leave the Valley before they meet the same fate as meted out to Tikka Lal Taploo, Justice Nilakanth Ganjoo, and many others in the preceding few weeks. The following day, yet another mass exodus of Hindu Kashmiris, officially the 7th in line of Kashmir history and this time in independent India, had begun from the Kashmir Valley.
The essence of the surcharged atmosphere was that the kufr (heresy), butparasti (idolatry) and dualism had to be cleansed from Dar-us-Salam (the place of peace). Soon the most minority Kashmiri Hindu and Sikhs realized how their neighbours had changed colours overnight, as if they were putting on a mask for long and thrown it off just now. Chief Minister Farooq Abdullah simultaneously resigned, the administration in Valley had collapsed, and law and order thrown to winds. The 19th January episode followed a series of individual and group barbaric murders, rape followed by heinous killing, arson and loot; the victims in all cases were from the minority community mostly Kashmiri Pandit and their families, including renowned people such as writers and poets, social activists, lawyers, traders and government officials. This could be best illustrated by the statement of JKLF leader Farooq Ahmad Dar alias 'Bitta Karate' who was later arrested and interrogated by the National Investigation Agency (NIA). Reportedly, Bitta Karate admitted on-camera that he had killed 22 people and, thereafter, he lost the count. Numerous women suffered repeated rape inhumanly in captivity before killing into pieces and dumping their bodies for no fault. Panun Kashmir, an organization representing the interest of the displaced Kashmiri Pandits, later published a list of some 1341 people who were killed by jihadis and frenzied mob over a period.
According to various sources and estimates, the number of displaced people from the Kashmir Valley varies from 1.5 lakh to 3.0 lakh. While some of them had migrated to Jammu, Delhi, Punjab and other places, and were lucky to get rehabilitated with the cooperation and assistance of their relatives and friends but the thousands of Kashmiri Pandit families are still languishing in temporary and shabby refugee settlements. The then Central government could hardly take any credible measure for the protection of their life and property, despite thousands of soldiers being garrisoned in the Badami Bagh Cantonment in Srinagar itself. After the years of struggle and stiff opposition of the Congress and other legacy political parties from Kashmir, the Central Government headed by Mr Narendra Modi finally abolished the draconian and outdated Article 370 of the Constitution providing special political status to the State of Jammu & Kashmir. This and subsequent several measures has now paved way for many much needed reforms in the state including rehabilitation of the displaced Hindu and Sikh families.
Moplah Rebellion or Genocide!
This is variously named as Malabar rebellion, Moplah riots, Mappila riots, and so on, which occurred in the year 1921-22 from 20th August onwards in the Malabar region of the southern State of Kerala. According to modern historians of mostly leftist leanings, it was a rebellion against the British colonial rule in the Malabar region of Kerala as also a popular uprising against the prevailing feudal system in the state under the control of the elite Hindus. It is alleged by the same historians that the British had appointed high caste Hindus in the positions of authority to muster their continued support. The main leaders of the said rebellion or riot were Variankunnath Kunjahammad Haji and Ali Musliyar. These riots had occurred for about six months affecting nearly 5200 square km in the South Malabar region of the then Madras Presidency. According to a conservative estimate, about 10 thousand people were killed, majority of them Hindus, and over 45 thousand imprisoned by the British authorities with many deported to penal British colony in Andaman Islands.
According to other independent sources, the stated rebellion led to massacre of thousands of Hindu masses. Vinayak Damodar Savarkar was one of the prominent personalities who described the stated Moplah rebellion as an anti-Hindu genocide in his book Moplah. Another book published by C. Gopalan Nair, the then deputy collector of the area, in 1923 is reckoned by many people as the most authenticated account of what all happened during the rebellion or riot. According to this book, Variyamkunnath Kunjahammed Haji was an outlaw and murders, dacoities, forced conversions and violation of the modesty of the Hindu women remained order of the day all along these riots. During the riots, allegedly more than one lakh Hindus were displaced and under the supervision of Hazi, thousands of Hindus were massacred or forcibly converted, Hindu women were raped, and their properties and temples were destroyed.
