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The Demand Of A Sikh Homeland, Was It Possible To Take It From Britishers?


Apr 3, 2005
This thread is for discussion,whether it was possible for sikh leaders to carve
a sikh state from undivided India.Please share your thoughts along with the source

Sikhs played so important a role in the British Indian Army that many of their leaders hoped that the British would reward them at the war's end with special assistance in carving out their own nation from the rich heart of Punjab's fertile canal-colony lands, where, in the "kingdom" once ruled by Ranjit Singh (1780-1839), most Sikhs lived. Since World War I, Sikhs had been equally fierce in opposing the British raj, and, though never more than 2 percent of India's population, they had as highly disproportionate a number of nationalist "martyrs" as of army officers. A Sikh Akali Dal ("Party of Immortals"), which was started in 1920, led militant marches to liberate gurdwaras ("doorways to the Guru"; the Sikh places of worship) from corrupt Hindu managers. Tara Singh (1885-1967), the most important leader of this vigorous Sikh political movement, first raised the demand for a separate Azad ("Free") Punjab in 1942. By March 1946, Singh demanded a Sikh nation-state, alternately called "Sikhistan" or "Khalistan" ("Land of the Sikhs" or "Land of the Pure").


Apr 3, 2005


Giani Kartar Singh, according to Lord Mountbatten, was "accepted leader" of the Sikhs along with Master Tara Singh. Sir Evan Jenkins, the last Governor of colonial Punjab described him as "influential Sikh Leader". In 1947, he was President of Shiromani Akali Dal, the recognized representative body of the Sikhs. During transfer of power he made all efforts to improve the position of the Sikhs. In the course of his last interview with Sir Evan Jenkins he bitterly cried to express the shock that the British could do nothing for the Sikhs. Tehsils of Ferozepur and Zira of erstwhile District Ferozepur are part of India owing solely to his efforts — these had been awarded
to Pakistan in the provisional Punjab Boundary Award. He effectively initiated the mass migration of the Sikhs to the Eastern Punjab by personally leading the biggest caravan of Lyallpur Sikhs to India and brought concentration of Sikhs (or Sikh majority area) in the Indian Punjab. In free India, he was able to identify the Punjabi speaking areas by implementing Giani Sachar Formula on the basis of which Punjabi speaking state was formed. As a matter of fact, he is one of the makers of modern Punjab. But for him, the history of Punjab and especially the history of the Sikhs, would have been different. It is, therefore, very important to study his significant role during the period of transfer of power.

Not Partition of Punjab Alone
Giani Kartar Singh was a signatory to all memoranda which were submitted to demand partition of Punjab. He signed MLAs' representation to Lord Mountbatten in which splitting of Punjab had been demanded. But he emphasized transfer of Sikh population along with partition of Punjab. His aim was clear, that the Sikhs should be concentrated in the districts surrounding princely states of Punjab where a Sikh state might be established. The pamphlet entitled Hindu-Sikh Province which was published in his name was not his creation. It was written by late Dr M S Randhawa, ICS, who himself disclosed this to me,1 and Giani Kartar Singh's name was used. It was published and distributed by Dr Randhawa. What Giani Kartar Singh wanted was the Shiromani Akali Dal's
resolution which was passed on 16th April 1947, when he was the president of Shiromani Akali Dal : "Shiromani Akali Dal notes with satisfaction that the nationalist Hindus and Sikhs of the Punjab have fully agreed to the partition of the Punjab. Recent barbarities of the Pakistani Muslims on the Hindus and Sikhs of the Punjab have left no other solution of the communal tangle except the partition of the Punjab. "Shiromani Akali Dal demands that before the transfer of powers to the Indian hands in June 1948, the Punjab should be divided into two provinces, and for the redistribution of the provincial boundaries, a boundary commission should be set up. The terms of reference whereof should be to demarcate the provincial boundaries keeping in view :

a) population
b) landed property
c) land revenue, and
d) historical places and traditions of the various communities.

"The Shiromani Akali Dal further demands that facilities be provided for exchange of population
and property and that special arrangements be made for the protection of honour, integrity, and
sanctity of the historical and religious places.
"The Shiromani Akali Dal also appeals to all the Panthic organisations and workers to unite and
solidly stand behind this demand."2
Giani Kartar Singh was not averse to coming to some settlement with the Muslim League on the issue of Pakistan. He was present when there was a meeting of Akali leaders with Jinnah and Maharaja Patiala on April 5, 1946, the details of which I have given in a footnote on page 87 of my book, Select Documents on Partition of Punjab. Giani Kartar Singh also attended Muslim MLAs' conference to probe the attitude of Muslim League leadership towards the Sikhs, but he was informed nothing beyond that 'in Pakistan the Sikhs would be treated well'.3 According to Moon, this lukewarm attitude of Jinnah towards Sikhs was due to his lack of knowledge about Sikhs. He had aptly stated that Jinnah knew as much about Punjab as Neville Chamberlain did of Czechoslovakia.4 When Lord Mountbatten came to India in March 1947, he, like his predecessor, Lord Wavell,
came to the conclusion that India had to be divided. This conclusion was drawn after long series of talks with the Indian leaders of different shades of opinion. Giani Kartar Singh and Master Tara Singh also met the Viceroy and impressed upon the necessity to divide Punjab on landed property and payment of land revenue basis so that minimum number of Sikhs should remain in Pakistan. Lord Mountbatten ultimately accepted the demand of partition of Punjab in his famous 3rd June plan — which is known as Partition Plan.

