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Gateway to Sikhism

Muslim League Attack on Sikhs and Hindus in the Punjab 1947
Compiled for the SGPC by S. GURBACHAN SINGH TALIB

MARCH, 1947.
BLITZ ON THE HINDU AND SIKH MINORITIES

As has been told above, there was a complete concert between the Muslim League and the Muslim masses which followed its programme and policy on the one hand, and Muslim officials and police on the other.  The British bureaucracy which still held supreme power, was perhaps inclined to favour the Muslim League-not as such, but as the one force in the country which could be relied upon to pursue a policy of dissension and strife, and thus create in the country such a mood as would make a politically united India, at least a politically united Punjab, impossible So in this background came the fruition and consummation of the Muslim League plan to dominate the Punjab, to form in this Province its ministry, which with the consent of Hindus and Sikhs could not be done, but which might be established after beating them down.  Only this beating had to be swift, continual and thorough.  Without a ministry of its own in the Punjab, the Muslim League would not be able to receive power from the British Government in June, 1948, the target date by which according to the February, 20 statement of H. M. G. power must be transferred to Indian hands.  Without a Muslim League Government in the Punjab, Pakistan would remain not only lopsided, but might even topple altogether as a practical scheme.  This was the situation in which the Muslim League attack on the Punjab minorities was inevitably launched.

Before making a detailed study of the Muslim attack in early March, 1947 a few significant figures must be noted here, which will show at a glance the strategically well-planned nature of the Muslim offensive and the total helplessness of the Hindus and Sikhs in the face of the overwhelming odds they were called upon to contend against:

(a) The proportion of the Muslim and non-Muslim Police force in the Punjab uptil August, 1947 was as follows:-

The total number of Police constables in the Punjab was shown as being 24,095, out of whom 17,848 were Muslims, 6167 Hindus and Sikhs combined and 80 Europeans and Anglo-Indians.  This makes a percentage of 74 for she Muslim police.  This overwhelming majority for the Muslim police was not justified on the basis of population figures, which were 56% Muslim and 440/, non-Muslims.  For long years non-Muslims, particularly Hindus and Sikhs, had clamoured for greater recruitment of Hindus and Sikhs to the police, and Hindu and Sikh public bodies came forward quite often to offer good, acceptable Hindu and Sikh young men for the force, but the old proportions were allowed to stand, and even good Hindu and Sikh youths were very often rejected while Muslims of very much inferior physique were taken.  The result of all this was that the Punjab Police was for all practical purposes Muslim.  The Hindu and Sikh members of the force, being in a very small minority, and kept under by intrigue and the concerted plan of the Muslim majority, in the force itself, and of the Minister-incharge of Police, who since the introduction of Provincial Autonomy in 1937 had invariably been a Muslim, lost all confidence in themselves, and were helpless in doing their duty to protect the Hindu and Sikh minorities against aggression when the Muslim League attack in concert with the Muslim Police began in March, 1947.

(b) The proportion of Hindu and Sikh population in the Districts in which the attacks on them were made:-

 
 

District
Muslims
Hindus and Sikhs
Rawalpindi
80.00
18.67
Campbellpur
90.42
9.36
Mianwali
86.16
13.76
Jhelum
89.42
10.41
Sargodha
83.68
14.88
Gujrat
85.58
14.2
Multan
78.1
20.52
Gujranwala
70.45
22.70
Sialkot
62.09
31.12
Lahore
60.62
35.9

The above districts are those in which attacks on Hindus and Sikhs occurred in a serious form in the pre-partition days, i. e., from March, 1947 to August, 1947. In other districts of the present province of West Punjab (Pakistan) and in these above-mentioned districts, immediately before and after August, 1947 the situation became one of mass killing of Hindus and Sikhs and of abduction of their women-folk, looting of their property and burning of alien, houses.

Lahore town, in which most part of the attacks on Hindus and Sikhs took place in this pre-partition period, had a large majority of Muslim population, though it had large non-Muslim property, industry, educational and cultural effort centred in it.

The district of Amritsar, in which Hindus and Sikhs received, outside Western Punjab, the severest punishment at Muslim hands in the pre-partition period, had a slight non-Muslim majority in population.  While the Muslim population of the district was 46.52%, the Hindus and Sikhs made up 51.46%. But the city of Amritsar itself was, in spite of its intimate Sikh associations, overwhelmingly Muslim in population, which was situated mostly quite deep along the fringe of the city on all four sides.  Its nearness to Lahore and the particularly close concert between it and the local Muslim police and officials made it very formidable indeed in the months from March to July, 1947.

