The big attacks on the Hindus and Sikhs of Lahore began to be delivered from third June. The destruction wrought in the city was so horrible and appalling that in a desperate effort to save the city from complete devastation a meeting of the three communities was called in the Town Hall on the 27th June. At this meeting, the leaders of the Hindus and Sikhs gave assurances of keeping the peace. So did the leaders of the Muslims.
These latter spoke very emphatic and reassuring words, which however, were belied by their followers as soon as they were uttered. Lahore continued to bum in spite of what the Muslim League leaders said. Khan Iftikhar Husain Khan of Momdot, then President of the Punjab Muslim League, pledged his community to peace in these words:
“On behalf of the Muslim people, I solemnly pledge to my Hindu and Sikh brothers complete justice and fairness of treatment in Pakistan. The Muslims of Pakistan will guard and protect the honour, dignity, person and property of the minorities above their own. I call upon the Muslims to honour with their life, the word I am pledging on their behalf. I call upon them to check all lawlessness, to fight against all forms of chaos, and to see that everyone who calls himself a Muslim stays his hand.”
These very leaders were financing and guiding the operations of the goondas of the Muslim League, who in collaboration with the police did the work of arson and stabbing. It was after this appeal that on the 10th July 7 Hindus and Sikhs are reported to have been killed and 40 injured in the Muslim attack on the Lahore Loco Workshop. It was during this time that Sikhs continued to be murdered in Baghbanpura, Singhpura, Faizbagh, Mozang, Shahi Mohalla, Garhi Shahu and other areas wherever the Muslims wanted to carry on their operations. In July it was that bombs began to be thrown on non-Muslims in trains, such as at Moghalpura, and murders of groups took place in trains as at Harbanspura. In arson, Bhati Gate, Tibbi, Chauk Surjan Singh, Landa Bazar etc. figured.
Sikh Gurdwaras were burned inside the city. By the end of July it was all going as the Muslims desired. Localities burned were: Shish Mahal Road, Chaumala Sahib Gurdwara, Mela Ram Road, Pipal Vehra, Moti Panda Bazar, Fleming Road, Bazar Sathan, Moti Bazar, Bazar Tutian, Dabbi Bazar, Bazaz Hatta, Chauburji, Krishna Nagar, Mohalla Sarin and the new Shalamar Garden situated to the Western side of the city. Even the Mall was no longer safe, where several cases of arson occurred and Hindu and Sikh property was burned.
During this period attacks on the life and property of Hindus and Sikhs were going on also in the neighbouring district of Gujranwala, from where too a large exodus of Hindus and Sikhs, who owned almost the entire business and industry of this prosperous district, was taking place. Gujrat, Sargodha and Sialkot too had started in right earnest the process of the elimination of minorities.
As the date on which Pakistan was to he established, that is August 15, was drawing nearer Muslims everywhere in the Muslim majority districts and in some places even in the East were growing aggressive. With the line of demarcation between Eastern and Western Punjab still unknown and uncertain, Muslims of districts like Amritsar, Jullundur and Ferozepore held strong hopes of these districts or anyway some portions of them, being awarded to Pakistan. The attitude with which the Muslims looked upon non-Muslims was that the latter were to be held by them as a subservient people for whom a less than human treatment would just be good enough. Shri Kiron Shankar Roy, the well-known leader of Bengal, in a statement to the press on July 22 said of the temper of East Bengal Muslims:
“There is a notion among ordinary Muslims in the Eastern Pakistan region that after August 15 the houses and land of the Hindus there will automatically pass into the possession of Muslims, and that the Hindus will be a sort subject race under the Muslims of that area.”
What Mr. Roy said about the Muslims of Bengal, applies with still greater force to the Muslims of the Punjab, about whom the Civil and Military Gazette of Lahore said in its issue of the 30th December, 1948 that each one of them thought that he had become a Nawab.
The non-Muslim population of Lahore had been reduced to only a fraction of itself by August. But still more than a lakh of Hindus and Sikhs were in Lahore. According to a Civil and Military Gazette report Sikhs especially had refused to leave Lahore, and said Lahore was their home. That not to have left Lahore was a mistake was proved by the destruction which rained on Hindus and Sikhs there from the 9th thousands of corpses of Hindus and Sikhs which continued in that period of lawlessness to lie unattended, emitting a foul stench which it is said was called with grim humour “Pakistani boo”.
