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Partition Agony Of Women During The Partition


1947-2014 (Archived)
Jun 17, 2004

RAWALPINDI: From an early age, students are taught the basic aspects of the Partition of India more like a chronicle of events, inevitably leading to the vivisection of the subcontinent, without any heed to the true power dynamics and politics behind the conflict and its outcome. The publicly available history of Partition had left some serious questions in my mind which needed to be addressed. My doubts were due to the fact that I had been told completely different versions based on personal experiences by elders who were actual witnesses to the painful drama as compared with official versions recorded in textbooks. From a sociological perspective, no aspect is as vital as the catastrophic impact in the lives of people who endured massacres and rape, witnessed the slaughter of other communities and saw forced migrations en masse.

To discover the truth, I interviewed senior citizens from various locations in Rawalpindi and its suburbs where violence was widespread during Partition. As a part of that study, I visited Thoha Khalsa, a village of Kahuta, for four consecutive days earlier this year. This village is located southeast of Rawalpindi, and was home to a very large community of Sikhs before Partition.

I have recorded four stories as narrated by the local residents of Thoha Khalsa who witnessed the tragic incidents of that time. Later, with the help of my two Delhi-based friends, Gurpreet Singh Anand and Raj Aryan, I recorded an online interview of Bir Bahadur Singh, who left the village during the disturbances from 6-13 March 1947. No Sikh or Hindu remained in the village after the March 1947 rioting, except one girl, Phagwant Kaur, who was married to a local Muslim resident of the village and had converted to Islam.

There are many incidents of honour killing of women in partition stories. Muhammad Aslam witnessed Sikh women jumping into a well to take their own lives. Here is an excerpt from his interview:

“I am originally from Thoha Khalsa; I was 16-year-old in 1947. We were living peacefully in the village. People were very friendly and co-operative. Sikhs were very rich people as they ran the shops and had thriving businesses. They often helped us on money matters. I used to visit Darshan Singh’s house quite often. On the evening of March 6, Muslim mobs from the surrounding villages entered Thoha Khalsa and gave ultimatums to the Sikhs to convert. On that evening, the impact of their presence was negligible due to the lateness of the hour but the actual clashes started the next morning, when their numbers swelled to some thousands. After resisting for three days, the Sikhs hoisted white flags from their havelis. They had only acted in self-defence. But when defeat and dishonour was imminent, Sikh men started killing their own women. I still remember when Bhansa Singh killed his wife with tears in his eyes. They all gathered in the central haveli of Sant Gulab Singh. In the span of some hours, I witnessed the deaths of almost 25 women. It was such a horrible scene. For six days, the whole village witnessed orchestrated looting and killing. While their men fought, the Sikh women started gathering near a well around the garden. It was almost after noon, and I watched from nearby with two of my friends. Some of the women held their children in their arms. They sobbed desperately as they jumped into the well. In about half an hour, the well was full of bodies. I went closer and realised that those who were on top were trying to submerge their heads. No space remained. A few came up and jumped again. It was a terrible scene. They were determined to die rather than sacrifice their honour. In one week, all the remaining Sikhs and Hindus were compelled to leave their native place.”

Haroon Janjua

Published in The Express Tribune, October 20th, 2013.


May 10, 2010
Ancient Greece
Trilokpuri turned into a killing field. The police refused to intervene.

Bedi ran with his elderly and ailing mother. "A cousin who was visiting us also ran with us," Bedi said.
The anti-Sikh violence erupted on the evening of Oct 31 in south Delhi, close to the hospital where Indira Gandhi was declared dead, and quickly spread to almost every part of Delhi.

“Gurdip Kaur, a 45 year old woman from Block 32, Trilokpuri, told a typical story. Her husband and three sons were brutally murdered in front of her. Her husband used to run a small shop in the locality. Her eldest son, Bhajan Singh, worked at the railway station; the second, in a radio repair shop; and the third as a scooter driver.

She says, ‘On the morning of 1 November, whenIndira Mata’s body was brought to Teen Murti, everyone was watching television. Since 8.00 am, they wereshowing homage being paid to her dead body.At about noon, my children said, “Mother, please make some food.We are hungry.” I had not cooked that day, and I said, “Son, everyone is mourning. She was our mother too. She helped us to settle here. So I don’t feel like lighting the fire today.”

‘Soon after this, the attack started.Three of the men ran out, and were set on fire. My youngest son stayed in the house with me. He shaved off his beard and cut his hair. But they came into the house. Those young boys, 14 and 16 years old, began to drag my son out even though he was hiding behind me.

‘They tore my clothes and stripped me naked in front of my son. My son cried, “Elder brothers, don’t do this. She is your mother just as she is my mother.” But they raped me right there, in front of my son, in my own house. They were young boys, maybe eight of them. When one of them raped me, I said, “My child, never mind. Do what you like. But remember, I have given birth to children. This child came into the world by this same path.”

‘After they had taken my honour, they left. I took my son out with me, and made him sit among the women, but they came and draggedhim away.They took him to the street corner, hit him with lathis, sprinkled kerosene over him, and burnt him alive.

‘I tried to save him but they struck me with knives and broke my arm. At that time, I was completely naked. If I had even one piece of clothing on my body, I would have gone and thrown myself over my son and tried to save him. I would have done anything to save at least one young man of my family. Not one of the four is left.”

(When a Tree Shook Delhi, page 70)



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