Hindus skinned alive and raped 37 times in turn…
Media of today, is by far one of the biggest source of entertainment in India. Be it about coverage of a celebrity marriage, or be it about the saga of intolerance that has become like an epidemic in almost all story lines these days, or about the new phenomenon, “Hindu terrorism” and added to it the flavours of communal disharmony. The stories are instigating, and making much “noise-hours” in the night television shows – in the tide of which people are getting oblivious gradually of the real notoriety, which their forefathers had seen to get them this piece of assured, independent land. The lugubrious tale of persecution, violence on womenfolk, selling of children for their religious differences and more importantly, ethnic cleansing and mass exodus giving rise to this today’s “intolerant land”. Tomorrow, when the headings would be filled with the 1971 Indo Pak war at East front, let’s travel down the memory lane of 1964 East Pakistan, when the brutal December chilly nights had witnessed the excruciating episode of Hindu massacre.
The 1964 East Pakistan Riots refer to the feud and ethnic cleansing of Bengali Hindus from East Pakistan when rumours broke out that the Muslim Prophet Muhammmad’s hair from the Hazratbal shrine in Jammu and Kashmir in India has been stolen allegedly by some Hindu Groups. The instigating excerpt took no no time to spread like arson and the Islamist groups immediately vowed a revenge by targeting the Bengali Hindu owned industries and merchant establishments in the capital city of Dhaka.
On 27 December 1963, the hair of Muhammad went missing from the Hazratbal Shrine in Srinagar in India. There were mass protests in Jammu and Kashmir over it. In East Pakistan, Abdul Hai, a member of the Advisory Committee of the Islamic Board declared jihad against Hindus and other non-Muslims of East Pakistan. While returning to Islamabad, the President of Pakistan Ayub Khan made a statement at the Dhaka airport that he won’t be responsible for any reaction in Pakistan in response to the Hazratbal incident, even though Kashmir is about 2000 km from Bangladesh, then East Pakistan and the Bengali Hindus had neither any knowledge about it, nor any role to play. Pakistan Muslim League declared ‘Kashmir Day’ on 3 January 1964. On 4 January 1964, the relic was discovered and the miscreants were arrested. However, the next day Pakistan Radio described the discovered relic as fake and they were set for a pogrom against their own Hindu co citizens. This resulted in waves of Bengali Hindu refugees fleeing the nation towards neighbouring West Bengal and Tripura in India. The refugee rehabilitation became a national problem in India, and hundreds of refugees were resettled in Dandakaranya in Madhya Pradesh.
The brutality however turned out to be a boon for local muslim miscreants who used it as an opportunity for their personal interests exploiting the Hindus. Abdus Sabur Khan, the Communications Minister of Pakistan, had forcibly occupied 30 bighas of land from one Rupchand Biswas, a Hindu landowner from Matikhali in 1960 and erected a three-storeyed building in it. Rupchand Biswas filed a case against Khan which he lost. The court ordered Khan to pay Rupees 1,35,000. He however then, met Biswas for an out of the court settlement which he refused. Meanwhile, Majid Mian, the nominee of Abdus Sabur Khan lost in the district council election. Following it, Khan and his party members including the Chairman of their Union Board held the Hindus responsible for the defeat and threatened them with dire consequences.
On 2 January 1964, the Hindus were barred from wearing shoes, use umbrellas or ride a rickshaw as a mark of mourning for the loss of Prophet’s(also called Nabi) hair. In the afternoon, processions in Khulna mourning the loss, and later went on to call for annihilating Hindus and subsequently a riot broke out. After a few hours, curfew was imposed in in the city. At around 4 pm, attacks on Hindus started, in full-fledged mode. Abdus Sabur Khan addressed a huge rally at Daulatpur industrial area in the outskirts of Khulna. Thousands of non Bengali muslims assembled there, many armed with primitive weapons. Khan spoke a venom spitting anti-Hindu and anti-India speech, where he described the Kashmir incident as a Hindu conspiracy.
Following it, quite like the mad mob of Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar began to loot Hindu properties and set them on fire. Many Hindus were brutally chopped. A section of the mob marched towards the city, disrupting rail and road traffic reaching the town at sunset. For the next four days a pandemonium prevailed in the city featuring rape abduction loot and slaughtering of Hindus. The violence against the Hindus were led by the Muslim workers of Khulna Shipyard, Dada Company, Ispahani Company etc. The Chairman Union supplied the attackers with firearms. About 200-300 Bengali Hindus were shot dead at the Khulna Launch Ghat. All nearby Hindu villages were set to ashes.
Khan addressed three more meetings. Leaflets were distributed, warning the Hindus to leave Pakistan immediately. At Loppur Bazar, he addressed another gathering, where he said that he would make shoes out of Hindu skin, torn from their back. Once the violence escalated, Khan became occupied with the marriage of his niece. The marriage was attended by Abdul Moniem Khan, the Governor of East Pakistan, Kazi Abdul Kadar, member of National Assembly and former member of East Pakistan legislative assembly. Arvind Bhattacharjee, a reputed pleader of Khulna, repeatedly rang Khan for taking necessary action, by every time he excused himself by citing his unavailability due his niece’s marriage.
On 13 January, a meeting was held at the Dhaka stadium regarding the Hazratbal incident. On 14 and 15 January, Hindu passengers in the mail trains arriving at Dhaka from Chittagong and Sirajganj was asked to get down at Tongi and Tejgaon. Those who refused to get down were slaughtered. Subsequently, in Dhaka city Hindu temples were razed and hindus shot dead. Hindu temples, 6-7 properties, hostels, studios etc. property owned by Hindus were destroyed. Bangladesh’s most famous engineering college BUET then called EPUT (East Pakistan Institute of Technology) had its hindu boy’s hostel every night pelted with stones and bricks. Hindu students were termed as Indian spies.
