SAHIWAL: People from various callings attended a lecture of Prof Dr Ishtiaq Ahmed on some aspects of the Partition here on Saturday.
The renowned scholar spoke on the the theme of ‘Punjab De Wand (1947), Ikk Dukhant, Hazar Kahaniyian’ at the Sahiwal Arts Council.
Speaking about the Partition of Punjab, he said he had spent 12 years reflecting on and finding out what happened in Punjab and how its three main communities -- Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs -- could not agree to keep their province united and be given to India or Pakistan or to become third dominion in the British Commonwealth.
“The partition of Punjab can be understood in three stages. One, when in 1945 the British government announces election, and election campaign begins totally on a communal basis. Second stage was when Lord Mountbatten arrived and became the viceroy till Aug 15, 1947. Third stage came of ethnic cleansing when no Muslim was left in Indian Punjab and no Sikh and Hindu were left in Pakistani Punjab. The Partition can be understood in these stages.”
Punjab, he said, was a fine example of a composite culture formed with the mutual thought and ideas of Muslim Sufis, Gorkh Nath Jogis, Bhagti Movement Sages and early Sikh Gurus. He said when the 20th century came, the nationalist movement started arriving in India which later affected Punjab and it also took a communal form with Hindu, Muslim and Sikh religious revival. As a result, instead of the “folk religion” in which all communities accepted one another’s doctrine of faith, the high culture of pure religions emerged. This made way for emergence of Ariya Samaj Hindu revival, Islamic Deobandi and Wahabi Movement and the Sikh Singh Sabh Movement.
As for the British role, he said: “Punjab Governor Sir Evan Jenkins was continuously writing in his fortnightly reports to the Viceroy that unless the government made proper arrangements, there would be bloodbath because the atmosphere in Punjab was charged with violence in Rawalpindi and Kohat. But his voice was ignored in the power corridors of the British who ultimately failed to ensure peaceful transfer of power on Aug 14, 1947.”
He said the governor reported only 5,200 dead (at four places) but after the power was transferred to Indian and Pakistani governments, in the coming five months 500,000 to 800,000 Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs were killed both in Indian and Pakistani Punjab.
“So it means that the most brutal killings took place when power was transferred without ensuring that it was peaceful. And this was the blunder of the British,” he said.
According to Dr Ishtiaq, the truth is that more Muslims were killed in East Punjab than Hindus and Sikhs counted together in West Punjab. In the Sikh princely states such as Patiyala, there was no supervision at all of any third party and that is where most Muslims were butchered, he said.
Commenting on India-Pakistan future relations, Dr Ishtiaq said “what has been done cannot be undone” and now the two countries must live like sovereign states.
Keeping in view the post-independence history of suspicion and security fears, he said, the nuclear states had to be cautious. “A future war between the two can result in the end of civilisation in this region. It is imperative that peace-loving citizen of both states build bridges and try to help the two establishments reach amicable solution to their differences and conflicts,” he stressed.
Terrorism, according to him, should be completely given up by both sides and it is equally important that the Kashmir dispute is resolved in a “win-win situation for India, Pakistan and the Kashmiri people”.
Published in Dawn, April 24th, 2016