About the part of the Muslim police and military in these August attacks on Hindus and Sikhs, the special correspondent of The Hindustan Times of Delhi stated:
“Seventy per cent of the casualties of the last three weeks in West Punjab were inflicted by the communally maddened troops and policemen. The victims of their bullets numbered thousands. The massacre at Sheikhupura, which was their handiwork, puts into shade the slaughter at Jalianwala Bagh. The annihilation of thousands in Shakargarh Tehsil, when the whole story is revealed, will be found to have put to shade even Sheikhupura.”
On the 10th August almost all Hindu and Sikh localities were set on fire. Fires were raging in Chune Mandi, Bazaz Hatta, Sua Bazar, Lohari Gate, Mohalla Sathan and Mozang. Everywhere the police led the attacks on non-Muslim areas.
Non-Muslim tried to escape from this burning inferno. But all outlets were closed to them. On the 11th August at least 500 people were killed, while trying to escape from Lahore with their lives. In the streets, on the roads, and especially at the Railway Station they were killed in hundreds. Muslim goondas, Muslim National Guards and the Baluch Military who were part of the Boundary Force, all participated in this slaughter with zeal and gusto. The only non-Muslim evacuees who escaped killing on this day, were those who either by good luck or through someone’s help managed to reach the Lahore Cantonment Railway Station. These got into the trains reaching Ferozepore, and thus saved their lives. That was because there were Sikh soldiers in the Cantonment area, and so Muslim aggression could not be free there. Lahore main station was completely in the grip of Muslim troops and police. Harrowed, miserable Hindu and Sikh refugees from Lahore began to be in evidence in towns of the East Punjab as far off as Ambala by the 13th August. . They came completely destitute, hungry and with a haunting terror of death at the hands of Muslims in their eyes.
Other areas which were set on fire on August 12 and 13 were: Bharat Nagar, Singhpura, Dabbi Bazar, Lohari Gate, Gali Hingaran, Gali Kagzian, Kucha Chah Telian etc. In all these areas and many others non-Muslims were killed not in hundreds, but in thousands.
The famous historic Sikh Gurdwara of Chhevin Padshahi, situated at a distance of fifteen yards from the Police Station on Temple Road in Mozang, was set on fire on the morning of the 15th August. The few Sikhs who were inside the Gurdwara were burnt alive in the flames.
This was one of the numerous places of non-Muslim worship which had been burned in Lahore. Baoli Sahib, Gurdwara Chaumala Sahib and others had been burned before. Even the famous Dehra Sahib, held in highest sanctity by the Sikhs as being the place of martydom of Sri Guru Arjan Dev, fifth Guru of the Sikhs, was attacked. The Sikh guards and priests of this Gurdwara were mostly killed. Such money and valuables as were there, were looted by the Muslim police and military stationed in the Lahore Fort which is at a distance of a few yards from the Gurdwara.
In these days Lahore railway platforms presented the picture of a shambles. Such Hindus and Sikhs as managed to reach the railway station were shot down in heaps. Regular chase was given by the Muslim goondas to the unfortunate men, women and children who tried to escape with their lives.
The destruction of Lahore and of its non-Muslim inhabitants would have been complete but for the presence in the city of Dogra troops, but they were soon shifted from Lahore. It was only in the Cantonment that non-Muslims could find some safety, as Sikh troops were present there.
An account of this destruction is given by the special correspondent of The Hindustan Times in these words:
- Complete lawlessness prevailed in the walled city, on the other side of the Circular Road. Starting from Railway Road, running along the circular Road in a remarkable continuity. One could see semi-circle of smoke which persisted throughout this period and has involved the entire old city. Numerous places of worship belonging to Hindus and Sikhs have been burnt, of which one finds no record in the daily papers. Coming to the loss of human lives, I am afraid I cannot put a definite figure. I have a solid example which gives me a pretty good idea of the rate of killings. I have followed these details with scientific leanings On the 13th I happened to visit Mayo Hospital. Outside the mortuary, which must apparently be full, I saw 300 to 350 stiffs, dumped in various lanes leading to the mortuary I waited for the papers next morning wanting to know the figures of killed given by them. I got a pretty good idea when I found them giving the news as 40 killed and 100 injured. I fixed up a scale to calculate the actual casualty figures from those given in the papers. During this period, not a single day passed when we did not see three or four lorry loads of stiffs crossing our house.
