Partition of the Punjab(Selected Articles)
Partition of Punjab By Ishtiaq Ahmed
Punjab holocaust of 1947 By Ishtiaq Ahmed
A bloody March in 1947 By Ishtiaq Ahmed
Punjab Bloodied, Partitioned And Cleansed By Ishtiaq Ahmed
Hatred that simmers because elders are ‘silent’ By Majid Sheikh
The forgotten massacre By Abdul Majeed Abid
Partition of Punjab
Scholarly works on the partition of India are legion, but those focusing on the partition of the Punjab are very few. Ian Talbot and Kirpal Singh indeed have pioneering works on the Punjab partition to their credit, but much more research needs to be done to shed light on the dynamics of that cataclysmal event.
After all the greatest forced migration in history with its gory tales of massacres, looting, arson, rape, abduction of women and children and other acts of savagery were essentially facets of a Punjabi tragedy.
Why and how this happened will be elaborated in my forthcoming book. On the 60th anniversary of the partition of the Punjab it is appropriate that a sketch of the main events is shared with the public. I shall in a series of articles trace the main events that culminated in the bloody division of that province.
Although ideas of partitioning Punjab had existed since at least the beginning of the twentieth century it was only in the wake of the March 23, 1940 Lahore Resolution adopted by the Muslim League that the Sikhs began to demand that the Punjab should also be partitioned on a religious basis.
Sikh religion, culture and history were inextricably linked to the Punjab -- the founder of the Sikh faith, Baba Guru Nanak (1469-1539) and his spiritual successors were Punjabis, the only great kingdom ruled a Sikh, the Kingdom of Lahore under Maharaja Ranjit Singh (1799-1839), was essentially a Punjabi state, most of the holy shrines of the Sikhs and the vast majority of their community were based in the Punjab. Therefore the Sikhs demanding partition appears to be a contradiction in terms. But they did and the question is: why? Certainly the clues are not to be found in their demographic complexion.
Unlike the Muslims who were in majority in the northwestern and northeastern zones of the subcontinent, the Sikh were not in a majority anywhere in the Punjab, not even in the central districts where they were mainly located or in their holy city of Amritsar. According to the 1941 census their overall proportion of the total Punjab population was 13.2 per cent in the British-administered areas and it increased to 14. 9 per cent if the Sikh states were also included. The Muslims had an overwhelming majority of 57.1 per cent in the British areas, which decreased to 53.2 per cent if the Sikh states were included. The Hindu population was 29.1 per cent in British districts and it declined to 26.6 if the Sikh states were included. The Sikhs were not in a majority in any of the major Sikh states either.
The Sikh argument was that India should not be partitioned, but if it became inevitable then the Punjab should be divided and the borders between a predominantly Muslim Punjab in the West and a Hindu-Sikh majority East Punjab should be drawn on the Chenab, so that East Punjab would include their holy places as well as the majority of the community. The Sikh leadership feared persecution in a predominantly Muslim Pakistan , just as the Muslim leadership argued that permanent Hindu Raj based on caste prejudices will be established if India remained united.
On February 20, 1947 Prime Minister Clement Attlee announced that His Majesty's Government intended to transfer power to Indian hands, in a united or partitioned India , by June 1948. The Sikhs reacted angrily to that declaration because no mention of a Sikh right to a separate homeland was included in it.
In the meantime, the Muslim League had launched on January 24 1947 direct action in the Punjab against the coalition government headed by Sir Khizr Hayat Tiwana, which it alleged was not representative of the Muslims of Punjab. The main supporters of Punjab Unionist Party, the Muslim landlords, had decamped and were now members of the Punjab Muslim League. The Muslim League won 75 out of the 83 seats fixed for Muslims. Two Unionists crossed the floor and joined it but it was still short of a majority by 10 seats in a house of 175.
On the other hand, the Unionist Party led by Tiwana was routed in the election. It won only 18 seats. Tiwana managed to put together a coalition government, which included the Akalis and other Panthic Sikhs who won 23 seats and the Congress which did very well by winning 50 general seats. The coalition government also included some scheduled caste members of the Punjab Assembly.
Direct action or a civil disobedience movement as the Muslim League preferred to call it lasted from January 24 to February 26. Its mass character multiplied every day and the jails were filled with leaders and cadres who defied Section 144 and were arrested. Although it remained peaceful, each day the slogans the crowds shouted became more and more menacing and threatening, striking fear and terror in the hearts of the non-Muslims.
