The Retrieving Memories of Gandhi’s Peacemission: Noakhali Riots 1946, East Pakistan
In 1946, Gandhi visited the Noakhali district in Eastern Bengal (now
Bangladesh) to bridge the communal rift of the Hindu-Muslim communities
just before the British Empire divided the subcontinent into two new
countries: India and Pakistan. This sojourn is almost forgotten now, and no
concrete attempt has been made to study Gandhi’s peace-mission in a Muslim
majority area from a historical perspective of Hindu-Muslim relationship
as Gandhi would have wanted. This article attempts to understand Gandhi
from the perspective of Muslims who saw him and how they subsequently
remember him. Therefore, the article explores how Muslim people recollect
Gandhi’s visit and his ideas as a relevant way to make harmonious relations
between antagonistic communities. The aim of this article is to recall Gandhi
and, through recollecting him, create a reflective mindset that underscores the
communal harmony embedded into core values of an equal and harmonious
society. Through their neglect, the partition historians have safely buried
Gandhi’s chapter in Noakhali, but historians could potentially use this “peacemission” of dealing with communities torn apart by riots. Therefore, it can be safely stressed that to have a just society in South Asia and to learn from past
errors, then memories of Gandhi’s visit must be remembered collectively as a
mode of returning to the past and reshaping the present through memories of
the adults who witnessed it and passed it down to their descendants.
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