Figures for Hazara district in the N.-W. F. P. have already been given in an earlier chapter.  The other districts of the Frontier Province in which large-scale attacks on Hindus and Sikhs occurred are these, with their relative Muslim and non-Muslim percentage in population shown:

 
 

District
Muslims
Hindus and Sikhs
Peshawar
90.34
9.65
Kohat
91.99
8.1
Bannu
87.06
12.93
Mardan
95.46
4.52
Dera Ismail Khan
85.78
14.21

These districts were worse situated from the point of view of the harassed and beseiged Hindu and Sikh populations, even than the districts of the Rawalpindi Division in the Punjab.  These Districts backed on the tribal Afghan territory, into which the Hindu and Sikh women and others could be easily kidnapped.  Flight was impossible for these unfortunate people either, for they were separated from the Hindu-Sikh areas of the Punjab by a very long belt of Muslim areas, through which no non-Muslim could travel with safety in those terrible months of anarchy in the Punjab.

 

ATTACKS BEGIN

Although the very first attacks occurred in Lahore and Amritsar on the 4th and 5th of March, 1947, yet in the latter of these cities the Hindus and Sikhs were numerically not overwhelmed by the Muslims.  In Amritsar except in the initial stages Hindus and Sikhs put up a fight for safety of life and property, although this fight as it turned out, was unequal, with the Muslim police and officials going all-out to back up the Muslim assailants.  In Lahore, there were 433,170 Muslims against 177,212 Hindus and only 34,021 Sikhs.  But the worst carriage and destruction came in the Western districts-Multan, Rawalpindi, Campbellpur, Jhelum and Sargodha where right from the 5th March the League-led Muslim mobs fell with determination and full preparations on the helpless Hindus and Sikhs scattered in the villages, at the rate usually of a few Hindu and/or Sikh homes in the midst of a large Muslim population.  That the Muslim League Action against Hindus and Sikhs was planned, is shown by several undeniable factors, the logic of which is unescapable.  These are:

(a) These attacks began in the several districts mentioned above, as well as in Lahore and Amritsar, at almost the same time, as if the League forces were waiting only for a signal, for a word of command or a psychological moment to begin their work of bringing the Punjab under the heel of a Muslim League government.

(b) These attacks were open, unchecked and of the nature of a thorough extermination-the methods being everywhere uniform, such as stabbing, arson and the humiliations inflicted in forcibly converting the men and dishonouring the women of the minorities.

(c) These attacks all occurred in the heavy Muslim-majority districts, and in the cities of Lahore, Amritsar, Ludhiana and Jullundur with their large Muslim populations.  This was in the initial stages.  In the somewhat later stages, such as a month after the beginning of these attacks, it was again the districts in which the Muslim majority was slightly smaller, though still very large, such as Gujrat, Gujranwala and Sialkot that these attacks began.  No attacks on the part of Hindus and Sikhs on Muslims by way of reprisals or retaliation occurred in the non-Muslim majority districts during, all the months up till August, 1947.  Those districts, with the exception only of Gurgaon, in which too the aggressors were the Muslim Meos, remained quiet, and the non-Muslims, perturbed as they deelpy were over what was happening in West Punjab, remained on the whole peaceful.

(d) As a corollary to the above, in the period up till August, 1947 there were about a million Hindu and Sikh refugees from the Western districts of the Punjab, from the North-Western Frontier Province, from Baluchistan and the devastated city of Lahore, besides Amritsar, who had to be looked after in refugee camps by the Punjab Government, by the Sikh States of the Punjab and by bodies like the Hindu Mahasabha and the Shromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee.  There were very few Muslim refugees anywhere in this period.  Such few as there were, came mainly from Amritsar, where alone up till August, the Hindus and Sikhs had been able to put up anything like a fight for life against Muslim aggression.

