Partition riots in Rawalpindi
The partition riots in Rawalpindi, also known as the Rape of Rawalpindi is the name given to the sectarian violence which occurred between Muslims and Sikhs, Hindus in Rawalpindi (now in Pakistan) during Feb-March 1947, on the backdrop of ensuing Partition of India.
- I am told that there are still left over 18,000 Hindus and Sikhs in Rawalpindi and 30,000 in the Wah Camp. I will repeat my advice that they should all be prepared to die rather than leave their homes. The art of dying bravely and with honour does not need any special training, save a living faith in God. Then there will be no abductions and no forcible conversions. I know that you are anxious I should go to the Punjab at the earliest moment. I want to do so. But if I failed in Delhi, it is impossible for me to succeed in Pakistan. For I want to go to all the parts and provinces of Pakistan under the protection of no escort save God. I will go as a friend of the Muslims as of others. My life will be at their disposal. I hope that I may cheerfully die at the hands of anyone who chooses to take my life. Then I will have done as I have advised all to do.
- It is unbelievable that barbarous acts such as were committed on innocent people in rural areas of the Rawalpindi Division could be possible in the Punjab.
- J. A. Scott, Deputy Inspector-General of Police in the Rawalpindi range, in a statement to the Press. Gurbachan Singh Talib in Muslim League Attack on Sikhs and Hindus in the Punjab 1947, 1950, Amritsar: Shiromani Gurdwara Prabandhak Committee p 90
- Travelling by air from Lahore to Rawalpindi I saw village after village completely burnt out... when a full casualty list of the district is known, it is likely to be in the neighbourhood of 10,000 in Rawalpindi city and district alone ... there is no question that the rural areas around Rawalpindi have witnessed a bloodbath without parallel since the Middle Ages. I have heard how all members of the minority communities... were locked in a single house which was set on fire.
- Hindustan Times, March 22, 1946. Report cited in Kamra A. J. (2000). The prolonged partition and its pogroms : testimonies on violence against Hindus in East Bengal 1946-64. pp. 17
- A number of other districts were involved In the words of Mr Akhtar Hussain, Chief Secretary to Government, Punjab, “With the news of grave events radiating from Lahore there has been bloodshed and burning m many districts and rural areas have paid the price levied by insensate fury as well as towns. The district of Rawalpindi was the worst affected area and the non Muslims who were in a small minority in the rural areas perished an large numbers.“
- Khosla G. D. (1989). Stern reckoning : a survey of the events leading up to and following the partition of india. Oxford University Press. 106
- Conditions in the rural areas of Rawalpindi beggar description. On March 6, 1947, meetings were held in the village mosques and the Muslims were told that the Jumma Mosque at Rawalpindi had been razed to the ground by Hindus and Sikhs and that the city streets were littered with Muslim corpses The audience were exhorted to avenge these wrongs The village population of the district of Rawalpindi has a large proportion of Muslim military pensioners possessing firearms and other weapons These men, in- cited in this manner, rose up against the non-Muslim residents and attacked one village after another The modus operand: was almost invariably the same A mob of Muslims armed with all kinds of weapons, shouting slogans and beating drums, approached a selected village and surrounded it from all sides A few non- Muslim residents were immediately killed to strike terror throughout the village The rest were asked to embrace Islam If they refused or showed reluctance a ruthless assault was launched upon non-Muslim life and property. Some members of the mob started looting and burning their houses and shops Others searched out young and good-looking girls and carried them away Not infrequently young women were molested and raped .n the open, while all around them frenzied hooligans rushed about shouting, looting and setting fire to houses Most of the non-Muslims would leave their houses and run to the local Gurdwara or a house affording some measure of protection or defence and there men, women and children, huddled together, would hear the noise of carnage, see the smoke rising from their burning homes and wait for the end The horror of what they saw or heard made them insensible to pain or suffering Some women would commit suicide or suffer death at the hands of their relations with stoic indifference, others would jump into a well or be burnt alive uttering hysterical cries The men would come out and meet death m a desperate sally against the marauders
- Khosla G. D. (1989). Stern reckoning : a survey of the events leading up to and following the partition of india. Oxford University Press. 107
- Some villages were completely wiped out. Houses and shops were looted and then burnt down and demolished. Conversion saved the lives of many but not their property. Refusal to accept Islam brought complete annihilation.The men were shot or put to the sword. In some cases small children were thrown in cauldrons of boiling oil. In one village men and women who refused to embrace Islam were collected together and after a ring of brambles and firewood had been placed around them they were burnt alive. A woman threw her four month old baby to save it from burning The infant was impaled upon a spear and thrown back into the fire. In Murree nearly a hundred houses belonging to non Muslims were systematically marked and burnt down. In as many as 110 villages attacks of this nature were made by Muslim mobs.
