Ponabalia Massacre

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Ponabalia Massacre occurred on 7 March 1927 during the height of the Satyagraha Movement in colonial India in front of the Ponabalia mosque, located at Kulkathi in nalchity upazila of Jhalokati district.

A large number of Hindus, going towards the site of the Ponabalia Shiva temple, was passing by the mosque, chanting sangkirtan and beating drums. The Muslims, who had then assembled there to say their prayers, urged the processionists to stop making noise. The processionists did not pay heed to their pleadings, and the Muslims put up a human barricade to stop it. The Hindus, at the instigation of Satyagraha activist Satindranath Sen, continued their singing loudly.

The two communities were about to be involved in a scuffle. Already aware of such a happening through a hint of Satin Sen, the police had informed the matter to the higher authorities in Barisal beforehand. The District Magistrate (EN Blandy) and Superintendent of Police (Taylor) rushed to the spot. The illiterate Muslims tried to convince the British by making gestures, since they could not communicate in English, with their hands near their neck that they would prefer being slaughtered to tolerating disturbances while saying their prayer. The educated Hindus misinterpreted it to the officers by saying in English that the Muslims would slaughter them if they would advance further. Being thus misled, Blandy ordered to open fire that resulted in the death of 19 (some say 20) Muslims and left numerous others wounded.

The incident was so horrifying that it has been branded as the second Jalianwalabag Massacre. All Bengal Muslim Conference, held in Barisal a few days later pressed for an inquiry commission and it was accordingly constituted. The report of the inquiry commission was, however, never published.

The Ponabalia incident reveals the existence of communal disharmony between the Hindus and the Muslims in the post-Noncooperation period, even in rural society. The British, on their part, took advantage of the Hindu-Muslim schism. [MA Halim]