H C Singh

The Great Calcutta Killings (1946)

Speech by Shyma Prasad Mookerjea in Bengal Assembly.

“Direct Action Day itself was not the day for commencing Direct Action, it was at the same time printed out that the war had begun, the days of peace and compromise were over and now the Jehad Muslim leaders want Civil War. Only a pattern of civil war, according Mr Jinnah, was witnessed in the very city of Calcutta. Khwaja Nizamudin said that Muslims did not believe in non-violence at all, Muslims knew what Direct Action meant and there were one hundred and one ways in which this was made clear by responsible League leaders……….. it is astonishing fact that a gun shop within two minutes walk from Government House was looted. Not a single policeman turned up in the streets to control the situation in any part of the city”. Another stailing revelation by Mookarjea in Bengal Assembly was…. “the Muslim League party wanted 500 gallons of petrol from Bengal Government. That was not granted, but petrol coupons were issued in the name of individual Ministers general coupons—100 gallons being issued in the name of Chief Minister. Evidence is available that these coupons were used… it is not in Calcutta alone that atrocities were committed in a large scale but we find that troubles are spreading in the whole of Bengal….. The concerned of Action of the All India Muslim League has ordered that prepositions have to be made for giving effect to the Direct Action Program”.

From the above extracts it is clear that Jinnah had instigated the Calcutta Killings as a prelude to ‘Civil War’ when to implement the Direct Action gallons of Petrol were supplied to Ministers of Muslim League Government in Bengal.

Riots had started in West Punjab in April 1947 and hundreds of innocent unarmed Hindus and Sikhs were killed. Women molested and many jumped into wells to save honour. Half a dozen families of my relatives reached Ferozepore Cantt from our village and Peshawar Cantt, where we were living in a military bunglow. We gave one room of the main bunglow and all the five servant quarters and a garrage to the families of our relatives from our village Mangwal in District Jehlum and Peshawar Cantonment. Our House was a minor Refugee Camp from April 47 to September 47. When Muslims from Ferozepore either got killed in retaliation or migrated to Pakistan. As a result, our relatives, each family occupied, a Muslim migrant house.

All this had great impact on me and in April 47, I visited my college Hostel and addressed all the hostelers telling them of the cruelities heaped on Hindus and Sikhs in West Punjab. I led an open sword procession in April – 47 against likely creation of Pakistan Shouting – ‘Pakistan Murdabad’ Nahi Banega Pakistan ie Hell with Pakistan and Pakistan can not come in existance. We had passed through Muslim areas of Ferozepore Cantt without any mishap becuase Muslims of Ferozepore knew that Ferozepore can not go to Pakistan as it was Sikh-Hindu Majority district of undivided Punjab, so they remained confined to their houses and shops.

But AngloIndian S.P. (Police Kaptan) of Ferozepore rang up my respected father who was Captain and Acting Major in British Indian Army. S.P. Evens told my father in unambiguous words: “Captain saheb, you control your son Harcharan Singh who has led a procession against Pakistan, shouting provocative slogans against creation of Pakistan and that too, through areas of Muslims. Luckily there was no retaliation and no riots but anything could happen.” My respected father who had all the love for me and had never even scolded me, what to speak of beating or even slapping, told my eldest brother. While father dear had gone to office, my eldest brother called ne in his room bolted the room from inside and gave severest possible thrashing, I was crying. But my respected mother was crying, too, because she, too, had never scolded me or beaten me since I was a child of 4-5 years. She was shouting ‘stop it now Nirmal’ ( my eldest brothers name who too was in Army and later retired as Major), she was knocking and crying. Ultimately I got free from my brother’s clutches and stopped crying as I was no more a 4-5 year old child but a young boy of 16-1/2 and a college student and knew what I was doing.

My respected father had BSA double barrel gun and a sophisticated revolver both duly licenced. I knew where these were lying in what room and in which box. So to test my ability to fire in case of attack on our family when all other male members were in office or away, I took out first the double barrel gun put a cartridge in it, put a small circle on the back of a servant quarter, of another officer house and fired. So i could fire in case of emergency fight the terrorist and save the family. Next day I took out revlover a put one bullet, little knowing that bullet of the center does not get fired so continued and the revolver revolved fully, the bullet got fired. Luckily I had fired up in the sky and there was no damage or injury to me or mishap. I did not stop there, realizing that bullet that got fired was before the central hole of revolver so I put another bullet before the central hole and fired and the bullet went as I expected. I was satisfied. I had told my respected mother what and why I had done. She embraced me and blessed me.

