Date: 03 Oct 2006


H I S T O R Y///////////// THE SIKHS AND PARTITION OF THE PUNJAB- 2/////////// 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 Azad Punjab scheme evoked a strong reaction from various quarters, particularly the Congress and the Communist Sikhs, the protagonists of Akhand Hindustan and the Hindu leaders of the Punjab, all of whom dubbed it as communal, anti-Hindu, anti-national, reactionary and opportunistic. The Sikhs of the Rawalpindi division, which was situated on the other side of the Chenab, were particularly vocal. They condemned the scheme as 'suicidal' and Master Tara Singh as 'Pakistanist' and 'an agent of British Imperialism'. //////////////// Master Tara Singh clarified that, far from being anti-national or another Pakistan, Azad Punjab was intended to be an alternative to the division of the country. It was a move to 'cripple' the Pakistan scheme. By changing the boundaries of the Punjab, 'we can take out the overwhelming majority' from Pakistan. Azad Punjab was certainly not 'a Khalistan on the Pakistan principle' and Ujjal Singh wished that 'a happier name' had been selected for this demand, which was intended to be a province within the Union of India. In a conference held at Damdama Sahib, Giani Kartar Singh categorically stated that the Sikhs wanted neither 'Hindu Raj' nor 'Sikh Raj'. 'What we advocate is joint rule of all parties and communities, guaranteeing safeguards and religious freedom to all the inhabitants of the country'.///////////////// It is clear in retrospect that the demand for a separate province was rooted in a genuine fear that the Sikh community would be 'lost forever' if Pakistan was established. The British admitted that the Sikh interest was 'definitely centered on the Punjab' and that bitterness between Sikhs and Muslims was increasing. The Azad Punjab scheme was essentially a defensive strategy adopted in response to the recognition of the idea of Pakistan by the government through the Cripps proposals and by the Congress through its resolution of 2 April 1942. //////////////// [] The Akalis were not unwilling to build bridges with other political parties to obviate the creation of Pakistan. It was in this context that they explored the possibilities of some kind of understanding with the Muslim League too. Jinnah hoped that the Akalis would support the League against the Unionists if some of their demands were met. Giani Kartar Singh reportedly met him in Bombay, but there was no serious discussion of any terms of cooperation between the League and the Akalis in the Punjab. /////////////// The Akali leadership had no objection to Ajit Singh Sarhadi joining the coalition ministry in the N.W.F.P in May 1943. The coalition was based on an agreement containing safeguards for the Hindu and Sikh minorities in the Province. It was also agreed that the 'question of Pakistan would be suspended and shelved during the coalition ministry'. In 1944, Jinnah failed to impose his interpretation of the Sikandar-Jinnah Pact on Khizr Hayat Khan, and expressed readiness to come to a 'fair and equitable' settlement with the Sikhs. He 'publicly' requested the Sikh leaders to 'acquaint' him with their proposals. ////////////// In July 1944, C. Rajagopalachari came out with a refined version of his offer of April 1942 so that the League's claim for separation might be accepted to secure the 'installation of a national government'. The 'C.R. formula' proposed a settlement with the League in return for its co-operation with the Congress in the 'formation of a provisional interim government'. Essentially, it allowed the inhabitants of the 'contiguous districts' with absolute Muslim majority to decide the issue of separation from Hindustan on the basis of a plebiscite, retaining by mutual agreement common interests such as defence, commerce and communication. ////////////////// The 'C.R. formula' had the approval of Mahatma Gandhi and it became the basis of the Gandhi-Jinnah talks in July-October 1944. The talks broke down because of Jinnah's insistence on having a completely independent state covering all the six 'Muslim majority' provinces in their entirety, that is, the Punjab, the N.W. F.P, Sindh, Balochistan, Bengal and Assam. ///////////// The discredited 'C.R. formula' and the abortive Gandhi-Jinnah negotiations appeared nonetheless to prove the worst fears of the Akalis that the pledge given by the Congress in 1929, which had been regarded as some kind of an insurance for the protection of Sikh interests, would be forgotten when it came to appeasing the League. The Sikhs by and large saw the 'C.R. formula' as a betrayal: their survival was at stake, but they were 'nowhere in the picture'. With the exception of Communists, the Sikhs expressed their resentment against the 'C.R. formula' from various platforms, the most important and the most vocal being the 'All Parties Sikh Conference' convened by Master Tara Singh at Amritsar on 20-21 August 1944. ///////////// The Akalis understandably were the most incensed and outraged. Master Tara Singh asked: 'If you cannot force a minority to stay in India, how can you force another minority to go out of India?' He wanted to present the Sikh case to Mahatma Gandhi, and requesting him to meet a Sikh deputation. Mahatma Gandhi assured Master Tara Singh that he would not come to a final settlement without consulting Sikh opinion. He appeared to have 'bypassed' the request to meet a Sikh deputation. ////////////// The general