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Mirpur 1947 – the untold story

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Although we generally assume, that Panjab was the scene of mass murders of Sikhs during the partition, there was also another battle ground, which saw scenes from West Panjab being re-enacted on its minorities. I found this article and wouild like to share it with the forum members, and encourage members to also share any links/stories, that they feel the cyber sangat may benefit from.

from :http://www.khalidhasan.net/2007/03/16/mirpur-1947-%E2%80%93-the-untold-story/

The savagery that gripped the Subcontinent at a moment in history which should have been its most glorious remains inexplicable. While a great deal of academic work has been completed in India on the massacres and the movement of millions from one part of the divided land to the other, little of that has been done on our side, which is yet another pity that can be added to the long list of pities that every Pakistani carries in his heart.

Some years ago, I published a book of reminiscences about Jammu and how its Muslim population had been all but decimated in 1947, ironically with the connivance, if not at the directions, of the Maharajas government, which was supposed to have protected them. That slim book remains the only first-hand account, as far as I know, of what life was like for the Muslims of Jammu before 1947 and what happened to them as India and Pakistan awoke to freedom. Some copies of the book, Memory Lane to Jammu, found their way to Jammu and several people who read it later said that they really had no idea what had happened to the Muslims of Jammu city and outlying areas in 1947. Included in the book was a first-hand account recorded for the late Justice Muhammad Yusuf Saraf by Dr Abdul Karim, more than twenty of whose family members were killed and whose daughter was abducted, never to be found. He himself received eleven sword and knife wounds on his body and was left for dead.

A couple of months ago, I received an email from Bal Kishan Gupta, a retired engineer who lives in Georgia. He wrote, I read your article on Jammu 1947 on the website. It is a heart rending account of the massacre of Muslims in Jammu. I am from Mirpur and was a witness to the slaughter of the Hindus and Sikhs of Mirpur. As a matter of fact, I am one of the few survivors of the Alibeg concentration camp. As Muslim refugees from Jammu mark the anniversary of the November 5 Jammu killings, the Hindu and Sikh survivors of Mirpur remember the November 25 holocaust of Mirpur. He asked if I would publish his story and I said I would.

The account he sent me is harrowing. He was only ten at the time but he says he has a photographic memory. Many members of his immediate family, including some of his uncles and his great grandfather, a man of ninety, were killed in Mirpur. Some of what Gupta has recorded I have tried to corroborate from sources on our side but without luck. Hardly anything is on record. Even Justice Saraf in his two-volume history of the freedom movement in the State has confined his account to the military encounters that took place between bands of Pathan irregulars, sections of the Pakistan army and freebooters and the remnants of the Maharajas forces. It is not a satisfactory account and its gung-ho, super-patriotic tone is troubling because I expected more objectivity from a judge and Kashmiri patriot.

Justice Saraf writes that Mirpur district had Hindu majorities in its three principal towns of Mirpur, Kotli and Bhimber. Many Hindus fleeing from West Punjab had taken refuge in Mirpur town, swelling its non-Muslim population to 20,000. According to him, local mujahids and Pakistani volunteers cut off the Mirpur Cantt and a 500-strong force moved towards Mirpur town which was surrounded by the second week of November 1947. A force of 1,000 of tribesmen from Dir also joined in. Most of the atrocities committed against the non-Muslim residents of Mirpur were by these men, though Saraf does not record that. The outer defences of Mirpur city crumbled and many houses were set on fire. He writes, At about 4 pm (on 23 November) a column of humanity was seen emerging from the barbed wire enclosure on the Eastern side, made up of civilians and flanked by Dogra troops, which soon abandoned their helpless charges. The caravan scattered and as Saraf puts it their condition was pitiable; the effects of the fighting and the conditions of siege were clearly noticeable; they were emaciated, exhausted and frightened. By the evening, there was no Hindu or Sikh left in Mirpur town. Saraf records that while some Pathans as well as local Muslims wanted to kill the Hindus and abduct their women, they were prevented from doing so and the people who had now become refugees in their own land, were sent to Alibeg Gurudwara which was turned into a refugee camp.