On 16 January, two Hindu bank employees were fleeing in a car after hiding in the bank premises for two days. Their car was stopped and they were killed. Schools, public library, Vivekananda Physical Club and the Hindu Charitable Hospital were burnt. Truckloads of dead bodies were brought to the hospitals from where they were sent to the burial grounds.
Numerous Hindus were buried with military escorts. Many women were raped and many young girls were abducted. The locality was ethnically cleansed of Bengali Hindus and renamed to Zafrabad from Rayer bazar (Roy’s market). Hindu boy’s hostel was razed and looted. Walls were painted with Kill Hindus, Kill Marwari Hindus in vernacular language. On 18 January, the 24-hour curfew was imposed, with troops patrolling the streets. The curfew was later extended till 8 am on 19 January.
Villages were burnt. On 18 January, The Daily Ittefaq reported that 95% of the ruined houses belong to the Hindus in old Dhaka and about 100,000 Hindus were rendered homeless in Dhaka city. On 23 January, The Hindu quoting the Pakistan authorities reported that around 1,000 persons were killed in communal violence in Dhaka for the last one week. However, an American Peace Corps nurse stated that on 21 January there were 600 dead in Dhaka Medical College and Hospital alone.
The murder at Narayangunj: Adamjee group was a powerful business group here in the heart of the city, having jute and cotton mills. Their competitor was Dhakeswari cotton mills, run by a Hindu management. A rumour spread that the brother of Adamjee group’s manager was killed in Calcutta in India last night. On the night of 13 January, the workers of the Adamjee Jute Mills attacked the Hindu quarters, mostly inhabited by the workers of Dhakeshwari Cotton Mills and set the Hindu houses on fire. Satyen Roy, the Manager of Dhakeshwari Cotton Mill called the Managing Director at 3 am and reported that the mill was on fire and asked for police and military. By next morning about twenty thousand workers of Adamjee razed into the compound of Dhakeshwari Cotton Mills and resorted to indiscriminate looting, arson and murder. Killing about a thousand hindu workers and abducting their wives and daughters.
But hardly there were any relief for the misfortunate. About a few thousand helpless hindus with their children rushed to the compound of Lakshminarayan Cotton Mills. This mill was still safe. But a few hours later a few thousand muslim attackers, upon learning about the hindu congregation there razed into it. Professor Richard Novak of Notre Dame College went to Narayanganj to take photographs of mass violence.As a result, he was stabbed to death at Lakhadgola, near the Adarsha Cotton Mills.
The British Era’s erstwhile Landlord Hindu families in the adjoining area had perhaps the worst fate. Their families were uprooted over-night. Men folk slaughtered and women raped before their children. Young boys and girls were either carried off to camps or shot on the way.
The violence eventually spread eastwards towards Rajshahi district where the Hindu lower caste tribals were burnt alive.
In Sylhet, the district bordering India’s Assam tea workers were made to sit for mass conversion to Islam at gun point. A religious preacher of Hindu was forcefully fed beef before his followers, something considered as a cardinal sin in the religion, like consuming pork in Islam.
The Government imposed the Disturbed Persons (Rehabilitation) Ordinance that prohibited the sale of immovable property by any Hindu, making the only option for Hindus is to leave their properties and flee to India. Their assets were subsequently misappropriated by vested quarters of the Muslim leadership. The ordinance was challenged at the Dhaka High Court by Chittaranjan Sutar, a Hindu where the government lost. This triggered anger further and Manoranjan Dhar, a Hindu advocate of Dhaka High Court and many other Hindu leaders were put into jail on fabricated charges. Mr. Puleen Dey, a Hindu professor, and former member of legislative assembly and Secretary of Pakistan Socialist Party was arrested too from Chittagong.
The press reports were censored and photography was banned. Censorship was imposed on The Daily Ittefaq and Pakistan Observer for their honest coverage. In protest five dailies stopped publication. When reports surfaced that over 1,000 people had been killed in capital Dhaka itself, government lodged an immediate protest.
Tribal Banishing More than 75,000 refugees, fled since the genocide began. The refugees took refuge in Garo Hills in Assam. Lakshmi Menon, the Deputy Foreign Minister of India stated at the Lok Sabha that about 1,000 refugees were fired at by the Pakistan Rifles, while they were crossing over to India. By 28 March, around 78,000 tribal refugees had migrated. But the forced migration of the tribal Christians created a lot of uproar in international community. A cornered Pakistan government made an effort to bring Christians home, leaving the Hindus merely to get its image correct before the west. The Magistrate appealed to the refugees to return. The Archbishop of Dhaka met President Ayub Khan and wrote a letter asking the followers to return home. The Indian authorities announced the appeal of the Pakistan government and the Archbishop of Dhaka to the refugees in the camps and offered them free transportation to the border. However the Christian tribal refugees rejected the appeal and declined to go back to Pakistan.
In India, the refugees were provided relief in temporary relief camps in Assam, West Bengal and Tripura. Later they were provided rehabilitation in different parts of India. 6,000 Chakmas were provided shelter at a relief camp in Silchar in Assam. 12 provisional camps were set up at Tura in Garo Hills to shelter around 50,000 Garos and other refugee tribals.
- Novel based upon 1964 riots by Amitava Ghosh – The Shadow Lines
- Novel based upon 1964 riots by Suvashree Ghosh- Across Borders
- Drama in Assamese based upon the riots – Chimchamgar Duta Par by Umakant Sharma
- Tanvir Mukammal’s movie based on the riots – Chitra Nadir Par (Across Chitra River)
- Bengali Hindu Europe Humanitarian Societies.