Muslim League Attack on Sikhs and Hindus in the Punjab 1947
Compiled for the SGPC by S. GURBACHAN SINGH TALIB
FRONTIER PROVINCE AND D. I. KHAN
The wave of attacks on Hindus and Sikhs, travelling from the Rawalpindi and Multan Divisions, spread in a wild and virulent form to the N.-W. Frontier Province and especially to the Trans-Indus Frontier District of Dera Ismail Khan, in which as all over this area, Hindus and Sikhs were in microscopic minority. The Frontier adherents of the Muslim League fell upon the handful of Hindus and Sikhs with the primitive fanaticism characteristic of the Muslims of this area.
An agitation on the lines of the Punjab agitation of January-February had been started by the Frontier Muslim League. This agitation was even from its inception accompanied by acts of violence, including arson, murder and kidnapping of Hindus and Sikhs. By the end of March, following on the Rawalpindi massacres and looting, the entire Frontier Province was ablaze with similar outrages against Hindus and Sikhs. The murders and looting, and migration of the Hindu and Sikh population of Hazara District to the Punjab, in the January of 1947 has already been told of.
Now from the N.-W. F. P. news of widespread attacks on Hindus and Sikhs began to pour in. This is the report for Sunday the 30th March, 1947:-
“Two shopkeepers were injured by two bullets in Babjani Bazar, Peshawar City, while a Muslim League procession was passing through that area on Sunday afternoon.
“A case of arson has been reported from Peshawar Cantonment, where an attempt was made to set fire to a godown containing wood, behind the Khalsa School.
“Four shops have been burnt in Kaghan Valley, in Hazara District.
“(In Dera Ismail Khan) a Hindu was kidnapped on Saturday by three armed men a few miles from Paniala village” etc.
In the Frontier Province, notwithstanding the genuine and heroic efforts of the Congress Ministry under Dr. Khan Sahib to stem the tide of communal warfare, it was discovered that the plot of the Muslim League and the British officers was so deep laid that no efforts to stop these attacks were of any avail. By April, a large part of the Hindu and Sikh population, following in the wake of the population of Rawalpindi, had had to be evacuated to Eastern districts of the Punjab or into refugee camps. The trains carrying these refugees were attacked pretty often on the way. Reads a communique issued by the Frontier Government on April 2:
“Hindu and Sikh passengers on the railway train which left Kohat for Rawalpindi this morning was attacked by a mob armed with firearms at Gorzai, 17 miles from Kohat. Six persons were killed and 20 injured.
“(In Kohat city) this morning one Hindu hawker was fatally stabbed.
“ABOUT 7,000 HINDUS AND SIKHS-NEARLY A QUARTER OF THIS MINORITY POPULATION OF PESHAWAR CITY-HAVE LEFT PESHAWAR CITY FOR THE PUNJAB AND OTHER PARTS OF INDIA SINCE MARCH 20.” (Civil and Military Gazette report, in the issue dated 3. 4. 1947).
While in the town of Peshawar some, even though very inadequate police and other protection could be looked forward to by the minorities, in the smaller towns and in the countryside none whatever could be had. There, Hindus and Sikhs were simply waylaid and killed or their houses attacked and their property and womenfolk carried away. Where the men were not killed, they were forcibly converted. Thousands of such forced converts were seen after their evacuation by the military in Amritsar and other cities of the Punjab. Pitiable indeed was their plight. They were mostly living in twos or threes in villages scattered all over the Frontier Province, doing retail shopkeeping or tilling small patches of land. They were turned out of their houses. In most cases the Sikhs-and even old men of seventy were not spared this-were shaved and made to look like Muslims. Many were circumcised. Almost all were forced to swallow beef. All through April and subsequent months, while all the districts of the Punjab, in which Hindus and Sikhs were in a majority, remained quiet, these destitute and homeless people continued to come to the Punjab in an unending stream, seeking shelter after their harrowing experiences at the hands of the Muslim League-led mobs. Thus was Pakistan being founded and the elimination of minorities proceeding apace.
But the story of the Frontier Province is not yet over. The worst part of it is Dera Ismail Khan. On April 15, the Frontier Government communique stated:-
“Numerous fires are raging in Dera Ismail Khan today. The situation in the city is serious…… A procession started from the Muslim League office this morning and divided itself into different parties. One party went towards the Courts and the post office and caused damage to the buildings. The other parties went into the city and set fire to shops and residential houses in different parts of the town.