Slogans such as, ' Pakistan ka nara kiya? La illahah illillah (what is the slogan of Pakistan ? It is, there is no God but Allah), 'Assey lein gey Pakistan jaisey liya tha Hindustan ' (we will take Pakistan the way we took India ) were raised all over the Punjab . Some slogans directly insulted the Punjab premier in a most abusive and shallow manner. Towards the end of the agitation the demonstrators began to harass Hindus and Sikhs and made them fly the Muslim League flag on their cars and shops.
The government and the Muslim League, however, reached an agreement on February 26 according to which the agitation was called off and the Muslim League leaders and cadres were released. But those several weeks of mass agitation provoked a determined reaction from the Hindu and Sikh leaders in the Punjab who vowed not to let a Muslim League minority government come to power. On March 2 Khizr resigned. He had been badly shaken and demoralised by the abuse directed at him and by the fact that the landlords had abandoned him.
The Punjab Governor, Sir Evan Jenkins, invited the Muslim League leader Nawab Iftikhar Hussain Khan Mamdot to prove that he had a majority in the house. Although he claimed that he could muster a majority with the help of some scheduled castes members of the Punjab Assembly Mamdot failed to do so. That created a political impasse. Governor Jenkins therefore imposed governor rule on March 5 under Section 93 of the India Act of 1935. Punjab continued to remain under governor's rule until partition in mid-August 1947.
The author is a visiting senior research fellow at the Institute of South Asian Studies (ISAS), National University of Singapore on leave from the University ofStockholm , Sweden . Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Curtsey: The News, August 11, 2007
Punjab holocaust of 1947
By Ishtiaq Ahmed
Intelligence about private armies and sale and movement of arms and ammunition had been collected by the Punjab administration since a long time, and the fact that a very large population in Punjab had served in the army should have left no doubt that a bloodbath would occur if proper arrangements were not made to prevent it. The Sikhs could always use their kirpans as daggers. They were also better organised for the final showdown.
Governor Jenkins requested at least four divisions of troops under British command to supervise the partition, but the British government replied curtly that no such divisions existed. Mountbatten remained supremely confident that Jinnah, Nehru, Patel, Tara Singh, Giani Kartar Singh and others would exercise their influence in seeing to it that the partition of Punjab could be carried out peacefully without causing any displacement of people!
My extensive interviews with Muslim survivors from East Punjab show that almost nobody in the rural areas had any idea that Punjab will be partitioned; much less that they will have to abandon hearth and home. Hindus and Sikhs in the villages and small towns of western Punjab were equally unaware of what lay in store for them, although half a million had moved eastwards beginning from March 1947.
Conspiracy theories have surrounded the Radcliffe Award of August 17, but a serious analysis would reveal that it largely followed the "contiguous population" principle and "other factors" were only recognised partially. Thus despite Sikh and Hindu arguments about owning 75 per cent or more property in Lahore and other districts of Lahore division they were given to Pakistan including Nankana Sahib, the birthplace of Guru Nanak; so were the canal colonies of Lyallpur and Montgomery where the Sikhs owned nearly 75 per cent of rich agricultural land.
In any event, the Sikh holy city of Amritsar remained in India because Amritsar district had a non-Muslim majority. But three tehsils of the Gurdaspur district on the eastern bank of the Ravi -- Gurdaspur, Batala and Pathankot (non-Muslim majority) -- were given to India, although the district as a whole had a very narrow Muslim majority of 51.1 per cent.
Thus the non-Muslim majority Ferozepur district in the southwest and Gurdaspur district (minus Shakargarh which was on the western bank of the Ravi and given to Pakistan) in the northeast and the Wagah-Attari region in the middle were connected to form an international border more or less equidistant between Lahore and Amritsar. From Lahore the border followed the Ravi upwards into Kashmir.
For serious scholars of the Radcliffe Award it would be interesting to note that it corresponded exactly to the Breakdown Plan which Viceroy Wavell had sent as a top secret document to London on February 7, 1946. Wavell believed that the British should pull out quickly in case of an uprising. He had proposed a border in a partitioned Punjab, which was identical to the Radcliffe Award.