Dr BR Ambedkar has described the Moplah rebellion in the Malbar region as an agitation carried out by two Muslim organisations, namely the Khuddam-i-Kaba (servants of the Mecca Shrine) and the Central Khilafat Committee. According to the agitators, the India under the British Raaj had become Dar-ul-Harb; hence the aim was to establish the kingdom of Islam by overthrowing the alien government. However, what really baffled him was the treatment meted out by the Moplah (Muslims) to Hindus as the latter too met a dire fate at the hands of the former in terms of massacres, forcible conversions, desecration of temples, foul outrages upon women, such as ripping open pregnant women, pillage, arson and destruction— in short, all the accompaniments of brutal and unrestrained barbarism, were perpetrated freely by the Moplas upon the Hindus till heavy troops reinforcements and sustained punitive actions suppressed the rebellion. One may ask question, if the Moplah rebellion was against the British Raaj, how does Hindu masses come in picture with alleged violence, rapes and other crimes. The answer is rather simple and those who understand the Islamic concept of Dar-ul-Harb (House of War) and Dar-us-Salam (House of Peace), would know and can easily explain it.
Noakhali Riots of 1946
A lot of data and information is available about the Noakhali riots in 1946, which were a series of organized massacres, mass rapes, abductions and forced conversions of Hindus to Islam besides the loot and arson of their properties by the communally charged Muslim community in the district of Noakhali, Chittagong Division of undivided Bengal (now in Bangladesh). It occurred in the months of October–November and was spread over an area of about 5200 square km following the Direct-Action Day of 16 August 1946 organized by the Muslim League under Muhammad Ali Jinnah, culminating into Calcutta riots. Reportedly, Gholam Sarwar Husseini of a Muslim Pir family started delivering provocative speeches inciting Muslims to avenge the Kolkata riots. In the beginning, some Hindus were harassed and molested, Hindu shops were boycotted, Muslim boatmen refused to ferry Hindu passengers and some incidents of loots took place for few days.
Soon the aforesaid incidents escalated in numbers with violence, forced conversion, stray killings and looting of Hindu shops and households. Then on the day of auspicious Kojagari Lakshmi Puja on 10th October, a large-scale violence and massacre against Hindus erupted which continued without any noticeable state resistance for over a week. During this period, about five thousand Hindus were killed, hundreds of women were molested and raped, and thousands of Hindu men and women were forcibly converted to Islam. About fifty thousand Hindus remained stuck up in the disturbed areas under strict vigil of the Muslims facing more atrocities with administration allegedly totally helpless to rescue them, while between 50 to 75 thousand people escaped and sheltered in the temporary relief camps in Comilla, Chandpur, Agartala and other places. Hindus forcibly converted were coerced to give written undertakings that they had voluntarily converted to Islam and many of them were forced to pay subscriptions to Muslim League and jizyah (tax). There are fairly credible reports that the Hindus thus marooned were so often confined in others' houses and allowed to be in their own only when any official party came for inspection. Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy, the controversial prime minister of Bengal during the period, is often blamed for his proactive role in Kolkata riots in August 1946 and subsequent biased and partisan role in Noakhali genocide.
According to reports, the village after village was forcibly converted to Islam, and the converted men were coerced to put on skullcaps and grow beards. Similarly, the Hindu women were prohibited to use shankha and sindur, and compelled to recite the kalma with Moulavis regularly visiting their homes to impart Islamic ways and teachings. Edward Skinner Simpson is known to have reported 22,550 cases of forcible conversion in the three police station areas alone of Faridganj, Chandpur and Hajiganj in the Tipperah district. According to Justice GD Khosla, the entire Hindu population of Noakhali was robbed of their possessions and then forcibly converted to Islam. According scholar Taj-ul-Islam Hashmi, the number of Hindu women molested and raped were many times more than the number of Hindus killed. MK Gandhi alias Mahatma camped in Noakhali almost for four months to usher in peace and communal harmony. However, unlike his similar experiments with Hindu brethren, here some Muslim leaders openly blamed him for harming their cause, his meetings were boycotted by Muslims and his route was deliberately soiled every day by miscreants. Ultimately, he had to abandon his mission, the Congress leadership endorsed the partition, relief camps were abandoned and about 50 thousand displaced Hindus relocated in Guwahati, Assam.