The April 16 report says:
“Half the city of Dera Ismail Khan is burned………
“Last night the village of Paora near Dera Ismail ban was raided by unknown persons who indulged in looting and arson. Three persons were killed in Paora and 54 shops and houses were burned. Fires are still raging in the village.
“Raiders kidnapped four Hindus, including a woman last night from Hayat Khel village, six miles from Pezu in Bannu District. Another Hindu woman was murdered.”
The April 17 report says:
“Fires have been seen in six other villages in (Dera Ismail Khan) District. At Tank a part of the town is on fire and two persons are reported to have been killed. Full details are not yet known.
“A Hindu was shot in the abdomen in his shop in the Peshwar Cantonment this afternoon.
“The extent of the loss of life and property in Dera Ismail Khan is not authoritatively known, but according to unofficial estimates about 400 shops and houses have been burned, apart from the Cinema house, the Town Hall, Pawindeh Serai, two prominent places of worship and the V. B. College1 and School.
“Besides ten persons killed and injured, some more bodies are feared to be still under debris. Bazare Kalan, the grain market and parts of the Pawindah and Bhatianwala bazar are reported to have been gutted.
“The first place which was set on fire was the Cinema Hall on Circular Road. Then some shops outside Topanwala Gate were burned. Meanwhile several fires were seen raging in various parts of the city and within a short time it enveloped the prominent business centres.”
The April 18 and 19 reports say:
“The situation is serious in the town of Tank. Looting and burning have been extensive and several civilians have been killed.
“Other disturbed places in the District (Dera Ismail Khan) are: Gomal Bazar: tribesmen raided the village last night. Paharpur: 32 shops and 60 houses burned, three persons killed, three wounded, three missing. Kotjai: 12 shops burned, one person wounded. Kotla: ten houses and shops burned, three women killed and one wounded. Kirri Khaisor: 30 persons converted to Islam. Musa Zat: about 25 shops burned, one killed, one wounded.” In Gandi Umar Khan and Jatla Jalwa arson on a fairly large scale occurred.
Qazi Ataullah Khan, Revenue Minister of the Frontier Province, in a statement threw a flood of light on the widespread organized and co-ordinated way in which the Muslim Leaguers were carrying on a parallel campaign of harassement and elimination of the minorities in the Punjab and the Frontier Province. (The story of the incitement to ‘action’ offered by the Muslims of Amritsar to those of Lahore has already been told). The Revenue Minister revealed:
“All was well till two days before this loot and arson when a young man came from the Punjab and made highly inflammatory speeches. He also held Conferences with the Muslim League leaders. He asked the people that if nothing else, they could at least set fire to houses of Hindus and loot their property. Soon after this speech by this young man from the Punjab young boys, supported by local Muslim League workers, began to set fire to shops.”
“The latest reports (19.4.47) describe the situation in Dera Ismail Khan Tehsil as still serious. In Tank town, 1,500 refugees have been removed to Police Stations and other places of safety in the town.
“Some houses and shops in Tank are still burning and reports have come in of further trouble from the outlying villages of the district.
“Cases of forcible conversion are reported from several villages, including Kalagor, Dhalla, Rodi Khel and Mandra. Twenty-four casualties are reported from these villages and a number of persons have been kidnapped.
“Two shopkeepers in Dabgari Bazar (Peshawar) were fired at when they were sitting at their shops.”
In Dera Ismail Khan the total number of shops burned with their entire stocks was 1,000 and the estimated value of the loss was Rupees two crores. In the Province there were 30,000 refugees.
According to one estimate 100 Hindus and Sikhs had been killed in Peshawar by April 20; 25 were wounded.
On April 22, eight persons were killed and 15 injured in an encounter between raiders and a police party which was evacuating evacuees from the village of Paora to Dera Ismail Khan. Trouble was also reported in Kulachi, in Dera Ismail Khan District, which houses and shops were burned in Lulachi Bazar.
