HC Deb 24 March 1927 vol 204 cc579-82W

asked the Under-Secretary of State for India whether he is aware that on the occasion of the disturbances which took place at Kulakati on 2nd March the magistrate ordered firing to take place at six-feet range on an unarmed crowd, causing 19 deaths and seriously injuring many others, of whom 12 are not expected to recover; is he aware that no injury was inflicted by firearms on either magistrate or police; when he will be in a position to put before the House the official report on these events; and is it proposed to hold a special inquiry into the matter?

1927. Earl WINTERTON

I circulate the three telegrams received from the Government of India, which constitute all the information I have at present on this lamentable occurrence. It will be clear from the terms of these reports that I cannot accept as entirely accurate all the implications in the hon. Member's question. As the reports show, a special inquiry is being, or has been, conducted by the Commissioner of the Division, and I am taking steps to obtain the substance of his findings without delay.

Telegram from the Government of India dated 3rd March,

Following from Government of Bengal, 2nd March, is repealed for your information. Begins. District Magistrate, Bakarganj, wires that he was forced to order Frontier Rifles fire on large Mohammedan mob who violently opposed Hindu music by mosque at Kulkathi. Casualties number 12 killed and wounded 7. Further details will be telegraphed when received. Ends.

Telegram from the Government of India dated 5th March,

In continuation of our telegram dated March 3rd, 239. Following telegram has been received from the Government of Bengal and is repeated for your information. Begins. Following message was received yesterday from the District Magistrate, Barisal. Begins. On arrival at Mosque we found strong armed Mohammedan mob occupying the mosque precincts, and refusing to allow passage to small Hindu procession with music or. District Board road adjoining the mosque. No reason why thi6 procession should not pass, particularly as time not prayer hour. Mohammedans informed accordingly, but repeated persuasion proved useless, owing to incitement by Maulvi Shadaduddin. Mob proclaimed unlawful assembly and ordered to disperse, but vehemently refused, crying would kill and be killed. Attitude very threatening. Long spears brandished at us. Warning repeatedly would be of red on if did not disperse. Military Police brought up and Maulvi arrested, whilst further useless persuasion and even prayers by officers and two local Mohammedans (? were) being (? attempted), armed groups began gathering at opposite sides of the road enclosing the force. Seeing further parleying useless and situation growing momentarily more dangerous I ordered the Superintendent of Police fire. Rounds fired 33; 14 killed, 8 wounded, all Mohammedans. Ends. Full report expected to-day, on receipt of which it will be telegraphed. Commissioner of Dacca Division has proceeded to Barisal for inquiry. Ends.

Telegram from the Government of India dated 6th March,

In continuation of our telegram dated 5th March, 850. Following telegram has been received from the Government of Bengal, and is repeated for your information. Begins. Facts regarding the firing at Kulkathi, so far as at present ascertained, are as follows: A mela is held every year Ponabalia, Police Station Jhalakati, on the occasion of the Shivaratri festival which attracts considerable numbers of Hindu pilgrims, largely women, from all over the country. About a mile from the mela ground at Jaganathpur (Kulkathi), on the side of the road from Jhalakati to Nalchiti by which the pilgrims pass to the mela ground, there is a small mosque which is said to have been erected not more than 7 years ago. Previously there was mosque on the other side of the road, but at some distance from it. As Hindus were apprehending disturbances on the occasion of this festival, Magistrate of the District inspected mela ground on 17th February to ascertain what arrangements were required. As far as he was able to ascertain, there had never been any opposition to the procession with music or to Uludhani or such religious exclamations which pilgrims are accustomed to make on similar occasions; but as precaution against possible trouble this year, he arranged with the Superintendent of Police to have pickets of one Jemadar and ten armed police at this place during the mela. Party of one Jemadar and 30 rifles of Eastern Frontier Rifles was also sent to Ponabalia for emergency on 1st March. Sub-divisional Officer was sent to be present at the mela, and was warned that mosque might be danger spot. He was instructed to make further inquiries as to local custom, and to allow parties to pass with music unless he was satisfied that there was any practice to the contrary. In the early morning of 2nd March a Hindu Sankirtan procession formed up and started for the mela ground playing music along the road which passes the mosque. Crowds of armed Mohammedans began to collect at the mosque in preparation to oppose the procession. Seeing this, Sub-divisional Officer, who is an Indian. Christian, stopped the procession at some distance from the mosque, and endeavoured to persuade the Mohammedans to allow the procession to pass peacefully. They resolutely refused to do this, and the crowd began to swell and to adopt threatening attitude. Sixteen rifles of the Eastern Frontier Rifles and a few civil police were stationed near; Kulkathi mosque, but seeing the situation becoming more serious, Sub-divisional Officer sent for 4 more riflemen. This rearguard arrived simultaneously with District Magistrate and Superintendent of Police, who had come to supervise arrangements. This was at about 9 a.m. Meanwhile, attitude of Mohammedans had become more threatening under incitement of one Muhammad Shadaduddin, and they were prepared violently to resist any attempts on the part of Hindus to pass mosque with music. Sub-divisional Officer had satisfied himself after inquiries that Hindu processions had pre- viously passed by mosque without any protests from Mohammedans. In these circumstances, District Magistrate decided that existing [...]stom should be maintained, and, with assistance of Superintendent of Police and Sub-divisional Officer, repeatedly requested Mohammedans to disperse, but they continued in their truculent attitude and brandished their weapons defiantly to emphasise their resolve to resist procession. District Magistrate then declared them to be an unlawful assembly, and warned them that they should be dispersed by rifle fire unless they went away peacefully; but despite these warnings, Muhammad Shadaduddin continued to incite the crowd saying that they would submit to being killed rather than give in. There were then about 500 armed Mohammedans in the open space round mosque, and they were only separated from the road by a ditch about 2 yards in width. Others estimated at another 500, were assembled in the jungle behind. As the crowd refused to disperse, the District Magistrate ordered the Superintendent of Police march up contingent Eastern Frontier Rifles. This was done, and the Magistrate again ordered the crowd disperse, but was again disobeyed, Mohammedans waving their spears and thrusting them in the direction of the officers and sepoys. District Magistrate then ordered the arrest of Muhammad Shadaduddin who was taken away in custody. Thereafter further attempts were made by all the officers present and 2 leading Mohammedans to induce the crowd to disperse, but without avail. On the contrary, some of the crowd began to cross the road at little distance and collected in groups with 6pears on the other side of the road, thus surrounding police party. As the crowd became still more threatening and was then within 3 yards of the police, and was armed with deadly weapons, District Magistrate then gave orders to fire, and with his approval the Superintendent of Police ordered one round to be fired by each man. This order was communicated by the Havildar to his men and fire opened by 14 men. It seems, however, in the tremendous din which the Mohammedans were making, the order was not properly heard, and that actually 37 rounds fired before the firing was stopped. Mohammedans did not disperse when fire first opened, and firing stopped as soon as it was found to be effective. Fourteen Mohammedans killed and 7 wounded.. Necessary arrangements were made to attend the wounded, and to send them to Jhalakati for medical treatment, dead being sent to Barisal post mortem examination. Full inquiry into the matter is now being made by the Commissioner, and in view of this inquiry the Government do- not propose to make any comments at this stage—Ends.

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