Muslim National Guard

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The Muslim National Guard (Bengali: মুসলিম ন্যাশনাল গার্ড) also known as the Muslim League National Guard was a quasi-military associated to the All-India Muslim League that took part in the Pakistan Movement. In East Bengal, the Muslim National Guard was popularly known as the Azrail Bahini.


  • The Muslim National Guards did not owe any formal allegiance to the Muslim League, though it had the same flag as the Muslim League had. It is well-known that the National Guards was the secret arm of the Muslim League. Its membership was secret and it had its own centres and headquarters, where its members received military training and such instruction as would make them affective in times of rioting, such as using the lathi, the spear and the knife. The Unit Commander of the Muslim National Guards was known as Salar, over whom were higher officers, but all functioning secretly and with clearly such instructions as would make them formidable in rioting against unarmed non-Muslims populations. When in January, 1947 the Lahore office of the Muslim National Guards was raided by the Punjab police, a good deal of Military equipment including steel helmets ant badges were recovered. The National Guards had their own jeeps and lorries, which helped them in swift mobility for attack on Hindu and Sikh localities, in sniping and stabbing lonely passers-by and in carrying away loot. One of the articles the Muslim National Guards prized and stored was petrol, which would be used not only as fuel in transport, but as an excellent means of incendiarism on a large and devastating scale. This use of it the Muslims of the Punjab, and earlier of Bengal made very thoroughly and effectively, and hundreds of burnt town and villages in the two provinces are tragic evidence of how thorough the preparations of the Muslim League had been for its war on Hindus and Sikhs.
  • During the period the Muslim League was preparing, as is now evident from what happened in 1946 and 1947, for a large-scale struggle against Hindu India, and in the Punjab inevitably against the Sikhs and Hindus, the Muslim League had been gathering a private army of its own, to which training was being imparted in fighting, stabbing and assaults. Arms were being collected, and demobilized Muslim personnel of the Indian Army were freely enlisted in the League army. This army, begun about the year 1938, continued to expand and grow better equipped.... Still more important and more dangerous was the Muslim National Guards, which by the bye, is now converted into the Pakistan National Guards.
  • The necessity for recruitment and re-organization of the Muslim League National Guards is occupying the attention of the Provincial Salar. An increase of 5,630 Guards has been reported and accelerated activity has been noticeable in the western and north-western Punjab. In the eastern Punjab, active training has been confined mainly in Simla, Ambala Cantt. and Panipat where Guards have been exercising secretly in Lathi Fighting and in the Central Punjab and in Jullundar District, where Khaksars have undertaken their training. Open activity has been confined to the collection of Relief Funds, and in the Rawalpindi area to warning Muslims to destroy looted property and refrain from giving evidence in connection with the recent disturbances.
  • There are already indications that the Guards are being used as secret messengers, and their general activities are becoming less open, and in some places, they are active in arming the Community5. It has been reported that financial aid from the Centre has been promised, particularly for the Western Districts which are to act as recruiting grounds for the entire Province. Enlistment in the Rawalpindi and Campbellpore Districts has been particularly brisk and efforts have been made to enlist the services of ex-soldiers. The increase in membership is noticeable in all districts however and it is estimated that the number of Muslim League National Guards in the Province now is in the neighbourhood of 39,000.
  • In order to implement its programme of Direct Action, which, it must be noted, was not to take the form of Ahimsa, the Muslim League began to make brisk preparations for attack on Hindus and equally well, Sikhs. The Muslim League private army called the Muslim National Guards, which has already been referred to, began to expand. All kinds of Muslim riff-raff, disbanded members of the Civic Guards, and such other elements were the favourite recruiting ground for this body. The Muslim criminal elements found in the National Guard a new scope for their criminal proclivities as providing opportunity both for their anti-social acts and the satisfaction of having done something meritorious in the service of Islam. The Police, which in several provinces was overwhelmingly Muslim, helped in this recruitment, which was not so much of a secret, and in the collection of arms, equipment and petrol (this last for purposes of incendiarism). Jeeps and lorries were possessed by the National Guard in the larger towns; they had stocks of steel helmets purchased from the Disposals Department... Besides, large numbers of lethal weapons, such as knives, daggers, swords and spears were made and stocked by the Muslim National Guards. Well-to-do Muslim firms and individuals were reported in the months of August and September, 1946 to have distributed daggers and knives among Muslims of Lahore and Amritsar... Parcels of knives were frequently intercepted by the Railway Police... As the Calcutta and Eastern Bengal Riots showed, the Muslim preparation for attack and destruction had been terribly widespread and efficient.
  • Besides lethal weapons, there were fairly large quantities of firearms and means of incendiarism in the possession of Muslims. In the Punjab, besides smuggling arms from India with the help and connivance of the Muslim Police, the Muslims with the same facility to hand, could do successful gun-running from the tribal areas in the North-West. While a Hindu or Sikh carrying illegal weapons on him would be hauled up under the Arms Act, Muslims were comparatively safe in so doing, unless they happened to be detected by some non-Muslim police officer. Large quantities of petrol were obtained and conserved by the Muslims at a time when petrol rationing had been in force for several years, and this hoarded petrol was used in setting ablaze whole localities of non-Muslims with fiendish rapidity and efficiency, and thousands were trapped in the rapidly spreading flames and burnt alive.
  • The Muslim National Guards recruitment proceeded with very increased speed during all the months after the Direct Action Resolution of the Muslim League was passed. So great and ubiquitous was the organisation of the League Private Army, the Muslim National Guards, that every Muslim mohalla, every small town, sometimes every considerable village, had its own National Guard contingent and its commander, called Salar. One would be surprised to find the organization existing very often in unlikely and out-of-the-way places. The Guard collected arms and petrol-almost everywhere. They received secret instructions from head-quarters, and had a quasi-military, fascist kind of organization, with the rule of implicit obedience to the orders of the leader. (57)

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