Up till the end of April and later, Muslim attacks on Hindus and Sikhs in Dera Ismail Khan continued. On April 29, at Kulachi the raiders started a fire and began looting houses and shops. Two Hindus were killed. Places of worship, houses and shops were burned. At Gomal two Hindus were killed, and places of worship, houses and shops were burned.
Disclosing the background of the atrocities committed on Hindus and Sikhs in the Frontier, Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, in a statement on May 6, 1947 accused the Frontier Governor Sir Olaf Caroe of ‘an open conspiracy with the Muslim League to bathe the province in blood’ and said, ‘he (the Governor) wanted to hand over power to the Muslim League, whose followers have been indulging in the murder of innocent men, women and children.’ The Khan asserted, “if the Governor wants he can stop all lawlessness in the Frontier in two days, but how can he when he himself is guiding the violent and communal League movement?”
So, here was another evidence of the League-Bureaucracy plot to create the ground and favourable atmosphere for Pakistan, for which all means, not excluding murder, loot, arson and dishonouring of women were to be employed.
Jullundur:- This district is now included in East Punjab. Before Partition its Muslim population was 45.23%, Hindus being 17.59% and Sikhs being 26.50% of the total. Adi Dharmis made up about more than 10%. The town of Jullundur itself had a very large Muslim population-about more than 70%. This place was, therefore one of the strongholds of the Muslim League in the Punjab, and the Muslim National Guards had one of their biggest rallying places in it. Mr. Jinnah, in his tours of the Punjab had given due and important attention to the potentialities of Jullundur as a Muslim League stronghold, and in 1943 one of the biggest Muslim Conferences, presided over by Mr. Jinnah was held in Jullundur. At this Conference very provocative pro-Pakistan speeches had been made, and Hindus and Sikhs of this area had been a great deal impressed with the Muslim determination to push forward the Pakistan programme at all costs.
The Muslims of Jullundur were a well-to-do class on the whole, with part of the lucrative trade of the town in their hands. They therefore financed and organized the Muslim League and Muslim National Guards of this town and area quite efficiently. When on the 5th of March, 1947 the Muslim of Amritsar opened their severe and ruthless attack on Hindus and Sikhs, which almost completely paralysed and caught by the throat the latter, the Muslims of Jullundur too, a town less than 50 miles from Amritsar, opened an attack in their own place. On the 6th March, a large Muslim mob gathered, shouting slogans and molesting individual Hindus and Sikhs, though as yet no widespread attacks had begun. Babu Labh Singh, a former President of the Shiromani Akali Dal, important political organisation of the Sikhs and an ardent Congressman, appeared among Muslims requesting them with folded hands to desist from fighting and to save the Punjab from destruction. This appeal fell flat on the Muslims, who continued their shouting and attacks. Rather than heed the good old gentleman’s peace appeals, this Muslim mob stabbed him to death. This kind of behaviour has been found to be characteristic of Muslims during the last Punjab disturbances: peace-makers and those who were specifically sent for to negotiate have been done to death. The Muslim Leaguers have respected no canon of civilized warfare. Women and children have been murdered, atrocities committed and brutalities indulged in. Babu Labh Singh’s dastardly murder sent a wave of horror among the Hindus and Sikhs of Jullundur and Hoshiarpur districts. The town of Jullundur was placed under curfew and the situation was tense, but few incidents occurred after this.
In Hoshiarpur, the District neighbouring on Jullundur, Muslims continued to Misbehave, and made attacks on Hindu and Sikh passengers in trains. Sikhs all through this period did not attack Muslims.
In Ludhiana, a Sikh majority district, but with a 70% Muslim population in the town itself, the Muslims in early March opened attacks on Hindus and Sikhs. Several Sikhs were murdered. Sikhs did not make reprisals.
All through the months from March to August, 1947 from these above non-Muslims majority districts and from Ferozepore, the four districts besides Amritsar in which Sikhs have always counted as a political force, the typical press report and Government communiques have been- ‘No incidents.’ This alone will tell eloquently how long the Hindus and Sikhs remained calm in the face of Muslim aggression in Central, North-Western and South-Western Punjab, and how only as a last desperate resort, they opened a counter-attack on Muslim after long months of Muslim attack and aggression.
1These institutions belongs to the Arya Samaj.
2Qazi Ataullah Khan’s statement on the genesis of the trouble in Dera Ismail Khan has been given above.