Direct Action Day, August 16, 1946
16 August 1946 was fixed as the Direct Action Day and it turned into the “Great Calcutta Killing”. This date started the week of long Knives and following this day, 6000 Hindus and Muslims stabbed, shot, and battered each other. 20 thousand were maimed and raped. India was yet to taste the independence.
The Chief Secretary of Bengal was R.L. Walker. The Prime Minister of Bengal was Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy, from Muslim League. Suhrawardy requested Governor of Bengal Sir Frederick Burrows to declare a public holiday on 16 August. But the Bengal Congress protested against the declaration of public holiday, because this would enable the Muslims to enforce hartals.
Both the political parties had their own thousand reasons of observing it or not observing it a public Holiday. Congress leaders urged the Hindus to keep the shops open. The Urdu newspapers called for a complete strike on that day. The programme was published in the newspapers that the processions would start from multiple parts of Calcutta, Howrah, Hooghly, Metiabruz and 24 Parganas, and would converge at the foot of the Ochterlony Monument where a joint mass rally presided over by Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy would be held.
The emotion of Hindus was mobilizing around idea of United India.
The troubles started on the morning of the August 16. Shops were forcefully closed. Stabbing, throwing of stones and brickbats started. At 12 O’clock, the League’s rally began, which was the largest ever Muslim assembly in Bengal. The Muslims from all sides of Calcutta with Iron Bars and lathes started congregating and this was followed by a Namaz at 2.00 PM. Here some fiery speeches were made by Khawaja Nazimuddin and Suhrawardy. This was followed by widespread riots in Calcutta. The riots soon spread to all parts of North India and it turned into a Civil War between Hindus and Muslims.
Amidst this situation of Chaos and insanity, Mahatma Gandhi went to calm down the maddened riotists.