Suhrawardy no Nero, show Bengal files

He was worried that police were called back during riots.

Updated - November 16, 2021 04:11 pm IST

Published - September 30, 2015 02:45 am IST - Kolkata:

Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy

Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy

The secret Cabinet papers released by the West Bengal government have revealed that a week after the Great Calcutta Killings started on August 16, 1946, the third Chief Minister of the undivided Bengal province, Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy, raised the issue of riots and claimed that it was the withdrawal of the police during the time of the riots which led the situation to acquire such grim proportions. Suhrawardy was a prominent leader of the All India Muslim League.

“…the main charge was that there was complete withdrawal of the police on Friday [August 16] and Saturday [August 17] … At the meeting on the Maidan, there were no police — mounted or otherwise — and there seemed to be no police arrangements anywhere on the morning of the 16th,” the documents said, quoting the Chief Minister. Suhrawardy’s views were endorsed by the then Ministers of Agriculture and Education in the Cabinet meeting held on August 24, 1946, the first to be held after the riots.

The minutes of the meeting point out that Suhrawardy maintained that the “military was not in fact called too late as alleged in some quarters. They had actually been used at 2 am on the 17th”. He himself had visited the Lalbazaar Police Control Room (the police headquarters) on August 16, the day the riots broke out to see how the situation was developing.

It is estimated that nearly 5,000 people were killed during the Calcutta riots of 1946, which began on August 16 and continued for the next few days. However, historians have a difference of opinion about the actual number of people killed.

During the Cabinet meeting, Suhrawardy kept raising the issue of the riots, while Governor Frederick John Burrows kept insisting that “post-mortems” as to what had happened could be held in a different meeting. During the meeting, government officers said that between “one lakh to two lakh” of displaced persons, rendered homeless by the riots and afraid to return to their dwellings, were receiving relief through 150 centres. The issue of exodus from the city in the wake of riots was raised and it was discussed that “departure from the city of such large number of people ... was likely to result in breakdown of economic life”.

One Minister suggested that the exodus was good as there was a risk of epidemics breaking out in the city, to which Governor Burrows observed that the government should “not encourage people to leave Calcutta”.

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