The Dagger: Dominating Interests’ Class War In East Bengal, 1946 And After
By Farooque Chowdhury
31 October, 2015
Part IV: Denial & Silence
Stray resistance: The environment of communal hatred was not kept limited in Dhaka. “Attempts were made to organize communal riot in the hill areas [northern part] of Mymensingh. But the Moslems in the area opposed the riot-effort. As a result, riots could not be organized. Moreover, our [Communist Party’s] volunteer force was also alert and prepared to resist riot. A group of rioters in Kalmakanda came out to begin riot. Our comrades chased them away by making blank shots from guns. As a result of riot in Jamalpur [at that time a part of Mymensingh district], hundreds of Hindus left the area, and came to the hill areas. However, our volunteers restrained them, and told them that they were not to go to India; rather they were to live in Pakistan. A number of persons among the group from Jamalpur sent us a letter through our volunteers. They wrote: It was not possible for them to stay in their villages in Jamalpur; but the volunteers were obstructing them on their way to India. They sought a solution to the problem. We the leaders discussed the issue, and it was decided not to obstruct them. Volunteers helped them in many ways, and arranged their journey to India after receiving the decision.” (Moni Singha, Jeeban Sangraam [Life Struggle] Jatio Shahitya Prakashanee, Dhaka, July 1986)
Communist Party, the target: Chittagong, the port-town, had a similar story. Sharadindu Dastidar writes: The organization of Congress in Chittagong was not strong. For this reason, Congress was not the target of attack by Muslim League in Chittagong. In the district, Muslim League and Communist Party had strong organizations. The two parties were competing with each other for expanding influence in urban and rural areas of the district. However, Muslim League gained popularity because of its demand for Pakistan, and communists slowly began to get isolated from the commoners. Communal riots began in areas of Chittagong. But common people from the Moslem community didn’t participate in the riots. The commoners didn’t consider the communists as anti-Moslem. They considered the communists as sympathetic to the demand for Pakistan. They perceived only the communists stood by them during famine and epidemic. On the opposite, the rioters were the gang of hoodlums under the leadership of Fazlul Kader Chowdhury, a local Muslim League leader. Mr. Chowdhury engaged this armed gang as a tool to expand his influence among the people and to impose his dominance on Muslim League. This gang was used not only for committing communal riots, but also to counter the competing group within Muslim League. Communal riots spread with the partition of the subcontinent. It was wider than the 1946-riot. Chittagong was not spared. The Communist Party organized Peace Committee against Communalism with Congress and Muslim League leaders and prominent citizens of the town. It was not possible for Fazlul Kader Chowdhury to organize communal riot widely due to active role of the committee. The problem faced by the Chittagong branch of the Communist Party was to keep up the spirit of the Party leaders and activists coming from the Hindu community. They were getting demoralized. The question that haunted them was: Would it be possible to stay in Pakistan? The demoralization deepened after the communal riot in 1950. The 1950-riot was widely devastating. Daily Azad, Baanglaa pro-Muslim League daily, and other newspapers were presenting news of the riot widely. The Moslem youth in Chittagong were getting agitated with the news reports carried by the dailies for days. Communal riot spread into neighborhoods in the Chittagong town. Flames rose at night from parts of the town. Hindus were killed in the town, and in Noa Para Chowdhuree Haat, BoalKhali, Sitakunda, Patia, and in other areas. Almost all the Hindu passengers of a train were killed in Pahartali. Later it was found through investigation that the main organizer and instigator of the communal riot in Chittagong was Fazlul Kader Chowdhury. The exodus began after the riot. It turned impossible to get a seat in passenger trains as the number of persons leaving their motherland was huge. The exodus was centered not only in Chittagong. All the districts in East Bengal experienced this. Hindus were going to Paschim Banga, India. It was like