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Thursday, August 30, 2012

1947-49 : THE PUSH BEGINS, GENTLY by Tathagat Roy

http://bengalvoice.blogspot.in/2008/05/chapter-5-1947-49-push-begins-gently-as.html


"My People, Uprooted: A Saga of the Hindus of Eastern Bengal" by Tathagata Roy



As already explained at length, Bengali Hindu society was stratified by caste, with the Brahmins, Kayasthas and Baidyas at the top of the pyramid, and the Baishya Sahas somewhere in the middle, but among the richest. It was these castes who felt the first pinch of partition and of being infidels in an Islamic Republic, and who were among the first to leave. These castes were the most dominant and the most powerful in the British days. They were also quite intelligent, and realised that not only would their power and dominance not last, but these would now work against them. Therefore they left. They were the smartest and also the early birds in the entire process, and therefore got the best possible deal. The infamous Nehru-Liaquat Pact (see Chapter 6) was not a reality yet, and a sizable number of Muslims in West Bengal were eager to go and settle in East Pakistan. Quite a few of these refugees therefore could exchange properties with Muslims leaving West Bengal. They did not depend on the state for rehabilitation. Conversely, the people of the State of West Bengal never realised what lay in wait for them – they thanked their stars that they had been spared the fate of Punjab.

It is not as if they left just having read the writing on the wall, without any provocation at all. There was persecution, mainly psychological to begin with, which later hardened into physical violence. Some examples have been recorded by two authors : Hiranmay Banerjee, and Sandip Banerjee. Hiranmay Banerjee was yet another officer of the ICS who was placed in charge of the Refugee Rehabilitation Department of the Government of West Bengal shortly after independence. He had recorded his reminiscences in a very well written book in Bangla titled 'Udbastu' (meaning 'Refugee')
[1]. Sandip Banerjee took up the subject much later, in the nineties, and had done commendable research, leading to the publication of two short but important books[2], both in Bangla. There are things to be said about the approach of either author, and this has been sought to be done in Chapter10.

According to Hiranmay Banerjee the 'Police Action' in Hyderabad in India was one of the incidents that triggered atrocities against Hindus in East Bengal. Hyderabad was the largest 'Native State' in British India, with a overwhelmingly Hindu population speaking Telugu, Kannada or Marathi, but ruled by a Shia Muslim Urdu-speaking ruler called the Nizam, one of the richest men in the world. The Nizam, with some encouragement from Pakistan, tried to set up an independent, Muslim-ruled Hyderabad, and terrorised his Hindu population with his all-Muslim militia known as Razakars. Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel, the Deputy Prime Minister of India, also with the Home portfolio, sent in the Indian Army which easily overpowered the militia and disarmed them. The Nizam was later honourably rehabilitated, even made Rajpramukh (Governor) of the State of Hyderabad. The Muslims of East Bengal, practically all of them Sunnis, had never had anything to do at all with the Urdu-speaking, Shia Nizam. Yet the defeat of the Nizam fired anti-Hindu hysteria in East Bengal, with predictable results
[3].

Hiranmay Banerjee describes several incidents in full, mostly in this period of 1947-1950, which he heard while serving as the Deputy Commissioner of the northern border district of Jalpaiguri, and visiting a refugee camp in the sub-divisional town of Alipurduar. In each of these incidents there was no physical violence but very acute psychological pressurising on a sensitive, cornered people. The most telling among the incidents runs as follows :

In rural Bengal there is no piped water supply, but water is abundantly available if one excavates a pond (called pukur) to a depth of about three metres. The usual manner of bathing for the people is therefore to wade out to neck-deep water and take several dips in such ponds. A daily bath, sometimes twice a day, is an essential item of personal hygiene in hot and humid Bengal. There was, and still to a large extent is, strict segregation of the sexes in the bathing process, and men and women either take bath at different ghats (steps going down into the water), or take bath at different times. These are matters of feminine modesty, and are required to be strictly observed.