- The lawlessness there was so official as you probably would not believe. The military actually helped the murderers. The people trying to escape out of the burning houses were mercilessly shot, and their bodies were roasted. The Lahore Station was for days beyond the reach of Hindus and Sikhs. No ignorant person who left for the Station survived. A Tribune employee staying with us met the same fate. It was a perfect picture of lawlessness. We had the greatest difficulty in escaping out of Lahore, via the Lahore Cantonment Station. In fact that is the only way out for the victims.
- In short, Lahore is the city of the dead and a complete picture of hell. Those in charge of this hell are so perfect in their jobs and carry out the various items of their jobs with efficiency which is unprecedented.
In dozens of places in Hindu and Sikh houses this kind of action was repeated:
A group of Muslims would force open the door of a Hindu or Sikh house, no matter even though the curfew would be on. The men-folk would be led out under the pretence of interrogation by some policeman who would be in the party. Outside the men would be stabbed to death. Then the property would be systematically looted. The women were killed if they happened to be old. The younger women were abducted and raped. In the Mozang area, a Sikh family of six or seven men and as many women met such a fate. The men were led out and killed. The women jumped down from the upper store of their house to escape dishonour. They were seriously injured, though none died. But the experience was widespread.
When freedom dawned on India and Pakistan on the 15th of August, 1947 no one on either side of the border had any heart in the Punjab for joy and celebrations. In New Delhi and Karachi this freedom was inaugurated, but in the Punjab every heart was dejected and sad, owing to news brought by refugees of killings and destruction. The Sikhs everywhere spent the day in prayer and contemplation of the sufferings of their brethern and asking of the Akal Purkh for His Succour for those who were entrapped.
According to a press report on the 13th August 35 fires blazed in Lahore, during the day. The localities seriously affected were Mohalla Sarin, Chowk Surjan Singh, Shahi Mohalla. Mohalla Sathan (inside Bhati Gate), Garhi Shahu, Mozang and Faiz Bagh area, in Chowk Surjan Singh, the fire-fighting personnel was fired upon by unknown assailants. Twenty-two persons were killed and 25 injured by fire in Sadar Bazar in the Cantonment. Twenty-two persons were killed and 16 others injured ill knife attacks during the day. Three persons were killed oil the Grand Trunk Road near the Hide Market in the Faiz Bagh area in the morning. Five others were assaulted in the same locality. Three persons were fatally stabbed oil Akram Road in Sultanpura, a suburb of the city. Two more persons were killed in Bharatnagar in the same locality.
The Hindustan Times summed up the Lahore situation of the same day as:
- Lahore, August 3-Sixty people are reported to have been killed and 100 injured in today’s incidents in and around the walled city. Thirty-five persons were killed in stray assaults in the Mogalpura Railway Workshop and eight injured. About a dozen person were killed in an engagement between the raiders and the inmates of a place of worship near the Fort1. The police opened fire killing seven and injuring eight.
- Most of the sectors ill the walled city are oil fire and burning fiercely. Huge tongues of fires are visible from Anarkali where 20 shops have been gutted, Empress Road, Shahi Mohalla, Chhota Ravi, the Lower Mall, Kucha Kamboan, Bhaion Ka Maidan and Mohalla Jalotian.
- A serious fire is burning unchecked in Bharat Nagar where a large number of houses have been destroyed. Owing to difficulty in water supply the fire brigade was unable to function in the locality.
- Troops and police fired rounds during the night to scare the rioters. A number of cases of arson have also been reported from the locality and from Badami Bagh and Landa Bazar.
- At 1 P.m. the casualty figure was six killed and 5 injured.
- The situation took a turn for the worse in the afternoon when some workers were attacked in the railway workshops after the lunch interval.
