Partition of Punjab

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Sir Syed Ahmad Khan, founder of the Mohammadan Anglo-Oriental College which later became Aligarh State university was encouraged by the British to communalise politics. He became a staunch ally of the British and lent his commanding influence to preach gospel of loyalty among Muslims. He first opened his campaign againt the Indian National Congress in 1887.

The Indian national congress was founded in 1885 by Some British and Anglo-Indians to demand a legislative assembly and other democratic rights for the citizens of India)

First efforts at a Muslim State

His speech in Lucknow in 18 December 1887 was full of venom. His primary aim was to win the Muslims a reprieve for their part in the mutiny of 1857. In 1893, Syed Ahmad Khan established the Mohammadan Anglo-Oriental Defence Association of Upper India which was opened only to Muslims and Englishmen. Thus started a long campaign to create a separate state for Muslims. Syed Ahmad Khan died in 1898 but with the creation of Aligarh University and by his planting of 'seeds of venom' he had done his damage.

His path to the evential holocaust was taken over by the Agha Khan. Lord Minto on October 1, 1906 in front of Agha Khan and other Muslim and British dignatories at Simla said,

" I claim that in any system of representation whether it affects a muncipality, a District, or Legislative council, in which it is proposed to introduce or increase Mohammadan community should be represented as a community." (quote from Heritage of Sikhs, page 255, written by Harbans Singh).

This statment by the Governor General was an open inticement to Muslim separatism. In 1909, Minto-Morley reforms gave weighted representatin to Muslims in provinces in which they were in minority. This created a permanent separatism between Muslims and Hindus. In 1916 Congress attempted to appease muslims by giving them several separate communal laws and claims in a pact called the Lucknow Pact. In Punjab, 50 percent of seats were reserved for Muslims under this League-Congress pact while the Sikhs were completely ignored. In 1916, A Sikh representative Sardar Gajjan Singh of Ludhiana moved an ammendment be attached recommending the addition of the words, "subject to the just claims of the sikhs".

This proposal was opposed by both Hindus and Muslims. At this time there were only two Sikhs in the legislative assembly. The franchise committee was established by British to look into the matter of composition of new legislatures based on religion. Sikhs were given 15 percent of the seats, but were only 12 percent of Punjab, while Muslims in Bihar and Orissa were less than 10 percent and got 25 percent of total legislature seats.

Though Sikhs were smallest minority in Punjab, they had been generally aversed to any participation in communal representation. The muslims, in spite of being a majority, had been given statutory protection and weightage in form of separate electorates and reservation of seats. This created among the Sikhs a sense of grievance and they demanded to be treated on a par with the Muslims in the matter of political rights.

Chief Khalsa Diwan supports Separation of 'Church and State'

Chief Khalsa Diwan in 1928 observed that Sikhs are anxious to maintain their individuality while at the same time they are ready to co-operate with their sister communities for the development of a united nation. They would, therefore, be the first to welcome a declaration that no consideration of caste or religion shall affect the matter of organization of a national government in the country. Sikhs are prepared to stand on merit alone. The British appointed a committee under Moti Lal Nehru to work out a scheme of government that was acceptable to all. The committee prepared a report which was published in August 1928.

Muslim opinion was totally against this report and Mohammad Ali Jinnah, an emerging leader of the Muslims suggested a number of amendments to it. Sikhs rejected the Nehru report for different reasons Baba Kharak Singh in his speech put these points forth;

  • first this report asked only for dominion status of Indians under British and not total freedom
  • second this report had laid the foundation of communalism by accepting separate electorates

On December 20, 1929, Baba Kharak Singh gave a speech at Lajpat Nagar, Lahore reiterated the Sikhs determination not to let any single community establish its political hegemony in Punjab. Sikhs he said had suffered more then anyone else, of the 31 Indian patriots sentenced to death, 27 were Sikhs, and out of 121 sentenced to long imprisonment, 91 were Sikhs. Nehru and Gandhi met with Baba Kharak Singh and assured him of Sikh representation and keeping the country united while the Muslims remained silent.

But things slowly were changing. Muslim league in the elections of 1936 won only two seats in Punjab and the Unionist party led by Sikandar Hayat Khan formed the government, this party was mostly composed of feudal land lords. After these elections, Muslims league started showing its true colors. Several incidents inciting muslims against infidels were reported in muslim newspapers. Leaders like Jinnah and Liaqat Ali Khan who behaved more like englishmen than subcontinent muslims, started exploiting the sentiments of Muslims through out India. Jinnah, although an accomplished lawyer, was a petty, shrewd person who was only the second generation of neuveau-riche liberal muslims. He was called a pseudo British or a brown sahib. Though a muslim he drank liquor, wore the best of Saville Row bespoke suits and even ate pork. He always had a cigarette in hand lighting another before he finished his last. Another thing to note is that he never really took part in any struggle for independence, while other leaders like Maulana Abul Kalam, M. K. Gandhi, Sardar V. Patel and Jawaharlal Nehru were put in jail for many years. The situation until 1940 had turned bad throughout India and relations between Hindus and Muslims were turning cold.

Trouble looms as Sikhs are a minority in every district

In 1940, Mohammad Ali Jinnah called for a separate state for muslims called Pakistan to be created out of those areas which had a Muslims majority. This was a shock for Sikhs, as Sikhs although they were spread out throughout punjab, they were only a minority in all its provinces. The British appointed Sir Stafford Cripps in 1942 to look after the creation of new provinces or a separate state for Muslims. Sikh representation told this comission: "Why should a province that fails to secure three-fifths majority of its legislature, in which a religious community enjoys statutory majority, be allowed to hold a plebiscite and given the benefit of a bare majority.

