Date: 1/7/2004



On March 5, 1947, rioting had spread to almost all parts of LAHORE. Hindus and Sikhs were stabbed in Gumti Bazaar, Kinari Bazaar, Kasera Bazaar and Rang Mahal. The police pickets suddenly disappeared from these localities. Shops were looted and burnt. A Muslim mob assisted by National Guards arrived in Rang Mahal and began to loot the shops. The non-Muslim residents offered resistance. Thereupon a Muslim Sub Inspector with a police party arrived on the scene and aopen3ed fire upon the non-Muslim defenders. A Hindu yo9ung man had the temerity to make a protest to the Sub Inspector and on this, the Sub Inspector overpowered him and shot him dead. Instances of this type were reported from several localities of Lahore. A numbe4r of houses and shops in different parts of the city, all owned or occupied by non-Muslims, were destroyed by fire. There was hardly any traffic on the Mall. Schools were closed down and it became unsafe for children to venture out even in the middle of the day. Tension and anxiety increased on all sides, though the first fury of the rioting died down after three or four days, and on March 11, there was quiet in the city although the streets were completely deserted and all shops were shut. On March 14, Mr. Nehru and Sardar Baldev Singh paid a visit to Lahore and were horrifie3d to see the damage done by the hooligans

Riots began in Amritsar almost simultaneously. On March 6 the train from Batala was stopped by a Muslim mob at Sharifpura, a suburb of Amritsar. Several Hindu and Sikh passengers were killed and when the train reached Amritsar, pools of blood were seen in many compartments. The women’s compartment contained a number of dead bodies. A Hindu Magistrate posted at Amritsar had gone to Lahore for a days’ holiday. He hurried back to duty, and, outside the railway station, he saw a crowd of frightened and excited men rushing from the direction of the city. They were shouting that firing had begun. Picking his way with difficulty through this mob he reached home and rang up the District Magistrate for instructions. To his astonishment, the District Magistrate4 ordered him to go to the hospital and record the statement of injured persons. At the hospital he saw heads almost severed from bodies, bellies ripped open with intestines protruding from the wounds, arms and legs chopped off and all kinds of horrible injuries. Many of the patients could hardly speak and anything they said could not stay the holocaust proceeding in the city. On March 7, Amritsar was reported to be a veritable inferno. Fires were raging in different parts of the city. Non-Muslim shops in Hall Bazaar, Katra Jaimal Singh and the surrounding areas were destroyed or greatly damaged. By the next day 140 deaths had been recorded at the mortuary; the actual number of dead and wounded far exceeded these figures. Many dead bodies were consumed by the fire, others were buried under the debris of fallen buildings.

It appeared that the British Deputy Commissioner and the Police officers had lost their heads and did not possess the ability or the courage to deal with the situation. The District Magistrate displayed an amazing degree of indifference towards all calls for help and the Muslim Deputy Superintendent of Police declined to risk the lives of his po9licemen and proceed to the city from where huge columns of fire and smoke could be seen rising, while the shrieks of the frenzied mob and their victims added to the confusion and horror of the scene. It was, however, soon clear that this indifference and lack of courage were due to a callous disregard of the non-Muslim life and property, for it was observed that very few Muslims suffered during this preliminary phase of the disturbances. All factories save one, owned by non-Muslims within the jurisdiction of ‘D’ Division Police Station, were burnt down. The Jawala Flour Mill alone stood in tact and supplied food to the city. If this mill were destroyed the whole of Amritsar would have starved. The Deputy Inspector General of Police was persuaded to depute a guard of Hindu p9licement for its protection. A day later the Hindu policemen were replaced by Muslims, apparently under the directions of the Muslim Deputy Superintendent of police. When a Hindu Magistrate rang up the District Magistrate and asked him to call in the military and declare Martial Law, the later merely swore and banged the telephone receiver down. The non-Muslim officers were placed in positions from which they could make no contribution towards efforts to restore peace. They were entrusted with routine duties of patrolling the Civil Lines and the suburbs. They were frequently sent out on a wild goose chase to stop imaginary Sikh “jathas” (groups) said to be converging towards the town. Muslim Magistrate4s assisted by Muslim Police officials were in charge of the city and lent their support and connivance to the miscreants. The Muslim hooligans were well organised mobs carrying their own ambulance arrangements. Doctors in white overalls and stretcher beare3rs accompanied them on their raids. The Muslim League agitation of January and February had prepared them for this event and they had acquired a sense of cohesion and solidarity. On the other hand, weeks of quasi-peaceful processions, when no open conflict between the communities took place, had lulled the non-Muslim into a false sense of security, and when the Muslim assault began they were taken completely unawares. They suffered grievously both in life and in property.