opening a floodgate. The number was hundreds of thousands. Land, homestead and other properties of the Hindus were being snatched away. The 1950-’51 exodus impacted the Communist Party. The main population in the areas under the influence of the Party was Hindu. Most of shelters of the Party leaders and activists were lost as many of the Hindus left the country. Many leaders and activists had no home as their families left the country. The main source of income of the party came from the members of the Hindu community. That source was also lost. At the same time, the Muslim League continued its torture. These two made the communist leaders and activists helpless. It negatively affected the Party. District leadership of the Party was influenced with this. The Chittagong branch of the Communist Party lost many of its leaders and activists after the partition. (Jeebansreetee, [Reminiscence from Life], Shahitya Prakash, Dhaka, 1999)
Class movement harmed: Barin Datta writes: The communal Two-Nation theory, and the communal conflict during 1946-’47 seriously harmed class movement and class awareness. Government and the vested interests used the two tools of communal rift and oppression to counter class movement. (Sangraammookhar Deengoolee [Days Resonant with Struggles], Jatio Shahitya Prakashanee, Dhaka, February 1991)
Jhaandaa nehee chalegaa: Jasimuddin Mandal writes: Our comrades from the Hindu community were facing humiliation all the moments since the creation of Pakistan. It was due to religion-based ultra-nationalism. The railway workers from Bihar coming to East Bengal couldn’t tolerate Hindus. The Muslim League goons carried on powerful anti-Hindu propaganda among the workers from Bihar. Jinaah declared in Dhaka as he stepped in the capital of the new province of East Bengal: Heeaa kai izm-uzm nehee chalegaa. Aagar kai bale to sheer kuchal denggaa – No ’ism, socialism, would be allowed here in Pakistan. The person would be beheaded if he dares to raise the issue. Most of our leaders coming from the Hindu community left for India. The rest in underground were not safe also. Kamaniya Dasgupta, Mohammad Ismail, Somnath Lahiri, Dhiren Dasgupta and other leaders attended a workers’ meeting at Saidpur, a railway town in the northern part of East Bengal. The meeting was organized by the Railroad Workers Union. Suddenly, at one stage of the meeting, a group of Bihari workers started shouting: Heeaa kai jhaandaa-undaa nehee chalegaa. Haamlog meettee khaake rahegaa. Tor do meeting-uteeng – No red flag will be allowed here. We’ll survive without food. Smash down the meeting. Armed with sticks and iron rods they started rushing towards the dais of the meeting. Our activists with red flag turned puzzled at the initial moments. However, the leaders were saved. Our Bihari comrades didn’t join the pro-Pakistan Bihari workers. Our leaders reached Parbatipur, a railway junction miles away from Saidpur, walking along the railway tracks at late night. (Jeebaner Relgaaree: Sangraamee Sreeteekathaa [The Train of Life, Reminiscence of Struggle], Shahitya Prakash, Dhaka, November 1992)
Many other East Bengal districts went through similar experiences of people, their organizations and their movements targeted with vandalism and smashing, threat and assault, torture and denial. Questions thus emerge:
Which meeting (organization) was smashed? Which flag (politics) was denied? It’s workers’, poor peasants’, people’s. Isn’t the class war visible?
But, astonishingly, and amazingly, it’s difficult to find references of the party and politics that was standing with the people’s cause – the Communist Party and its politics – while 1946- and consequent riots are dissected and re-dissected in voluminous literature by the dominant stream of scholarship. The party had at least a newspaper. It’s difficult to find any reference from the newspaper. It’s difficult to find any reference of any related resolution taken in any meeting of the Party. Is it ignorance? Or, is it an attempt to ignore facts of a people’s fight? It’s, actually, an attempt to hide the dominant interests’ misdeed: a class war waged against a people.
[Farooque Chowdhury writes from Dhaka. The article, here in five parts, first appeared in Frontier, Autumn Number, 2015, Vol. 48, No. 14 - 17, Oct 11 - Nov 7, from Kolkata with the following heading: “Radcliffe’s Surgery And After: Class War in East Bengal, 1946 and Communist Party”]