Violence against women during the partition of India

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During the Partition of India, violence against women was an extensive situation. It is estimated that during the partition between 75,000 and 100,000 women were kidnapped and raped. The rape of women by males during this period is well documented, with women also being complicit in these attacks. Systematic violence against women started in March 1947 in Rawalpindi district where Sikh women were targeted by Muslim mobs. Violence was also perpetrated on an organized basis, with Pathans taking Hindu and Sikh women from refugee trains. India and Pakistan later worked to repatriate the abducted women. Muslim women were to be sent to Pakistan and Hindu and Sikh women to India.


  • "They shot everyone who couldn't recite the kalima - the Arabic-language Muslim declaration of faith. Many non-Muslim women were enslaved, while many others jumped in the river to escape capture."..."They had returned with war booty," he says. "Some had brought cattle, some horses. Most of them had brought arms, and many brought women. One Afridi tribesman walked back with two women in tow. They wept incessantly and just wouldn't stop.""
    • Partition 70 years on: When tribal warriors invaded Kashmir By M Ilyas Khan , 2017, BBC News [1]
  • No one could predict how long this sold-off woman would remain there. These poor women were housed by the government in the Kunja camp as there was fighting going on in Kashmir. The army handed them over to us when they were useless...All 600 had been used by the Pakistani army...Pakistan's attitude was that it should be thankful that it had managed to recover so many women. Naturally, they would not admit that they had any hand in the situation the women found themselves in.
    • Borders & Boundaries: Women in India's Partition By Ritu Menon, Kamla Bhasin — Borders and Boundaries[2]
  • The following strategy, the Report continues, was used wherever the mobs attacked: First of all minorities were disarmed with the help of local police and by giving assurances by oaths on holy Quran of peaceful intentions. After this had been done, the helpless and unarmed minorities were attacked. On their resistance having collapsed, lock breakers and looters came into action with their transport corps of mules, donkeys and camels. Then came the ‘Mujahadins’ with tins of petrol and kerosene oil and set fire to the looted shops and houses. Then there were maulvies with barbers to convert people who somehow or other escaped slaughter and rape. The barbers shaved the hair and beards and circumcised the victims. Maulvis recited kalamas and performed forcible marriage ceremonies. After this came the looters, including women and children.
    • Report on the Disturbances in the Punjab (March/April 1947), AICC File No. G-10/1947, Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, New Delhi. quoted in State and Nation-Building in Pakistan: Beyond Islam and Security, المحررون: Roger D. Long‏، Gurharpal Singh‏، Yunas Samad‏، Ian Talbot‏
  • 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)... At Nara, in the tehsil of Kahuta, Sikh women and children were burnt alive, and the women were tortured in ways most devilishly ingenious and sadistic, which it is not possible for any decent human being to describe.... All this was done in village after village after the Muslims had given assurances of safety on the Koran to Hindus. Hindu women were molested and abducted. Altogether 50 villages in this tehsil were looted with arson, murder and abduction of women. Ears, noses and breasts of women were cut off, and they were raped in the presence of their husbands, brothers, fathers and sons.
    • Talib, S. G. S. (1950). Muslim League Attack on Sikhs and Hindus in the Punjab, 1947. Amritshar: Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee.
  • There is a marked difference in the behaviour of Muslims and Sikhs towards women and children captured during this fight. While Muslims everywhere dishonoured, abducted or murdered Hindu and Sikh women and children, Sikhs never resorted to anything of which they might have reason to be ashamed. On the first day of attack, several Muslims got killed by an infuriated Sikh crowd in a locality which was at the junction of a Muslim and non-Muslim zone, not very far from the centre of the Sikh influence. More than one hundred Muslim women and children, whose menfolk had either been killed or had run away for safety, fell into the hands of the Sikhs. Sikhs kept them safe and fed them for the two or three days that the fighting lasted and all communications in the town were cut off, and later sent them under escort to the City Police Station, These women acknowledged the chivalry and courtesy of the treatment of the Sikhs towards them. (156)
  • A British Officer of the M. E. O. of West Punjab reported (September, 1947) that at a place near Sheikhupura he was called to rescue a Hindu girl, who had been carried away by Muslim National Guards. He found the girl in a hut with 4 of her captors, who had raped and cut off her breasts and were now frying them. He shot the lot.

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