1924 Kohat riots

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The 1924 Kohat riots were major communal riots in Kohat in North-West Frontier Province, British India in 1924. In three days (9–11 September) of rioting, official statistics state that the total casualty-count was 155, of which the casualties of Hindus & Sikhs were more than three times that of the Muslims. Almost the entire population of Hindus living there, who numbered 3200, had been evacuated. Gandhi undertook a 21-day fast for Hindu-Muslim unity in October 1924.


  • The Kohat matter also took an ugly turn. Muslims were the overwhelming proportion of the population. Hindus and Sikhs had been set upon and driven out. They had been thrashed, killed, forced to undergo conversions. But to the astonishment of all, in December 1924 at the session in Bombay of the Muslim League (of all things), the till-recently president of the Congress, Maulana Mohammed Ali, moved an embellishment to what, even to begin with, was a partisan resolution. The resolution maintained that ‘the sufferings of the Hindus of Kohat are not unprovoked, but that, on the contrary, the facts brought to light make it clear that gross provocation was offered to the religious sentiments of the Mussalmans, and the Hindus were the first to resort to violence; and further that, though their sufferings were very great, and they are deserving of the sympathy of all Mussalmans, it was not they alone that suffered...’
    • Maulana Mohammed Ali, quoted in Arun Shourie - The World of Fatwas Or The Sharia in Action (2012, Harper Collins)
  • The relations between the two communities were strained throughout 1923-24. But in no locality did this tension produce such tragic consequences as in the city of Kohat. The immediate cause of the trouble was the publication and circulation of a pamphlet containing a virulently anti-Islamic poem. Terrible riots broke out on the 9th and 10th of September 1924, the total casualties being about 155 killed and wounded... As a result of this reign of terror the whole Hindu population evacuated the city of Kohat...
    • BR Ambedkar, Pakistan or The Partition of India (1946)
  • Left Delhi on the 3rd morning. Kohat was the only subject discussed at Hakimji’s residence right up to 10.30 p.m. on the preceding night. Dr Ansari and Hakimji (Ajmal Khan) held the view that the separate inquiry reports were best left unpublished. But Motilalji Nehru strongly opposed. ‘That’s impossible. The public was certain to expect the publication of the Inquiry Committee’s findings and it is incumbent upon us to satisfy it.’ It was at last decided to publish the reports, but with some changes. Shaukat Ali accompanied us in the train up to Sawai Madhopur on the 3rd morning to make them. Bapu first revised Shaukat Ali’s report. He kept his every view intact, but cancelled only unnecessary repetitions. Shaukat Ali accepted the deletions. His last paragraph was a little clumsy and Bapu rewrote it for him. Bapu then began to amend his own report. Shaukat Ali vehemently insisted that Bapu must drop the comparison with (Gen.) Dyer, the paragraph showing Bapu’s reasons for his blaming Muslims and the sentence that it was, by and large, not the Muslim community that had suffered but the Hindus. Bapu slashed all that. I protested, though not strongly, against all those incisions and said that that mind itself was vitiated which could not bear the statement of even bare facts. ‘But what else can be done?,’ Bapu rejoined, ‘that is the only way to change his attitude. Moreover, he too has conceded much.’
    • Mahadev Desai, Day-to-Day with Gandhi, quoted in Arun Shourie - The World of Fatwas Or The Sharia in Action (2012, Harper Collins)
  • Never do anything in a hurry. The resolution of Zafarali Khan is really better than yours. You have meant well but you have done badly. Your resolution reads as if Hindus richly deserved what they got. You state as facts that provocation was from Hindus, that violence too was commenced by them. You state that the Hindu suffering was great, (but) the Hindus were not the only ones to suffer, meaning thereby that both suffered almost equally or if not equally, certainly not so much as to call for any special mention. The resolution, after recording its emphatic findings on the main facts, asks the public to suspend its judgment on the details of the allegations of the Government. Does it not follow that the Government version being true on the main facts, their finding on the details is likely to be true? If all parties are agreed on the main facts, is it worthwhile asking for a Commission on details? You make the League ask the Mussalmans to invite the Hindus to go to Kohat and to settle their differences with the Mussalmans honourably and amicably. This means that the Hindus are the offenders in the main. But if such is your opinion, then again why a Commission? You then proceed to invite the Hindus not to provoke and ask the Mussalmans not to resort to violence. This means that there was extraordinary provocation by the Hindus. The fact is that the kind of language used in the vile verses has become the normal condition of the Punjab. You might have said that such language was unpardonable for Kohat. Your condemnation of the Government coming at the end and in the language it is couched has no force whatsoever and you have made no case for condemnation either. Zafarali Khan’s resolution is in every way much superior to yours, and far less offensive. You have erred grievously in that you have made no mention of the destruction of temples. How I wish you had remained silent: I have read the resolution again and again and the more I read it the more I dislike it. Yet you must hold on to it, if you don’t feel that it is wrong. What I want to do is to act on your heart and thereon (on) your head. I am not going to desert you whilst I have faith in you. The resolution is a revelation of the working of your mind. However crude the language, it shows your belief. I must, therefore, put forth greater effort still and see if I cannot bring you to a correcter perspective. You should not be ignorant of Hindu opinion on these matters. You must not say that Hindus even denied provocation and initial violence. They may be wrong in so believing, but seeing that they believe so, you should not have stated what you have. If you could not have the resolution like the Congress one, you might have protested and voted against it without dividing the League.
    • Letter by Mahatma Gandhi to Mohammad Ali. quoted in Arun Shourie - The World of Fatwas Or The Sharia in Action (2012, Harper Collins)

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