From August 18 onwards hell literally broke loose, especially in East Punjab where troops from the Sikh states such as Patiala, Nabha and Faridkot were involved in the attacks. The successor governments of East and West Punjab proved thoroughly incompetent in protecting the lives of the minorities. There is abundant evidence that the administrations turned partisan on both sides. Suddenly the greatest involuntary migration in history began to take place.
The Punjab Boundary Force was disbanded on September 1 as it proved to be completely ineffective and in some cases partisan. The Indian and Pakistani military then agreed to form mixed units to supervise transfer of populations. This formula worked much better and hundreds of thousands of lives could be saved, but even their best efforts proved to be grossly inadequate.
From East Punjab some six million Muslims tried to cross the border into Pakistan while some four million Hindus and Sikhs moved in the opposite direction from West Punjab. According to Sir Penderel Moon 60,000 Hindus and Sikhs were killed in West Punjab and twice as many: 120,000 Muslims in East Punjab. This estimate is too low. Justice G D Kholsa claimed that at least 500,000 died, of which 200,000 to 250,000 were Hindus and Sikhs. He admitted that more Muslims were killed in East Punjab than Hindus and Sikhs in West Punjab. Lt-General (r) Aftab Ahmad Khan who served in the Punjab Boundary Force and then in the Pakistani force that along with Indian units escorted refugee conveys across the border, claimed in a letter to me that at least 500,000 Muslims lost their lives.
I have done interviews on both sides of Punjab. There is no doubt that many more Muslims lost their lives. Between 700,000 and 800,000 Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs perished altogether. That year the monsoons were also in a bloody mood. A large number of deaths was the result of cholera, dysentery, malaria and typhoid which plagued the refugee camps and the caravans on the move.
Good people from all communities helped their neighbours and friends and even complete strangers. The Khaksars did a great job in protecting Hindus and Sikhs in Rawalpindi while in Amritsar the communists will never be forgotten for saving thousands of lives.
The Sikh hordes did not touch Muslims who crossed into Malerkotla State, but those just a few feet away from its borders were cut down without any mercy. Thanks to Guru Gobind Singh's instructions, the Muslims of Malerkotla were not to be harmed come what may in the future because the Nawab had not complied with the demands of the Mughals to arrest the Guru's minor sons who were passing through his State. Malerkotla is the only Muslim-majority town in East Punjab and elects one member of the East Punjab Assembly.
The killing units on both sides were formed by nexuses of local political bosses, police, corrupt magistrates, badmashes (criminals), fanatical religious figures and drug addicts from all the communities. The gangs excelled each other in inflicting cruelty on hapless men, women and children. Revenge, "communal honour", loot and lust were the main factors that impelled them to commit crimes against humanity. There was nothing remotely noble about their conduct. In this regard the shameful role of communal newspaper needs to be particularly condemned. They played a most vicious role in creating the mindset that demonised and dehumanised rival communities.
As far as the main leadership is concerned, we should note that a Gandhi-Jinnah peace appeal was issued as early as mid April 1947, but it did little to change the situation on the ground. Jawaharlal Nehru intervened personally tosave the lives of thousands of Muslims in Batala and Jalandhar while the goondas of Sardar Patel funded bomb factories in Amritsar and elsewhere. Prime Minister Nehru and Prime Minister Liaqat Ali Khan together toured the two Punjabs in the last days of August trying to calm down the situation, but things had gone out of control.
Although Delhi was not administratively a part of Punjab its Muslims had to bear the fallout of the Punjab bloodbath. The late Dr Ishtiaq Hussain Qureshi has written what happened to thousands of desperate Muslims who pleaded to Gandhiji to save them. He promised to do his best. Dr Qureshi notes that most of them survived and concludes that Gandhiji kept his word.
Curtsey: The News, September 08, 2007
A bloody March in 1947
The Great Calcutta Killings of August 1946 in which both Hindus and Muslims lost lives in the thousands transformed forever the nature of the Congress-Muslim League standoff from a constitutional imbroglio to a violent communal conflagration that culminated in the subcontinent bleeding, burning and partitioned in mid-August 1947.
The first attacks on August 16 were the doings of Muslim hoodlums, but their Hindu counterparts retaliated with equal force within a day or two.