- Two persons were stabbed near Lohari police-Station in the afternoon while another person was attacked in Lange Mandi.
- A mob attacked Singhpura, a suburban part of the city, last night and set fire to houses. The residents opened fire on the miscreants and in the meantime troops reached the spot and returned the fire, killing two persons.
- Two mobs collected in Gobindgarh, a suburb, last night and exchanged fire, resulting in the death of two persons.
- A big building was set on fire in Dabbi Bazar. Huge columns of smoke which have covered the whole city are visible from a distance.
- At 4 P.m. the casualty figure had risen to 41 killed and 18 injured. Three of the dead bore bullet wounds whilst the others were victims of stabbings.
- Two shops were set ablaze in Anarkali in the afternoon. One person was killed on Ravi Road while another was murdered on the Mall near the General Post Office. Another person was assaulted near a cinema house on the Mall.
- Two houses were set on fire in Shah Safdar Mali in Gowalmandi area. The police opened fire to scare away the miscreants.
About the general behaviour of the Muslim Police during the Punjab Riots a very interesting light is thrown by a part of the proceedings of the Madras Legislative Assembly. On the 11th December, 1947 when questioned by a Muslim member of the House why the recruitment of Muslims to the Madras Special Police had been stopped, the Minister in charge of Law and Order replied that this had been done in view of the behaviour of Muslim Police in disturbances in Northern India.
Apart from the City of Lahore, over the entire district the same tale of horror and destruction was repeated. Kasur is an important town on the main line to Delhi which runs from Lahore via Ferozepore.
The countryside of Kasur was predominantly Sikh, though the town itself had a large Muslim majority in the population. When on the 17th August it became known that Kasur was included in Pakistan, the Muslims fell upon non-Muslims. The one way of escape for non-Muslims from Pakistan into India was closed with Kasur being disturbed. There was a large massacre of non-Muslims at the Railway Station. In the city, mohalla after mohalla of Hindus and Sikhs was attacked, and Hindus and Sikhs houses and business premises were set on fire. Hundreds of Sikhs and Hindus were killed inside the city and its outskirts in two days.
It was possible for some non-Muslims to escape, as the Indian border of Amritsar district was only a few miles distant on Khem Karan side. Very few could escape towards Ferozepore, as the bridge on the river Sutlej which was on the way, was held by Muslim troops, who shot dead all non-Muslims who approached it. Huge looting of non-Muslim property occurred. Schools, cinema houses, shops, factories, nothing was spared. Curfew was imposed, but as at other places, it only facilitated the task of Muslim goondas. The Hindus and Sikhs could not come out of their houses, and got murdered or surrounded in flames.
Raiwind, in the District of Lahore, is an important Railway junction, as it is the crossing-point of two main lines-the Lahore-Ferozepore-Delhi line and the Lahore-Multan-Karachi line. This place was the point at which trains carrying Hindu-Sikh refugees from Lahore, Montgomery, Multan and Sind used to arrive. Repeated attacks on trains occurred here. Survivors state that when they arrived at Raiwind they saw hundreds of corpses of Sikhs lying all along the railway track. Muslim goondas, police and military seldom let a train pass unattacked if it did not have a strong Hindu-Sikh escort. Especially was this the case up till the middle of September. It is estimated that after August 15, at least a dozen trains were attacked at Raiwind and thousands of Hindus and Sikhs killed. No other Railway Station was the scene of so much carnage. One such train was attacked on the 4th September, in which 300 Hindus and Sikhs were killed.
In the countryside of Lahore the policy, after the 17th August (Announcement of the Award of the Boundary Commission) was to hound out Sikhs and Hindus from their homes en masse. In all these attacks on villages, the police or military or both would generally lead the attack. Little quarter was given to such unfortunate people as got into the clutches of these assailants. Burning of houses, looting of property, murder of men and abduction of women and children-this oft-reported tale was repeated in these village as well. Men and women scurried for their lives like rats. It was with the greatest good fortune that some people managed to escape, sometimes through the help of a personal Muslim friend or through such Indian Military as might have happened to reach the area under attack.