Bangladesh Genocide in 1971
After the partition of India in August 1947, Pakistan was formed in two parts viz., West Pakistan and East Pakistan with the Indian territories carved out for the purpose based on Muslim majority population in these areas. In spite of the fact that only about 4 percent Bengali population spoke Urdu, the language was imposed on East Pakistan as national and official language by Muhammad Ali Jinnah. The sensitive language issue, constant discrimination of Bengali Muslims and Hindus by the rulers based in West Pakistan and finally denial of the transfer of power to the East Pakistan based Awami League despite the latter’s landslide victory in the elections held for the Pakistan National Assembly alienated people in the Eastern wing over a period of time. Accordingly, disillusioned with the discrimination and partisan attitude of rulers in West Pakistan, the Awami League under Sheikh Mujibur Rahman gave a call for self-determination by the Bengali population. In retaliation, Ayyub Khan administration in West Pakistan began a military crackdown on East Pakistan to suppress Bengalis in March 1971.
The Pakistani military was soon joined by the pro-Pakistani Islamist militias from the communal Jamaat-e-Islami Party. In self-defense, the followers of the Awami League chief Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in collaboration with some sympathetic officers and jawans of para-military forces organized a Mukti Vahini to resist onslaught of the Pakistani military and militias. This started a prolonged violent and bloody conflict in the eastern wing of Pakistan in 1971. During the war, a communal fatwa was issued in Pakistan that the Bengali freedom fighters were Hindus and that their women could be taken as the 'gonimoter maal' (booty of war). Many Muslim religious leaders and Imams publicly declared that the Bengali women were war booty, thereby openly endorsing the molestation and rape of Bengali women, mostly Hindus, by the Pakistani Army and militia. Consequently, thousands of Hindus were tortured and killed and numerous women were molested, raped and killed during the war. The Pakistani soldiers and militia also detained hundreds of Bengali women as sex slaves in their camps. Most of these women were Bengali Hindus who were repeatedly raped before finally being killed. Some Bengali Muslims women too were picked up and raped but they were generally left alive to give birth to pure Muslims.
The genocide in East Pakistan that began by Pakistan Army in March 1971 was nick-named Operation Searchlight. The propaganda campaign in West Pakistan constantly portrayed the Bengali Hindus as culprits who had corrupted the Awami League. Pakistani Army too so often boasted that the chief motive of their operation is to kill Hindus. During the nine months of Bangladesh Liberation War (as called by Mukti Vahini and Awami League), though very accurate and firm data are not available but according to various estimates, the Pakistani military and their supporting Islamist militias from Jamaat-e-Islami killed between 2 lakh to 3 million people, the majority of which were Hindus. Similarly, according to various estimates, 2 to 4 lakh Bengali women, mostly Hindus, were raped. Besides, during the prolonged war, about 10 million people majority of which were Hindus fled their country and crossed border to take shelter in the neighbouring states of India by November 1971. Also, about 30 million civilians were internally displaced. Although Hindus were a special target but Christians, Buddhists, and other religious groups including some Bengali Muslims too incurred wrath of the Pakistan army and militia.