Now it so happened in one of these incidents that whenever Hindu women went bathing in the village pond, large groups of Muslim men of all ages, would gather to surround the pond to watch them bathe, totally defying the conventional requirements of feminine modesty. They would then shout chants intended to embarrass, insult and intimidate the women. One of these chants went like this :

Pak, Pak, Pakistan (Holy, holy Pakistan)
Hindur bhatar Mussalman (Hindu women shall have Muslim husbands)

Then an elderly Muslim would advance and call to one of the Hindu women, addressing her as Bibi (wife), to get up and accompany him (there could be, and quite possibly was, a veiled sexual innuendo in the call, depending on the tone of the voice and the body language of the caller - author).

The entire crowd would guffaw at the acute discomfiture of the woman who would be standing stiff in neck-deep water, trembling all over, scared out of her wits. Then the elder would shout to one of the younger boys, pointing to the woman " I think your Chachi (aunt, insinuating that the woman was really his wife) has cramps in her legs. Why don't you go get her up and bring her home?"

This is where the story ended, as told by a fugitive to Hiranmay Banerjee
[4]. If there were worse things said or done no Hindu woman or a close relative would talk about it. In fact, in the social backdrop of 1947-48 saying even this much was quite out of the ordinary, and was obviously the result of a great deal of anguish in the narrator.

Dr. Brajesh Pakrashi
[5], a successful cadiologist of Solon (a suburb of Cleveland, Ohio) recalls that his family were zamindars in the village of Sthal, Pabna. Following independence and partition there was no overt act of persecution, but 'there was an unease in the air'. The skeleton of a cow, evidence of the killing of a cow, considered a mortal sin by Hindus, was found one day in front of the village Kali temple. His family owned several guns (usually shotguns for hunting and muskets for protection). Shortly after partition the local Daroga (Police Chief) called on his father and showed an order of the government requiring their guns to be impounded. The elder Pakrashi handed over all their guns to the Daroga. The very next day he saw a young Muslim boy, who happened to be the son of an employee of the Zamindari, trying to shoot pigeons with one of the guns impounded the previous day. Upon questioning, the boy said, quite politely, that the Daroga had given him the gun for shooting. The Pakrashi clan got together the same night and decided that if a gun impounded by a government order and taken over by a police officer could be so carelessly lent for shooting pigeons, then dark days were indeed ahead. They decided to leave for India.

Another author, Prafulla Kumar Chakraborty, in a reference to this incident in his book 'The Marginal Men'
[6] has described the anguish of the Hindus as a community in very graphic terms. The Bhadralok class of East Bengali Hindus were the vanguard of the Ognijug, the era of fire of the Bengali revolutionaries (see Chapter 2), and had made untold sacrifices at that time, including quite a few going to the gallows. The intense yearning with which they had looked forward to independence can therefore only be imagined. Now the independence that had come to them had turned out to be a thousand times worse than British rule.

The attitude of Muslims towards the Hindus seemed to have changed almost overnight with independence. They adopted a policy of destroying totally the Hindus' sense of security by resorting to systematic persecution, especially in regard to the safety of their women. Still, the Hindus would have stuck on to their roots if only there had been some kind of fair administration in the country. In fact there was none. The openly partisan East Pakistani administration did not lift a little finger to restrain the Hindu-baiting Muslims. Therefore they had no recourse but to leave for India
[7].

Sukomal Talukdar
[8], born in the village of Bhabanipur, near Hathazari, Chittagong, now a U.S. citizen living near Seattle, Washington, recalls some of his earliest memories being those of Muslims raiding their property, forcibly taking away fish from their ponds, wood and fruits from their trees, and his elders discussing the matter helplessly. His sisters, in spite of being bright students, could not pursue their studies very far because Muslim boys used to tease them, sometimes threaten them. A stage came when it became downright dangerous for them to go to school, and they had to be given away in marriage quite early. Complaints made to the local thana (police station) brought forth the reply that if Hindus wanted to live in Pakistan this is the way they will have to live. The general idea was to create an atmosphere of extreme insecurity so that the Hindus left for India, and their property could be usurped by the Muslims.