The village of Wanteo was attacked right on the 18th August. In a population of about 2,000 there were only 5 or 6 Hindu and Sikh houses. These were surrounded and the inmates forcibly converted, and asked to swallow beef. On their refusing to do this, a plot was made to kill them. They managed, however, to escape by fleeing.
The village of Killa Ganjan in Chunian Tehsil, was also attacked on the 18th by a Muslim mob of 2,000 which was led by Abdul Karim, a member of the District Board. Hindus and Sikhs offered stiff resistance to the invaders, and had 12 of their side killed. They were forced to leave the village, leaving all their belongings behind them. Some sick, old and maimed people, who were left behind were finished off by the invaders.
Jamsher Kalan was attacked on the 24th August by a. Muslim mob accompanied by military. Mohammad Husain, M.L.A. and Sheikh Mohammad Sadiq of Shamkot were at the head of this mob, which was advancing with drums beating. Hindus and Sikhs agreed to vacate the village, but were attacked just on its outskirts. 50 men, 80 women and 70 children were killed out of its total Sikh-Hindu population of 500.
Talwandi was also attacked on the 24th by a Muslim mob and military. This attack too was led by Mohammad Hussain, M.L.A. In this attack more than 400 Hindus and Sikhs were killed. All the surviving women were abducted. Many Hindu and Sikh houses were burnt.
On and about the 26th August, Bhuchoke, Janga Araian, Pajjian etc. were attacked and devastated. Hindu and Sikh residents of 16 villages of this area left for shelter to a larger village, Bhamba. 20 to 25 families were left behind, as they could not move out quickly. These were set upon by the Muslim mob and military and were murdered to a man.
Attack on the village of Gohawa had began already on the 16th August; on the 19th with further police reinforcement sent to the Muslims by the Sub-Inspector of Bhikhi Police Station, the attack assumed full violence. A large-scale massacre of Sikhs ensued. A number of women were abducted. Survivors were very few.
The village of Sangran, in Police Station Khudian area was attacked by 2,500 Muslims supported by the military and Muslim National Guards. Out of a total Sikh population of 200 in this village not more than a dozen are known to have escaped slaughter.
In the village of Ganje Sandh, attacked on the 25th August about 60 Hindus and Sikhs were killed. Dauke Kalan was attacked on the 19th, and here the number of Hindus and Sikhs killed was 200.
Raja Jang is a fairly large village and is also a railway station on the Lahore-Ferozepore-Delhi main line. Man to man, the Muslims of this place had always admitted the superiority of Sikhs. But after the establishment of Pakistan, with police and. military thrown in, the Muslims got their chance. The village was attacked on the 24th August, and the attack continued on the next day as well. Sikhs put up a stiff resistance. 50 Sikhs were killed in the first day’s attack, and many more casualties occurred on the second day. Many Hindus and Sikhs were forcibly converted, and women were abducted.
In village Halloke, on the 21st, 40 Sikhs were killed.
Chhappa and Narwar were attacked on the 19th. Here military operated against the helpless Sikh population. 400 Sikh were killed and 300 were wounded.
Talwandi in Chunian Tehsil was attacked on 8 Bhadon, which is about the end of August. Here the attack was made by beat of drum. Sikhs gave battle to the Muslim mob and military for six hours. Only 40 Sikhs survived from its entire Sikh population.
Padhana is another large village and it was a centre of Sikh influence. The attack came on the 20th in full force, with a mob of 4,000, military and police. The police harassed and insulted Sikhs, and spirited away some Sikhs in their lorries, who have never been heard of since. Sikh women were abducted. Sikhs’ houses and the Gurdwara were burned. About 100 Sikhs were killed and the entire village was looted.
Near the village of Hathar, which was attacked on the 19th August, a huge Muslim mob accompanied by military surrounded the entire population, which was predominantly Sikh, at Jorewala Head while it was evacuating. 1,200 were killed, including women and children. 100 women were abducted and many were forcibly converted and married to Muslims. In the attack on the Gurdwara, the Sikh scripture was desecrated.
On the 18th August, the village of Dholan was surrounded by a mob, led by military and police which also included a Sub-Inspector. The Sub-Inspector gave an ultimatum to Hindus and Sikhs to leave immediately without carrying anything, or all of them would be shot dead. The helpless Hindus and Sikhs complied with this demand. A little outside the village they were attacked, and a large number of them were killed.
