August 1947: 'Qurbani' or Communal Madness?
The Simplistic Narrative of Qurbani (Sacrifice)
It’s the month of August, the month in which Pakistan got its independence more than seven decades ago. We, the Pakistanis, have grown up hearing a cliché that the creation of Pakistan was owing to the sacrifices of millions of Muslims who laid their lives towards the cause. This simplistic narrative is also taught in the schools where the children are taught about the atrocities unleashed upon the Muslims in the Hindu majority provinces during the partition days. Even many learned persons follow this one sided version of history which is also depicted in various shows airing on different media channels.
Mr. Jinnah On The Pakistan Movement
On the contrary, the founder of Pakistan Mr. Muhammad Ali Jinnah openly boosted of getting the state of Pakistan without firing a single bullet. In his broadcast speech on 30th October, 1947 from the Radio Pakistan, he stated:
“…We have undoubtedly achieved the state of Pakistan, and that too without bloody war, practically peacefully, by moral and intellectual force, and with the power of the pen, which is no less mighty than that of the sword…..”
There’s an absolute contrast between the statement of the founder of Pakistan and the version our children are being taught today. There’s no doubt that the partition accompanied bloodbath with it. However, the large scale communal massacre started happening in the mid of August and continued for a couple of months. The 3rd June plan, the basis of the division of India, was accepted by all the stakeholders in June, more than two months before the large scale riots actually started. Moreover, the Indian Independence Act was finally passed on the 18th of July, 1947.
Partition Riots, a Calamity for Everyone
There’s another thing which needs to be clarified. The Muslim community was not the only one which suffered from the partition. There’s no doubt that Punjab was the hub of the bloodbath. A systematic massacre of the Muslims did happen in the East Punjab but the Sikhs and the Hindus were also the victims of the atrocities in the West Punjab. Economically, they were the ones who lost the most in Punjab as they were comparatively stable than the Muslims. The massacre also resulted in the largest forced mass migration in recent times. The Shah-Almi locality of the Hindus and the Sikhs was set ablaze in Lahore which resulted in them fleeing from the city. On the other hand, Amritsar, which once constituted almost fifty percent of the Muslims, was cleansed of its Muslim population.
The damage was collective for all the communities who lost a lot, both the lives and the properties. The number of deaths occurred varies historian to historian but half a million somewhat looks an accurate estimate. Dr. Ishtiaq Ahmad has researched a lot regarding this topic which is available in the form of the book Punjab: Partitioned, Bloodied and Cleansed. According to him, the Muslims suffered almost double compared to the Hindus and the Sikhs in terms of human lives. On the other hand, the Hindus and the Sikhs were at loss in terms of financial wealth.
There remains no doubt the communal madness which accompanied the partition was not in any way ‘Qurbani’, and shouldn’t be associated with the Pakistan Movement. Pakistan was already a fait accompli before the massacre started in Punjab and other parts of the subcontinent.
Partition Turmoil in Contemporary Works
Saadat Hassan Manto, a celebrated Urdu storyteller, has written several short-stories depicting the events of those times, of which ‘Garland’ is a worth mentioning one. In that story, he stated that the statue of Sir Ganga Ram once stood on the Mall Road of Lahore. During the days of communal frenzy, a mob attacked the statue of Ganga Ram, as it was of a Hindu philanthropist. A few also put a garland of shoes around the neck of the statue. The police arrived and opened fire. Some got injured. The people, without realizing the irony, shouted, "Let us take the wounded ones to Sir Ganga Ram Hospital".
The Ganga Ram Hospital was built by none other than the same philanthropist which still operates in the city of Lahore today.
Monument to Pay Homage
As far the people who lost their lives are concerned, neither the Pakistani government nor the Indian government has ever tried of building a monument to pay homage to them. Perhaps, the Wagah Border is the most appropriate place for that which would also help the two countries of the subcontinent come closer.