Sandip Banerjee has narrated a number of incidents such as those experienced by Ms. Binapani Roy Chaudhuri, of village Joypur, Habiganj subdivision, Sylhet district. This is what she said : "There had been no atrocities on Hindus in our village, but there was a lot of panic following the Noakhali carnage and 'Direct Action' in Calcutta. One day we all gathered together to hear the results of the referendum being announced on the radio. We were all very dejected to learn that Sylhet was going to Pakistan. . . . Our village had more Hindus than Muslims. The Hindus owned the land, the Muslims tilled it. Relations between the communities were quite acceptable. But as soon as the referendum results came out, panic spread among the Hindus. Muslims went around saying 'Let us first get Pakistan ; we shall then get even with the Hindus'. Independence Day for us was a very sad day. We passed the next few days in bated breath. Thefts and robberies started taking place in Hindu households. A girl from the Nyayaratna family was kidnapped and returned a few days later. The overall insecurity was too much to stand. I was then eleven years old. I was sent away to Shillong where my elder brother lived. For a few years we alternated between our village and Shillong. Then, in 1953, the Muslims set fire to our house and we all moved permanently to Shillong"
[9].

A few Hindu festivals had made East Bengal famous. Two of these were the Janmashtami
[10] processions of Dacca, and the Rath[11] festival of Dhamrai, a village near Dacca. The large concentration of Vaishnavas[12] among the moneyed Hindus of Dacca had made these events memorable. Within a month of independence Muslims attacked the Janmashtami processions in Dacca. The Rath mela of Dhamrai was closed down altogether and for good. Eventually, with the Hindus leaving Dacca town by the thousands, the Janmashtami processions also became a thing of the past. By 1949 the number of Durga Pujas[13] in Dacca town had also come down drastically. Posters were visible all over town against the pujas. On Vijaya Dashami day, the last day of the pujas, and a day for proclaiming brotherhood of all, Hindu households were set on fire by the hundreds, rendering as many as 750 Hindu families homeless. Saraswati Puja immersion[14] processions were attacked in Patuakhali in Barisal.

At this stage the plight of the Hindu politicians who had chosen to stay on in East Pakistan should be mentioned. They had stayed on either because they thought they could provide leadership to, and influence the state in favour of the Hindus, or because they thought they would be in demand as leaders of a minority group. There were several of them, notable among them being Dhirendra Nath Datta, Kamini Kumar Datta (both of Comilla), Satindra Nath Sen, Jogendra Nath Mandal (both of Barisal), Basanta Das of Sylhet and Prabhas Chandra Lahiri of Rajshahi. All of them had to leave politics, some of them also this world, in pitiable states.

The case of Dhirendra Nath Datta was particularly sad. He had been a member of the Pakistani Parliament and Constituent Assembly, and had demanded National Language status for Bangla. Before this Jinnah had declared at Dacca that the national language of Pakistan shall be Urdu, and none should have any doubts about it. A number of youths, among them Shaikh Mujibur Rahaman, protested on his face. All these efforts ultimately culminated in the famous Language Agitation of 1952 in which, on 21st February several students were killed in a police firing. This day of 21st February is a National Day in Bangladesh. Dhirendra Nath Datta could, thus, be said to be one of the pioneers in the movement which gave rise to the independent Republic of Bangladesh.. During the holocaust of 1971 he was taken to Comilla cantonment by the Pakistani army, brutally tortured, and eventually killed. And how did the Bangladeshi state treat what was left of him? Datta was a moneyed person in Comilla, and his property was declared enemy property under the infamous law of that name (these laws have been discussed in detail in Chapter 7) - not in hostile Pakistan, but in independent Bangladesh, a country that he had helped come into being. When his legal representatives protested, the Judge ruled that his death certificate must be produced, failing which it must be presumed that he had escaped to India
[15].