In fairness, this right should have been conceded to communities who are in permanent minority in the legislature. From the boundry of Delhi to the banks of Ravi River the population is divided as follows: Muslims, 4,505,000; Sikhs and other non-muslims, 7,060,000. To this may be added the population of Sikh states of Patiala, Nabha, Jind, Kapurthala and Faridkot, which is about 2,600,000, of this Muslims constitute barely 20 percent and this reduces the ratio of Muslim population still further.

We shall resist by all possible means, the separation of Punjab from the all-India union. We shall never permit our motherland to be at the mercy of those who disown it. After it was a certainity that Pakistan would be formed, Giani Kartar Singh in 1943 declared a call for a Separate state called Azad Punjab, to be comprised of Ambala, Jullundar, Lahore, Multan, and Lyallpur districts. Master Tara Singh president of SAD and other Sikh leaders such as Giani Sher Singh, Sadhu Singh Hamdard, Amar Singh Dosanjh, Ajit Singh Ambalvi supported this call for Azad Punjab. Then in a speech in Amritsar in August 1944, Master Tara Singh declared that Sikhs were a nation and as such a demand was formerly put forward by the Shiromani Akali Dal in a resolution passed on March 22, 1946 for a separate Sikh state.

After this, the situation in Punjab got very tense. On one hand Jinnah and the Muslim league was calling for 'blood or Pakistan' and declaring that Muslims are no believers of ahimsa and will resort to any means possible to achieve their means. Muslim league declared August 16th 1946 to be observed as 'Direct Action Day', where all muslims were asked to show the support for Pakistan by rioting. Explaining the implications of the Direct Action Day threat, Liaqat Ali Khan, general secretary of Muslim league said "Direct action means resort to non-constitutional methods that can take any form which many suit the conditions under which we live. We cannot eliminate any methods. Direct Action means any action against the law." Sardar Abdur Rab Nishtar spoke in more forthright terms: "Pakistan can be achieved through shedding blood of others. Muslims are no believers in ahimsa.

Muslims go on the Rampage, yet Jinnah never arrested

The decree of violence and jingoism was enthusiastically embraced by the Muslim masses. The Muslim league created a private army called Muslim National Guards. Arms were being secretely amassed, petrol stored and lethel weapons laid in. Muslim league volunteers were especially trained in the skills of stabbing and fire-raising. Simultaneously, a chorus of hate and inflammatory exhortation flowed from the League pulpiteers and newspapers. Communal frenzy was worked up to a dangerous pitch and on appointed day the storm burst in Calcutta. H.S. Suhrawardy, Muslim league leader from Bengal let loose horron on the Hindu population on the morning of August 16 1946. Stabbing, looting, burning were the order of the day. For four days the League desperados had the city at their mercy. According to rough estimated about 15,000 persons were killed and injured while one hundred thousands were rendered homeless. Then on 2nd September in Noakhali and Tippera (Bengal) where Hindus were in minority, violence broke out. Thousands of Hindus were cruelly murdered, their womenfolks abducted and compelled to marry Muslims, property looted. The Sikhs of Calcutta did a notable humanitarium job at the time of the Great killing, saving many innocent lives in Hindus as well as in Muslim localities. Soon violence spread northwards. According to Muslim league, the Sikhs were the only viable obstruction to Pakistan. Justice G.D. Khosla of the Fact Finding Organization setup by Government of India observed: "Sikhs had opposed the partition of India with even greater vigour than Hindus, because they felt that as a community they could only expect disaster in Pakistan, therefore it was against the Sikhs that spearpoint of the Muslim league attack was first aimed. In the March 1947 riots, the Sikhs or Rawalpindi faced ahhihilation and large number of them left the district. Within a few weeks almost the entire Sikh population had migrated from the district. Rioting in Punjab started in first week of December in the district of Hazara. A Holy war was declared on Hindus and Sikhs. Sikh habitations were wiped out, Gurdwaras were desecrated. Rioting in Lahore was started in March 4 1947, it started out as stabbing and small incidents and spread out to become arson and murder. Soon after Muslims in Amritsar (muslims were about 40-50% of population before partition) went rioting, a mob tried to attack Golden Temple and were repulsed with a pitched battle fought between handful of Sikhs under Jathedar Udham Singh Nagoke. Same day muslims of Sharifpura (a suburb of Amristar), stopped a train full of refugees from Pakistan for slaughter. After this incident, Sikhs and Hindus in Amritsar were furious and many innocent muslims had to bear the fury of anger. Soon after Amritsar was empty of Muslims. While total number of casualties were about same on both sides, about 100-150 million refugees were exchanged between both countries. There were large number of atrocities inflicted on women, many were abducted and raped. In village Thoh Khalsa (now in Pakistan), 1000 Sikh and Hindu women jumped into well to save their honor after their menfolks were killed by Muslim mobs. It is estimated that about 1 million Hindus/Sikhs/Muslims were murdered and 10-50 millions were injured. Property lost was in trillion of dollars. Sikh leadership opted for India and millions of Sikhs migrated to East Punjab and Delhi.

Additional References

1) The Sikh Martys of Western Punjab - Sirdar Kapur Singh

2) Pakistan Andar Rahe Gurudware Tract No. 138

3) 1947 Ghaluhgarey di Kavita - Dr. Jasbir Singh Sarna (Ed.)

4) A Diary Of The Partition Days 1947 - Dr. Ganda Singh

5) Kyon Kito Vesah Part 2 - Narain Singh Tract No. 272

6) Kyon Kito Vesah Part 3 - Narain Singh Tract No. 273

7) Kyon Kito Vesah Part 4 - Narain Singh Tract No. 277

8) Punjab - The Homeland of The Sikhs, together with The Sikh Memorandum to the sapru conciliation committee - Harnam Singh

9) Muslim League Attacks on Sikhs and hindus in the Punjab 1947