1947 Voilence

1947 Violence

The partition of the Punjab and Bengal in mid-August 1947 took place as part of a negotiated settlement, brokered by the British between the Indian National Congress & the All-India Muslim League . The major  reason attributable to the partition was the selfish ambitions of the then hindu and muslim political leadership of undivided India.

First demand to partition of India,  was made by the main communal party of the Muslims ie  the All-India Muslim League. It insisted that Indian Muslims were not a minority (one-fourth of the total population of India and therefore need a separate nation by virtue of their Islamic faith and culture. Viceroy Mountbatten unilaterally, had  come to the conclusion that the partition of India had become inevitable. Therefore on June 3, 1947, the Partition Plan was announced.

The actual transfer of power to the partitioned part of India ie Pakistan proved to be bloody and bitter. Some people have described it as one of the major reason of the genocide of 20th century. The estimated loss of hindu life, during the partition of India, was close to two million. Besides, 14-18 million punjabi hindus were forced to cross the international border in search of safe havens.


Once the British were gone and local administrations in Pakistan, came to power in the divided Punjab, whole-sale attacks on the hindu minorities started taking place. By the end of the year, total ethnic cleansing had been achieved by muslim league & there were no traces of hindu and Sikhs, in this partitioned part of British India..

There is a first holistic and comprehensive study of the partition of Punjab. It covers chronologically the events, which unfolded during 1947 and covers the whole of Punjab – the 28 districts and the princely states. During January 1 – August 14, 1947, it was under British rule. According to Sir Evan Jenkins, the last British governor of Punjab, only some 5,000 fatalities had taken place till August 4, 1947. From August 15 to December 31, 1947, those figures shot up to anything between 5 to 8 millions.

1947 Pakistan massacre story, Man's Life, Sept 1958-8x6

Muslims started large-scale violence, mainly against Sikhs & Hindus, in the Muslim-majority districts of northern Punjab. & the focus of violence was women during the partition of Punjab in 1947 & they were the major victims.

The trouble for the non-Muslims in general, and for the women in particular, started in March, 1947. Whatever may be the causes of Lahore, Rawalpindi and Multan riots, it is admitted that these were of terrific nature Lord Mountbatten, the last Viceroy of India, after visiting district Rawalpindi reported to the British Government in England, “The whole of the Hindu-Sikh part is an absolute wreck, as though it has been subjected to an air raid. Several Hindu and Sikh villages were wiped out. Justice Teja Singh, a member of the Punjab Boundary Commission, stated before the Commission that during the Rawalpindi riots, “A large number of people were forcibly converted, children were kidnapped, and young women abducted and openly raped. Though a separate number of female causalities is not available, the official figure of deaths in the district of Rawalpindi was 2,263 which was considered far far below the actual numbcr. The women were subjected to maximum humiliation and torture. Their agony can be judged by the fact that a number of women jumped into wells to save their honour. It is as unbelievable today as it was at that time. Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru visited the village on 14th March, 1947, and he was told about the incidents of ladies jumping into wells. His staff photographer took photographs of the bottom of the well with the help of a flashlight. These photographs showed the decomposed limbs of the bodies.


During the fateful months of August and September, 1947, the communal riots flared up on a very large scale in both the Punjabs. It is estimated by some British writers that about two lakhs were killed in West Punjab. Thousands of women and children were abducted. The Governments of India and Pakistan who had taken over from the British, had no comprehension of the enormity of the situation. The people in general were infected with spirit of vendetta, and took revenge by committing excesses on the womenfolk of the opposite community. Nothing was done at Government level to alleviate the sufferings of the abducted women until 6th December, 1947, when the following agreement was made between Governments of India and Pakistan regarding recovery of abducted women: Following decisions reached at the Conference between the Governments of India and Pakistan held on the 6th of December, 1947:-

  1. Every effort must be made to recover and restore abducted women and children within the shortest time possible.

  2. Conversion by persons abducted after 1st March, 1947, will not be recognised, and all such persons must be restored to their respective Dominions. The wishes of the persons concerned are irrelevant. Consequently, no statements of such persons could be recorded before magistrates.

History of Punjab can be traced back to 16th century. During 1840s, when the Punjab’s Sikh rulers lost out to the British, who proceeded to develop Lahore as their Indian empire’s chief city to the north of Delhi. Ranjit Singh’s successors had squabbled even as a new power, Britain, extended its control across the subcontinent. . In 1947 (the year of independence, partition, violence, and migrations), Lahore’s 240,000 Hindus and Sikhs constituted major city’s population. Consequent to partition, they migrated to different parts of East Punjab, Delhi, and elsewhere in India. The threads of violence can be traced back to muslim majority regions of Pakistan.. As word traveled to Amritsar of large numbers of Sikhs and hindus killed in Lahore and surrounding villages, the cry for revenge went up in hindu and sikh dominated regions of Punjab..It is pertinent to mention here that only thirty-two miles separate Amritsar in India from Lahore in Pakistan, but the cities are now worlds apart. Before the 1947 partition, when Amritsar and Lahore were both in the Indian state of Punjab, there were Hindus, Muslims, and Sikhs who had links with both cities. Some even had a home in one and business in the other. There is also an ancient Ramayana connection that links Lahore to Rama’s son Lav. A key year in the story of Amritsar is 1604, when the Adi Granth, the Sikh scripture, was installed at the site of the Harmandir Sahib, which would become Sikhism’s holiest shrine. But it was during the forty years (1799-1839) that the Sikh chieftain Ranjit Singh ruled over the Punjab and territories beyond that Amritsar found preeminence. The Harmandir Sahib was gilded with gold during this time, and was to be known thereafter as the Swaran Mandir, or Golden Temple. 


Alok Mohan

Leave a comment