Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Muslimizing Calcutta

Excerpts from a letter from Raghib Ahsan to M.A. Jinnah, 25 January 1947 follow.   This is from the Zaidi collection of Jinnah papers.  There is no reply from Jinnah to Ahsan in the Zaid collection.  Ahsan's ideas are not in any way binding on Jinnah.  This letter however illustrates the mood of the times.  Demographic engineering was in the air.  The refugees driven from Bihar by Hindu rioters presented an opportunity.

Because of imperfect imaging from my iphone, there are lacunae.

Emphasis added.

 Raghib Ahsan to M.A. Jinnah
25 January 1947

My dear Quaid-i-Azam,
  The Muslim League movement has landed Muslim India, particularly Bihar and Eastern India, in a state of civil war, but the League has done almost nothing to prepare the Muslim nation to face the conditions of civil war or to win the war of Pakistan.  The first and foremost things, in my opinion, for the defence  organization are five in number, viz:
i. Leadership of action
ii. Arms and ammunition
iii. Transport
iv. Red Crescent organization with ambulance brigades
v. Secret intelligence branch
For all these require funds - (1) funds [sic] of men of born leadership of action and (2) funds of money.


By leadership of action, I mean men with capacity for military leadership and courage for action at right moment under League orders or as the situation demands in case of emergencies.  The League organization at present is dominated by vakeels, zamindars and merchants who have won war of elections but failed in war [lacuna] arms and ammunition. The enemy is arming to the teeth.


Transport is of the highest importance.  The Qur'an in Sura Anfal says:

Wa Idu Lahum Mastatum Quwatin Wa Min Rabatil-Khail (And mobilize and organize as much as you can by way of force and by way of trained horses).

It is needless to say that Rabatul-Khail (trained horses) in modern age means jeeps and motor trucks and that had the Muslims of Calcutta and Bihar a few dozens of jeeps and trucks, 90 per cent of the Muslims who have been killed would have been saved.

For the Muslims in Bihar Muslim pockets, and for the Bihar refugees in Bengal we need urgently:
1. For defence organization: One lakh
2. For arms and ammunition: One lakh
3. For rehabilitation grants to start refugees in small business, etc: One lakh
4. For jeeps and trucks: One lakh
5. For education grants (fees, books, food, lodg[ing] and clothes, etc. of refugee students) : One lakh

Kindly give this five lakh grant to Mirza Ahmad Ispahani and form a committee of the following to administer it:

Khwaja Nazimuddin          Chairman
Mirza  Ahmad Ispahani     Treasurer
Haji Mohammad Yusuf      MLC (Bengal)
Mr. S.M. Taufique              MLC (Bengal)
Mr. S. A. Latif, Merchant   Director, the Daylight (Lahore)
Haji Mumtazuddin              Ispahani Chemicals
Mr. S.A. Hamid                  Merchant
Mr. S.M. Usman                 Mayor of Calcutta
Raghib Ahsan M.A.            Secretary

The nature of work demands that the committee must be very small and [composed] of men who are doing this work and have confidence in each other and can work as a team.

The work of the defence organization has been started with Calcutta as centre.  We are short of funds.  Whatever relief and defence work has been done in Bihar has been by our Bengal organization.  We heop you will very soon sanction this money.  Our funds collected locally are now almost exhausted.


Khwaja Nazimuddin reported to the Bengal League Working Committee that you desire that at least one and a half lakh Bihar refugees should be settled in Bengal.

It should be known that already there are at least three and a half lakh Bihar refugees in Bengal, mostly in greater Calcutta and Asansol zones.

Daily, our own organization, the Bihar Muslim Relief Committee, Bengal, is receiving about one thousand refugees at Howrah and Sealdah Stations.

Calcutta is the city of jute.  Calcutta is the port of jute.  Calcutta has been built by jute trade and industry and jute is 100 per cent a Muslim monopoly product.    But it is 100 per cent exploited by Marwari-British capital through Bihar Hindu labour.   The moment jute industry is nationalized, Calcutta will be Islamized.  Bihar refugees will be employed, and Bengal capital will be free from the Marwari pest.

I am enclosing herewith resolutions [footnote: Not traceable] of the Calcutta League and the Rehabilitation Committee which all aim at Muslimizing Calcutta and increasing and improving Muslim population strength.


Very easily Calcutta can absorb another five lakh Muslim refugees provided the Bengal Ministry acquires vacant Corporation and Improvement [Trust] lands and the Khas Mahal lands of Calcutta and forms a housing board for settling the Muslims and refugees in Greater Calcutta Zone.


After Calcutta comes Asansol as the second most important and strategic town in Bengal.  Asansol is the city of coal and steel, the city of railway centre, the headquarters of the richest coal-field of Raniganj.

In 1947 Muslims in Asansol are 60 per cent.  So Asansol should be made the second important centre of Muslim colonization.  In Greater Calcutta Zone and Asansol, there is not only sufficient land for housing and settlement but there is also big scope for employment.  Their advantages are:

i. There are already big colonies of Bihar Muslims in Calcutta, Howrah, Matiaburj and 24-Parganas mill areas and Asansol.  Almost all the dockers of Calcutta port are Bihari Muslims and almost all the weavers of the jute mills are Bihari Muslims.

ii. The dominant language and culture of the Muslims of Calcutta and Asansol is Urdu based.

iii. The climate is congenial to Biharis.

iv. The scope for expansion is very great.