South Asia's most revolutionary city had been turned into a killing field where poor and innocent blood was spilled without let or hindrance by criminals from the underworld connected to respectable political patrons. A few days later Hindus in Noakhali, East Bengal , were attacked by Muslims and hundreds were killed. In Bombay communal clashes took place at about the same time and the Muslims were on the receiving end.
It was followed by terror let loose on the Muslim minority in Bihar in September-October 1946. Official count of deaths in Bihar was put at 3000 and later at 5000, but the Muslim League claimed that at least 8000 Muslims were killed. In Garhmuktesar, UP, Muslims were killed in the dozens though the reason for that outrage was not political.
In December 1946, Sikhs and Hindus in Hazara district of NWFP were assaulted by Muslims. Hundreds of deaths and injuries took place and looting of property was widespread. Thousands fled to the Punjab taking refuge mainly in Rawalpindi . It must be said to the full credit of the Punjab Unionist Party that all its leaders, Sir Fazle Hussain, Sir Sikander Hyat and Sir Khizr Tiwana maintained impartial government, and communal peace and harmony were hallmarks of their government. All this was about to change.
Since at least the beginning of 1946, intelligence agencies had been reporting that private armies were being recruited and trained in the Punjab . On January 24, 1947 Punjab Premier Khizr Tiwana banned the Muslim League National Guard and the Rashtriya Swayam Sewak (RSS). The same day the Muslim League's direct action broke out.
A Muslim youth, Abdul Maalik, was killed on February 8 when a brick thrown at a Muslim League procession from a housetop in a Hindu locality of Lahore hit him. On February 24 an off duty Sikh constable was clubbed to death by a Muslim mob in Amritsar . The Punjab was now rapidly converting into a communal powder keg ready to blast any moment. Khizr resigned on March 2.
On March 3 Master Tara Singh unsheathed his kirpan (sword) from the steps of the Punjab Legislative Assembly and gave the call to finish off the menace of Pakistan . That evening Sikh and Hindu Mahasabha leaders addressed huge crowds in Lahore making highly provocative speeches. Incited Hindus and Sikhs returning from the meeting killed three totally innocent Muslims when they reached their stronghold of Shahalmi Gate.
Regular communal clashes between armed gangs took place in Lahore and Amritsar on March 4. Knives, axes, long sticks and even firearms were used by both sides. In Multan on March 5 a Hindu-Sikh procession shouted anti-Pakistan slogans. It was immediately attacked by Muslims. Serious rioting followed in the next few days. Dozens of non-Muslims were killed and suffered huge loss of property.
But the most critical rioting took place in the Rawalpindi region. Rawalpindi city had almost a 50-50 per cent Muslim and Hindu-Sikh population balance, but in the district as a whole the Muslims were 80 per cent. The Sikhs were the most prosperous Sikh community in that district, while the Hindus were mainly small shopkeepers, many engaged in the jewellery business.
On March 5, Sikh-Hindu agitators began shouting anti-Pakistan slogans and were challenged by Muslims. Firearms, stabbings and arson were employed by both sides. Initially the non-Muslims felt they had been successful in driving off Muslims from the streets of Rawalpindi . In the evening of March 6, however, the direction of violence changed from the city to the villages in the district. Suddenly armed Muslims in the thousands began to raid Sikh villages. Neighbouring villages in the Attock and Jhelum districts were also surrounded. In some places the Sikhs fought back, but on the whole the conflict was one-sided.
Subsequent inquiry reports established that the attacks had been planned according to military strategy and tactics and carried out accordingly. These districts were the main recruiting ground for the British Indian Army and the government investigation found abundant evidence of Muslim ex-soldiers taking part in the attacks. Government statistics claim 2,000 dead, but Sikhs say that as many as 7,000 lost their lives. My own research, based on visits in December 2004 to some of the villages, suggest that the figure of 2,000 was too low. In some places nearly the whole Sikh and Hindu populations were wiped out. However, the deaths included the Sikhs killing their own women and children rather than letting them fall in the hands of Muslim marauders.
Additionally many Sikhs and Hindus were forcibly converted to Islam. Most of them reverted to their original faith when help arrived. Many women and children were taken away by raiders but most were later recovered. Looting and pillaging of property was the prime reason for the attacks.
