In the 1940s when India was at its final stage of anti-colonial struggle, communal politics had spread its tentacles in the Indian political scene. In 1946 the communal balance of the Bengal Presidency, on the eastern part of India became delicate. Calcutta first witnessed a scene of horrific communal violence in the month of August. This was followed by the devastating communal riot in Noakhali, in the erstwhile Eastern Bengal (now in Bangladesh) where the Muslim majority community unleashed a reign of terror upon the Hindu minority community. But the most horrific part of the riot was that women of the Hindu community were abducted, molested and forcibly married to Muslims. The British government was, however, very indifferent to this situation and did little to calm the situation. It was in this situation that Mahatma Gandhi became the sole source of hope when he undertook a peace-keeping mission in Noakhali to restore communal harmony. More importantly he inspired a number of women to come forward in support of riot affected people. They went into remote villages, stationed themselves there and worked hard to restore harmony between the two communities, to convince the terrified Hindus to stay back and rebuild their social life. As women, the workers were especially empathetic towards the plight of women as there were number of cases of violence, molestation, abduction and forcible marriage. However, despite their best efforts, women achieved limited success. The communal mistrust was so deep that stray incidents of violence continued to happen. The effort to give molested women a new life also came to a naught because very few women were ready to admit that they were raped or molested. However, in those days of gloom the efforts the women made to bring about a positive change cannot be ignored.
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