1947 RAWALPINDI SHAHEEDIS
We all know that the pogroms of 1947 were among the worse that the Sikhs faced in the last century. Sikhs in 1947 lost all their property, money and many lost their lives. They were forced to live in India and did not change their religion to secure their property, money or lives. After leaving everything in West Punjab (currently in Pakistan), they came to East Punjab(currently in India) and built everything from scratch. Then another massacre came in the 1980s when tens of thousands of Sikhs died for Sikhi.
The following is a narration of selected incidents that occurred in Rawalpindi area of Pakistan, in March 1947. This area was among the worse affected by the pogroms of partition in 1947. The Sikhs were massacred by the Muslims of that area. The striking thing that I wish to convey here is not that Sikhs got massacred but how bravely the Sikhs fought back aggression and how much they sacrificed to keep Sikhi. Some of the stories are very emotional and very hard to read. I am not sure if I can narrate these stories as well as they were narrated by the people who actually saw all this with their own eyes. I will try.
AREA OF POTHOHAAR I.E. RAWALPINDI AREA OF PAKISTAN
This area was the centre of Sikhi in those days. Bhai Sahib Randhir Singh jee writes that before he went to jail, this area was full of bibiyaan with dastaar and many families had adopted the strict Khalsa rehit. It was in this area where Sant Baba Attar Singh jee Mastuanawaale, did rigorous bhagti for many years. This is the land where the great Sikh, Bhai Sahib Thakur Nihaal Singh, reputed to be a brahmgiyaani gursikh, did great preaching of Gurmat. This is where Baba Khem Singh Bedi did heavy parchaar of Gurmat and inspired many to take amrit of Guru Sahib.
Sikhi parchaar was so heavy in this area that even Brahmin Hindus adopted Sikhi and became tyaar bar tyaar Singhs. This area was very prosperous and Bhai Sahib Randhir Singh jee writes in one of his books that due to increase in maaiya, may Sikh families had become weak in Sikhi and had become more indulged in worldly pleasures. Who knows, maybe this is why this area was hit most severely by the pogroms of 1947
MASSACRE OF THE KHALSA AREA OF RAWALPINDI – MARCH 1947
This small town of Theha Khalsa was one of the main towns of Pothohaar (Rawalpindi area). Sikhs and Hindus living in this town were very well off. In total about 500 families lived in this small town. There were some Muslim families living there too but there was no communal problem at all.
In the fateful month of March 1947, pogroms started in other parts of Pothohaar. It would be a serious misnomer to refer to the events as ‘riots’ because the Sikhs were not attacking anyone, just defending themselves. The Sikhs of Theha Khalsa town assembled at the local Gurdwara Sahib to discuss what to do. Sant Gulaab Singh was the undisputed leader of this village and he was from a very well-to-do family. His ancestral home was very big. During the discussions, he suggested that all the Sikhs of that village assemble at this house and stay there till the danger from the pogroms was over. He said that it would be easy to defend if all the Sikhs stayed at one spot.
He further said that at this crucial time only Guru Sahib can help them.
SIKHS MOVE TO THE HAVELI OF SANT GULAAB SINGH
All the Sikhs after hearing the emotional lecture of Sant Gulaab Singh agreed to move to his house. They brought all their money, jewellery and gold etc, along with them and assembled at his house. In total about 1200 Sikhs assembled at his house. They fortified the haveli by making bunkers and replacing regular doors with heavy doors. They covered the walls of the haveli with shields of iron.
First of all they secured a large room and brought all Saroops of Dhan Siri Guru Granth Sahib jee over there. Over 36 saroops were brought to that room. Big tanks of water were filled and large quantity of fire-wood and grains was stocked up. The Sikhs were in great danger, so they all started doing paath day and night. They asked Guru Sahib for strength to save their faith.
MUSLIMS ATTACK THE HAVELI FILLED WITH SIKHS
On March 8, 1947 while the sangat was doing Siri Rehraas Sahib paath, many thousand Muslims came and surrounded the building. They were shouting “ALLAH HOO AKBAR”, “MUSLIM LEAGUE ZINDABAD”, “KAFRON KO MAAR DO” i.e kill the infidels. There must have been at least 6000 Muslims and all had weapons. Many had guns. Some were on horse backs and they were shouting anti Sikh slogans. They were uttering obscenities against Master Tara Singh and other Sikh leaders.
The sangat kept doing simran of Vaheguru Vaheguru. The Muslim crowd assembled in the school building. It is not clear what was decided in that meeting but when they came out of the meeting they started burning the shops and houses owned by the Sikhs. Then they attacked the haveli where all the Sikhs were present. The Sikhs had some guns and they kept the crowd away.
On one side of the haveli, they attacked with great vigour. Sardar Partap Singh, a very brave young man, took along with him about 8-9 singhs and attacked the attacking Muslims. They attacked with so much force that the Muslims were pushed back. One of the bullets hit Sardar Partap Singh on his leg.