The devastation caused by fire and the difficulties of leading a normal life during long curfew hours were aggravated by the breakdown of essential services. The scavenging staff disappeared, the water pipes in many places were broken or cut, electric supply became uncertain. Heaps of night soil and dirt covered the streets from end to end. Broken wires, electric poles and mounds of rubble lying everywhere added to the gloom and desolation of the city. Only the rationing service continued to function throughout. The Rationing Controller (Mr. RD Mathur) worked day and night6 and saw that every depot was well supplied with flour. Inside the city he distributed bags of flour to trusted residents, Muslim and non-Muslim alike, and gave them directions that they were to supply the needs of the entire street or block of houses.

The rioting continued for a whole week before it was brought under control.

In Multan, too, clashes began on March 5. The Hindu and Sikh students of the local schools and colleges took out a procession to protest against the shooting of peaceful students in Lahore. A mob of Muslims armed with lathis, daggers, spears and shouting, ”Leyke rahenge Pakistan, Pakistan zindabad” (“We shall not rest till we get Pakistan. Long live Pakistan.”) attacked the procession near Bohar Gate and inflicted injuries on several students. Within a short time trouble spread to other parts of the city and Muslim hooligans ran about the streets murdering Sikhs and Hindus, looting their shops and houses and setting fire to them. This state of affairs continued for the space of three days. Of the first eight persons killed, seven were Sikhs. Thirty-eight injured persons were admitted into hospital on March 5. The victims had been attacked with swords, daggers or hatches. Several houses and shops were on fire and Muslim crowds were reported to be obstructing the operations of the Fire Brigade.

A fanatical Muslim mob invaded the Shri Krishan Bhagwan Tuberculosis Hospital outside Delhi Gate and began to butcher the miserable patients in their beds. The Hindu compounder who tried to argue with the hooligans was immediately killed. Every sick man, woman or child in the hospital was done to death and then the hospital building was set on fire. Blocks of houses near the railway bridge, known as Serai Wan Wattan, were sprayed with petrol and set ablaze. About twenty-five houses owned by Hindus on Circular Road were burnt down. All houses and shops on the road leading from the Town Hall to Kotla Tola Khan, the houses in Khuni Burj, and the shops in Sabzi Mandi were looted and destroyed by fire. The palatial house of Seth Kalyan Das was attacked and burnt down. The owner came out to reason with the mob but was cut to pieces in front of his door. Dr. Saif-ud-Din Kitchlew, the3 well-known Congress leader, was at the time staying with Seth Kalyan Das. He was recognized and was immediately surrounded by the mob. A number of Muslim Leaguers took him to a house and offered to release him if he signed the Muslim League pledge. Dr. Kitchlew refused and tried to make his way to the railway station. He was attacked and beaten but was able to escape live.

The temples and Gurdwaras in the city were looted and desecrated. Many of them were burnt down. The old Dharamsala of Bawa Sant Das, the Shivala in Serai Wan Wattan, the Jain temple outside Delhi Gate, the shrine of Baba Safra, Kultarianwali Dharamsala, the local Gaushala, were all reduced to ashes. The temple of Jog Maya and Ram Tirath Temple were desecrated, the idols were smashed and thrown out. The devotees living on the premises were slaughtered. The Devpura Temple and Devta Khu were similarly attacked and the inmates done to death.

A number of young girls were kidnapped. An Army officer patrolling the town saw four non-Muslim girls being driven in a tonga. They cried to him for help and he was able to rescue them.

The police took no steps to quell these disturbances which were wholly one sided. At least one Sub Inspector of Police was seen shooting at unoffending Hindus and Sikhs. An Army officer arrested him but he was released on the orders of the Deputy Commissioner and the Superintendent of Police. The military finally brought the situation under control in the city of Multan on March 7, but, in the meantime, the rural areas were ablaze and looting and burning of villages started on a large scale. An Army officer while on patrol duty saw fires in the villages of Aliwala, Thulwala, Chak, Bhikwala, Kotwala, Kuruwala, Sukhanwala, Bhandewala, Godhawala, Isawala, Turger, Chandhar and Khujan. This continued for several days and it was not till a large Army force was sent out with instructions not to brook hooliganism at any cost that comparative peace was restored.

A number of other districts were involved. In the words of Mr. Akhtar Hussain, Chief Secretary to Government, Punjab, “With the news of grave events radiating from Lahore, there has been bloodshed and burning in many districts and rural areas have paid the price levied by insensate fury as well as towns.” The district of Rawalpindi was the worst affected area and the non-Muslims who were in a small minority I the rural areas perished in large numbers.

“Stern Reckoning” by GD KHOSLA. O.U.P., ISBN: 019 562417 3. (pp. 100-106).