Jogendra Nath Mandal's was a different story. Ramsay Macdonald's communal award of 1932 had divided the Hindu community into 'caste' Hindus and 'Depressed Classes', though no such distinction was made between Sunni and Shia Muslims. The idea was obviously to keep Hindu society divided as far as possible. Jogendra Nath Mandal of Barisal emerged as a leader of this class and was asked by the Muslim League to join their ministry in 1937. This was so far beyond Mandal's expectations that he became a virtual slave of the Muslim League, and was used by them to whitewash the misdeeds of the League vis-à-vis Mandal's own community. This is what Mandal did after the Noakhali carnage of 1946 where there were a large number of depressed caste Hindus
among the victims of Golam Sarwar's goons. He also opposed Syama Prasad Mookerjee's proposal of partitioning Bengal, and called it a conspiracy of caste Hindus against the Depressed Classes and Muslims. For all this he was rewarded with a ministerial berth in independent Pakistan's central cabinet and was given the portfolio of Law and Labour.

However, the pogrom of 1950 was too much even for such a person to digest. He came over to Dacca from the national capital of Karachi on 10th February, and saw for himself the terrible misdeeds of the Muslims. He then travelled to his home district of Barisal, and saw the bestialities committed by the Muslims in villages like Muladi, Madhabpasha and Lakutia. He decided to take up the matter with Liaquat Ali upon his reeturn to Karachi. Liaquat Ali said Mandal was exaggerating minor incidents beyond all proportions and threatened to throw him jail if he did not keep quiet. Now Mandal had had enough, and also smelt that his end in Pakistani politics was near. He kept quiet for a while, surreptitiously ran away and came to Calcutta in October 1950, and refused to go back to Pakistan again. His letter of resignation sent to Liaquat Ali is a historical document, and is given in the appendix to this book.

Satindra Nath Sen was a Congress leader of Barisal. He had chosen to stay on in East Pakistan and to try to persuade other Hindus to stay on. He failed. He was later incarcerated by the East Pakistan government, and died a prisoner. Basanta Das and Prabhas Chandra Lahiri were, to use a contemporary term, EBDO-ed (driven out of politics by Ayub Khan's Elected Bodies Disqualification Order, issued following his promulgation of Martial Law in 1958), and had to flee to India.
The fear of molestation, rape and kidnapping of Hindu women was one of the principal reasons for the Hindus to leave East Pakistan at this stage. Young, and even not-so-young Hindu women were finding it increasingly difficult to step out of doors for fear of jeers, catcalls and lewd and intimidating gestures by Muslim men. Instances of burglaries, thefts and robberies on Hindu households were increasing. As always, even in these activities Hindu women were invariably a subsidiary target.

Complaining to the Pakistani police was usually pointless. They were found to be either inert or openly partisan in favour of the Muslims. Sunil Ganguly mentions in his novel Purba-Pashchim a case when a Judge from West Bengal goes back to his village Malkhanagar in the Bikrampur region of the district of Dacca for a visit. His property there has been looted twice by masked robbers who had made only a show of hiding their faces, and had warned him that they would kill him the next time he dared to visit Malkhanagar. He goes to complain to the Police Station. The officer there is not bothered, and tells him 'Oh, so you don't have robberies in Hindusthan
[16]! Then why don't you go there?'[17]

Fear of forcible conversion, invariably accompanied by a forced meal of beef, was another fear. This had been widely practised in the Noakhali carnage. Destruction of standing crops belonging to Hindus was yet another technique of forcing the Hindus to leave. The bulk of trade and commerce was still in Hindu hands, especially retail trade. Boycotting of Hindu stores had become a regular feature. Once the moneyed Hindus left the artisan class dependent on their custom also left, for the Muslims would not or could not patronise them. A classic example of these was a gentleman called Sisir Dhuli of Barisal whose ancestral occupation was to beat the Dhak (a kind of drum) at Durga and other Puja times. With the Hindus leaving there would be no more Durga Pujas and no custom for him. Therefore he had also left.

