Why It's Crucial For All Hindus To Remember And Draw Lessons From The Noakhali Genocide Of 1946

Why It's Crucial For All Hindus To Remember And Draw Lessons From The Noakhali Genocide Of 1946

by Jaideep Mazumdar - Oct 10, 2022 02:37 PM +05:30 IST
Why It's Crucial For All Hindus To Remember And Draw Lessons From The Noakhali Genocide Of 1946Mahatma Gandhi at Noakhali in 1946. (Wikimedia Commons)
  • History texts and almost all accounts of the horrific Noakhali events refer to the systematic purge and forced conversions of Hindus as ‘riots’. 

    But the incidents that took place on this day 76 years ago were nothing short of a genocide.

October 10, 1946: Bengali Hindus in Noakhali in the south-eastern part of what was then East Bengal (present-day Bangladesh) were preparing to worship Goddess Lakshmi. 

But before the rituals could start, wave upon wave of Islamists set upon the numerically-weaker Hindus and massacred defenceless men, took women hostages and raped them, and forcibly converted thousands to Islam.

An estimated 5,000 Hindus, mostly men and boys, were killed. But many times that number were forcibly converted to Islam by making them eat beef and recite the kalma

The Muslim mobs targeted Hindu women and thousands were raped, many in front of their children and husbands, and taken into captivity to be used as sex slaves. 

History texts and almost all accounts of the horrific events that ultimately led to a steep decline in the population of Hindus in Noakhali refer to the systematic purge and forced conversions of Hindus as ‘riots’. 

But they were nothing short of a genocide. The primary reasons for labelling the terrible events as a genocide are:

  • The intensity and horrific nature of the attacks and the brutalities inflicted on innocent and helpless Hindus;

  • The attacks were premeditated and planned by leaders of the Muslim League and other Islamists;

  • The objective of the planners of the attacks was to purge Noakhali of Hindus by either exterminating them or forcibly converting them to Islam;

  • The targeting of Hindu women by raping them, taking them captives to be used as ‘sex slaves’, forcing them to eat beef and recite the kalma;

  • Attacks on and destruction of Hindu places of worship that were meant to obliterate the identity of the Hindu community.

There are numerous accounts of the horrific genocide, the complicity of the Muslim League administration as well as the British in this ‘cleansing’, of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi’s abject failure to prevent the genocide and the aftermath of the genocide to bear repetition here. 

But it is important to remember the genocide and draw lessons from it. And here are the lessons that need to be drawn from it:

  • Never forget: Post Independence, there have been diabolic attempts by the ‘left-liberal’ brigade — historians, litterateurs, writers and others — to whitewash this terrible genocide. It is crucial for survival of not just Bengali Hindus, but all Hindus, to remember the genocide. Because history repeats itself for those who do not learn from it. 

  • Pacifism is self-defeating: Pacifists among the Hindus — Gandhi was the foremost one, and he spawned a whole army of misguided peaceniks who thrive today — have long argued in favour of ‘turning the other cheek’. But Hindus should learn from history and realise that pacifism has only led to countless genocides like the one at Noakhali. 

Down the centuries, pacifism has not done Hindus any good and has only led to terrible atrocities being inflicted on them. 

  • Pacifists are phoney: Gandhi, the foremost pacifist, spent four months in Noakhali and toured many parts of the province trying to convince the Muslims to co-exist peacefully with the Hindus. But he failed to prevent the continuing attacks on Hindus and his entreaties fell on deaf ears. In the end, Gandhi’s advice (according to a report in The New York Times of 8 April 1947) to Hindus of Noakhali: leave or perish!

What’s worse was that Gandhi abandoned Hindus of Noakhali to their fate and went off to Bihar where riots were taking place in retaliation against the massacre of Hindus in Noakhali and Calcutta (the Great Calcutta killings).

Gandhi cajoled Hindus in Bihar to stop the retaliation. Jawaharlal Nehru, who had little to say on the Noakhali genocide, threaten to bomb Hindus who were attacking Muslims in Bihar.

