INDIA: Direct Action

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India suffered the biggest Moslem-Hindu riot in its history. Moslem League Boss Mohamed Ali Jinnah had picked the 18th day of Ramadan for "Direct Action Day" against Britain's plan for Indian independence (which does not satisfy the Moslems' old demand for a separate Pakistan). Though direct, the action was supposed to be peaceful. But before the disastrous day was over, blood soaked the melting asphalt of sweltering Calcutta's streets.

Rioting Moslems went after Hindus with guns, knives and clubs, looted shops, stoned newspaper offices, set fire to Calcutta's British business district. Hindus retaliated by firing Moslem mosques and miles of Moslem slums. Thousands of homeless families roamed the city in search of safety and food (most markets had been pilfered or closed). Police blotters were filled with stories of women raped, mutilated and burned alive. Indian police, backed by British Spitfire scouting planes and armored cars, battled mobs of both factions. Cried Hindu Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru (who is trying to form an interim government despite the Moslems' refusal to enter it): "Either direct action knocks the Government over, or the Government knocks direct action over."

By the 21st day of Ramadan, direct action had killed some 3,000 people and wounded thousands more. Said one weary police officer: "All we can do is move the bodies to one side of the street." Vultures tore into the rapidly putrefying corpses (among them, the bodies of many women & children).

Like other Indian leaders, Jinnah denounced the "fratricidal war." But most observers wondered how Jinnah could fail to know what would happen when he called for "direct action." Shortly before the riots broke out, his own news agency (Orient Press) reported that Jinnah, anticipating violence, was sleeping on the floor these nights—to toughen up for a possible sojourn in jail.