Tuesday, January 12, 2010

A Continent Divided : OUPblog

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    • itself from the crown jewel of its empire.  A decision which uprooted over ten million people, 500,000 to a million of whom died in the ensuing inferno.  In the excerpt below we learn about August of 1947, a particularly ruthless time that followed partition.
    • Lahore’s railway station became a veritable death trap by August 12, Justice Gopal Das Khosla reported.  “On the evening of August 11, the railway station was packed with passengers…when news came that the Sind Express, on its way to Lahore, had been attacked by Muslims, panic spread…They found that men, women and children had been brutally murdered and were lying in pools of blood…The dead bodies were carried across several platforms…while all that was visible in the city of Lahore was a huge tower of smoke.”  Passengers on the Frontier Mail were murdered near Wagah.  Next day no Hindu or Sikh reached Lahore station alive; Muslim gangs were prowling the environs of the city in armed packs.  In June 1947 some 300,000 Hindus and Sikhs lived in Lahore.  By August 19 fewer than 10,000 remained; and by August 30, fewer than one thousand.  Endless caravans of Hindi-Sikh refugees moved out of that smoking pyre of death, trekking west to try and reach the new Punjab border at Wagah, twenty miles away, hoping to stay alive for another twenty miles to Amritsar.
    • Gandhi confessed to Vallabhbhai Patel, after he was almost killed by brick-throwing students who rudely awakened him, compelling him to launch a fast in response.  “Today we have lost all our senses, we have become stupid,” Gandhi cried aloud at his prayer meeting in Delhi the next month.  “It is not only the Sikhs have gone mad, or only the Hindus or the Muslims….India is today in the plight of the [sinking] elephant king [a Hindu fable]…What should I do?”  He wanted to fly to Lahore in Pakistan, but, fearing he might be murdered there, Nehru and Patel dissuaded him from going.
    • In West Punjab’s Sheikhupura District, Guru Nanak was born and his birthplace Gurdwara, or temple, named Nankana Sahib, was erected; this temple was the place of worship for many Sikhs.  It later became the region’s center for the massacre of Sikhs by Muslims, and that once worshipful district’s name became a synonym for terror in the minds of Sikhs.
    • In West Punjab hooligans used it to intimidate the minorities into handing over their property, accepting Islam or quitting their homes.  ‘If you do not do as you are told,’ they said, ‘we shall enact another Sheikhupura here.’”  Nehru wrote to tell Mountbatten that was “sick with horror,” after he visited Sheikhupura at the end of August.  “There is still an odour of death, a smell of blood and burning human flesh…This Punjab business becomes bigger and bigger…”
    • By August 25 more than 100,000 Hindus and Sikhs sought permanent refuge in Delhi.  Refugee camps were quickly built to the north of the old city and soon filled with Punjabi families, most of whom remained.  The camps grew into the new cities of Kurukshetra and Panipat, urban centers of salvation for millions of refugee Punjabi Hindus and Sikhs. 

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