The Hindu genocide in East Pakistan stopped only after the crushing defeat and surrender of about 90 thousand Pakistan army and allied civilians before the Indian army on 16 December 1971 after the fall of Dhaka in 14 days bitter war on both the Western and Eastern theaters that started with the Pakistan Air Force attacking eight Indian air bases in the beginning of the month. East Pakistan was liberated by the joint command of the Indian Army and Mukti Vahini and the liberated East Wing was rechristened as “Bangladesh”. War accounts of many internal and Western sources documented gory details of the atrocities incurred by the communally charged Pakistan army and fanatic militia. Many US government cables illustrated how the minorities in Bangladesh, especially the Hindus, were specific targeted by the Pakistani Army indulging their methodical slaughter in cities and villages. Army units entered villages looking for the population of Hindus and the common pattern was to kill all Hindu males while women were repeatedly raped before killing; in many cases, the villages were burned down. It was easy for them to identify Hindu men as they were not circumcised.
Archer K. Blood, the American Consul General in Dhaka wrote in a cable: “Genocide’ applies fully to [this] naked, calculated and widespread selection of Hindus for special treatment…From outset various members of American community have witnessed either burning down of Hindu villages, Hindu enclaves in Dacca and shooting of Hindus attempting [to] escape carnage…”
According to the Bangladeshi journalist Anushay Hossain, the experts put the number closer to 4 lakh women and girls, mostly Hindus, who were raped, mass-raped and detained for months in notorious rape camps. The US Senator Edward M. Kennedy is on record to report in the US Senate Committee on Foreign Relations in November 1971: "Nothing is more clear or more easily documented, than the systematic campaign of terror - and its genocidal consequences launched by the Pakistan army on the night of March 25th… Hardest hit have been members of the Hindu community who have been robbed of their lands and shops systematically slaughtered, and, in some places, painted with yellow patches marked 'H'."
The aforesaid four instances are neither selective nor all as there are many more events of communal carnage during the twentieth century alone reflective of communal bigotry and extreme violence leading to mass killings, conversion and other crimes. For instance, the partition in August 1947 itself led to months of communal outrage and estimated death of millions, Similarly, Kolkata riots of August 1946 as a consequence of the Direct-Action Day call given by the Muslim League took human toll in thousands. When one community starts it, the other too retaliates in self-defense or even in irrational way at times that undoubtedly takes its toll as a collateral damage, at whatever scale. In the first place, the need is that people shall be free to carry on their genuine socio-religious beliefs, customs and traditions without interference or hindrance from others.
Even after the titular rule of the last Mughal Emperor Bahadur Shah Zafar, the communal tension and conflicts continued in the Indian sub-continent in various parts wherever there was a significant population of Muslims. Many of these conflicts turned out to be the large scale riots or even massacre of the victim (mostly Hindu) population. For instance, all the aforesaid regions, Kashmir Valley, Malabar, Noakhali or Bangladesh (erstwhile East Pakistan), are the areas where over the years of Muslim rule, Hindus had considerably reduced to less in number or even became a minority population. It’s not that only Hindus had suffered in all cases, there have been instances such as the Bihar riots of 1946 and Gujarat riots of 2002, which occurred in the Hindu majority areas as a backlash of Kolkata & Noakhali riots of 1946, and Godhara train burning in 2002, respectively. Actually, these riots were a collateral damage wherein many Muslims were killed following the backlash of Hindus avenging atrocities committed on their brethren elsewhere. But in most such events, occurrences of misconduct with women, desecration of the religious places, or any attempt to convert people to own faith either did not take place or were stray cases, if any.
Revisiting the historical events of past is indeed very painful particularly when it is full of civilizational conflicts with one community committing atrocities over the other in the form of barbaric genocide, extreme cruelty and misconduct with women and children, destruction of objects and symbols of culture and religion, and so on. This could, however, be easily forgiven and forgotten provided the wrong-doers in a community take lessons from their gory past and show willingness to move forward with mutual consideration, camaraderie and cooperation on the path of shared and sustained peace and progress. On the contrary, the constant mutual distrust and bitterness only further escalates apprehension that only times, circumstances and methodologies have changed but the long-term agenda and objectives remain unchanged. Perhaps the ongoing socio-religious tensions and constant communal conflicts in India and other parts of the globe are the result of the same cause and effect. In the next installment, the author proposes to examine such aspects with more examples and illustrations.
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