The raids on the Sikh villages continued for a week: from the evening of March 6 to March 12 or 13. Such villages were only an hour or two away for military trucks to reach from the city. The headquarters of the Northern Command was in Rawalpindi and there was no dearth of troops. But intervention was delayed for too long. Perhaps government preparation for controlling rioting anticipated urban trouble and that it occurred on such a large scale in rural areas surprised the administration, but my research suggests that at least locally there was some sort of conspiracy at work to let the blood-spilling go on for some time. There was an exodus in the thousands of Sikhs from Rawalpindi ,
Attock and Jhelum districts to the eastern districts and the Sikh princely states; some reports suggest hundreds of thousands left and never returned. It is among them that many members of future Sikh jathas (armed gangs, often on horseback) were recruited that from August 18 onwards wreaked havoc on the Muslims of East Punjab.
Sikh demand division of Punjab
Meanwhile on March 8, 1947 the Congress in its Delhi session had adopted a resolution supporting the Sikh demand for a partition of the Punjab in which the predominantly non-Muslim areas should be separated from the Muslim areas and given to East Punjab .
Curtsey: The News, August 18, 2007
Punjab Bloodied, Partitioned And Cleansed
By Ishtiaq Ahmed
The partition of the Punjab in mid-August 1947 took place as part of a negotiated settlement brokered by the British between the Indian National Congress, the All-India Muslim League and the Sikhs of Punjab to partition India and transfer power to India and Pakistan.
The total population of the undivided Punjab Province was 33 million. It included territories directly administered by the British (pop. 28 million) and several princely states. The Punjab was a Muslim majority province while Hindus and Sikhs together made up a very large minority of 44-47 percent. The principle on which India and the Punjab were divided was that Muslim-majority areas were separated from the rest of India and given to Pakistan.
The demand to partition India was made by the main communal party of the Muslims, the All-India Muslim League. It insisted that Indian Muslims were not a minority (one-fourth of the total population of India) but a separate nation by virtue of their Islamic faith and culture.
When the Muslim League demanded the partition of India the Sikhs of Punjab demanded the same principle be applied to the Punjab. The Indian National Congress wanted to keep India united but realizing that the Muslim League was insistent on the partition of India, on March 8, 1947, it threw its weight behind the Sikh demand for the partition of the Punjab.
Viceroy Mountbatten came to the conclusion that the partition of India had become inevitable. Therefore on June 3, 1947, the Partition Plan was announced which required the Punjab and Bengal assemblies to vote on whether they wanted to keep their provinces united or partitioned. Both the assemblies voted in favour of partitioning their provinces.
The actual transfer of power to India and Pakistan proved to be bloody and bitter. Some people have described it as one of the ten great tragedies of the 20th century. The estimated loss of life during the partition of India is one million. Besides, 14-18 million people were forced to cross the international border in search of safe havens.
For the Punjab alone, the loss of life is estimated somewhere between 500,000-800,000 and 10 million people were forced to flee for their lives. More importantly, after World War II the first case of ethnic cleansing took place in the Punjab. Therefore, it bore the brunt of the partition violence. Thus at the end of 1947 all traces of a Muslim presence in the Indian East Punjab were wiped out, except for some Muslims remaining in the tiny princely state of Malerkotla (total population 88,000). In the Pakistani West Punjab, Hindus and Sikhs became conspicuous by their absence.
Given the fact that the pre-partition Punjab had a robust legacy of a ‘live and let live’ tradition bequeathed by the efforts of Muslim Sufis, Hindu Sants and Sikh Gurus, such an outcome at the end of 1947 was too drastic and traumatic and remained an intriguing and perplexing puzzle. There were some peculiarities which rendered the Punjab vulnerable to violence in case the competing parties and their leaders could not agree to keep their province united. Among them the main factor was that nearly a million Punjabi Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs had recently been demobilized from the British Indian Army.
Additionally there were criminal gangs operating all over Punjab. These two elements and partisan government functionaries, politicians and ethnic activists formed nexuses that began to coordinate attacks on the ‘enemy community’. Once the British were gone and two partisan administrations came to power in the divided Punjab whole-sale attacks on the minorities started taking place. By the end of the year ethnic cleansing had been achieved.
The main argument set forth in this study (“The Punjab Bloodied, Partitioned and Cleansed: Unravelling the 1947 Tragedy through Secret British Reports and First-Person Accounts”/OUP) is that the partition of India was necessary but not a sufficient basis for the partition of the Punjab. In other words, if India had not been partitioned the Punjab would not be partitioned. However, there was no logical necessity for the Punjab to be partitioned if India was partitioned.