mood at the 'All Parties Conference' was one of exasperation and anguish. Santokh Singh, the Leader of the Opposition in the Punjab Assembly, said that 'no one, not even ten Gandhis, had a right to barter away the Sikhs'. The first resolution emphatically condemned and rejected the 'Raja-Gandhi formula' and declared that no settlement reached without previous consultation with the Sikhs and without their consent would be binding on them. ////////////// A resolution moved by Mangal Singh underlined Sikh opposition to the division of India and wanted the creation of a position wherein the Sikhs would not remain under the domination of a Muslim or Hindu majority, and in which they would get the same rights in all provinces as had been given to other minorities. By an amendment his resolution was turned into demand for an independent Sikh State. ///////////// Despite the explosive tenor of many speeches, the Sikh State was seen as the last and not a very welcome choice. The preference of the Panthic gathering was clearly for 'equal rights' and a common rule of all communities and for 'a composite cabinet of all communities' under a 'national government'. /////////////// Master Tara Singh declared that 'the Sikhs were a nation' and 'they wanted to live in this country as honourable people'. Giani Kartar Singh asked, 'if Pakistan was to come out of compulsion because Mr. Jinnah's demand could not be resisted, why not give an independent state to the Sikhs also?' The All India Akali Conference, held at Lahore in October, repeated the demand for a separate state in similar qualifying terms. ///////////// Early in 1945 the Sikh leaders submitted a memorandum to the Sapru Committee. They were emphatically opposed to 'any Partition of India on a communal basis'. In their view, Pakistan was no solution to the problem of minorities, and its acceptance would sign 'the death warrant of the future of the Sikh community as a whole'. If anything, the 'C.R. formula' was worse, because its implementation would divide the Sikh community permanently into two almost equal halves. If Pakistan was imposed by an outside power, the Sikh leaders would insist on the creation of 'a separate Sikh State' with a substantial majority of the Sikh population, all the important Sikh shrines and Gurdwaras, and provision for 'the transfer and exchange of population and property'. ///////////// The Sikhs finally demanded that 'no single community should enjoy an absolute majority in the Legislature'. This could be ensured by allocating 40 per cent seats to Muslims, 30 per cent to Sikhs, and the remaining 30 per cent to other non-Muslims. It is quite clear that the Akali demand for a Sikh State was essentially 'conditional'. /////////////// On 14 June 1945, Lord Wavell proposed a new Executive Council to be entirely Indian, except for the Viceroy and the Commander-in-Chief, as a step towards full self-government. His Plan was discussed at Shimla in June and July. Master Tara Singh met the Governor General as the representative of the Sikhs. He withstood Maulana Azad's pressure that the Akali Dal should send 'an agreed Sikh name' through the Congress. In the course of discussion with the Governor General, Master Tara Singh presented strong opposition to Pakistan. The Shimla Conference ended in a failure because Jinnah insisted that the Muslim League alone should represent the Muslims. ///////////// The All-India Akali Conference held at Gujranwala in September 1945 rejected the Wavell Plan because it was based on the discredited Cripps proposals, but decided to fight the elections because the formation of the Constituent Assembly depended upon their results. The Akalis were determined to oppose Pakistan through concerted Panthic action. 'The Sikh Panth would resist Pakistan to the last man', declared Ishar Singh Majhail, while unfurling the nishan sahib in the presence of over 100,000 people. ////////////// Master Tara Singh declared that the Panth could not rely on other organizations. 'The Communists and the Congress supported Pakistan, and the Hindu Maha Sabha which opposed it did not count'. The Congress leadership had failed to realize how Pakistan was going to affect the Sikhs in the Punjab. Despite efforts on both sides, the Akalis came to an understanding with the Congress only about a few seats. They won 23 out of the 33 Sikh seats. Both the members elected to the Central Assembly were also Akali. ///////////// The Shiromani Akali Dal emerged as the most important party of the Sikhs. The Congress won 51 seats. However, more spectacular was the success of the Muslim League. It won 75 seats. Both the Akalis and the Muslim League had fought the elections on the issue of Pakistan on opposite sides. Therefore, the election results came as a serious challenge to the Akalis. ////////////// If acceptance of Pakistan was the condition, the Akali leaders could not join hands with the Muslim League. Negotiations between the Congress and the Muslim League failed because the Muslim League was not prepared to have any Congress Muslim in the Cabinet. The only alternative now was a coalition of the Congress, the Akalis and the Unionists. With some reluctance, Khizr Hayat Khan agreed to form the Ministry. Ironically, a predominantly non-Muslim coalition was formed in the Punjab. It was strongly resented by the Muslim League. /////////// ///////////// 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). 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