And of course there were murders, pure and simple and gruesome. Shubhoranjan Dasgupta, a reporter of the popular Calcutta Bangla daily Ananda Bazar Patrika, found and reported
[18] evidence as late as in the year 2000 when he had gone to Vrindavan[19] to do a feature on Bengali widows there. Ms. Ila Banerjee, 86 when she was interviewed, was the wife of a doctor with a thriving practice in the village of Barandipara in Jessore. They had three sons – the eldest about to sit for his matriculation, the next in class five, the youngest in class four. One fateful day in 1947 they all went to the market together, and never came back. Ila and her husband traveled to Vrindavan, and lived the rest of their lives there, trying to drown their immeasurable sorrow in religion, chanting Radha-Krishna for their waking hours, and occasionally not being able to help breaking out into sobs. Likewise, Dasgupta found in the same Vrindavan, Radhadasi Baidya (70, from Bishnupur, Khulna), Kiranbala Haldar (70, Hausdi, Faridpur), Gopika Saha (66, Noakhali town, Noakhali), Chapalasundari Dhar (90, Dakkhinbaria, Noakhali), Sushila Dey (80, Habiganj, Sylhet), still-living monuments to Islamic holocaust in Eastern Bengal.

There were protests against the atrocities in the newspapers of Calcutta, and in those of East Bengal still in Hindu hands. The paper 'Deshapriya' of Barisal reported that Hindus were leaving for India by the villagefuls only in order to live with dignity. A letter to the editor of that paper reported that fear of forcible conversion was one of the chief motivating factors behind leaving their country. The Ananda Bazar Patrika of 20th October, 1948 observed that while there was no widespread rioting in East Pakistan, there was boycotting of Hindu traders, intimidation of Hindus, and an all-pervading atmosphere of fear, which were the principal factors in making the Hindus leave East Pakistan. On 24th October the same paper reported that Hindus were leaving East Pakistan in hordes. According to Dr. B.C. Roy their number was around 1,500,000 ; according to Suresh Chandra Banerjee, a Congress leader of West Bengal, the number so far exceeded 2,000,000. On 29th October the same paper enumerated the main reasons for the exodus to be as follows :

1. Lack of representation of Hindus in the administrative apparatus of East Pakistan.
2. Absence of Hindu officers in the Police and the Army.
3. Forcible occupation of Hindu properties.
4. Arrest and internment without trial of Hindus.
5. Forcible searches of Hindu households without reason.
6. Boycott of Hindu traders.
7. A food crisis and general economic malaise.

It is true that at the time there was a general economic crisis in East Pakistan principally due to the dislocation created by partition, whereas West Bengal, being part of the large Indian economy did not suffer from any such problems. Standard rice cost Rs. 50 per maund at the time in East Bengal, whereas the corresponding price was around Rs. 21 in West Bengal. It is believed that at the time some Muslims also left East Bengal for West because of this reason. Still, it is difficult to agree with the enumeration of the reasons for leaving home by Hindus as given by Ananda Bazar Patrika. The central, paramount, fundamental reason that forced the Hindus to leave their home and hearth of many centuries could have only been a total, all-pervading, deep-seated, profound insecurity. Insecurity as to their life, liberty and pursuit of happiness ; insecurity as to their freedom to practise their religion and their way of life; and more than anything else, insecurity as to the safety of their women
[20]

According to Prafulla Kumar Chakrabarti the geography of Eastern Bengal had its part to play in the insecurity. The whole of Eastern Bengal is a delta, criss-crossed by innumerable rivers, canals and major and minor water courses. Every bit of land is thus, in a sense, an island, approachable usually by river craft (and, in some districts like Barisal, only by river craft). The Hindus lived in these islands in an isolated, scattered way. It was not easy for them to escape when set upon suddenly by a marauding Jihad-crazed mob. The Hindu-hatred of the East Bengali Muslims had reached such a pitch that most Hindus considered it better to leave instead of waiting for that mob to arrive
[21].

Sandip Banerjee has overplayed the aspect of change of way of life in prompting the affluent, socially forward and dominant Hindus to leave. According to him the principal reason behind the Hindus leaving East Bengal in the first phase of 1948-49 was their refusal to accept the reality that from now on the Muslims would be their equals, and the Muslims, not they, would henceforth rule society, economics and politics. A critique of his approach and that of other commentators is at Chapter 10. Quite apart from his approach however, it is a fact that the non-acceptance of Muslim domination did play a part in inducing the Hindus to leave. Hiranmay Banerjee has also cited a number of cases of such non-acceptance, and they need to be placed on record.