Guptas memories are different. As a ten-year-old child I, along with 5,000 Hindus and Sikhs, was held prisoner in the Alibeg prison. On March 16, 1948, only about 1,600 prisoners walked out from Alibeg alive. I was one of them. Most of the survivors of Alibeg have died since the horrific massacres. As one of its few survivors, I feel compelled to document the events I witnessed. Around November 25, 1947, there were nearly 25,000 Hindus and Sikhs living in Mirpur. During the citys capture, close to 2,500 were killed in the infernos that erupted due to Pakistani artillery fire. Another 2,500 escaped with the retreating Jammu and Kashmir army. The remaining 20,000 were marched in a procession towards Alibeg. Along the way, Pakistani troops and Pathans killed about 10,000 of the captured Hindu and Sikh men and kidnapped over 5,000 women. The 5,000 Hindus and Sikhs who survived the 20-mile trek to Alibeg were imprisoned. In Janaury 1948, the Red Cross rescued 1,600 of the survivors from Alibeg. Between 1948 and 1954, around 1,000 abducted Hindu and Sikh women were recovered from Pakistan and Azad Kashmir.

Gupta writes, My grandmother Kartar Devi, my paternal uncle Mohanlal Gupta, and my maternal great-grandfather Lalman Shah were some of those who died in the infernos of Mirpur. My mother Padma Devi and my aunts, Rajmohni Gupta and Sushila Gupta, were some of the women kidnapped from the Mirpur courthouse. My wifes grandmother Diwan Devi Gupta and aunt were among those killed during the forced march towards Alibeg. My wifes cousin, Sesh Gupta, was one of the girls kidnapped by Pathans. Her fate is not known to this day. My mothers uncles, Lal Chand Dhangeryal, Chander Prakash Dhangeryal, Dina Nath Dhangeryal, Khemchand Bhagotra and her many cousins (whose names I do not remember) were killed. I saw Sardar Ibrahim in Alibeg surrounded by his bodyguards. The only helpful Muslims to visit Alibeg were Chaudhri Abdul Aziz of Datial village, who saved many Hindu children and women in his village, and Fateh Mohammed of Serai Alamgir who saved some Hindus from being slaughtered.

Many Mirpuri Hindus and Sikhs settled in Jammu, where there exists a Mirpur Road and a memorial sacred to the memory of the men, women and children who were killed for no other reason except that they were Hindus and Sikhs. I close this sad story with a snatch from the poem Faiz Ahmed Faiz wrote on his return from Dhaka: When will the eye behold the sight of grass without blemish? How many rains will it take for the blood spots to wash away?

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The problem with the partition was that it created more problems than in solved. The main upside of the partition is that East Punjab has been without a large Muslim minority since 1947 which we all know would have been a disaster for the state. The downside is that partition was never followed to its logical conclusion. Allowing large populations of Muslims to remain in India after 1947 has been a mistake. Another major mistake made by the GOI was that it did not seek to compensate fully the losses suffered by the Sikhs and Hindus from West Punjab. The Muslims having only a majority of 56% of the population of the whole Punjab got 62% of the land which went to Pakistan. Full compensation could have been achieved if the GOI had followed partition to its logical conclusion and forced out the large Muslim landholders of UP and passed their lands onto the refugees. Also the case of Kashmir should have followed the example of Kapurthala state. Kapurthala state although ruled by a Sikh Maharaja had a Muslim majority of 56% in 1947. As the Maharaja asceded to India the population majority which was a major factor in the British districts became negated. The same could have been the case in Kashmir. The Muslims of Kapurthala were forced out and the land given to the refugees from West Punjab. The same could have been done in Kashmir which would have allowed for the resettlement of excess refugees from West Punjab in Kashmir rather than in UP or Rajasthan. Even you have 10 million people uprooted from Punjab then a further 2 million uprooted from Kashmir would not have made a great difference. The farce that Nehru got into with Kashmir is examplified by the fact that even Kashmiri Sikh refugees were not allowed full settlement in the Indian controlled state and many were resettled in Ganganagar in Rajasthan!

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The Muslims having only a majority of 56% of the population of the whole Punjab got 62% of the land which went to Pakistan.

yes, this was totally unfair, partiton was based on head count, but the land distribution was on whole units of land, districts, tehsils, etc.