Giani ji's Note to Viceroy
After the announcement of the 3rd June plan, Giani Kartar Singh realised that the British had rejected the demand of a Sikh state. On the other hand, by the notional division of Punjab as incorporated in the 3rd June plan, the Sikhs had been equally divided into India and Pakistan. It dealt a severe blow to the integrity of the Sikhs as a community. This was a big challenge. Its solution was found in suggesting that the partition of Punjab should not be made on the basis of population alone and other factors like Sikh shrines, landed property, etc., should be taken into account.
Secondly, Giani ji was very keen that Sikhs should not be divided – they should be brought to India. For this, he suggested exchange of Sikh population. Had this been agreed to, there would have been much less bloodshed and violence in both parts of the Punjab. After 3rd June plan, other problem was that if all the Sikhs migrated to India what would be their status. Giani Kartar Singh foresaw this problem and he wanted the Viceroy to enforce
reservation or other safeguards for the Sikhs. All these demands were made in a note submitted to the Viceroy during his meeting with Giani Kartar Singh on 20th June. Its text was as follows :


The main problem confronting the Sikh community, at the moment, is the line of demarcation, separating the Eastern Punjab from the Western Punjab. Our anxiety, in the matter is well known. Our cultural, linguistic and spiritual affinities as also our economic well-being, and the solidarity and integrity of our populace have been placed in jeopardy by the notional division of the Punjab. Every Sikh, in whatever situation he is placed, feels most acutely about it. Faith is put in the words used in Your Excellency's broadcast speech and it is hoped that the permanent division will be fair and just to the Sikhs; as it is expected that the boundary line will be demarcated in such a manner that it brings a substantial majority of the Sikh population in the Eastern Punjab. The Sikhs will not be satisfied unless at least 89% of their population is brought into the Eastern Punjab by demarcating the boundary line properly. Nanakana Sahib, the birth place of Guru Nanak, the founder of the Sikh faith, and the adjoining Hindu-Sikh majority belt spreading in Lyallpur, Sheikhupura and Gujaranwala districts and a just share of the colony areas ought to be included in the Eastern Punjab, wherein the Sikh population can be shifted. After
the wholesale massacre of the Sikhs in the Rawalpindi Division the Sikhs are in no mood to cast their lot with Pakistan. While demarcating the boundary of the Eastern and Western Punjab provinces, greatest good of both the provinces should be kept in view.( TO BE CONTD)


1. See footnote No. 68 of my work, Partition of Punjab, 2nd edition, 1989, p.25
2. Select Documents on Partition of Punjab, Kirpal Singh, Delhi, 1991, p. 43
3. Partition of Punjab, op. cit., p. 45
4. Ibid., p. 45
5. Select Documents on Partition of Punjab, pp. 137-38
6. Ibid., pp. 292-99
7. Partition of Punjab, 2nd Edition, 1989, pp. 99-100
8. Ibid., p. 100
9. Ibid., p. 37-88
10. Master Tara Singh informed me about this.
11. Partition of Punjab, p. 207
12. Select Documents on Partition of Punjab, pp. 164-167




Apr 3, 2005
Here is another perspective from Muslim Author on Partition

Partition of Punjab
Ishtiaq Ahmed

South Asia Post Issue 45 Vol II, August 15, 2007

Scholarly works on the partition of India are legion, but those focusing on the partition of the Punjab are very few. Ian Talbot and Kirpal Singh indeed have pioneering works on the Punjab partition to their credit, but much more research needs to be done to shed light on the dynamics of that cataclysmal event. After all the greatest forced migration in history with its gory tales of massacres, looting, arson, rape, abduction of women and children and other acts of savagery were essentially facets of a Punjabi tragedy.

Why and how this happened will be elaborated in my forthcoming book. On the 60th anniversary of the partition of the Punjab it is appropriate that a sketch of the main events is shared with the public. I shall in a series of articles trace the main events that culminated in the bloody division of that province.