Calcutta is entirely dependent upon Asansol for its coal supply. Asansol is vital to the very existence of the water-works, power[lacuna] mills of Calcutta.  And Calcutta and Asansol must be made Muslim towns by settling and rehabilitating Bihar refugees in Calcutta and Asansol.


The Central Government has over 200 offices and establishments in Greater Calcutta Zone. But they are manned and officered [lacuna] up-country Hindus who increase Hindu population.  The League menbers of the Central Government should enforce the 50 per cent Muslim communal ratio rule in all Central Government offices in Bengal.  The Collector of Customs must be a Muslim, the Chairman of the Calcutta Port Trust must be a Muslim, and 50 percent of [lacuna] Railway coolies at Howrah, Sealdah, Kanchrapara, Asansol [lacuna] Kharagpur must be Muslims.

Please issue directive to the Bengal Premier for the following:

a. To settle and rehabilitate at least 5 lakh Bihar refugees in Greater Calcutta Zone.

b. To settle and rehabilitate at least 5 lakh Bihar refugees in Asansol Zone.  {Note: there were 3.5 lakh refugees in Bengal at that time, see above.}

c. To organize a Bihar Refugees Rehabilitation Department.

d. To pass Land and Property Acquisition Act for settling refugees.

e. To reserve vacant Corporation land, C.I. Trust vacant land [lacuna] and the Khas Mahal Government land in Calcutta and [lacuna] open Zamindari land for settling Bihar refugees in Muslim mohallas in Greater Calcutta.

f.  To form Greater Calcutta Housing Board under Government.

g. To form Bengal Transport Board to nationalize Calcutta tramways, taxis, buses and steamers.

h. To issue directives to all companies, mills, factories and firms to enforce 50 per cent Muslim communal ratio and employ Bengali Muslims and Bihari refugees.

i. To demand 50 crore [rupees] from the Centre as Bihar refugee and emigrants rehabilitation grant.

j. To appoint Mr. M. A. H. Ispahani as Minister in charge of Post-War reconstruction of Greater Calcutta and to [give] Calcutta and industrial areas their closest consideration.

k. To nationalize [sic] Congress move to set Santhals and Adibasis in W. Bengal against Muslims by starting Adibas Welfare Centres under Ben[gal] Govt.


It is most disappointing that while our Bengal Committee collected and spent over two lakhs of rupees in cash and cloth, blankets, drugs, grains, etc., of about 2 lakh rupees on Bihar refugees, [it] has not received a pie from your Central Committee.  I do not know why you have appointed Mr. Yunus as one of its members. He was not a Leaguer.  He demanded Rs. 1,020 daily from the Bengal League as daily [sic] fee for his appearance before the [Patrick] Spens Commission.   He preferred a bill of about Rs 2,000 for our Bengal Relief Office which he had himself located and housed in his [own] house.   His only qualification was that he is a banker, a usurer and a self-seeker.

May I hope that you will sanction the subventions detailed above for our Calcutta Committee, over which the burden of reception of refugees and organization of refugee camps has fallen, besides doing relief work in all districts of Bihar.

Mr. Latifur Rehman will tell you something about our work in Bihar and Bengal.

In brief, our Committee was the first to reach Bihar under the leadership of Khwaja Nazimuddin and management of myself.  For months I was in the field and I am still working night and day. Our trucks, jeeps and volunteers are still working in Bihar.  Our workers were the first to reach every affected thana, village and town and we are still sending men, money and material to them in Bihar.

Our Committee singly organized all refugee camps in Calcutta, Howrah and Asansol and spend thousands over them.

Our Committee [is] singly doing the entire work of the reception and management of refugees at Howrah, Sealdah and Asansol Stations.

We are daily spending one thousand rupees on average.

Our income is dwindling down [sic] and expenses and items of expense expanding beyond our financial capacity.

The Centre must come to our help.

Yours sincerely,
General Secretary,
Bihar Muslim Relief Committee, Bengal

PS. It may be noted that Bihar refugees have named your Central Relief Committee as Bihar Muslim Blood Bank [with a] capital [of] Rs. 30 lakh and Mr. Yunus of Orient Bank as Managing Director.

Is it not most reprehensible that Bihar Sharif, the worst affected but largest Muslim area in Bihar, has received over Rs 50,000 in cloth, grains, drugs, fruits, etc., and five trucks and motor cars from the Calcutta organization but they have received only Rs 2,500 from your Blood Bank.


We are receiving frantic calls from Bihar Sharif and Tarapore (Monghyr), Chapra and Gaya for more help in money, men, motor [vehicles] and materials.  Even Moulvi Abdul Ghani, M.L.A., Secretary, Bihar Assembly League Party of Chapra (where Shud[d]hi is raging), and Syed Mehid Hassan, M.L.A., President, Bihar Sharif League, are pressing us for help from Gaya as they see the Patna Body as a big iceberg or a fossilized stone.


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