But when my father dear and eldest brother reached home they came to know. They, instead of scolding or slapping me advised that I should have first learned how to fire a gun or revolver. But when I fully explained the reason they kept quiet neither scolded me nor blessed me but just ignored the incident which could be an accident.

Luckily in May 47 I got an opportunity to attend Selection and Training Camp in Taradevi, near simla. Headquarter of United Punjab Scouts Association. I went to attend the Camp for a fortnight. I had participated in cross country race, in other activities plus I led the ‘Bhangra’ reciting a Punjabi poem about Basakhi Mela and all the scouts sitting and standing round the ‘Camp fire’ joined in Bhangra Dance and at the end of each stenza Shouted with me Halla Belia, Halla Belia meaning yes dear friend, yes dear friend. This item was instrumental in my selection for World scouts Jamboree in Paris from 5th to 20th August 1947.

So along with other scouts from all over India numbering about 80. We boarded the Ship S.S Alcantra from Bombay on 4th July 1947 reaching Southampton port on 23rd July after 19 days. The most interesting part of my first journey abroad was that all the butlers of the Ship were British and they served us saying. Sir what would you like to have for breakfast. Omellet, Fried eggs or boiled eggs. This gave us the feeling that though we were yet to gain independence on 15th August, we had virtually become free and equal to British. It was interesting to visit Aden for a few hours then passing Suez Canal, crossing Mediteranean Sea touching Malta and Gibraltar and ultimately reaching Southamption Port and Rail journey to London.

The stay in London was brief while on way to our destination Paris, where world scouts Jamboree Camp was about 30 miles out of Paris. After crossing the English Channel. From London the entire Common wealth contingent travelled by same train and there British photographer took our snaps standing in window – myself, a British scout a ceylonese scout. This photo by Reuter appeared in London Times, copy of which I have with me even today as a memory and the same was valued by my parents and sisters and brothers and now by my Children and grand-children. They often say “Papaji you get it beautifully framed” as a parmanent record as prior to independence very few Indians used to visit England and France and hardly anyone had photograph by Reuter. But I have left it to my Children and grand children as I am already 78 years old and busy writing my diary, poems in Punjabi and English and this Book.

In the World Jambaree Camp we daily visited some country’s camp or other particularly visiting American, Canadian, some African Countries’ camp including that of South Africa which was then a British Colony, some Latin American Country’s Camps and of course British and French Scouts Camps. This broadened our outlook and we took autographs and addresses of many scouts from many countries.

The most interesting and memorable part of our visit to world scout jamboree at Paris was on 15th August 1947 when in Indian Camp both Indian and Pakistani flags were hoisted replacing the British Union Jack.

A van from Radio Paris had come to our camp to record the hoisting of flags of free India and newly created independent state of Pakistan. On behalf Indian scouts I was honoured by being asked by the Indian scout contigent leader Rao Bhadur Thadeus, to speak on behalf of Indian scouts. I immediately agreed as I felt it to be great honor and recognition. So I spoke for a couple of minutes concluding with ‘Jai Hind’ thrice and all the Indian scouts enthusiatically and loudly said Jai Hind. This speech by scout Harcharan Singh was hooked up and broadcast on All India Radio after to 9:30 PM. Prime Time News in English by Melvelle De Mello. This was heard by any parents and all the family members though I had not mentioned my name but my parents and all relatives recognised my voice as some sentences I spoke in Punjabi, too, Similarly a Muslim boy from Punjab contingent spoke for Pakistan concluding ‘Pakistan Zindabad’. My photograph where I am speaking before mike and other Indian scouts standing behind me appeared in French News Paper La Monde and some French scouts recognised and showed me. I have a copy of that photo, too, as a great honour and I value it very much.

The INA and its fight for India’s independence and Navy rebellion convinced Labour Party that India should get independence as early as possible thus Labour Government of Attlee proposed for India’s Independence in contrast of Churchill who was adament and not in favour of Indian independence saying “I have not become First Minister to preside over lequidation of British Empire.”

Krishna Menon who was before Independence of India, a member British labour Party, in his interview with Michael Breher, describes the way India’s Independence was expedited. This is how Attlee the socialist and the Cabinet Mission under the chairmanship of Pathic Lawrence functioned half heartedly encouraging Muslim League and indirectly working for partition of India and so could be held responsible for partition massacre of millions initiated by Muslim League first in Bengal in 1946 and then in west Punjab. Menon Says: “Negotiations and missions they did not envisage that the thing (end of British rule) was really to come so soon. They probably thought it was going to be just a newer session of a Simon commission and would mean more protracted negotiations, and that gradually our difficulties would lead to a partnership with England or something of the kind. This was how it appeared to them in 1943-5. That situation soon changed. I would like to think that a man like Mr Pathick – Lawrence made a big contribution towards abdication, saying, ‘We have to go.’