A Brahmin of Bikrampur decided to leave for India because an influential Muslim gentleman of his village paid him a visit and sat down on a bench, whereas before independence he always used to sit on a mat on the floor. Well-to-do Hindus were disturbed by the fact that Muslims now stood straight before them and looked them in the eye when they talked. In village Kakdwip, under Palang Police Station, Madaripur subdivision of Faridpur district, Hindus left partly from fear of Muslim vendetta against insults done to them earlier
[22]. Muslims would walk up to Hindu gentlemen and tell them 'This is Pakistan -- you can't ignore us any longer as insignificant'. A Hindu gentleman had bought the last remaining sack of fine rice from a shop, and was in the process of picking it up when a Muslim mukhtar (a kind of lawyer) came and picked up the sack and claimed it. When the Hindu protested the Muslim said 'Of course I'll take it! What do you think-- is this Hindusthan'?[23]

Both Hiranmay Banerjee and Sandip Banerjee have blamed the exodus to a significant extent on the refusal of the Hindus to face reality, and on their guilt for their past misdeeds. Granted both were present, were these enough reasons for leaving one's home of centuries for a totally uncertain future in a strange land? Or were these merely subsidiary reasons, or at most the primary reason for only a few affluent Hindus? And did the act of leaving East Pakistan for India at the first hint of trouble show an alarmist nature or over-sensitivity?

Or did it show remarkable foresight? Shirshendu Mukherjee, another popular contemporary Bengali novelist of West Bengal, in his novel Ghoonpoka, has described the lament of Kamalaksha Chakravarty, a poor Brahmin of village Banikhara, Bikrampur: "We should have left for India while there was still time (presumably for exchanging property etc.), staying on here has been a great mistake".

The role of roving Muslim loot, murder and rape squads – some sort of Muslim League storm troopers – needs to be mentioned in this context. They included both Bihari and Bengali Muslims. That they were allowed to have a free run of everything possessed by Hindus, including their persons, is beyond doubt. They made it a practice to harass, loot and kill Hindus leaving for India, because a large number of them could be found concentrated in a train or steamer and would be carrying with them most of their valuables – usually gold, silver, money, even kansha (bell-metal) utensils. The fleeing Hindus were easy prey, with the Pakistani police either not visible or looking the other way. Together with looting the refugees there would be fringe benefits for them too, for they would get to paw nubile Hindu girls and women. Trains going to India were a favourite target of theirs, because they would find a large number of Hindus, including Hindu girls, within small confines. The massacres at Santahar and Dacca (Fulbari) stations and on Meghna Bridge were all done in trains. Unless it was in a very visible place, they would often drag away such girls, quite a few of whom would then disappear forever. Such women were often raped and then killed, or just left lying where they were after being raped, eventually to land up in a brothel or as the fourth wife of some village Mollah
[24]somewhere deep in the interior of rural East Pakistan.

The total number of Hindu refugees who arrived in India from East Pakistan in this phase (earlier than 31st December 1949) and sought state rehabilitation is given as 2,304,514 by Hiranmay Banerjee
[25]. This does not include Hindus who rehabilitated themselves, or Hindus who were in West Bengal before partition and never went back.

How much property did the Hindus lose in East Bengal? There is no data at all, but a methodology for determination has been suggested at Chapter 10. To have an idea, consider the following excerpt from a speech by Dr. Meghnad Saha in the Indian Parliament "Now take the city of Dacca, the biggest city in Eastern Pakistan, it had a population of 200,000 before partition, 70 per cent were Hindus – 140,000. They owned 80 per cent of the houses there. Now there are only 5,000 Hindus left there and they have been completely forced out of their houses in Dacca. I know it, because I come from Dacca"
[26].

Refugee movements started abating in 1949, and a lot of people thought that the worst was over. In truth only the first phase of this movement ended, to be followed in 1950 onwards by a much worse, bloodier phase.