  • Get united and organised: One of the first targets of the frenzied Muslim mobs was the mansion of Rajendralal Roychowdhury who was the president of the Noakhali Bar Association and the Hindu Mahasabhas’s Noakhali district unit. The attacks on the Roychowdhury mansion started on the morning of 11 October. Rajendralal fended off the attackers singlehandedly with a rifle that he fired from the rooftop of his mansion. He could keep them at bay for the entire day.

After dusk, Rajendralal managed to send out a monk of Bharat Sevashram Sangha who was staying at his residence to safety along with some of his family members.

But the attacks resumed the next day and Rajendralal soon ran out of ammunition. The Islamists then entered his house and killed him and other surviving members of his family, and took his two daughters captive. 

Rajendralal’s severed head was presented to the Gholam Sarwar Husseini, the mastermind of the Nokhali genocide. Rajendralal’s two daughters were given away to two lieutenants of Husseini who led the murderous mobs. The two young girls were raped, forced to eat beef and recite the kalma, and then kept as sex slaves. 

This act — presenting Rajendralal’s severed head and his two young daughters as trophies to Husseini — was not a medieval aberration as left-liberal whitewashers of history and apologists of Islamist jihad would like us to believe.

It happened in 1946, and happens in many other parts of the world (including Bangladesh and Pakistan). And worse still, it can still happen to Hindus in India if the community continues to swear by suicidal pacifism.

The main point here is that Rajendralal Roychowdhury was the only Hindu who fought the Muslim jihadists. Had other Hindus fought back, the Muslims mobs may have retreated for long enough to give the Hindus time to escape the genocide.

Resistance and counter-attacks from Hindus may have even deterred the Muslim mobs. 

But that didn’t happen because Bengali Hindus were not organised and did not have it in them to fight back. They had been fed the poison of pacifism for far too long and did not have the stomach to fight back. 

  • Sufis are also radical Islamists: The mastermind of the Noakhali genocide was Shah Syed Gholam Sarwar Husseini, the hereditary pir of Dayra Sharif, a Sufi shrine in Noakhali. 

Husseini was a member of the radical wing of the Islamist Krishak Sramik Party, a political outfit formed to target Hindu landlords who had displaced the Muslim ruling class during the rule of the Mughals and the nawabs of Bengal. 

Husseini was elected to the Bengal Legislative Assembly in 1937, but lost to a Muslim League candidate in September 1946. That motivated him to resort to Islamic extremism in a bid to regain support of the Muslims of his area. 

But the point here is that despite being the pir of a Sufi shrine that used to be revered by Hindus, Husseini masterminded the genocide of Hindus. 

Husseini, however, was not the first Sufi to encourage or organise killings/genocide of Hindus.

One such prominent Sufi was Moinuddin Chisti who forcibly converted lakhs of Hindus to Islam, raped Hindu girls and encouraged the barbarian Mohammed Ghori to kill Prithviraj Chauhan through deceit and celebrated the capture and rape of Chauhan’s wife by Ghori (read this and this).

But lakhs of Hindus still visit and pray before Chisti’s tomb — the Ajmer Sharif Dargah. Just as Bengali Hindus used to pray at the Dayra Sharif at Noakhali before being massacred or being forced to convert to Islam in a genocide masterminded by the pir of the very same Sufi shrine. 

  • Hindus will always remain ‘kafirs’: Despite all the false pretences and professions of secularism and liberalism, Hindus will always be considered as kafirs and malauns (the accursed who should be killed or forcibly converted and whose womenfolk should be enslaved by Muslims). 

Husseini (and masterminds of genocides of Hindus before and after him) cited the concept of kafirs (infidels or non-believers) to justify killings, forcible conversions, rapes and exterminations of Hindus that they hold is sanctioned in Islam. 

That is why Hindus continue to be targeted by Muslims in Bangladesh, Pakistan, Afghanistan and many other Islamic countries, and also most recently in the UK's Leicester and Birmingham (read this). 