But my own feeling is that if Attlee had the imagination to realize in 1945 that it would happen in 1947 he would have worked it another way. The British had sufficient power at that time to see that it happened. The same thing could have been said to the princes. It must be remembered that as a socialist, Attlee had certain limitations. He had not understood the character and the passions that went into nationalism, posed a contradiction. Having fed the Muslim league for half a century with seperatism, the British created a Frankenstein monster; they should have laid it low, at least when leaving. Instead they used it as a spectre and to create pressure against Indian nationalism. Yet after all it was a great achievement for Mr. Attlee. I think that Pathick – Lawrence was a much greater man that most people thought at the time. He was the chairman of the cabinet mission. He was really the functioning member. He had a good grasp of things.

I had attended the world scouts jamborer in paris from 5th to 25th August 1947. After Independence of India on 15th August when India and Pakistan flags were unfurled at Indian Camp, On behalf of Indian scouts I had addressed on Radio Paris concluding with “Jai Hind” thrice. I had virtually become scout leader of Indian Scouts particularly those from Punjab.

When we returned to London, we stayed in the scout and girl guide headquarter where British girl guides accompanied us for first couple of days to show us London, places famous for sight seeing – Parliament, Big Ben, national Museum, Hyde Park and Trafalgar Square. The girl guide accompanying me was so beautiful and affectionate that when I was to leave London for India she came to me and said “Singh, you take me to India”. Of course I could not though a while parting she kissed my bearded face and I returned the mild kiss but she got my address and wrote a couple of letters to me at Ferozepore and I did reply.

After girl guides help for a couple of days I used to go alone by ‘Tube’ i.e. underground railway, and visit all the places shown by her independently. I always carried my snacks. In the Museum library a junior librarian showed me all the reading rooms and book shelfs and even told me that this was the table where Karl Marx used to sit and write for 30 years or more till his death. We had heard the name of Karl Marx but not yet known his political philosophy and contribution to political philosophy.

In London we read about partition riots in London Times and other papers. There were news about retaliation by Sikhs and Hindus in Punjab which excited Muslim scouts and Punjab’s contingent leaders Mr. Qureshi. They even indirectly threatened us particularly teh Sikh scouts who were just 8 and Muslim scouts were 30 and Hindu scouts of Punjab contingent only 10 or 12. From their looks many Hindu scouts of the age of 12 to 15 came to me and expressed their fear. I took up the courage and told Indian contingent leader a Keralite Christian about all that. He simply said he will look into it. But not to rest. I wrote a letter to Chief scout of Punjab Sardar Hardyal Singh at Taradevi, simla hills. I think he rang up both Mr. Qureshi and Mr. Thadeus because after 10 days the muslim scouts from Punjab and NWFP became quiet and looked on the other side instead of staring at us. The result was that after independence Muslim and Hindu-Sikh scouts of punjab contigent got seperated. There was no talk or exchange of greetings between us. We were virtually too independent sub contingents.

As we boarded the ship for return journey to India and Pakistan we had no contact between us for 15 days of journey. And at Bombay port we got completely separated, the Muslim scouts left for Karachi, the temporary capital of pakistan and we remained in Bombay for 3-4 days till we got a safe train for Delhi. From New Delhi there was no train going to Punjab so we went by goods trucks to our various places and Sikhs and Hindu scouts who had come from West Punjab, now part of Pakistan in turmoil, remained in Bombay to be sent to their parents or relatives who had migrated or were turned out of Pakistan occupied Punjab. It was not immediately known about the parents and the whereabouts of Hindu and Sikh scouts from Lahore and beyond. So they were taken to Scout headquarter in Taradevi or continued to stay in Bombay.

On 14th October I reached by truck to Ferozepore Cantt bus stop(Adda) there was no tonga available so I walked with my baggage on my shoulders about 4 miles and reached my home unaccompanied by anyone ar about 11 pm. My parents and relatives were happy, rather ecstatic, and also surprised and excited to how I had reached safe and sound. I immediately opened my bag and showed two wrist watches for my elder sister one gents and one ladies as she was likely to be married in couple of years. I also brought small gifts for younger sisters like bangles and clips and for my dear mother a shawl and for my father a Parker pen and for home an electric iron which was nowhere in Ferozepore or even in India in those days. All were very happy and blessed me.

August 25, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment