1946 Bihar riots

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1946 Bihar riots
Date24 October 1946 – 11 November 1946 [1]
Caused by Direct Action Day, Noakhali riots [2]

Communal riots occurred in Bihar from 24 October to 11 November 1946, in which Hindu mobs targeted Muslim families. The riots were triggered by the Great Calcutta Killings, as well as the Noakhali riots earlier that year. Mahatma Gandhi declared that he would fast unto death if the riots did not stop. The riots were part of a sequence of communal violence that culminated in the partition of India. [1] [3]

Bihar State in Eastern India

Bihar is a state in eastern India. It is the thirteenth-largest Indian state, with an area of 94,163 km2 (36,357 sq mi). The third-largest state by population, it is contiguous with Uttar Pradesh to its west, Nepal to the north, the northern part of West Bengal to the east, with Jharkhand to the south. The Bihar plain is split by the river Ganges, which flows from west to east. Three main regions converge in the state: Magadh, Mithila, and Bhojpur.

Noakhali riots were a series of semi-organized massacres, rapes

The Noakhali riots were a series of semiorganized massacres, rapes, abductions and forced conversions of Hindus to Islam and looting and arson of Hindu properties perpetrated by the Muslim community in the districts of Noakhali in the Chittagong Division of Bengal in October–November 1946, a year before India's independence from British rule.

Mahatma Gandhi Pre-eminent leader of Indian nationalism during British-ruled India

Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi was an Indian activist who was the leader of the Indian independence movement against British colonial rule. Employing nonviolent civil disobedience, Gandhi led India to independence and inspired movements for civil rights and freedom across the world. The honorific Mahātmā was applied to him first in 1914 in South Africa and is now used worldwide. In India, he was also called Bapu, a term that he preferred, and Gandhi ji, and is known as the Father of the Nation.



The 1946 Bihar riots were part of a series of incidents of communal violence that occurred across North India. [4] The frequency of such riots increased in the 1930s and 1940s; in the 1945 alone, 1,809 riots took place in Uttar Pradesh, and 3,176 riots took place across the country in 1946. [4] On 16 August 1946, the All-India Muslim League proclaimed Direct Action Day in Calcutta, as part of their demand for a separate state for Muslims. Major riots ensued across the city, with 4,000 people being killed. [3] These riots triggered communal violence across the country, including in Bihar. [3] The Noakhali riots that occurred from 10–21 October also provoked violence in Bihar. [1]

Uttar Pradesh State in India

Uttar Pradesh is a state in northern India. With roughly 200 million inhabitants, it is the most populous state in India as well as the most populous country subdivision in the world. It was created on 1 April 1937 as the United Provinces of Agra and Oudh during British rule, and was renamed Uttar Pradesh in 1950. The state is divided into 18 divisions and 75 districts with the capital being Lucknow. The main ethnic group is the Hindavi people, forming the demographic plurality. On 9 November 2000, a new state, Uttarakhand, was carved out from the state's Himalayan hill region. The two major rivers of the state, the Ganga and Yamuna, join at Allahabad (Prayagraj) and then flow as the Ganga further east. Hindi is the most widely spoken language and is also the official language of the state.

All-India Muslim League political party within the Indian Empire

The All-India Muslim League was a political party established in 1906 in the British Indian Empire. Its strong advocacy for the establishment of a separate Muslim-majority nation-state, Pakistan, successfully led to the partition of British India in 1947 by the British Empire.

Direct Action Day was a day of widespread communal rioting between Muslims and Hindus in the city of Calcutta

Direct Action Day, also known as the Great Calcutta Killings, was a day of widespread communal rioting between Muslims and Hindus in the city of Calcutta in the Bengal province of British India. The day also marked the start of what is known as The Week of the Long Knives.

June riots

The trigger for the riots that occurred in June was a dispute concerning a false allegation that a woman whom Hindus stated had been abducted by Muslims. [5] In the village of Andhana, a group of Hindus demanding that the woman be brought forward and turned violent were fired upon by Muslims, leading to two fatalities. Hindus also killed four Muslim people. [5]

September riots

More riots occurred in September 1946, once again triggered by a dispute over the alleged abduction of Noor Jahan, formerly known as Kalyani Devi. [5] A group of 30,000 Hindus led by members of the Arya Samaj attempted to rescue Noor Jahan in the belief that she had been kidnapped from Calcutta during the Direct Action Day riots. The failure of this rescue attempt turned into a riot, in which 200 houses belonging to 144 Muslim families were burned down, and 14 people were killed. [5]

Arya Samaj Hindu religious organization

Arya Samaj is a monotheistic Indian Hindu reform movement that promotes values and practices based on the belief in the infallible authority of the Vedas. The samaj was founded by the sannyasi (ascetic) Dayanand Saraswati on 10 April 1875. Members of the Arya Samaj believe in one God and reject the worship of idols.

October–November riots

The largest riots of the year occurred from 27 October to 6 November, during which period a large number of Muslims were killed by Hindus in retaliation for the Noakhali riots [6] [1] that had occurred earlier that month. [7] There was wide variation in estimates of the number of casualties. A statement given to the British Parliament put the death toll at 5,000. The Statesman estimated the number of fatalities at between 7,500 and 10,000, while the Indian National Congress put it at 2,000. Mohammed Ali Jinnah of the Muslim League stated that 30,000 people had been killed. [8] An unofficial report on 8 November stated that 500 people had been killed in one incident in which a village in Monghyr district was leveled by fire, and 100 people had died when a mob was fired upon by the military. Another estimate stated that 35,000 had fled the fighting. [9]

Parliament of the United Kingdom supreme legislative body of the United Kingdom

The Parliament of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known internationally as the UK Parliament, British Parliament, or Westminster Parliament, and domestically simply as Parliament, is the supreme legislative body of the United Kingdom, the Crown dependencies and the British Overseas Territories. It alone possesses legislative supremacy and thereby ultimate power over all other political bodies in the UK and the overseas territories. Parliament is bicameral but has three parts, consisting of the Sovereign, the House of Lords, and the House of Commons. The two houses meet in the Palace of Westminster in the City of Westminster, one of the inner boroughs of the capital city, London.

<i>The Statesman</i> (India) Indian newspaper

The Statesman is an Indian English-language broadsheet daily newspaper founded in 1875 and published simultaneously in Kolkata, New Delhi, Siliguri and Bhubaneswar. It incorporates and is directly descended from The Friend of India, founded in 1818. It is owned by The Statesman Ltd and headquartered at Statesman House, Chowringhee Square, Kolkata, with its national editorial office at Statesman House, Connaught Place, New Delhi. It is a member of the Asia News Network.

Indian National Congress Major political party in India

The Indian National Congress(pronunciation ) is a broadly based political party in India. Founded in 1885, it was the first modern nationalist movement to emerge in the British Empire in Asia and Africa. From the late 19th century, and especially after 1920, under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi, Congress became the principal leader of the Indian independence movement. Congress led India to independence from Great Britain, and powerfully influenced other anti-colonial nationalist movements in the British Empire.

The riots were severe enough that Jawaharlal Nehru, then the head of the interim government, threatened to bombard rioters from the air. [6] A statement from the provincial capital of Patna stated that military forces had been deployed against the rioters, and inflicted heavy casualties on them. [9] Some historians have stated that the province's Hindu premier did not permit British troops to fire on Hindu rioters, ignoring the complicity of the Congress party in the riots. [10] Others point out that the government was eventually able to put a stop to the violence in Bihar, unlike in other regions. [1]

Jawaharlal Nehru first Prime Minister of India

Pt. Jawaharlal Nehru was an Indian independence activist, and subsequently, the first Prime Minister of India and a central figure in Indian politics before and after independence. He emerged as an eminent leader of the Indian independence movement under the tutelage of Mahatma Gandhi and served India as Prime Minister from its establishment as an independent nation in 1947 until his death in 1964. He has been described by the Amar Chitra Katha as the architect of India. He was also known as Pandit Nehru due to his roots with the Kashmiri Pandit community while Indian children knew him as Chacha Nehru.

Interim Government of India

The Interim Government of India, also known as the Provisional Government, formed in 2 September 1946 from the newly elected Constituent Assembly of India, had the task of assisting the transition of British India to independence. It remained in place until 15 August 1947, the date of the independence of India, and the creation of Pakistan.

Patna Metropolis in :Bihar, India

Patna, also known as Pataliputra is the capital and largest city of the state of Bihar in India. Patna is the second-largest city in Eastern India after Kolkata. It had an estimated city population of 1.68 million in 2011, making it the 19th largest city in India. With over 2 million people, its urban agglomeration is the 18th largest in India. Patna also serves as the seat of Patna High Court.

On 5 November, Mahatma Gandhi, who was in Calcutta, visiting riot-stricken areas, stated that he would fast unto death if the violence in Bihar did not stop within 24 hours. His statement was broadcast nationally by Congress leader Rajendra Prasad. [11] At the time, official reports stated that 400 people had been killed, while leaders of the Muslim league states that the real toll was 5,000–8,000 people. Mohammad Yunus, a leader of the Muslim league, asked Muslims to observe the festival of Bakr-Eid, which occurred on 5 November, as a day of mourning. [11]

On 5 November, Jawaharlal Nehru issued a statement, saying "We must put an end to this madness; we can argue later," and adding "What has happened and what is happening in certain parts of Bihar province is terrible and I can hardly believe that human beings can behave in such a manner." [11]


Following the riots, the Muslim League said that it had received a large number of complaints from its members, which stated that they were afraid to leave their homes. [5] On 17 November the Muslim League passed a resolution asking the Viceroy of India to act on the riots in Bihar. The resolution stated that Muslims in Bihar still felt a threat "to life or property," and that the disturbances might easily spread. The resolution also stated that the Hugh Dow, the governor of Bihar and the Indian National Congress were responsible for the massacre. The Muslim League stated that Hindu mobs had killed 30,000 people in the province. [12] Historians such as Suranjan Das have referred to the Great Calcutta Killings of 1946 as the first explicitly political communal violence in the region. [3]

Notes and references


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 Mitra 1990.
  2. Ghosh, Papiya (January 1994). "The Virile and the Chaste in Community and Nation Making: Bihar 1920's to 1940's". Social Scientist. 22 (1): 86. JSTOR   3517853.
  3. 1 2 3 4 Das 2000.
  4. 1 2 Kausar 2006.
  5. 1 2 3 4 5 Ghosh 1994.
  6. 1 2 Markovitz 2015.
  7. Khan 2007, p. 68.
  8. Stephens 1963, p. 111.
  9. 1 2 The Washington Post 1946.
  10. Wilkinson 2006, p. 5.
  11. 1 2 3 The New York Times (a) 1946.
  12. The New York Times (b) 1946.


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