(e) The Muslims gave further evidence of plan and preparation in their aggression in respect of the following features of their action: (i) They were well supplied with arms, such as daggers, swords, spears and even fire-arms. (ii) 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 by the Muslim League, and in many cases cash payments were made to individual assassins on the number of Hindus and Sikhs bagged.  There were also regular patrolling parties in jeeps which went about sniping and picking off any stray Hindu or Sikh (This was a feature mainly of the cities of Lahore and Amritsar). (iii) Petrol was in plentiful supply with the Muslim aggressors everywhere-both for purposes of transport and for quick arson.  This must have taken some time to be collected in such huge quantities. (iv) The concert between the Leaguers of a place and their opposites of other places and the Muslim police and authorities everywhere, was remarkable.  Till non-Muslim military appeared on the scene, there was no relief at all for Hindus and Sikhs, as the Muslim police never took action against the Muslim aggressors. (v) In towns like Amritsar, where the earliest attacks occurred, even before any Hindu or Sikh was thinking that fighting would take place, the Muslims were fully prepared for the offensive.  For example, they had distributed among their own folk all the available sword-blades in Amritsar.  On Muslim shops had been written in prominent lettering 'Muslim Shop' in Urdu to protect these shops from planned arson And there was other unmistakable evidence of this, which will be mentioned when we came to narrate the incidents connected with Amritsar.

 

RAWALPINDI DIVISION

The attack came swiftly and over a vast area in the Rawalpindi Division, in which as has been shown in the table given before, the Muslim population in every district is over 80% and in some is well above 90%.  In Rawalpindi town itself it appears the Hindu and Sikhs were well-organized and well-armed, and when the Muslims attacked them, they lilt back and drove away their assailants with some casualties.  This beating taught the Muslims of this town a salutary lesson, and although the Hindus and Sikhs had for long to bear a state of seige, yet they were not murdered and pillaged on the scale on which this occurred in the unprotected and unarmed country-side, where it was general massacre of Hindus and Sikhs, especially of the latter.

On the 5th March, 1947 on hearing of the Ailing on the Hindu and Sikh students of Lahore, the Hindu-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 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.  But the Hindus and Sikhs fought them from their mohallas in trenches, and the Muslims again lost in this battle.  The suburbs of Rawalpindi, however, were burnt and sacked, as resistance in them could not be effective.  Nine Hindus and Sikhs were murdered treacherously by Muslims in Lal Kurti Mohalla, after being decoyed into entering the Muslim Zone for peace negotiations.  This was not a solitary instance of such murder done by treachery, as similar things occurred in other places too, both in March and in the post partition period.

In the rural areas of Rawalpindi, however, it was a case of mass attack by Muslims, and a general massacre of Hindus and Sikhs.  That this description is not an exaggeration or an attempt at painting a lurid picture, is fully borne out by the tables of incidents attached to this booklet in the form of Appendices.  The Muslims many hundreds of times made up in the rural areas the set-back they had received in Rawalpindi town itself.  Here, on a scale much larger than Noakhali, in an area many times more extensive, and involving a population many times that of Noakhali and Tipperah, the Muslim League, anxious now to convert the Punjab into a Muslim League-governed Province, carried fire and sword into all areas of the Rawalpindi Division.  Here was the answer to the query made by a British newspaper about the aims of Jinnah: Does he want to plunge his country into a religious war? And the answer most emphatically was, Yes.  It was to be a religio-political-war, in which the Punjab was to be made safe at all costs for a Muslim League Government, which should receive power, in June, 1948 from the British Government.

The attack in Rawalpindi villages began on the 7th March, 1947, and continued non-stop or weeks together, in village after village, wherever any Hindus and Sikhs were to be found.  When one sub-area was rid of its Hindu and Sikh inhabitants then 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, the Sikh states and even the U.P. In the larger towns of this areas there were still Hindus and Sikhs, but they were living in a state of seige, and could not stir out of their homes, much less travel or otherwise move about.