Why could not Punjabi Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs agree to keep their province united? Why did the violence that took place in the Punjab dwarf the violence that took place in other parts of India? I explain these with the help of a theoretical framework developed in a chapter entitled ‘A theory of ethnic cleansing’.
Fear of an uncertain future, lack of communication between the leaders of the estranged communities, the waning authority of the British and the consequent unreliability of the state institutions and functionaries created the social and political milieu in which suspicion and fear proliferated, generating angst among the common people. In such situations reaction and overreaction led to intended and unintended consequences which aggravated and finally resulted in the biggest human tragedy in the history of the Indian subcontinent.
There is the first holistic and comprehensive study of the partition of the Punjab. It covers chronologically the events which unfolded during 1947 and covers the whole of Punjab – the 28 districts and the princely states. During January 1 – August 14, 1947, it was under British rule. According to Sir Evan Jenkins, the last British governor of Punjab, only some 5,000 fatalities had taken place till August 4, 1947. From August 15 to December 31, 1947, those figures shot up to anything between 500,000 to 800,000.
No official documents are available from either India or Pakistan on that period. I have, for the first time in 65 years, brought to light the events on both sides with more than 230 first-person accounts. I also spoke to people now settled in other parts of India and Pakistan and in London, Stockholm and several US cities. It took me 12 years to collect the evidence to tell the story of what happened after power was transferred to the East and West Punjab administrations.
The conclusion I reached from my research is that in March 1947 the Muslims started large-scale violence, mainly against Sikhs but also against Hindus, in the Muslim-majority districts of northern Punjab. Yet at the end of that year more Muslims had been killed in East Punjab than Hindus and Sikhs together in West Punjab. How and why that happened is for the first time presented in this book of mine.
Ishtiaq Ahmed, Professor Emeritus of Political Science, Stockholm University And Honorary Senior Fellow, Institute of South Asian Studies (ISAS), National University of Singapore. His book “The Punjab Bloodied, Partitioned and Cleansed: Unravelling the 1947 Tragedy through Secret British Reports and First-Person Accounts” has just been published by Oxford University Press
Hatred that simmers because elders are ‘silent’
The 1947 Partition of Punjab divided an ancient land along communal lines. Its sole by-product was hatred, which all Prophets warn against for it is born out of ignorance. But then prophets are seldom followed by humans in letter, let alone spirit.
In sterile isolation, and mutual hatred, both India and Pakistan live. The temper of 1947 continues to simmer, and simmer it does because an even more lethal element exists, that is the deadly silence of the sufferers of the ‘holocaust of holocausts’. Never has a greater exercise in ethnic cleansing been experienced by humans in such a short time. On both sides the brutalised victims were shocked into perpetual silence. Very soon that generation will no longer be around. Our hatred, and ignorance, will probably gel, and gel it will because of our ignorance of the experiences that were never narrated, never shared, never understood.
I blame my elders for leaving to us a sub-continent without shared experiences, something that existed since the beginning of time. Religion can never be a reason to hate other humans. Ignorance breeds still more ignorance. We are, statistically, the least literate on Mother Earth. Today we face a people at war with its co-religionists. The mutants of ignorance merely multiply.
In this piece I am going to narrate, very briefly, the experiences of three persons. Two belong to Lahore. One still lives in the old walled city inside Bhati Gate near the famous Fakirkhana. The other lives far away in Southall, near London, in Britain. He once lived inside Shahalami Gate just a stone’s throw from Rang Mahal.
The third is a retired college professor who walked with her sisters from Chawinda all the way to Jhelum, finally coming to Lahore to live in the Chauburji Quarters. After marrying a college professor, who has died, she now lives in a posh Lahore locality. I write this because very soon, given the average life expectancy of our elders, the victims will be no more. What they narrated I am passing on to you. I hope every Pakistani, especially school students, record the stories of their families during 1947 and join an effort to collect such stories. Detailed versions I am also compiling. So here is my first contribution.
Sheikh Mubarak Ali is today 94 years old and has lived all his life in Tehsil Bazaar. His son still sits in the shop where his father once ran a tailoring business, only now the son sells amulets, a business blind belief thrives on. Sheikh Sahib made it big because of the orders that came his way in the Second World War, stitching army uniforms. After the war he tailored for the rich. His favourite client, he says, was Syeda Mubarak Begum, wife of Sir Maratib Ali, who was a neighbour.
