Ethnic cleansing is an expression which earned an obnoxious connotation during the
recent Serho-Bosnian crisis. It was however the description of an exchange of population
as prescribed in the Treaty of Lausanne of 1923 whereby the Greeks lining in Turkey were
to Leave for resettlement in Greece and the Turkey were to resettle permanently in Turkey.
The Treaty was implemented faithfully as was the Convention of 1913 which set out the
procedures of population transfer between Bulgaria and Turkey.
As detailed in the chapter titled Unfinished Agenda, the League leaders envisaged an
exchange of population between the two new dominions resulting from partition. The Muslims
were to all gather in the new dominion of Pakistan whereas all non-Muslims were to
either remain or move out of the Pak areas to Hindustan. Congress leaders of the time paid
no heed to the League demand and took the stand that India could not, in principle,
consider losing its Muslin citizen.
Faithful to the League, plan, the west wing of Pakistan began its programme of ethnic
cleansing with determined single mindedness. They allowed their own citizens to take the
law into their hands in anticipation of the partition and permitted them to continue
perpetrating loot, rape, murder and arson with the collective intent of frightening the
non-Muslims to leave Pakistan. How they went about their mission is best gleaned through
what Justice G.D. Khosla had to report to the then Government of India in 1948. His survey
was subsequently published under the title Stern Reckoning. Quoted as follows are a few of
the highlights from the Survey and an extract from Ian Talbot's book.
By April 1946, Sir Geroze Khan Noon had evidently become impatient with the
Congress leaders for not agreeing to an exchange of population. In a speech made to the
Muslim League legislators on the 9th of the month, he had threatened to reenact the
murderous orgies of Changez Khan and Halaqu Khan if the non-Muslims took up a refractory
attitude. His was no idle threat. His followers were faithful to his call and put in
practice the murderous orgies.
In Khushab Tehsil of the Punjab, the wealthy Batras of Girot and Mitha Tiwana
resisted for two days. Ultimately, twenty three members of the family were arrested on
false murder charges. They were safely evacuated only after expending huge sums of money
to buy off their accusers. Bhagat Ram Chand, for example, handed over Rs. 35,000 in hard
cash. Mokam Singh a well known Sikh landowner of the Thal suffered a more nightmarish
fate. he led the resistance to the Muslim attack on Roda village. When the defenders'
ammunition finally gave out, the settlement was overrun by a mob which beheaded him. His
severed head was transfixed to a spear and paraded as a war trophy from village to
village. News of the violence in the Khushab tehsil, spread as far as Nairobi, as
stated by Ian Talbott in khizr Tiwana. Curzon, surrey, Uk, 1996.
Let us now move to the Rawalpindi district with Justice Khosla:
Bewal was a village of mixed population, the Sikhs numbering about four hundred. On
the morning of march 10, some of the Sikh residents tried to travel to Gujar Khan but the
Muslim lorry driver refused to carry them on the ground that the Sub-Inspector of Police
had forbidden the issue of lorry tickets to Sikhs. The same afternoon a large crowd of
Muslim villagers entrenched approaching. The same afternoon a large crowd of Muslims
shouting "ya Ali ya Ali" to the beating of drums, was seen approaching. The non-Muslim
villagers entrenched themselves in two improvised shelter. At 11 p.m. the raiders set fire
to a number of non-Muslim houses on the outskirts of the village. The siege of the village
continued throughout the night. The siege of the village continued throughout the night,
and, on the morning of march 11, fresh gangs of raiders arrived. The assault on the
non-Muslim sanctuarries was now opened. Houses around the Gurdwara, where many of the Sikh
residents had taken shelter, were set on fire. The fire spread to the Gurdwara, where many
of the Sikh residents had taken Sheller. were set on fire. The fire spread to the Gurdwara
and those inside were almost all burnt alive. The house of a retired Extra Assistant
Commissioner, in which the rest of the non-Muslim had collected, was also attacked in a
similar manner. very few of the four hundred Sikh residents escaped alive. Many women and
girls saved their honour by self-immolation. They collected their beddings and cots in a
heap and when the heap caught fire they jumped on to it raising cries of Sat Sri Akal. The
raiders behaved in a most cruel manner and subjected the few men whom they captured to
torture. The eyes of Mukand Singh, One of the residents, were removed from their sockets
and the he was dragged by the legs till he died.
Doberan had a population of seventeen hundred of whom a very large
majority were Sikhs. On the morning of March 10, swarms of armed raiders from the
neighbouring villagers began to collect in front of Dobera. The non-Muslim residents
sought shelter in the local Gurdwara. The raiders began to loot the'houses thus deserted
and set fire to them. The Sikhs had a few firearms and fought the raiders from the
Gurdwara. They, however, suffered heavily and soon ran out of ammunition. The raiders
asked them to surrender their arms and promised not to molest them. About three hundred of
them came out and they have were placed in the house of one Barkat Singh. During the night
the roof was ripped open. kerosene oil was poured in, and those inside were burnt alive.
