Parsi–Muslim riots

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The Parsi–Muslim riots occurred in 1851 in Bombay, and were reprised in 1874 in parts of Gujarat. These marked the beginning of a period of tension in the two communities. The first riot took place over the blurred depiction of the Islamic prophet, Muhammad, and his appearance in a public print by a Parsi newspaper, Chitra Gyan Darpan, in October 1851. A second riot place on May 1857,over a Parsi named Bejonji Sheriaiji Bharucha was accused of disrespecting a mosque by some Muslims. A third riot took place on 13 February 1874, over an article on the life of Muhammad in a book entitled Famous Prophets and Communities.

Quotes

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  • An article in a magazine, edited by a Parsi youth, gave an account of the Prophet of Arabia which lacked ‘‘that sentiment of respect and tolerance which is due to a sister community”. The lithographed portrait of the Prophet, which was given with the article, also gave umbrage, and “an undiscovered villain added fuel to the fire by posting a copy of the picture, with ribald and obscene remarks underneath, on the main entrance of the principal mosque.” Large crowds of Muhammadans assembled in the mosques of the town with the Qur’an in one hand and a knife in the other. At a meeting held on October 7, 1851, they proclaimed a Jih&d (holy war) against the Parsis. They overwhelmed the small police force on duty and marched triumphantly to the Parsi quarters of the Bombay town. The Parsis were “belaboured mercilessly by the rioters”. “For weeks together, that part of Bombay was a scene of pillage and destruction, and the Parsis had to put up with shocking atrocities such as defilement of corpses”. “Only after the editor had been compelled to tender a written apology a truce was declared”. “In connection with this disturbance the Parsi community looked in vain to the police for protection. If not altogether hostile, they were indifferent. Dddabhai Naoroji, who witnessed the tragedy, hastened the publication of the eRast Goftar’ and wrote strong articles against the Government for indifference and failure of duty. He also rebuked the cowardly Parsi leaders for having tamely submitted to such outrages.”
    • Volume 10: British Paramountcy and Indian Renaissance, Part 2 [1818-1905] pp 326ff
  • Another riot took place in 1874 of which there is an eye-witness account by the great Indian leader Pherozeshah Mehta.67*. In a book written by a Parsi vaccinator there was a reference to the Prophet which was regarded as objectionable by the Muslims. The publication was accordingly suppressed by the Government and the author was made to apologize for any affront he might have inadvertently offered. Nevertheless, there was “a brutal and unwarranted attack on Parsis by a mob of Mohamedans”, on 13 February, 1874. They “invaded Parsi places of worship, tore up the prayer- books, extinguished the sacred fires and subjected the fire-temples to various indignities. Parsis were attacked in the streets and in their houses and free fights took place all over the city. Thanks to the weakness and supineness of the police and the Government, hooliganism had full play and considerable loss of life and damage to property were caused”. The riot continued for several days till the military was called out. Pherozeshah Mehta, like Dadabhai Naoroji, none of whom one would accuse of having any special animosity against the Muslims or the British Government, has laid emphasis on the callousness of the police and the indifference of the Government. “The attitude of the Commissioner of Police was particularly hostile and objectionable. The Governor told a Parsi deputation that waited on him that the conduct of the community had been injudicious and unconciliatory and advised it to make its peace with the Muhammadans and to learn the lesson of defending itself without dependence on the authorities.”
    • Volume 10: British Paramountcy and Indian Renaissance, Part 2 [1818-1905] pp 326ff
  • A serious riot took place in Bombay in 1851. An article written by a Parsi youth on the Prophet of Arabia gave umbrage to the Muslims. At a meeting held on 7 October, 1851, they proclaimed a jihad (holy war) against the Parsis. They over- whelmed the small police force on duty and marched triumphantly to the Parsi quarters of the Bombay town. The Parsis were "belaboured mercilessly by the rioters.” “For weeks together that part of Bombay was a scene of pillage and destruction,, and the Parsis had to put up with shocking atrocities such as defile- ment of corpses.” Throughout the trouble the Parsi community failed to secure any police protection. 43
    • History Of The Freedom Movement In India Majumdar RC, I. 437ff
  • There was again a similar riot in Bombay in 1874 » of which there are eye witnesses' accounts from two great Indian leaders like Dadabhai Naoroji and Pherozeshah Mehta. In a book written by a Parsi vaccinator there was a reference to the Prophet which was regarded as objectionable by the Muslims. The publication was accordingly suppressed by the Government and the author was made to apologize for arty affront he might have> inadvertently offered. Nevertheless, there was “a brutal and unwarranted attack on Parsis by a mob of Mohamedans.”
    • History Of The Freedom Movement In India Majumdar RC, I. 437ff
  • They "invaded Parsi places of worship, tore up the prayer- books, / extinguished the sacred fires and subjected the fire-temples to various indignities. Parsis were attacked in the streets and in their houses and free fights took place all over the city. Thanks to the weakness and supineness of the police and the Govern- ment, hooliganism had full play and considerable loss of life and damage to property were caused.” The riot continued for several days till the military was called out.
    • History Of The Freedom Movement In India Majumdar RC, I. 437ff
  • Both Pherozeshah Mehta and Dadabhai, whom no one would accuse of having any special animosity against the Muslims or the British Government, have laid emphasis on the callousness of the police and the . indifference of the Government. "The attitude of the Commissioner of Police was particularly hostile and objectionable. Even the Governor advised a Parsi deputation, that waited' on him, to make its peace with the Muhammadans and to learn the lesson of defending itself without dependence on the authorities.” 44
    • History Of The Freedom Movement In India Majumdar RC, I. 437ff

See also

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