In 128 villages of Rawalpindi district, which were attacked over a period of several days, beginning from March 7, 1947, 7,000 Hindus and Sikhs have been enumerated in reports as killed.  All casualties have not in some cases been traced or registered.  The number of those wounded has been large too, though when these attacks were made, little mercy was shown by the assailants and they made a very thorough work of finishing of those who fell into their hands.  Besides those killed and wounded about 1,000 Hindu and Sikh women were abducted, who were raped and dishonoured in a manner which would shame anyone with the least trace of civilization or religion in him.  Women were raped in the presence of their husbands, brothers, fathers and sons.  Later they were distributed among the Muslims to be kept as concubines or were forcibly married.  A large number were carried into the tribal territory, and became untraceable.  In almost all cases houses were burnt and property was looted.  Quite often Gurdwaras were burnt down and the Sikh Scripture, Sri Guru Granth Sahib. torn or otherwise desecrated.  In most of these villages the method followed by the Muslims to loot and kill the Hindu and Sikh populations was cynically treacherous.  A village would be surrounded; messages would be sent to the Hindus and Sikhs to buy off the invaders with so such money.  This demand would be complied with.  But the invaders would still be there; and one night would open the attack on the small non-Muslim population of the place, and put as many to the sword as could not escape or as could be killed before military help arrived for succour, which, however in those lawless days was not very often.

The invaders marched on to their attacks fearlessly and openly, with drums beating and with a large display of firearms, sometimes even modem automatic weapons.  In the newspapers of the period appeared photographs taken of these marching hordes with plenty of rifles carried on the shoulders of the assailants.  It is strange, however, that the valiant fliers in these planes were content only with photographing these invaders and did precious little to fire on them, and thus save the lives of the thousands of helpless men, women and children on whom these invaders loosed hell.

Forcible conversion was the other alternative to death for a non-Muslim.  The ultimatum was given to the population of a village either to embrace Islam or to face death.  Most Hindus and Sikhs preferred death to the shameful surrender of faith, and died, sometimes fighting and at other times with great tortures, at the hands of the sadist religious zealots of the Muslim League.  Such women as could not be abducted or dishonoured, generally escaped this shame by immolating themselves.  Thoha Khalsa village, of which an account will follow, is a classic example of such sacrifice of life on the part of 93 Sikh women of that place.  This, the best known incident of its kind, however, is not the only one.  In scores of places, both during the March attacks and the post-partition attacks on Hindus and Sikhs, women immolated themselves to escape dishonour at the hands of the maddened and ferocious lusting Muslim mobs.  Those who were forcibly converted were, if they were Sikhs, shaved off and circumcised; the Hindus too were circumcized, even the grown-ups.  The women converts were generally given in marriage, if they were unmarried or widows, to Muslims, the Nikah ceremony being performed by some local Maulvi.  A large number of such shaven Sikh converts to Islam arrived as refugees in March, 1947 in Amritsar, Patiala and other places, from Rawalpindi and the Frontier Province.

The assailants did not spare even little children.  It was naked beastliness performing a devil's dance.  Children would be snatched from the hands of their parents, tossed on spears and swords, and sometimes thrown alive into the fire.  Other cruelties equally horrible were perpetrated.  Women's breasts, noses and arms would he lopped off.  Sticks and pieces of iron would be thrust into their private parts.  Sometimes the bellies of pregnant women were ripped open and the unformed life in the womb thrown out.  In some places processions of naked Hindu and Sikh women are also reported to have been taken out by the Muslims mobs.

A report on 23 villages of the Attock district reveals that in these villages a total of 610 Hindus and Sikhs were killed within about ten days from March 7, 1947.  In these same villages 1656 Hindu and Sikh houses, including a number of Gurdwaras were burnt and destroyed; 1361 Hindu and Sikh houses were looted of all their property; 1471 Hindus arid Sikhs, both men arid women, were forcibly converted to Islam, and about 100 women and children were abducted.

In the village of Duberan in Rawalpindi district not a single Sikh survived from its total population of one and a half thousands. 70 women were abducted.  The burning and looting of this prosperous village, where such carnage took place, can only be imagined.

In the village of Tarlai in Rawalpindi District more than 100 Sikhs were killed, and these included women and children. 15 were forcibly converted to Islam.  All houses were looted.

In Chaklala and Rata Amral, Suburbs of Rawalpindi, Sikhs were attacked on March 8, 1947.  The residents held out for a day and a night, but finding the odds against them overwhelming, they surrendered.  A large number were killed, while others were forcibly converted, and shaved and circumcised in public.

Maddened with the zeal for exterminating the 'Kafirs' and making room for the establishment of an Islamic State in Northern India, the League-led Muslim mobs combed hundreds of villages as has already been related above, in the Rawalpindi District.

In Bhagpur the entire Sikh population was wiped out.  Women and children were not spared.  The Gurdwara was burnt.

