690D.91/2–2450: Telegram

The Ambassador in India ( Henderson ) to the Secretary of State


244. 1. According GOI leaders, India-Pakistan problem arising from recent developments Bengal beginning completely overshadow Kashmir dispute and to present most grave threat peace South Asia since partition.

2. Bajpai asked me see him on February 21 in order to discuss matter. Nehru and Patel both devoted considerable time to it during [Page 1390] conversations with Jessup.1 They and other responsible Indian officials and leaders have expressed to us deepest anxiety lest these developments create such violent reactions throughout India that Communism again will assume violent forms and will take initiative away from government.

3. Situation as outlined by Nehru and Bajpai briefly is that:

During last two months rumors have been circulating that “atrocities” are again being perpetrated in East Bengal on minorities. As result police control and hysterical condition Hindu refugees entering West Bengal, facts have been difficult ascertain. Nevertheless clear between 600 and 1,000 Hindus have been killed in Dacca area alone, thousands have been injured, and much property destroyed. Although GOI has discouraged immigration and has turned back many thousands pressure increasing and if bars were let down there might be general exodus substantial proportion East Bengals 12,000,000 Hindus.
Situation West Bengal under control for moment but every immigrant who arrives from West Bengal becomes an agitator for retaliatory action and feelings are running so high that there is always danger of an explosion. Nevertheless small number Moslems have been killed in West Bengal during various “incidents” and considerable Moslem property destroyed.
In order restore measure confidence on both sides Nehru suggested on February 17 to Liaquat Ali Khan2 that two missions each composed of a minister from West Bengal and minister from East Bengal be appointed and one commission travel through East Bengal and the other through West Bengal ostensibly for examining situation but really for showing desire both governments for maintenance order. Nehru followed this suggestion on February 20 with another that Liaquat Khan and he together tour both provinces.
Liaquat turned down both proposals but suggested that each government announce its opposition to further immigration. This suggestion rejected by Nehru on ground that if followed tension would be increased rather than decreased in West Bengal because of anger at hopelessness of situation Hindus in East Bengal.
GOI seeking earnestly for other ways reducing tension.
Indian deputy high commissioner at Dacca in report dated 18th of which Bajpai sent me copy concluded “minority community feel convinced it will be impossible for them to stay in this province after what has happened which is the culmination of the slow process of [Page 1391] squeezing out going on for some months past to which I had drawn the attention of the ministry in my annual report dated January 31, 1950.”

4. During past week press reports, sometimes of an unrestrained character and undoubtedly based in certain instances on facts difficult to verify, have drawn public attention increasingly to Bengal problem. Yesterday Nehru read prepared statement to Parliament (Embtel 242, February 24)3 in which he evinced great anxiety and declared this issue now had priority over Kashmir.

5. Some observers here, notably British, tend question spontaneity and authentic quality present crisis and point out Nehru’s statement was timed just before resumption SC debate Kashmir. They advance as possibility, hypothesis that fearing unfavorable situation in SC GOI is using this issue seize initiative and place GOP on defensive. As further factor UK Commissioner4 stresses Nehru under severe pressure from back benches and other critics and needs take strong line against Pakistan to retain control and prevent defections of extremist Hindu supporters to Hindu Mahasabha. UK HICOM to Pakistan5 now Delhi has just visited Dacca, claims situation now quiet there, and raises question as to whether or not GOI is manufacturing case for ulterior purposes. In general British are tending minimize seriousness of situation. UK HICOM to India states in confidence that at recent meeting Council of Defense Nehru became so excited he ordered commanders-in-chief (two of whom are British) to prepare for action in East Bengal. The British commanders however persuaded him that such action premature and might accelerate situation.

5 [6]. Our feeling is that until up-to-minute and reliable facts as to East Bengal situation are available we should not question genuineness of concern expressed to Jessup and myself by so many top leaders or minimize potential gravity of situation. Situation as represented to these leaders probably in exaggerated form and may well have been played up unduly in press but fact remains situation is dangerous if for no other reason than that people here are so excited.

Sent Department 244; repeated Karachi 25, pouched Dacca, Calcutta.

  1. Ambassador at Large Philip C. Jessup was on a 14-nation fact-finding tour of the Far East. He was in India February 17–19 and 21–26 and in Pakistan February 27–March 2 and March 5–9. For additional information on this tour, see his oral report to the Secretary of State and other officials of the Department, April 3, vol. vi, p. 68.
  2. Prime Minister of Pakistan.
  3. Not printed.
  4. U.K. High Commissioner to India, Sir Archibald Nye.
  5. Sir Laurence B. Grafftey-Smith.