The farce that Nehru got into with Kashmir is examplified by the fact that even Kashmiri Sikh refugees were not allowed full settlement in the Indian controlled state and many were resettled in Ganganagar in Rajasthan!

These Kashmiri Sikhs, were they mainly non jatts/farmers? If so do you know what they got in compensation for their losses, or was it only land that was partially recompensated ?

Does anyone know of any survivors from the Hazara/Kashmir massacres of Sikhs?

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I've read somewhere that the worst violence that happened in Mirpur was done not by the Mirpuris themselves but by the Pathan tribals who invaded the territory. They were very ruthless with the Sikhs and Hindus. They took the violence on a whole new level. Hundreds of women if not in the thousands were taken and literally sold in the tribal areas of Pakistan for a mere 10 to 20 rupees. While thousands of women from Punjab were recovered on both sides of the border and returned to their families, but the women taken by the armed Pathans in Mirpur were never recovered. Needlessly to say these poor women must have lived a miserable existance. But I don't put as much blame on the primitive minded Pathans as much as I would blame on Jinnah for this. Sending the armed Pathans to Kashmir was by the order of Jinnah in order to capure the whole J&K kingdom. He must have known how they would treat the Hindus and Sikhs of the area. Even previously the direct action day violence in Bangal, violence in Hazara against the Sikhs in 46 was also by his order.

My mother's side of the family came from Lyalpur. My grandmother tells me that in 46 they saw many Sikh coming from the north west area of Punjab. At first they couldn't understand why they are leaving their area because at the time Lyalpur was untouched by the violence. Although Sikh opposed the creation of Pakistan on religious lines but they were ready to become citizens of the new state. But violence forced them to leave their homes and move to the Indian side. I think today Pakistan would have been a very prosperous nation had it's Hindu and Sikh population been allowed to stay.

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A few years back I read that the British Governmnet was very worried that the victims of the 1947 masacres may start making claims against them for compensation. The more I read about Mountbatten the last viceroy in India the more I find he was incompetant. Mountbatten, Nehru, Jinnah and Baldev Singh should have pressed for security for all and Baldev Singh should have at least obtained legal autonomy. The last British Govenor of Punjab has requested British troops stay for a while in Punjab to ensure things went smoothly but was refused by Mountbatten who wanted to cut British 'costs'! There is a lot of balme for Mountbatten and Nehrus feet for the deaths as they were the Indian reps. Baldve Singh seems to have been a failure. The patition is something Britain likes not to discuss .

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The last British Govenor of Punjab has requested British troops stay for a while in Punjab to ensure things went smoothly but was refused by Mountbatten who wanted to cut British 'costs'!

probably down to ww2 ending the year before, which had left britain exhausted.

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The British as the colonial power had a duty to protect their subjects, the same subjects who paid taxes and who had fought on behalf of the British for over 100 years. The excuse of exhaustion is a poor one as having fought for over 6 years they could still have spared a few hundred thousand troops for a year to ensure a peaceful handover. Mountbatten is shown as some sort of expert administrator who had an impossible job of which he did his best, but he his decisions ensured that over half a million British subjects were murdered. I suppose he got his just desserts when the IRA blew him up!

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The British as the colonial power had a duty to protect their subjects, the same subjects who paid taxes and who had fought on behalf of the British for over 100 years.

I suppose he got his just desserts when the IRA blew him up!

Im not so sure, the Empire was largely built on Britains self interests, and exploitation. I dont think no matter what they had creamed off india, they would have bothered to send their own troops there.

i have no probs with the ira killing mountbatten either.

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My great uncle was involved in a lot of fighting trying to protect Sikh refugees going to East Punjab in 1947 when he was in the Indian Army. When he got back to East Punjab he said that there were rumours that the Patiala State had fallen out with Montbatten and that Montbatten had wanted the RAF to bomb Sikh villages or towns that had been reported to have gotten rid of their muslim populace. Failing that he had wanted to deport Sikhs to Central India but the British commanders didnt have the stomach for putting a well armed population into cattle cars and transporting them to camps.

I have no idea if it was true, but it certainly shows what was going through people's minds back then.

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