In 1947 he was part of a gang that hunted Hindus and Sikhs that strayed away from their areas inside the walled city. He set up a system to track and attack their victims. “Let me be honest, the Muslim police at Tibbi Thana were with us and turned a blind eye. When their English officers came, they asked us to disappear so that their jobs were not sacrificed”. The gang was on the lookout for a rich merchant of Shahalami who lived in Bazaar Hakeeman. One day his son left the shop early and was spotted. “I hid in the corner of the lane where he was to turn.
As soon as I saw him my dagger went to work. In three swift strokes his intestines fell out. Then a strong jab at his heart finished him. Within 10 seconds we disappeared and ended up outside the walled city”.
There was a certain élan to his description, yet he was sorry that it all happened. “I went to Haj and sought forgiveness, but to be honest I am still uncomfortable, for I finished off two Hindu and two Sikhs”.
His view of current happenings went like this: “I suppose living with non-Muslims was less stressful, because we enjoyed each other’s festivals. I think had the caste system not been there, Partition would never have happened. Now we curse other Muslim sects”. What will happen now, I asked. “This communal curse will grow. More and more blood will flow. People will forget the blood of Partition”. It was a grim interview.
Now let me switch to Gurbachan Singh Talwar. He is 91 years old, lives in Southall and migrated from Amritsar to Britain in 1969 along with his wife and four children. He worked as an apprentice in a shop in Rang Mahal. I met him after my elder brother tracked him down on my request. Very soon we met a group of elderly Sikhs who gather in a park to talk of old times. Gurbachan was from Lahore, so he interested me. The others we are in the process of interviewing to preserve their thoughts.
“My role in 1947 was to work with a group of brave Sikhs who kept the Muslims ‘goondas’ away from our areas. We killed a number of them when they tried to enter our lane and break into houses. I knifed one myself. In the end we gated our Shahalami area. Initially it made us feel safe, but when they started throwing flaming oil rags into our ‘havelis’ from faraway roofs using a sling, that started fires. We took to the roofs with rifles”.
He went on to explain: “But then very soon a major fire broke out and it spread. We rushed out of the gates, only to be attacked. It was terrible and we did not know where to run. The Army came and rescued many. Others died in the fire and the savage attacks. In the end it was just too much. I moved with my family to Amritsar, where we attacked Muslims. But then our elders stopped us and that was the Partition for us. Terrible! Hell could not be worse”.
Lastly, we interviewed the retired college professor who was 23 years old when she was forced to flee her family house in Chawinda. “We went in a group and walked for days. My shoes, like that of my sisters, broke and we walked barefooted. We reached Jhelum after three weeks”.
I asked her if they had been attacked in the way. She became silent. I could see she was hiding the ‘whole truth’. Silence is not a lie. It is also not the truth. Her eyes were sad. I put her at ease: “Can I say that you were mistreated and wish not, for social reasons, to recall the events”. She sadly, almost scared, nodded her head. Rape had become a way of life then.
“Pakistan was a blessing for us. We got admission in schools and colleges, got jobs, got married, have children who have done well. We are all grandmothers now”. So I left it at that. In Lahore they were not known. So life started from square one, and that was 1947.
But the hatred that 1947 generated remains very much there. Today ‘patriots’ thrive on that hate. In sterile isolation both India and Pakistan have become countries where reason and compassion for one another is absent.
As our elders increasingly leave us, they take away a huge part of our collective recent history. That is why it is everyone’s duty to record their own family stories. One day when they are collected, we will know better what exactly ails us both. It is a much needed conclusion.
Curtsey:DAWN.COM, Published 2013-10-13
The forgotten massacre
Abdul Majeed Abid
The horror unleashed during the partition of India still haunts the collective memory of millions of people across the new divide. Historians have attempted to encapsulate the violence and terror with the help of facts and figures, but to no avail. Saadat Hasan Manto is rightfully credited with chronicling the gory aftereffects of partition in his short stories. In the book, “The Pity of Partition: Manto’s Life, Times, and Work across the India-Pakistan Divide”, Ayesha Jalal mentioned what Manto thought about partition. He wrote, “In this land, once called India, such rivers of blood have flowed over the past few months that even the heavens are bewildered. Blood and steel, war and musket, are not new to human history. Adam’s children have always taken an interest in these games. But there is no example anywhere in the colourful stories of mankind of the game that was played out recently.”