CHAPTER 5
[1] Udbastu (in Bangla, meaning 'Refugee'), by Hiranmay Banerjee, Sahitya Samsad, Calcutta,1st Ed.,1970

[2] Deshbhag, Deshtyag, ibid.; Deshbhag : Sriti aar Satta , (in Bangla, meaning Partition : Memories and Existence) by Sandip Banerjee, , Progressive Publishers, Calcutta, 1st Ed.,1999

[3] Udbastu, ibid., p. 333

[4] ibid., p.15

[5] Interviewed November 5, 2000

[6] 'The Marginal Men' by Prafulla Kumar Chakraborty, Naya Udyog, Calcutta, 2nd Ed., 1999. The book was also published in its Bangla version entitled Prantik Manab, Pratikshan Publications Pvt. Ltd., Calcutta, 1st. Ed., 1997

[7] ibid., p. 16

[8] Interviewed November 2000

[9] Deshbhag, Deshtyag, ibid. p. 56

[10] Janmashtami is the celebration of birth of Lord Krishna (the author of the Bhagavad Gita ) on the eighth day of the moon in the month of Bhadra.

[11] Rath literally means a chariot on which Lord Jagannath rides. Rath festival is associated with its melas, village fairs which were irresistible to the village children. Attacks on the melas by Muslims are notorious for the atrocities committed on these children. See Sunil Ganguly's Purba-Pashchim ibid. p. 418

[12] A Vaishnava is a worshipper of the Hindu God Vishnu, the keeper of the universe, one of the trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Maheswara, Brahma being the creator and Maheswara the destroyer. The Vaishnavas of Bengal, not very numerous, are characterised by their pacifism, vegetarianism (not common among Bengali Hindus), and certain rituals.

[13] Durga is the ten-armed Hindu Goddess embodying the strength of all the Gods for combating the evil demon, the Buffalo-bodied Mahishasura. Durga Puja (community worship) is now the main annual festival of Bengali Hindus, and is celebrated over four days, usually in October.

[14] Saraswati is the Hindu Goddess of learning . After a Puja of a particular deity, Saraswati or Durga, the image is immersed in the nearest river with a lot of pomp and ceremony.

[15] Deshbhager Golpo (Stories of the Partition), by Salaam Azad, 1st Ed., Mitra & Ghosh, Calcutta, p. 42-43.

[16] Pakistanis often refer to India as 'Hindusthan', though in a strict sense the term applies only to the Gangetic Plain of North India.

[17] Purba-Pashchim, ibid. p. 93

[18] Ananda Bazar Patrika (Bangla), Calcutta, April 11, 2000. Ananda Bazar Patrika is a Bangla daily from Calcutta, of the ABP group, then as well as now the most circulated one, and currently with the highest circulation among all Indian language dailies in India.

[19] Vrindavan is a village on the Yamuna River, near Mathura in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh. The village is very holy to Hindus for being associated with Lord Krishna, the author of the Bhagavad Gita, and his lady love, Radha. It was a popular destination, for elderly religious Bengali Hindus, especially widows, who wanted to spend their last days in communion with Radha-Krishna. Varanasi or Banaras was also equally popular, except that the presiding deity there was Lord Shiva.

[20] All these incidents were reported in different newspapers and journals and quoted in Deshbhag, Deshtyag, ibid. p. 57-59

[21] Prantik Manab, ibid., p. 16

[22] Deshbhag, Deshtyag, ibid. p. 61-62

[23] Udbastu, ibid. p. 14

[24] A Mollah (or Mullah) is a Muslim clergyman who leads the five-times-a-day prayers at the mosque. Bengali Muslims are practically all Hanafi Sunnis, and unlike Shia Muslims the Sunnis have no organised clergy. However, to the largely illiterate village Muslims the Mollah's word is law.

[25] Udbastu, ibid. p. 343

[26] Speech in Parliament (Lok Sabha) on the West Bengal Evacuee Property (Tripura Amendment) Bill, November 27, 1952. Lok Sabha Debates, Part II, 2nd Session, Vol.5, 1313-15. 1952. Meghnad Saha in Parliament, Santimoy Chatterjee and Jyotirmay Gupta Ed., Asiatic Society, Calcutta, 1st Ed. 1993, p.220

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