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HindustanTimes Fri,19 Sep 2014

Extract: The Punjab Bloodied Partitioned and Cleansed

Hindustan Times  New Delhi, September 23, 2011
First Published: 10:04 IST(23/9/2011) | Last Updated: 10:04 IST(23/9/2011)
The Punjab Bloodied Partitioned and Cleansed by Ishtiaq Ahmed.

INTRODUCTION

(Pages xxxviii-xxxix)

A Sikh Plan to eradicate all Muslims from East Punjab They alleged that the Sikhs had a definite plan to eliminate Muslims from East Punjab and that the Hindu group, Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), was behind many heinous bomb blasts and other assaults on Muslims. Notes on The Sikh Plan says:

‘The ultimate goal which the Sikhs had set before them seems to have been the establishment of Sikh rule in the Punjab. Their preparations to this end were aimed directly and exclusively against the Muslims. Whether the Hindus who formed the bigger minority in the Punjab, would ultimately have acquiesced in the fulfillment of Sikh ambitions at their expense, is doubtful; but for the time being they made common cause with the Sikhs. The activities and preparations of the two, therefore, run parallel to each other and even where active conspiracy between them is not evident, the fact that they regarded the Muslims as their common enemy created mutual disposition towards collaboration which virtually amounted to a conspiracy and let [sic] to concerted effort’ (1948: 1-2).

Chaudhri Muhammad Ali, who represented Pakistan in the Steering Committee of the Partition Council set up by the colonial government, and was later prime minister of Pakistan (1955-56), alleged in his book, The Emergence of Pakistan, that the Sikh leadership at the highest level, especially the Maharajas of Patiala and Kapurthala, were involved in a macabre conspiracy to wipe out all Muslims from East Punjab.

The former Chief Justice of the Pakistan Supreme Court, Muhammad Munir, one of the two members nominated by the Muslim League to the Punjab Boundary Commission, admitted in his book, From Jinnah to Zia, that the first large-scale communal attack in Punjab occurred in the Rawalpindi region in March 1947 against Sikhs and Hindus, and its perpetrators were Muslims (1980: 17). He reiterated the charge that the Sikhs had a plan to eradicate all traces of Muslim presence in the eastern parts of Punjab.

THE MARCH RIOTS: RAWALPINDI AND ADJOINING RURAL AREAS

(Pages 226-230)

Ranjit Singh Bhasin

‘Thamali was a rather large, quiet village of some five hundred families. It was mainly populated by Sikhs of the Khatri castes such as Kandharis, Gandhis, Gujrals, Bhasins, Sahnis and some others. There were some Hindu Brahmins too and three or four Muslim families. The gurdwara in the middle of the village was the central place where we congregated. The Thamali primary school was on the eastern outskirts of the village. I studied there up to the sixth class. Afterwards I went to school in Kalar [now called Kalar Syedan], which was only about 1-2 kilometres from Thamali. I either walked to school or sometimes rode on the back of a donkey. One never felt unsafe or insecure. I had a Muslim classfellow whose name was Nasiruddin Haider. I don’t remember any other name now.

‘We lived in peace and had excellent relations with Muslims. My grandfather owned considerable land, which he had inherited. It was not Muslim property under mortgage to us. We did not practice moneylending. My family served in the army and was awarded land in lieu of their services. The Muslims in this area used to sell goats and buffaloes. We had an orchard in which Muslims were employed to work.

‘The first batch of raiders arrived around the village in the evening of 6 March. There was no warning, although we had heard that trouble had started in Rawalpindi a day or two earlier. The first attack on the village was from behind, from the north and not the road in the south. Initially only a few hundred took part in the assault but soon others joined them. Their numbers continued to swell all the time. They were beating drums and shouting Allah ho Akbar. Some were on horses but most were on foot. Our elders took positions on the rooftops, giving the impression that we were well-armed, whereas in fact we had only three double-barrelled shotguns and almost no ammunition. The early attacks were mostly cases of brick-throwing which continued sporadically until the 12th when several thousand men encircled Thamali. In the meantime, efforts were afoot to reach some agreement that would terminate the hostilities. On the 12th, finally, an agreement was reached. My father, Subedar Diwan Pal Singh, had retired only six months before the riots. He and retired Superintendent of Police Bal Mukand, a Brahmin, represented our side. The Muslims had Subedar Lal Khan and some other notables representing them. The agreement was that if we surrendered our weapons they would escort us safely to village Pharawan from where we would be able to take the road to Poonch in Kashmir. During the negotiations, the raiders realised that we were poorly armed. So, against all moral and religious principles, the same evening a massive attack took place. Bal Mukand and some other Brahmins had already left for Lal Khan’s village under a secret understanding. One Brahmin, Jagan Nath, was killed because he had a rifle and the Muslims had seen him firing at them. About 10-12 Sikhs from our village had gone to village Kaloha and were saved. ‘The Sikhs decided not to surrender. Some of them even went out and fought in the fields, but it was clear that we were fighting a lost battle. The women were taken to the gurdwara. They brought along their valuable possessions. Then a fire was lit. It had been decided that we will not let the Muslims touch our womenfolk. My grandmother, mother and one of my sisters died in that fire. My brother’s wife, her father, and her infant son and her daughter were also burnt to death.

My father’s uncle, his two sons and their wives and a dozen children from our extended family also died. For some reason my bhabi [brother’s wife] sent me out of the gurdwara. ‘My father fell fighting in the fields outside. Before the violence broke out some Muslims had offered to protect my father and our family provided we sought refuge with them, but my father refused saying that if you want to save us save the whole village. Some people remained in their homes and did not come to the gurdwara. Most of them were found by the attackers and brought out in the open field. I and some children were also driven out to that spot. By that time, it was early morning of 13 March. About fifteen-twenty of us were now assembled in an open field. It was mostly young men but some elderly men were also rounded up.

‘The Muslims ordered us to chant loudly “Allah, Allah”. There was a retired policeman, Ram Singh, who must have been seventy at that time. He was repeating loudly “Allah, Allah” but a man hit him on his bald head with an axe. He fell to the ground. Then he struck me. I received the blow on my shoulder. I was hit again on the right side below my arm [Mr Bhasin lifted his shirt at this point and showed me his ghastly scars]. I fell to the ground bleeding profusely. I was in great pain but held my breath and said nothing. The attackers collected thorns from a kikar (Acacia Arabica) tree and put them on the bodies lying in the fields and started a fire. Someone said, “Why do you burn them? They had been chanting ‘Allah, Allah’. Therefore they had changed their religion!” For some reason, that argument prevailed and the fire was quenched. This saved me and some others who were pretending to be dead.

‘The army arrived at about 11.30 a.m. on the 13th. It had been in the area for some time, but remained passive. The soldiers shouted loudly to find out if someone was alive. A man answered, ‘Unless you remove the thorns how can we get up?’ Th


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