An aspect of disturbances surrounding partition that is often overlooked in the Pakistani version of events involves the violence unleashed against non-Muslims in Northern Punjab and NWFP (now Khyber Pakhtunkhwa) in March, 1947. A report titled “Muslim League Attack on Sikhs and Hindus in the Punjab 1947” was compiled and released in 1991, detailing the massacres. Communal riots had erupted in 1946 when the All India Muslim League decided to celebrate `Direct Action Day` in Calcutta. After the riots, Muslim soldiers originally belonging to the Rawalpindi district stationed near Calcutta and riot-infested areas, were sent on temporary leave.
On 2nd March 1947, the Unionist Party government in Punjab was dismissed and the All India Muslim League failed to declare a parliamentary majority, leading to the imposition of Governor Rule. On 4th and 5th March 1947, the first attacks against non-Muslims occurred in Lahore and Amritsar. On the same dates, Muslim League-led mobs fell with determination and full preparations on the helpless Hindus and Sikhs scattered in the villages of Multan, Rawalpindi, Campbellpur, Jhelum and Sargodha. The murderous mobs were well supplied with arms, such as daggers, swords, spears and fire-arms. (A former civil servant mentioned in his autobiography that weapon supplies had been sent from NWFP and money was supplied by Delhi-based politicians.) They had bands of stabbers and their auxiliaries, who covered the assailant, ambushed the victim and if necessary disposed of his body. These bands were subsidized monetarily by the Muslim League, and cash payments were made to individual assassins based on the numbers of Hindus and Sikhs killed. There were also regular patrolling parties in jeeps which went about sniping and picking off any stray Hindu or Sikh.
On 5th March, Hindu and Sikh students of Rawalpindi took out a procession protesting against the Muslim attempt at the formation of a communal (Muslim League) Ministry in the Punjab, and the police firing on the non-violent procession of Hindu and Sikh students. This procession was also attacked by the Muslim Leaguers. There was a free fight in which the Muslims got the worst of it. Then a huge Muslim mob from the countryside, incited for attack on Hindu and Sikhs by the Pir of Golra, a Muslim religious head and a leader of this area, fell upon the town.
The attack in Rawalpindi villages began on the 7th of March, 1947, and continued non-stop for weeks, involving village after village, wherever any Hindus and Sikhs were to be found. When one area was rid of its Hindu and Sikh inhabitants, the war on Hindus and Sikhs spread to another area, and so on, till by the end of March, the surviving Hindu and Sikh populations of Rawalpindi, Campbellpur and Jhelum Districts had all been transferred in a destitute state into refugee camps, which were established all over the Punjab and Sikh princely states.
Atrocities against non-Muslims in the Hazara division had started in December, 1946. The report mentioned above details the murder and arson committed by gangs of Muslims in Bafa, Shinkiari, Balakot and Mansehra (all of which are situated in Hazara division), during the month of December. Thousands of non-combatants including women and children were killed or injured by mobs, supported by the All India Muslim League. Bonds of friendship, a sense of community and communal harmony were the first casualties of this terrible war.
Leaders of Sikhs resorted to threats of violence before partition because of their experience with the Muslim League-backed hoodlums. Violence is more often than not reciprocated in the form of violence. What transpired in West Punjab was repeated in East Punjab during July and August 1947. To quote Manto again, “Now before our eyes lie dried tracks of blood, cut up human parts, charred faces, mangled necks, terrified people, looted houses, burned fields, mountains of rubble, and overflowing hospitals. We are free. Hindustan is free. Pakistan is free, and we are walking the desolate streets naked without any possessions in utter distress.”
The violent streak and formation of mobs to attack people deemed to have deviated from a specific religious interpretation in Pakistan is a direct continuation of pre-independence massacres. The popular narrative that only Muslims were the victims of communal violence, propagated in Pakistan’s textbooks and popular culture, are nothing but hogwash. It is imperative upon policymakers to present a balanced picture for future generations and attempt to promote peace studies. There is no other way for violence to recede in our society.
The writer is a freelance columnist. Follow him on Twitter
Curtsey:The Nation, Dec 29, 2014