The next day again the Muslims came back but this time they did not wait for the night. They came back around 10am. The Muslims again attacked but could not get in the haveli. Then the Muslims sent a representative to talk to the Sikhs holed up in the haveli. Sant Gulab Singh refused to accept their conditions that the Sikhs should disarm themselves.
This way the fight went on for 2 more days. Finally on the last day, the Muslims came with bombs and said that they would bomb the haveli if the Sikhs did not get out of there. The Muslims promised by swearing on the Koran that they were only interested in the gold and money and not in killing anyone. The Sikhs had no choice but to get out. They did ardaas and moved out, leaving all belongings behind.
After the Sikhs came out, they got surrounded by the large crowd of Muslims. The Sikhs arrived at the sarovar of the local Gurdwara Sahib. The pathaans armed with latest weapons surrounded the Sikhs sitting around the sarovar. The Sikhs were chanting “Satnam Siri Vaheguru”. By then about 10,000 Muslims came where the Sikhs were. Along with them, they had a dozens of barbers lined up to cut the hair of Sikhs. Children were crying for food and milk. Old and young were helpless to do anything. The whole scene was a scene from hell.
Sant Ghulab Singh jee writes as follows:
“By this time Sardarni Lajavanti Kaur asked me if she could go to the well by my hut. I took her to the well and everyone washed their faces and drank fresh water. There were 90 bibiyaan (Sikh females). Many were unwed young girls. My granddaughters, grandsons, nieces, and other related women were there amongst them”.
“Soon a person came and asked me to go to the Gurdwara Sahib where the aggressors (jarvaane) were troubling the sangat. He said that the sangat was calling me. I said Sat Sree Akaal to bibiyaan and started walking towards the Gurdwara Sahib”.
“The well was about 200 feet from the Gurdwara Sahib. When I reached there, a Muslim leader came up to me and asked me, “So what have you decided?” I found out that the Singhs had been given half an hour to accept Islam or else they get ready to die. The Singhs present there said to the Muslims that they would never forsake their faith at any cost”.
“Dhan Pita Kalgidhar! I laughed after hearing this from the Muslim leader. I said, “Your cruel and tryant emperors like Aurangzeb and Farukhsiyaar too could not do anything to the Sikhs. What can you do, when they could not do anything. Do what you want to do. We will never give up Sikhi and will never become Muslims”.
“When I came to the Gurdwara Sahib, some pathaans and thugs from Punachh and Mairabaad sensing that the bibiyaan were alone at the well, reached there and surrounded the well. They addressed the bibiyaan, “Now we are going to take away your daughters and sister and will marry them after converting them to Islam.” At that time Sardarni Laajavantee Kaur could not resist Bir Rass anymore and said, “Scoundrels! Who can touch the daughters of Guru Kalgidhar. From the time we took amrit, we accepted death as reality and don’t fear it.”
The Muslims thugs got angry hearing such answer from Sardarni Lajavanti Kaur. They moved forward towards her. Sardarni jee was holding her 5 year old granddaughter and a grandson. She loudly said the Jaikaara, “Bole So Nihaal!! Sat Srree Akaal!!”. Saying this she jumped in the well, in order to avoid getting her granddaughter and herself raped by the Muslims. Within seconds all Sikh women jumped in the well. All 90 jumped in. A person came running to me and told me the whole incident. After hearing this incident, all Sikhs present there said, “Dhan Gursikhee!! Dhan Guru Kalgidhar! I dashed towards the well”.
“At that time what to talk about the pathaans but all aggressors were shaken from within. They were saying that who can kill such people who can sacrifice their lives to save their honour.”
“When I reached the well, my granddaughter, Harbhajan Kaur, my daughter-in-law Kartar Kaur and one sister-in-law Sardarni Ram Rakhee Kaur were crying as the well was full and they did not drown. By then 87 lives had been taken. They were taken out of the well. I was baffled. I uttered, “Dhan Gurdev, these daughters of yours have passed your test. Please show me the way too. At that time I had clear darshan of Dhan Guru Nanak Dev jee and Hazoor said, “You still have to see more of this bloodshed. You have to do some more sewa of sangataan”.
“After this bloody massacre, the Muslims got scared and started running away but some scoundrels were left. All Sadh Sangat came to my house and stayed there for the night. Muslims tried to find a lone Sikh to convert but could not convert anyone”.
“I climbed a tall tree and saw a scene from hell. 87 lives had been sacrificed. The towns of Dera Khalsa, Kallar, Thamali, and Beval were burning. At that time I sang out baani to get peace of mind”
“At amritvela, I got darshan of Guru Kalgidhar Jee and He said that our test was over.”
The above was written by Sant Ghulaab Singh and I have made a humble effort to translate the quoted paragraphs above. In any case, the military arrived soon and everyone was taken to the camps. The shaheedi of Sardarni Lajavanti Kaur and other Sikh women, saved the remaining Sikhs.