IT was one day in mid-June, 1947. Hot, still and silent. People were rudely shaken out of their siestas by shouts and exploding crackers. Since March, their nights had been
disturbed by sporadic gunfire and mobs yelling in the streets,hurlingslogans like missiles. From one end Muslims armed with knives and lathis shouted
Naara-e-Takbeer followed by full-throated Allah-O-Akbars. From the other end came the reply: Har Har Mahadev and
Boley-se-Nihal-Sat Sri Akal. Stones were thrown at each other, abuses exchanged, and unwary pedestrians stabbed to
death. The police fired to disperse mobs, a few people were killed before peace was restored. Next morning, the
papers reported the casualties like Muslims Vs the Rest cricket scores. The scote was invariably in favour of Muslims. The
chief mason for Muslims having the upper hand was that the umpires were Muslims. Over 80 per cent of Punjab Police was
Muslim; the state government was Muslim-dominated. It was the same story all over western Punjab. Hindus and Sikhs had
begun pulling out of Muslim-dominated towns to Lahore. And finding Lahore equally unsafe, trudged on to
Amritsar and towns of eastern Punjab where Hindus and Sikhs outnumbered Muslims.
That June afternoon of 1947 remains etched in my mind. I had returned from the high court
when I heard the uproar. I ran up to the roof of my apartment. The sun burnt down fiercely over the city. From the centre
billowed out a huge cloud of dense, black smoke. I did not have to make guesses; the Hindu-Sikh mohalla of Shahalmi was
going up in flames. Muslim goondas had broken the back of non-Muslim resistance. After Shahalmi, the fight went out
of the Hindus and Sikhs of Lahore. We remained mute spectators to Muslim League supporters marching in disciplined
phalanxes chanting: Pakistan ka Naara Kya/ La-Ilaha-Il-Lal-lah.
The turmoil had little impact on the well-to-do who lived around Lawrence Gardens (today's Bagh-e-Jinnah), and on either side of the canal which ran on the eastern end of Lahore. We went about in our cars to our
offices, spent evenings playing tennis at the Cosmopolitan or the Gymkhana Club, had dinner parties where Scotch which
cost Rs 11 per bottle flowed like waters of the Ravi. In elite residential areas, the old bonhomie of Hindu-Muslim bhai
bhai-ism continued. We placed a lot of faith in the Unionist government of Khizr Hayat Tiwana who had Hindus and Sikhs in his
cabinet and was strongly opposed to a separate Muslim state. League leaders turned their ire on him. Processionists
chanted: Taazi Khabar, Mar Gaya Khizr. Then he threw in the sponge. Overnight he became the hero of Muslim sloganeers:
Taazi Khabar Aayee Hai/Khizr Hamara Bhai Hai.
The juggernaut gathered speed. Hindus and Sikhs began to sell properties and slip out
towards eastern Punjab. One day I found my neighbour on one side had painted in large Urdu calligraphy Parsee Ka Makaan. One
on the other side had a huge cross painted in white. Unmarked Hindu-Sikh houses were thus marked out. We were
within walking distance of Mozang, a centre of Muslim goondas. I did not see anyone being killed but, unknown to me, escaped being murdered myself. I had
gone to do a case in Abbotabad. I decided to walk down to Taxila to catch a train to Lahore. I was surprised to
see the road deserted. Suddenly a lorryload of Sikh soldiers pulled up and a lieutenant ordered me to get in.
"Are you crazy?" he shouted. "They have killed all Sikhs in neighbouring villages and you are strolling The Singhs with
Manzur Qadir and his wife I along unconcerned." At Taxila station, I noticed the train halt at a signal. Sikhs were
dragged out and killed. At Badami Bagh, there was another massacre. Locked in my first-class bogey, I neither saw nor heard
anything. At Lahore, my friend Manzur Qadir (later foreign minister of Pakistan) was on the platform to take me home.
By July 1947, stories of violence against Muslims in east Punjab circulated in Lahore, and
a trickle of Muslim refugees flew westwards. This further roused Muslim fury. The last time I went to the High Court I saw a
dozen Sikh students of National College in handcuffs. They were charged with the murder of two Muslims on Grand Trunk
Road, running in front of their college. Among them was Ganga Singh Dhilion, later pioneer of the demand for Khalistan.
They were produced before Justice Teja Singh, the only Sikh judge. He heed them on bail.
That had become the pattern of justice.
A week before Independence, Chris Everett, head of the CID in Punjab who had studied Law
with me in London, advisedme to get out of Lahore. Escorted by six Baluch constables, my wife and I took a train to
Kalka to join our two children who had been sent ahead to their grand-parents in Kasauli. By arrangement, I met Manzur
Qadir coming down from Simla and handed him the keys of my house.
Then, I drove down to Delhi. There wasn't a soul on the 200-mile stretch. I arrived in
Delhi on August 13, 1947. The next night I was among the crowd outside Parliament House chanting Bharat Mata Ki Jai. We heard
Sucheta Kripalani's voice over loudspeakers singing Vande Mataram. Then Nehru's Tryst with Destiny speech. What a Tryst it was! And what Destiny!
Thank you to all those who have taken the trouble to read the article and share their thoughts. Out of the arguments made here, there are two that perhaps need answering. So here they go.
1. The first part of the article compares outcomes (relative percentages of population of the religions concerned) irrespective of the process that led to those outcomes - whether immigration, relatively faster population growth or conversions. This was for two reasons. One, to put the figure of 2.3 per cent in "numerical perspective", as the article itself explained. The second reason was that outcomes are ultimately what the crux of debate is about. The rest of the article in any case dealt with process - or conversions in this case, from both a contemporary and historical perspective.
2. Some commenters have tried to cast doubts on the reliability of Census 2001. Those who do this should bear in mind that Census 2001 was conducted by a BJP government. Considering the extreme importance that BJP gives to this issue, it would be reasonable to expect that IF it had perceived a problem with the methodology that was distorting the numbers, it would have fixed it. As the article mentioned, BJP or BJP-supported governments have been in power for 10 of the last 40 years, or about a quarter of the time, and the only reasonable conclusion one can arrive at is that any misreporting of numbers, real or perceived, would be marginal and hence, not of importance.
To all other arguments made, my answer is the following: Please read the article again, with particular focus on the quotations of Vivekananda and Monier Williams, and the history of the missionary efforts in Bengal and their outcome.
Khushwant Singh's detailed and disturbing account of the Lahore violence in 1947, makes it pretty unambiguous, that the Moslem League was entirely at fault. The idea was to intimidate and terrorise the non-Moslems in the city, with the goal of either killing them outright, or to force their expulsion. This was not a 'both sides" were equally guilty environment, at all. The League and its follwers commenced their killings and lootings in March, 1947 and continued right up and beyond the independence of India in August, 1947. It was only really starting in the 2nd week of August, that there was any serious retaliation by non-Moslems against Moslems in Amritsar, Patiala and other towns. Until August, the Moslems, with 80% of the Punjab's police force belonging to the same Moslem community, and with the British standing on the sidelines grinning and giggling, had the upper hand by far in the killings. A little perspective is needed here.
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