December 15, 2019
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Anatomy Of A Riot

Authentic accounts of what really happened in Lahore in 1947

Anatomy Of A Riot
Anatomy Of A Riot
Lahore 1947
By Ahmad Salim
India Research Press Pages: 277; Rs 250

Those who’ve lived in Lahore remember what a fascinating city it was. But it was rent asunder on the eve of Partition, and hell was let loose; bewildered refugees from East Punjab thronged its streets for shelter, and other equally bewildered refugees fled from Lahore to save their lives.

In a collection of reminiscences from those living in Lahore in those fateful days, including eminent names from both sides, here is a vivid and authentic account of what really happened.

At one level, personal loyalties remained strong till the end, friend helping friend, and neighbour helping neighbour, despite religious frenzy. Khushwant Singh writes how Muslim friend Manzur Qadir hid his servant Dalip Singh in his house when Khushwant was away. In another account, even as riots raged, a Hindu bank manager went by car all the way from Lahore to Kapurthala to bring his Muslim friend’s family; Satish Gujral describes how refugee columns on their way from West Punjab to India, and vice versa, would help each other with water and other necessities when their paths crossed.

One aspect of the situation was the belief, mostly among the elderly, that there was no need to migrate: “One ruler may exit and another take his place, but the subjects remain where they are....” Another facet was the mistrust that had long been growing between the communities, largely fostered by the British. This mistrust increased when the boundaries were nonchalantly marked by the Radcliffe Commission.

But the one factor that whipped up communal frenzy and led to brutalities of the worst kind was when trains, plying between East and West Punjab, steamed in with loads of dead and wounded co-religionists. This was the flare-up that turned Lahore into a burning hell. In the words of Sir Mohd Zafarullah Khan: “The Punjab seemed to have become a howling wilderness of beasts rather than a land of human beings. All humanity disappeared.”

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