The jihadi mobs in Leicester and Birmingham, which are not at all Muslim-majority areas, attacked Hindus because they considered them (the Hindus) to be kafirs who ought to be exterminated or converted to Islam. 

Even in so-called ‘secular’ Bangladesh, Hindus are condemned to the status of second-class citizens, and live in perpetual fear and foreboding.

Hindus often have to watch helplessly as their homes and properties are attacked, looted and even taken over by Muslims, and their womenfolk abducted, raped, killed or converted to Islam.

Hindus are subjected to regular bouts of genocide that’s sanctioned by Islamist radicals. Because, at the end of the day, Hindus are kafirs according to Islamists and have no right to exist. 

  • Inculcate the concept of the ‘other’: Hindus are often lied to about their dharma by left-liberals. Hindus are told that Hinduism is very inclusive and all-embracing and teaches one to be a pacifist. That is why Hindus, unlike followers of Abrahamic faiths, have not inculcated the concept of the non-Hindu. 

This has, through the ages, lulled Hindus into a false sense of complacency and led Hindus to believe that they will never be attacked.

Thanks to whitewashing of history, Hindus have not learnt from history and continue to labour under the false belief that the ‘world is one’ and every non-Hindu pacifist, secular, inclusive and liberal like him (the Hindu). 

But the harsh reality is that non-Hindus have always considered Hindus to be fair game for taunts, ridicule, hatred and loathing, and that has driven them (non-Hindus, primarily followers of Abrahamic religions) to periodically attack and kill Hindus, or convert them forcibly to their faiths. 

Hindus thus need to cultivate and inculcate the concept of the ‘other’, the non-Hindu.

That will lead all Hindus to come together, despite the many differences and disputes that are bound to exist (Muslims and Christians also have deep differences among themselves and are riven by different cults and schools) among themselves.

The concept of the ‘non-believer’ united followers of Abrahamic religion to sink their differences and unite to attack and exterminate ‘kafirs’ or ‘pagans’.

It is imperative for Hindus to cultivate the concept of the ‘other’, the non-Hindu, for survival. 

  • Learn correct history: As has been mentioned, leftist historians have done a sinister but successful job of whitewashing history and obliterating the horrific atrocities committed against Hindus by Muslim invaders and Christian missionaries. 

At the same time, these historians have presented a false and often misleading version of the teachings of prominent Hindu philosophers and religious figures. 

It is time now for Hindus to read, and learn, from unadulterated history, the correct chronicle of events as they occurred. 

For instance, it is often said that Swami Vivekananda preached that all religions are one, that we should be tolerant of all faiths, and consider practitioners of all other faiths to be our brothers and sisters.

What we are never told is that Swami Vivekananda exhorted Hindus to be strong and united and resist attacks by colonisers, invaders and proselytisers.

What we are never taught is that Swami Vivekananda had said that while it is fine to be tolerant and secular, it is never right to stay silent when your own faith, or fellow Hindus, are under attack. 

Swami Vivekananda never preached tolerance in the face of abuse, hatred or attacks. One instance from his life history is enough to illustrate this.

While Swamiji was returning to India on a ship from Chicago after his highly-acclaimed address to the World Parliament of Religions, he got into a discussion on religion with two Christian priests.

One of them started abusing Hinduism and Hindu gods and goddesses. Swami Vivekananda walked up to him, held him by his collar and threatened to throw him overboard.

The frightened Christian priest then apologised and behaved himself. Swamiji told his disciples later on that one should not accept bigotry and abuse of one’s religion, and should also be physically strong to take on those who abuse Hinduism or attack Hindus (from Vivekananda: A Biography by Swami Nikhilananda).

Swami Vivekananda thus preached that physical violence is fine in order to defend one’s faith and person or property.

Hindus thus need to learn true history and draw lessons from history. 

Or else, the Noakhali genocide of 1946 is bound to revisit Hindus in future. 

Jaideep Mazumdar is an associate editor at Swarajya.

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