Ram Thamman and Jagoowala (Chak No. 40) were attacked on the 24th August. Out of the Hindu and Sikh population of 1,400 of the latter place, only about 50 have been traceable. The rest were all killed in the general massacre.
The important village of Valtoha was attacked in the beginning of September by Pakistan Military. Sikh women and children were abducted. Such of the menfolk as were spared, were turned out of their homes in a destitute state.
In Hindal a large number of Sikhs were shot dead by Pakistan military on the 24th and 25th August. In Jia Bagga, on the Lahore-Ferozepore line, 100 Sikhs and Hindus were killed.
In Prara, immediately after the announcement of the Boundary Commission Award, lynching and murdering of Sikhs began on the 18th August. About 100 Sikhs were killed in Orara; and in the neighbourhood Gurdwaras were desecrated and houses burned and looted.
On the 19th a Hindu-Sikh refugee train was stopped near Railway Station Khudian and a huge massacre of Hindu and Sikhs occurred.
In October 1947, 9 Sikhs prisoners were released from Lahore Central Jail. These were pushed out of the jail Gate without any protection or escort. Muslim goondas who had already been appraised of the impending release of these unfortunate Sikhs, pounced upon them as soon as they stepped outside, and all 9 were killed on the spot.
Six Hindus and one Sikh, the last-mentioned a Professor of Sikh National College, Lahore were challenged by the police on a cooked-up charge. All were acquitted by the Magistrate, and ordered to be released. The same tale was repeated here. Muslims waiting outside the Court fell upon them and killed all seven within the area of the District Courts. This occurred on the 26th August.
On the 13th August a Muslim mob fell upon the Lahore Loco Workshop, and killed such of the helpless Hindus as were still there.
Muslim leaders deliberately spread false and baseless atrocity stories about East Punjab, and incited Muslims everywhere to murder and drive out Hindus and Sikhs. Especially was Pakistan propaganda openly and shamelessly directed against Sikhs. Zafar Ali Khan, proprietor of the Daily Zamindar of Lahore is a well-known Muslim League leader, and his paper an important League organ. On the 5th September in this paper appeared on the front page a highly inflammatory poem against the Sikhs, the last and telling line of which was:
“Koi Sikh rehne na pae Maghribi Punjab men” (Let no Sikh be allowed to remain in Western Punjab).
That this was no isolated or irresponsible piece of political propaganda is amply proved by this letter, which passed between no less responsible people, than Sir Francis Mudie, Governor of West Punjab and Mr. Jinnah, Governor-General of Pakistan, on September 5, 1947. That men who run the State and shape policies should have made up their minds to throw Sikhs out of West Punjab, is ample proof of the solid conspiracy in Pakistan against the Sikhs. If the Governor and Governor-General thought this way, what hope of protection could Sikhs have from the officials? What was there to stop common Muslims from looting, murdering and dishonouring them?
The salient paragraphs from Sir Francis Mudie’s letter to Mr. Jinnah, mentioned above are:
“The refugee problem is assuming gigantic proportions. The only limit that I can see to it is that set by the census reports. According to reports the movement across the border runs into a lakh or so a day. At Chuharkana in the Sheikhupura district I saw between 1 lakh and a lakh and half of Sikhs collected in the town and round it, in the houses, on roofs and everywhere. It was exactly like the Magh Mela in Allahabad. It will take 45 trains to move them, even at 4,000 people per train: or, if they are to stay there, they will have to be given 50 tons of atta a day.
At Gowindgarh in the same district there was a collection of 30,000 or 40,000 Mazbi Sikhs with arms. They refused even to talk to the Deputy Commissioner, an Anglo-Indian, who advanced with a flag of truce. They shot at him and missed. Finally arrangements were made to evacuate the lot. I am telling everyone that I do not care how the Sikhs are got rid of as soon as possible. There is still little sign of the 3 lakh Sikhs in Lyallpur moving, but in the end they too will have to go.”
~ S. Gurbachan Singh Talib, excerpted from the book “Muslim League Attack on Sikhs and Hindus in the Punjab 1947
1 Dera Sahib Gurdwara.