- Khosla G. D. (1989). Stern reckoning : a survey of the events leading up to and following the partition of india. Oxford University Press. 108
- Almost every village in the Rawalpindi District where non- Muslims lived was attacked and plundered in this manner and Hindus and Sikhs were murdered and subjected to indescribable barbarities. In Thoha Khalsa some Sikh women were thrown into a well, others jumped in of their own free will to save themselves from being raped. A mob of several thousand Muslims raided Harilal, the birth-place of the Akali leader Master Tara Singh. Master Tara Singh’s house was razed to the ground and his uncle, Gokal Singh, was killed. Kuri Dalal and Dehra Khalsa were looted and burnt. In Kallar the residents resisted the raiders for a time stubbornly, but the village was eventually looted and burnt, and large numbers of residents murdered.
- Khosla G. D. (1989). Stern reckoning : a survey of the events leading up to and following the partition of india. Oxford University Press. 112
Gurbachan Singh Talib
- The attack came swiftly and over a vast area in the Rawalpindi Division,.. although the Hindus and Sikhs had for long to bear a state of seige [in the town of Rawalpindi], 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. ... In the rural areas of Rawalpindi, however, it was a case of mass attack by Muslims, and a general massacre of Hindus and Sikhs. (78-79)
- 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. (80)
- 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. (81)
- 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. (81)
- 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 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.
- 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.
- Rawalpindi Division was ablaze. Its rural Hindu and Sikh population was almost entirely in refugee camps. The biggest of these camps was at Wah, in Campbellpur District, and its population was about 25,000. Another refugee camp, nearly as big, was situated at Kala, in Jhelum District. There were other refugee camps at smaller places. But most of the Hindus and Sikhs of this area had got so much panic-stricken that they preferred to leave this area altogether, and travelled east. The railway trains were full to capacity of destitute Hindu and Sikh refugees from places from Jhelum to Peshawar and other areas. They moved in search of shelter into the Sikh-Hindu majority districts of the Punjab, into the Punjab States, into the Jat States of Bharatpur, Dholpur, into Alwar, into Delhi and the U. P. Some moved even further east. Patiala State alone had, by April, as many as fifty thousand Sikh and Hindu refugees, who had to be fed, housed and clad, whose children had to be educated and who needed being settled in life again after being uprooted. Thousands of widows and orphans created a problem well-nigh insoluble in the face of the suddenness with which it had emerged. Destitutes were roaming every town and village of the Punjab east of Amritsar in search of food and shelter. Pitiable indeed was the condition of these people, who had become victims of an unprecedented kind of disaster. State Governments and private organizations like the Shromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee, the Hindu Mahasabha and the Congress tried to do their best to relieve the distress of these unfortunates, but the task was gigantic. So, barring a microscopic minority of these uprooted people, who had means in the East Punjab, the others remained, practically speaking, destitutes for whom life held little hope. This was the state to which the Muslim League campaign had reduced about at least ten lakhs of enterprising, useful human beings. (89)
- The Muslim League leaders pursued a path contrary to the spirit in which an appeal like the Gandhi-Jinnah appeal should have been followed up. They continued to visit troubled areas like Amritsar for further incitement and for giving directions for new attacks. They continued with a pose of hypocritical innocence, to denounce imaginary Hindu-Sikh atrocities against Muslims. A full-hearted condemnation of the Rawalpindi Carnage or the Multan destruction never came from the Muslim League. (112)