In Bewal, 400 Hindus and Sikhs who had taken shelter in a Gurdwara were burnt alive by the Gurdwara being set on fire.

In Thamali Khari, 400 Sikhs were killed, and one Gurdwara and one school building were burnt to cinders.  Only 20 out of its population survived.

In the village of Nakrali about two dozen Sikhs were killed and some women immolated themselves to escape dishonour at the hands of the invading Muslims. 40 Sikhs were forcibly converted.  The Gurdwara was looted and burnt.

In the village of Mughal 141 Sikhs were killed, and only about a dozen survived out of its population.  The Gurdwara was burnt.

In Thoha Khalsa, on March 12, 1947 after long and heroic resistance, 200 Sikhs were killed.  The women were asked to embrace Islam, but 93 of them, old and young, decided to escape dishonour by drowning themselves in a well, which they did.  The Muslim invaders, aghast at this tragedy, fled from the place.  A little later, the military arrived and rescued the survivors. (See a fuller account of this happening in Appendix).

In the village of Sayad, well-known for its educational and philanthropic effort, about 30 Sikhs were killed.  Some were forcibly converted.  The Gurdwara of the place was burnt.

In the village of Adiala, on March 8, 1947 Muslim mobs collected by beat of drum in broad day-light.  The invaders raised a false alarm of a Sikh attack on themselves, and on this pretext, fell to looting the Hindu and Sikh quarters, which they did extensively.  Hindus and Sikhs were ferreted out, and were burnt alive, stabbed or shot dead.  The number of those killed was above a hundred. 40 were forcibly converted.  The Muslim police watched the whole of this carnage going on, and did just nothing about it.

The village of Gorsian in Gujarkhan Tehsil was attacked by a mob of 600, who had been persuaded by the Muslim League Mullas that it is a holy deed to kill Hindus and Sikhs.  Several Sikhs were killed in this village, and large-scale looting occurred.

In most cases in these villages a stop was put to the depredations of the Muslim mobs only by the somewhat belated arrival of the military.

In Mandra the attack came on March 9. There was large-scale looting and burning of houses and shops of Hindus and Sikhs. 200 Sikhs were killed; 40 others were missing, and were probably killed while fleeing for life.  The Gurdwara and School were burnt.

In Kahuta, on March 8, 60 Sikhs were killed and Sikh and Hindu houses were extensively looted. 500 women were abducted from this village.  The Gurdwara was burnt.

Burning of Gurdwaras and Schools, wherever situated appears to have been a settled part of the plan of these predatory mobs, bent upon exterminating and failing that, humiliating Sikhs and Hindus.

In Sukho, where stiff resistance was put up by Sikhs one girls' school and one Gurdwara were burnt.  In Daultala too, very stiff resistance was put up by Sikhs.

In Tainch and Harnali about two dozen Sikhs were killed and brutalities committed in the latter place.  About 30 women were abducted from these places and the Gurdwaras were burnt.  In Harial about 20 Sikhs were killed and 40 were abducted.  The Gurdwara was burnt.

This last is Master Tara Singh's home place.  Masterji's house were razed to the ground with sadistic vengeance, the site struck with shoes and ploughed over.

In Bamali, on March 8, about 80 Sikhs were killed and more than 105 were abducted.  Some Sikhs in this village killed their womenfolk to save them from certain dishonour at the hands of the Muslim invaders.  In Banda 20 were killed, including women and children.  The Gurdwara here too was burnt.

In Machhian, on March 11, 1947, 200 Sikhs were killed which number was all the males in the village.  The women and children were all abducted and were later rescued by the military.  The Gurdwara was burnt.

Narali was attacked by a mob of 15,000 on March 12.  The Hindus and Sikhs took shelter inside the Gurdwara, from where they put up stiff resistance.  Several Hindus and Sikhs were killed, and large scale looting of houses of Hindus and Sikhs occurred.

Murree, a very popular hill station near Rawalpindi was attacked on the 9th March, 1947 and about 150 bunglows belonging to Hindus and Sikhs were looted and then burnt.

At Nara, in the tehsil of Kahuta, Sikh women and children were burnt alive, and the women were tortured in ways most devilishly ingenious and sadistic, which it is not possible for any decent human being to describe.

Such barbarities and widespread murderous attacks occurred simultaneously and on the same scale in districts in the neighbourhood of Rawalpindi, such

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