BBC, 13 January 1964
More than 100 people have been killed following Hindu-Muslim rioting in the Indian city of Calcutta. Over 7,000 people have also been arrested and 438 injured in the clashes which have spread to the surrounding districts.
The Indian Government claims that the trouble in Calcutta has taken “a huge toll of life.” A 24 hour curfew has been extended to five areas of the city occupied by police officers following arson attacks and looting against Muslims.
The armed forces and police have also been given orders to “shoot to kill” by the government in any cases where Hindus are seen to be attacking Muslims. Officials have expressed their determination to stamp out the violence and troops have been taking tough action against trouble makers.
Unfortunately the move backfired when three policeman died trying to protect a group of Muslims and their homes when they opened fire on a huge mob. More than 110 people were taken to hospital following the shootings and firemen had to deal with 200 cases of arson.
Although there have been several incidents of stabbing and bomb throwing, most of the riots have resulted in the looting and burning of Muslim property. Two rubber factories were set on fire along with a number of shops and dwellings. Buses and trams have been taken off the road and most shops and markets have been shut down.
So far more than 70,000 Muslims have fled their homes in the city, and 55,000 are sleeping in the open under army protection. Relief organisations are struggling to provide food, water and sanitation to large groups of refugees.
The Hindu-Muslim riots proved to be a major setback in India’s 16 year struggle to establish and maintain a secular state with freedom and equality for all religions.
It was the first incident of religious violence since 1950.
The clashes erupted in January 1964 after the disappearance of a precious relic from a mosque in Srinagar, which was the capital of the Indian-held area of the disputed state of Jammu and Kashmir at the time.
As a result anti-Hindu riots broke out in east Pakistan and 29 people were killed.
This sparked retaliation against Muslims in rural areas of West Bengal and from there the riots spread.
The rioting was eventually quelled later that month but it erupted again in March when around 100 Muslim mill workers were attacked and 21 killed.