Date: 03 Oct 2006


THE SIKHS AND PARTITION OF THE PUNJAB-1/////////// Professor J.S.Grewal/////////// We present before the readers of <> a series of articles by eminent historian and former Vice Chancellor of the Guru Nanak Dev University and former Chairman and Director of the prestigious Indian Institute of Advanced Study, Shimla, Professor J.S.GREWAL on the partition of India and the role played by the Sikhs and Muslims from Punjab./////////////// Professor J.S.Grewal//////////// THE Indian National Congress passed a resolution at Lahore in 1929 in favour of ‘Complete Independence’ of India. The All-India Muslim League passed a resolution at Lahore in 1940 in favour of more than one ‘Independent State’ in India. Six years later, the Working Committee of the Shiromani Akali Dal passed a resolution favour of in a ‘Sikh State’. Within two years then came freedom for two sovereign states in the Indian subcontinent, involving partition of the Punjab. The partition of Bengal as well as the Punjab can be appreciated with reference to the responses of Sikh leadership to constitutional proposals involving transfer of power and territorial reorganization. ///////////////// Towards the end of March 1940, the All-India Muslim League held its annual session at Lahore and passed a resolution demanding the grouping of geographically contiguous units, demarcated after necessary territorial changes, 2 in the north-western and eastern zones of India. The resolution postulated more than one ‘Independent State’ and came to be known as the Pakistan Resolution. /////////////// Within three weeks the Secretary of State for India came out with the assurance that a Constitution could not be imposed by force on the 80 million Muslims of India. The prospect of an Independent State in the north-western zone of India carried the implication of permanent Sikh subjection to Muslim domination. 3 There was great indignation among the Sikhs who looked upon the Punjab as their ‘homeland’ and their ‘holy land’. The Sikhs would not tolerate the vivisection of India. ///////////// Master Tara Singh, President of the Shiromani Akali Dal at this time, declared that the Muslims would have to cross an ocean of blood if they tried to establish their rule. The All-India Akali Conference at Atari resolved to resist the move at all costs. The Congress took no formal notice of the Lahore resolution. ////////////// Soon after the Lahore resolution appeared a pamphlet of about forty pages under the title ‘Khalistan’. Its author was a medical doctor, V.S. Bhatti, a resident of Ludhiana. Based on the assumption that Pakistan would be created, his Khalistan was meant to a buffer state between India and Pakistan. This third state was meant to cover the central and eastern districts of the Punjab – all lying between the Chenab and the Yamuna, the princely states of Patiala, Jind, Nabha, Kalsia, Faridkot and Malerkotla, and the Shimla hill states. //////////////// With access to the Arabian Sea through a narrow ‘corridor’, this state was to be headed by the ruler of Patiala as a theocratic state, Bhatti’s ‘Khalistan’ was meant to serve as a counterblast to the demand for ‘Pakistan’.////////////// Bhatti’s political affiliation is not known. His idea was taken up by Baba Gurdit Singh, a hero of the Komagata Maru episode of the Ghadar Movement. He was closely associated with Jawaharlal Nehru in the elections of 1937. In 1940, however, he could be seen as a frustrated Congressman. Associated with him was the editor of the Khalsa Sevak, and another local leader, Ranjot Singh Tarsikka. They called a convention to propagate the idea of Khalistan in May 1940. They talked of the amanat of Maharaja Dalip Singh entrusted to the British, and extended the boundaries of Khalistan to include Jammu in the north and Jamrud on the west. Another conference held at Jagraon before the end of May asked for Khalistan in case Pakistan was created. The Shiromani Akali Dal and the Punjab Provincial Congress reacted promptly to make it clear that they disapproved of the idea of Khalistan. ///////////////// On 23 August 1940, C. Rajagopalachari made his ‘sporting offer’. The Muslim League, according to this offer, could nominate the Prime Minister to form a Government of its own liking if a national government was formed immediately by the British. The Government of India was in no hurry to form ‘a national government’. But this ‘sporting offer’ created the impression that the Congress was willing to go to any length for reaching an agreement with the Muslim League. //////////////////// The Working Committee of the Shiromani Akali Dal regarded this offer as unjust. It violated the pledge given by the Congress to the Sikhs in December 1929. 5 The Congress was requested to clarify its position with regard to the Pakistan scheme because Rajagopalachari appeared to be inclined to accept it. But there was no response. //////////////// Sir Stafford Cripps came to India with a mission in March 1942. His scheme, which appeared to concede the idea of Pakistan, allowed in fact the ‘right of any province of British India’ not to accede to ‘the Indian Union’. 6 A Sikh All-Parties Committee rejected the proposals put forward by the mission.//////////////// These proposals, instead of maintaining and strengthening ‘the integrity of India’, contained a specific provision for separation of Provinces and for the ‘constitution of Pakistan’. Secondly, they ‘betrayed’ the cause of the Sikh community. The right of plebiscite given to a Province was unfair as no option was given to its minorities. Therefore, the Sikhs would resist ‘separation of the Punjab from the All-India Union’ by all possible means. ‘We shall never permit our motherland to be at the mercy of those who disown it’. /////////////// The Sikh leaders suggested the following safeguard: ‘By delimiting the present provincial boundaries of the Punjab, a new Province comprising of Ambala and Jullundur divisions with the three districts of Amritsar, Gurdaspur and Lahore be constituted’.///////////// Many Akali Jathas and Singh Sabhas all over the Punjab opposed the Cripps proposals during April and May to express their solidarity with the Sikh All Parties Committee. They assured all support to the Panth in this ‘hour of crisis’. Since the draft proposals were not to be modified, the Sikh leaders felt convinced that the British had merely enacted a ‘charade’ to concede the Muslim League’s demand. Master Tara Singh described the situation as ‘very critical’ and asked the Sikhs to prepare, if need be, for a single-handed struggle. Baba Kharak Singh of the Central Akali Dal declared that ‘so long as there was a single Sikh there could be no Pakistan in the Punjab’. The Punjab Governor wrote to the Governor General after the Cripps mission that the Sikhs regarded themselves ‘as being in danger or everlasting subjection to an unsympathetic and tyrannical Muhammedan Raj’. //////////////// In July 1942, the Akalis thought of the Azad Punjab scheme to protect the Sikhs from the domination of a single community. An ‘ideal province’ could be created with a balanced population of about 40 percent Muslims, 40 per cent Hindus and 20 per cent Sikhs so that the Punjabis would be free from domination of any single community. Freedom from domination would justify the name ‘Azad Punjab’. /////////////// The Punjab thus reconstituted was to have ‘joint electorates’ with no reservation of seats’. The Hindu and Sikh minorities in the Muslim majority province in the north-west were to get 25 per cent and 15 per cent weightage respectively. After taking into consideration the population, property, land revenue and historical traditions of each of the three communities, the river Chenab was later proposed to be the dividing line between the two provinces.///////////// [To be continued]////////// //////////////// Jagpal Singh Tiwana Dartmouth, Canada /////////////////// [Non-text portions of this message have been removed] Please promote the learning of Gurbani, Gurmat and Sikh History amongst your near and dear ones by asking them to join the Gurmat Learning Zone (GLZ). To join GLZ or recommend someone's name, send an email to Feedback and suggestions may be sent to our Editorial Advisory Board at GLZ is part of the Akaal Purkh Ki Fauj international movement. Click to view the Sikh Reht Maryada. 000000000