In the morning the doors of the Gurduwara were broken open. The remaining Sikhs dashed out
sword in handand died fighting the raiders. Very few escaped from this hideous massacre.
The total loss of life in this village is estimated at 506.
In Qazian, a village five miles from Gujar Khan, the atmosphere on
the morning of March 7 was tense. Qazi Ghulam Hussain, a retired Government official,
assured the Sikh residents that there was no cause for alarm and that they were perfectly
safe in his village.On the morning of March 9, a large crowd of Muslims began to assemble
near the village abadi on the presence of holding a kabaddi match. The Muslims advanced
with the beat of drums and began setting fire to the Sikh houses and Gurdwara. Shots were
fired at the raiders and they retreated. On the following morning they came back,
reinforced, in larger numbers. Qazi Ghulam Hussain asked the Sikhs to come to his house
for the night with their valuables. A number of Sikhs accepted this invitation and went
there with their women and children. At 4 p. m. the raiders appeared in front of Qazi
Ghulam Hussain's house and the Qazi then asked his guests to surrender their arms and
leave his house. When the unarmed Sikh emerged from the house they were set upon by the
raiders and murdered. Three young girls were raped in public. Sant Singh, a Sikh resident,
had on the previous day killed one of the Muslim raiders and had then hidden himself. He
was sent for by Qazi Ghulam Hussain and, while he was talking to him. a rope was flung
round his neck and he was dragged to a,firewood stall where he and his son were hacked to
bits and then burnt. The survivors were evacuated to Guitar Khan by military lorries on
the night of the 11th.
Nara village is situated in a hilly tract. It had a majority of
Sikhs but the neighbouring villagers were all predominantly Muslim. At about 4 p.m. on
March 9, Muslim mobs were seen approaching the village and, late at night, the village was
attacked and the outlying houses were set on fire. One of the residents, Makhan Singh and
his wife and daughter were burnt alive in their house. The looting and burning continued
on the following day. Some of the raiders had firearms and they appeared to be
ex-military men. On March 11 the number of raiders swelled to several thousands and the
village was encircled. As the ring narrowed the Sikh residents offered stubborn
resistance. The raiders seized a number of women and children and threw them into the
blaze of a burning house. A few women committed suicide by jumping into a well. Overs a
hundred men were killed, about fifty were forcibly converted to Islam. The survivors were
evacuated to Gujar Khan.
In Sialkot district: conversion lo Islam was frequently offered as
the price of safety, and if the victims exhibited any reluctance or religious scruples
they were subjected to duress and torture. The hair of Sikhs was cut off, their beards
were trimmed and beef was cooked and forced down their throats. Some of them were
circumcised. Young women and girls were molested and earned away. Reason and decency were
completely banished by fanatical zeal: and young innocent girls were raped in public. In
one village the relations of a girl were made to stand around in a ring while she was
raped by several men in succession.
Moving to Sheikhpura, not far from the birthplace of Guru Nanak. here
is a heart rending eye witness account of the Civil Surgeon. Whosoever tried to run away
fell a victim to the shots of the baluchis and the policemen. Having thus cleared away all
the living population the looters began to ransack the house under the very nose of the
policemen. At about 10 o'clock, trench-mortar fire was heard in Guru Nanak Pura locality.
In all we heard about ten mortar shots. Since the firing came nearer and nearer to the
hospital and the people had been killed under our very noses, we hid ourselves in the dark
room attached to the Z-Ray department of the hospital. it proved to be the safest place.
While hiding there in the dark room we heard woeful cries of hindu and Sikh children as
they were done to death by the Muslim mob. The cry of one child was particularly
heart-rending. At about 2 p.m. we heard the cry, "Ddo not cut my throat. Do not cut
my throat. You have already killed my parents. take me with you." he was killed in
the hospital verandah about twenty paces from us.
The crimes overtook the cruelty of even Changez Khan and halaqu Khan,
the heroes of Sir Feroze Khan Noon.
Justice Khosla's report ends by summing up: that Leagueideology and the
line of conduct pursued by it were mainly and directly responsible for the horrible drama,
narrated in these pages, is clearly demostrated by the inexorable logic of chronology. The
speeches delivered at the Convention of the Muslim League legislators in April 1946, were
an open incitement to violence. On July 29, the Direct Action resolution frankly abjured
peaceful and constitutional methods and, on August 16, the campaign of violence was opened
at Calcutta under the command and guidance of Mr. Suhrawardy. In October came the tragedy
of Noakhali and Tippera. Almost immediately afterwards retaliation followed in Bihar. Then
for some months there was a lull
while a major operation in the North-west was being planned. With the riots of March 1947
began the genocide of the non-Muslims. These disturbances were confined to the Muslim
majority areas only and the victims were almost invariably Hindus and Sikhs.
There was emigration during l 947 and early l 948 from East Punjab to
Pakistani Punjab. To a significant extent therefore the two portions of the Punjab did
achieve an exchange of population. There were only some scattered emigrations from other
parts of the country, whether Gujarat, U.P., Bihar or Bengal; the number was small. This
in no way could represent
anything like an exchange of population, not to speak of ethnic cleansing.