Express front page story (left) and Dr. Syama Prasad Mookherjee
Indian Express could barely suppress its glee and smirk when today it front-paged a tweet by Tripura Governor Tathagata Roy which stated that “Hindu-Muslim problem won’t be solved without a Civil War.” (see the image on the left).
The front-page story was neatly curated. The report omitted that Roy had mentioned “The Great Calcutta Killings’ of August 1946 and the “Noakhali Hindu Genocide” of October 1946 as a backgrounder to the tweeted quote.
What Express needed to do was to dwell on these two tragic incidents of pre-Independent India and not take the tweets out of context.
About “The Great Calcutta Killings” it would’ve surely found out in Wikipedia that the call for “Direct Action Day” on August 16, 1946 in Kolkata by the Muslim League, in order to secure partition, “resulted in 4,000 dead within 72 hours in Calcutta.”
That the “Noakhali Hindu Genocide” began on October 10, 1946 and left “more than 5,000 Hindus killed.” Further, “Hundreds of Hindu women were raped and thousands of Hindu men and women were forcibly converted to Islam.” That Hindus were forced to pay subscriptions to the Muslim League and jiziyah, the protection tax paid by dhimmis in an Islamic state.”
It would’ve prevented Express from appearing sensationalist and mischievous if it had informed the readers that Hindus were in a minority in Bengal in 1946 which was then being run by the Muslim League. But perhaps to put out these facts would have hurt the agenda of making Roy appear as one seeking a Civil War between Hindus and Muslims in the country.
Roy ostensibly had tweeted in relation to the incendiary situation in Bengal where violence against Hindus has often been reported in recent times, including attacks when the community celebrates its major festivals such as Durga Puja. Muslims receive a preferential treatment. The incidents in Darjeeling has further stoked fire. Such tweets from a son of the soil that Roy is, reflects his anguish. Instead of projecting him as an extremist, it was worthy to analyse why a distinguished scholar of Roy’s stature, if not a celebrated engineer, had chosen to tweet so.
Even in relation to Dr. Shyama Prasad Mookherjee, Express could’ve found out that all he wanted was to stop a repeat of these violent acts against Hindus and ensure that Bengal was partitioned so that the two communities could live in their own spheres without bloodshed. His ceaseless effort finally led to the creation of East Pakistan and West Bengal. Mookherjee had sought the Bengal partition to avoid the “Civil War” which had looked a reality in those dark days of 1946.
News reports such as these could incite communal violence and endanger the lives of millions, if not outright break-up of India. It’s time the Press Council of India, if not the laws of the land, take a definitive stand on this mischief and call off this dangerous game. To stoke the fear of one community and project another as seeking violence through their leaders, all on the basis of “curated” tweets, is criminal and seditious.
And when the accusation of “muzzling the freedom of Press in India” comes in the wake of a punitive action, it ought to be a badge of honour shared by all conscientious citizens of this country.