By Wajahat Masood
(Translated from Urdu by New Age Islam Edit Bureau)
29 December 2018
The founder of Pakistan, Mohammad Ali Jinnah, wanted a separate country for Muslims but his political upbringing in a pluralist society prevented him from declaring Pakistan an Islamic state. Contrary to the general perception in India, Mr Jinnah was arguably a secular and liberal Muslim who wanted a Pakistan where all citizens would be equal in the eyes of the constitution irrespective of their religion, caste or creed. But leaders like Liaqat Ali Khan and power hungry opportunistic religious leaders wanted it to be otherwise. In this beautifully written series titled, "Objectives Resolution and Secularism", Mr Wajahat Masood delves deep into history to find out how Jinnah's dream of a secular and democratic Pakistan was shattered. – Editor
Similarly, the renowned researcher and historian of the sub-continent Ahmad Salim has tried to cover the human aspects of the division of India and later the division of Pakistan ( Independence of Bangladesh) in two volumes. The title of the first volume is ‘The Land of Two Partitions and beyond’ whereas the 2nd is titled “Reconstructing History”. However, the authors included in both the volumes have put primary emphasis on the tradition of tolerance and harmony among different communities and the scope for peace and brotherhood in future Instead of political analysis and historical reality. This aspect, despite being lofty is not helpful in historical objectivity and political analysis.
While narrating the riots in the west Punjab Sindh and Pakhtunkhwa, an objective approach has not been adopted on either side of the border. The former Principal of Layllpur Khalsa College, Sardar Gurbachan Singh Talib had published an important book titled ‘Attacks on Hindus and Sikhs in the Punjab in 1950’ on the riots in West Punjab and Frontier Province. Due to the fact that the book was published by the Gurudwara Prabandhak Committee and that it had included the tales of only affected Hindus, excluding the violence unleashed on Muslims, it can be said that the book does not fulfil the criterion of objectivity.
Nevertheless the official statistics and the important excerpts from contemporary newspapers given in the book cannot be ignored. Moreover, the most important part of the book is the supplement which contains date-wise details of the incidents of violence with the help of the police records. The 100-page supplement covering the incidents from December 1946 to the end of August is a n important historical record which contains details of incidents and the religious identities of the attackers and the victims. If the details of persecutions and victimisations of the Muslims of the east Punjab was also documented in the same way, it would not be difficult to prove that beliefs had nothing to do with the barbarism committed in the name of religion.
Masood Khaddarposh is remembered in certain sections in Pakistan, especially in the Left circles and among the flag bearers of the politics of Punjabi language as Masood Bhagwan. He is famous for his services to the Bhil tribe and for his contradictory note on the Bari Committee. He was the deputy collector of Nawab Shah in 1947. He had learnt that some of his family members had been killed in east Punjab. He was dying for revenge. During the entire span of the riots, only one train carrying non-Muslim refugees was attacked in which not a single passenger survived. The attack was carried out at Nawab Shah Sakrand meter gauge line, and according to official reports, the attacks had the covert support of deputy collector Masood Khaddarposh.
The distinguished historian Hamida Khuhro, the daughter of the first chief minister of Sindh, Ayub Khuhru has narrated the incident in detail in the biography of her father titled “Md Ayub Khuhro: A life of courage in politics”. The famous social activist of Sindh Ruchi Ram is still alive and a witness to the incident. The illustrious historian Ahmad Salim based on his own observations and analysis, even goes on to declare Masood Khaddarposh the man behind the riots in Karachi on January 6, 1948.
Mushtaque Ahmad Wajdi in his book ‘Hungamon Mein Zindagi’ (A tumultuous life) has chronicled the heart wrenching tales of blood and gore:
“Coming out of the office I would see the red sky due to the flames rising from the burning houses of the Hindus. The caravans of the Muslims were fleeing the east Punjab, being killed or burying the dead on the way. On reaching Pakistan they would fall to the ground half dead. On the other side, hordes of Hindus were fleeing. For both, the roads were closed. The Boundary Force, instead of protecting them would fire at them. The army was picketed at the station. I would visit the place every day in order to take care of the treasury.
Within half an hour of a particular day, I saw forty one people getting killed by firing while on the run to escape death. The dead bodies would be dragged aside and dumped. I wanted to save them but did not know how. I was helpless. I tried to convince some soldiers that it was against the dignity of a Muslim to fire at unarmed people fleeing to save their lives, but nobody listened since I was not an army officer. The soldiers would not even want to talk to me.
I saw some people writhing and went over to them. A Sikh was asking for water in a feeble voice. I rushed to the office and came back with a glass of water. But before water could go down his throat, his eyes froze. Qaid-e-Azam had declared that non-Muslims would be secured in Pakistan. The accounts department needed them badly. Some of them stayed back depending on my promises and assurances. They were killed along-with their women and children. I managed to save only two of them.”
In the concluding part of this narration, Mushtaque Ahmad Wajdi writes:
“We had assured the Hindus that they would live with us as ‘Zimmies’ (wards). But those who believed in our assurances and stayed back were killed along with their women and kids. When the Muslims were being massacred in Delhi, Jawahar Lal Nehru would run around in the streets of Delhi madly. I did not find any Muslim League leader even wagging a finger in an attempt to protect the ‘Zimmies’ when they were being slaughtered in Pakistan.”
I do not question Jawahar Lal’s concerns over the riots, but Mushtaque Ahmad Wajdi has gone wrong here. There was at least one person in the Muslim League about whom we can say without being at the risk of repudiation that he was deeply traumatised by the riots and manifestations of barbarism in the religious differences on both sides, and tried to quell the riots as well as maintain fundamental civic tolerance between Muslims and their compatriots—Hindus and Sikhs. And the leader was Qaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah.
After the riots of the east Punjab in March 1947, at the initiative of the Viceroy Lord Mount Batten, Mahatma Gandhi and Qaid-e-Azam had issued a jointly signed appeal for peace which was broadcast on the AIR. Gandhiji had signed in English as well as in Urdu in the appeal. The copies of the appeal were circulated in large numbers in the affected areas. However, the appeal was issued so belatedly that by that time, non-Muslims in the affected areas had almost been wiped out.