A very unique event took place in New York on October 1st called the 6th Indian Subcontinent Partition Documentation Project Inc. (ISPaD). Before we present the specifics of this conference, we need to dig history little bit.
India was trifurcated in 1947 into India, West Pakistan and East Pakistan. Britain left India but they left a severely divided sub-continent which has thousands of years of shared history. The carnage, mass killings and exodus of people from their homes has no parallel in history. The partition was announced without having any proper plan for people to migrate out/in and as a result loot, rape and mass killings hit thousands of victims.
Religion-based politics was brought in in modern India by groups like Muslim League, aided by the British to implement their divide and rule policy. Religious divide what is called communism in India was used by British in 1905. Erstwhile Bengal province was divided into East and West Bengal by British to crush the independence movement of India then led by Bengal. At that time there was no demand either by Muslims or Hindus for partitioning of Bengal on the basis of religion as each village contained both communities. This in a way was the first partition of India to divide people. However due to massive uproar from the nationalists, Bengal was re-united in 1912. But the disease of communal politics only took firm root in the meantime.
On 16th August 1946 the Great Calcutta Killing took place when the ‘direct action’ day was announced by the Muslim League leaders – mixed Bengal Province of British India was ruled by the Muslim League Party – and a massive religious riot was orchestrated in the city of Calcutta. Nearly 5000 people were killed, over 100,000 people became homeless within 72 hours.
Only few weeks later, on October 16, 1946, (on the Kojagari Lakshmi Puja, an auspicious day for the Hindus) merely a year before the partition and independence a ghastly pogrom took place in Noakhali district, currently in Bangladesh, called the Noakhali Massacre. The genocide and carnage in Noakhali was a series of massacres, rapes, abductions and forced conversions of Hindus and loot and arson of Hindu properties by Muslim community in the districts of Noakhali. Gandhiji went there to stop the carnage.
It is estimated that over 5000 Hindus were killed, hundreds of Hindu women were raped and thousands of Hind-Buddhist men and women were forcibly converted to Islam.
Pogrom of minority communities, especially of the Hindus continued after the partition and creation of East Pakistan. The surge of these incidents happened in the following years: 1947, 1949, 1951, 1952, 1954 1956 1564, and 1971. In independent Bangladesh it has happened in 1990, 1992 and 2001. Pakistan regularly organized anti-Hindu pogroms by creating anti-India sentiments to stop the Bengali nationalist movement. But they could not stop the movement – and the Pakistani government and their ardent followers unleashed a reign of terror in 1964. Over 10,000 Hindus and other minorities including a US Christian priest were killed. Close to a million Hindus (mostly oppressed-caste peasants) crossed over toe India as refugees during these periods till 1965. But the movement grew further.
The Bengali nationalists declared war of Independence from Pakistan in 1971. Unfortunately, Pakistani rulers and Islamic fanatics targeted mostly Hindu houses and businesses. Over 70 percent (some estimates it to be 90%) of those killed and those who became refugees were Hindu minorities and the rest were secular Muslims. The genocide began on 26 March with the launch of Operation Searchlight, as West Pakistan began a military crackdown on Bengali nationalists of East who called for self-determination. What followed is unparalleled in human history: During the nine-month-long Bangladesh war for independence, killed up to 3 million people and raped between 200,000 and 400,000 women. This was all done jointly by the army of Islamic Republic of Pakistan and supporting Bengali Islamist militias from Jamaat-e-Islam and Razakar killing groups. The actions against women were supported by Imams and Muslim religious leaders, who declared that Bengali women were ‘war booty’.
Estimated number of refugees up to 1970 is over 20 million to West Bengal alone. This includes around 4 million between 1946 and 1958 and 1.2 million between 1959 and 1969. In 1970s during the early months of the war of liberation around 10 million East Bengali refugees entered India.
During the 1946 Noakhali carnage, Mahatma Gandhi went to stop it. When he saw the inevitability of Hindu exodus he commented: “My heart bleeds, my brain is strained to think that the East Bengal Hindus who were in the vanguard in the struggle for freedom, will be deprived of their ancestral home and hearth.”
Today in Pakistan and Pakistan occupied Kashmir the Hindu-Sikh-Jain-Buddhists are less than 2% now compared to about 25% before the partition.
In Bangladesh it is less than 10% now from 29% at the time of Indian partition.
Unfortunately there are not too many documents available about these atrocities and history books around the world merely mention these massive killing, torture and displacement millions in the Indian sub-continent..
ISPad is a forum to bring out facts from survivors and document the horrific history and the atrocities meted out to the minorities from pre-partition till now.
6th Partition Center Conference was held at SUNY Old Westbury, New York. Chair of the conference is writer and researcher Professor Dr. Sachi G. Dastidar, where he shared a few of the hundreds of testimonies of firsthand eyewitnesses and victims of refugees, survivors and protectors taken by ISPaD and made available at “ispad1947” channel of YouTube. They come from Hindus, Muslims, Christians and Sikhs of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh going back to the anti-Hindu Noakhali (East Bengal) pogrom of British India, then 1947 carnage, 1964 Hazrat Bal pogrom, 1971 Bangladesh Liberation struggle and more. Some described how they barely survived onslaught of their former neighbors losing their family members never to be seen again while some were saved by kind neighbors. Dr. Dastidar has documented detailed history of thes atrocities in his recently published two books – ‘The Empires Last Casualty’ and ‘Mukti: Free to be Born Again’
Dr. Tom Lilly, Jr., a Board Member, released the 48-page 2016 Partition Center Journal which includes nine articles from British colonialism to 1947 partition to changing identity to Roma of Europe.
Dr. Rudra Nath Talukdar in his keynote speech “Current Trends of Socio-politics in India” talked about the rise of conflict between pro-independence nationalism and neo-colonial forces in India and their supporters in the West.
Historian Dr. Saradindu Mukherji’s paper “A Timely Humanitarian Measure by Narendra Modi’s Government” addressed a very important issue of giving citizenship to tens of millions of stateless Hindu, Sikh, Jain, Buddhist and Christian mostly poor and oppressed-caste refugees from the neighboring states of Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan – many of them since partition – whose plights have been neglected by successive governments.
Mr. Pratip Dasgupta told the group as to how his Hindu family before 1947 was spread from today’s Bangladesh and Pakistan through India but had to abandon their homes for the safety of India immediately after Partition.
Other speakers included Dr. Dilip Nath, Mr. Mathias Rozario, Dr. AliReza Ebrahimi and Dr. Edislav Manetovic , Dr. Shefali S. Dastidar, Mr. Ramen Nandi, and Mr. Usama Shaikh and Shuvo G. Dastidar, Project Coordinator.
New Global Indian is publishing interviews of many survivors at :