Although ideas of partitioning Punjab had existed since at least the beginning of the twentieth century it was only in the wake of the March 23, 1940 Lahore Resolution adopted by the Muslim League that the Sikhs began to demand that the Punjab should also be partitioned on a religious basis.

Sikh religion, culture and history were inextricably linked to the Punjab -- the founder of the Sikh faith, Baba Guru Nanak (1469-1539) and his spiritual successors were Punjabis, the only great kingdom ruled a Sikh, the Kingdom of Lahore under Maharaja Ranjit Singh (1799-1839), was essentially a Punjabi state, most of the holy shrines of the Sikhs and the vast majority of their community were based in the Punjab. Therefore the Sikhs demanding partition appears to be a contradiction in terms. But they did and the question is: why? Certainly the clues are not to be found in their demographic complexion.

Unlike the Muslims who were in majority in the northwestern and northeastern zones of the subcontinent, the Sikh were not in a majority anywhere in the Punjab, not even in the central districts where they were mainly located or in their holy city of Amritsar. According to the 1941 census their overall proportion of the total Punjab population was 13.2 per cent in the British-administered areas and it increased to 14. 9 per cent if the Sikh states were also included. The Muslims had an overwhelming majority of 57.1 per cent in the British areas, which decreased to 53.2 per cent if the Sikh states were included. The Hindu population was 29.1 per cent in British districts and it declined to 26.6 if the Sikh states were included. The Sikhs were not in a majority in any of the major Sikh states either.

The Sikh argument was that India should not be partitioned, but if it became inevitable then the Punjab should be divided and the borders between a predominantly Muslim Punjab in the West and a Hindu-Sikh majority East Punjab should be drawn on the Chenab, so that East Punjab would include their holy places as well as the majority of the community. The Sikh leadership feared persecution in a predominantly Muslim Pakistan, just as the Muslim leadership argued that permanent Hindu Raj based on caste prejudices will be established if India remained united.

On February 20, 1947 Prime Minister Clement Attlee announced that His Majesty's Government intended to transfer power to Indian hands, in a united or partitioned India, by June 1948. The Sikhs reacted angrily to that declaration because no mention of a Sikh right to a separate homeland was included in it.

In the meantime, the Muslim League had launched on January 24 1947 direct action in the Punjab against the coalition government headed by Sir Khizr Hayat Tiwana, which it alleged was not representative of the Muslims of Punjab. The main supporters of Punjab Unionist Party, the Muslim landlords, had decamped and were now members of the Punjab Muslim League. The Muslim League won 75 out of the 83 seats fixed for Muslims. Two Unionists crossed the floor and joined it but it was still short of a majority by 10 seats in a house of 175.

On the other hand, the Unionist Party led by Tiwana was routed in the election. It won only 18 seats. Tiwana managed to put together a coalition government, which included the Akalis and other Panthic Sikhs who won 23 seats and the Congress which did very well by winning 50 general seats. The coalition government also included some scheduled caste members of the Punjab Assembly.

Direct action or a civil disobedience movement as the Muslim League preferred to call it lasted from January 24 to February 26. Its mass character multiplied every day and the jails were filled with leaders and cadres who defied Section 144 and were arrested. Although it remained peaceful, each day the slogans the crowds shouted became more and more menacing and threatening, striking fear and terror in the hearts of the non-Muslims.

Slogans such as, 'Pakistan ka nara kiya? La illahah illillah (what is the slogan of Pakistan? It is, there is no God but Allah), 'Assey lein gey Pakistan jaisey liya tha Hindustan' (we will take Pakistan the way we took India) were raised all over the Punjab. Some slogans directly insulted the Punjab premier in a most abusive and shallow manner. Towards the end of the agitation the demonstrators began to harass Hindus and Sikhs and made them fly the Muslim League flag on their cars and shops.

The government and the Muslim League, however, reached an agreement on February 26 according to which the agitation was called off and the Muslim League leaders and cadres were released. But those several weeks of mass agitation provoked a determined reaction from the Hindu and Sikh leaders in the Punjab who vowed not to let a Muslim League minority government come to power. On March 2 Khizr resigned. He had been badly shaken and demoralised by the abuse directed at him and by the fact that the landlords had abandoned him.

The Punjab Governor, Sir Evan Jenkins, invited the Muslim League leader Nawab Iftikhar Hussain Khan Mamdot to prove that he had a majority in the house. Although he claimed that he could muster a majority with the help of some scheduled castes members of the Punjab Assembly Mamdot failed to do so. That created a political impasse. Governor Jenkins therefore imposed governor rule on March 5 under Section 93 of the India Act of 1935. Punjab continued to remain under governor's rule until partition in mid-August 1947.

The author is a visiting senior research fellow at the Institute of South Asian Studies (ISAS), National University of Singapore on leave from the University of Stockholm, Sweden. isasia@nus.edu.sg Courtesy News International Pakistan
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