Kids Corner


What a Partition





Lahore, Punjab, Pakistan 

Of the two famous Ludhianvis, Sahir Ludhianvi and Maulana Mohammad Ahmed Ludhianvi, it had to be our luck to get not Sahir the poet who wrote those immortal film songs – in that genre no one has bettered him – but Ahmed the firebrand guide to the shortest road to salvation and the broad fields of heaven.

The mosaic of Pakistani religious extremism – our very own contribution to the march of civilisation – would not be complete without the Sipah-e-Sahaba or, after its pro forma ban, its later incarnation, Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat, and the person heading it is Maulana Ludhianvi, his forbears from Ludhiana, in Indian Punjab, but our respected savant and leader himself now a fixture of the Pakistani landscape.

Sahir and his mother, fleeing the tyranny of Sahir’s father who had married more than once, had sought refuge in Lahore before Partition but Sahir couldn’t get along here and in 1949, if I remember correctly, left for India, to settle eventually in Bombay where he started writing those unforgettable songs.

And we were left with the likes of Maulana Ludhianvi.

Maulana Abul Ala Maudoodi was from Hyderabad Deccan, born in the town of Aurangabad and educated at the Darul Aloom in the city of Hyderabad. He was opposed to the Pakistan movement and the Muslim League leadership led by Jinnah because both the one and the other were not up to his standards of Islam.

But when Pakistan came into being the Maulana lost little time in migrating to this, in his view, un-Islamic country. Settling down in the Ichra locality of Lahore he went about leading the party he had founded, the Jamaat-e-Islami, and propagating his ideas about what constituted true Islam.

The Jamaat-e-Islami – through its student wing, the Islami Jamiat-e-Talaba (IJT)– to Pakistan’s misfortune, concentrated on spreading its influence in educational institutions. Over the years it succeeded so well in this endeavour that the IJT began dominating college and university campuses, in the process sowing the seeds of intolerance and violence, now a part of the national scene.

Other factors are also responsible for the decline of Pakistani education but none more so than the Jamiat’s singular contribution of being the torch-bearer of ‘danda-bardar’ or stick-wielding Islam.

Kalashnikov Islam is the temple built on that earlier edifice.

If only Maulana Maudoodi, faithful to his pre-Partition thunderbolts hurled at Jinnah and the idea of Pakistan, had stayed on in India to carry out his religious duties there, no doubt to that country’s lasting benefit, the history of Pakistan might well have been different.

There were other divines and religious figures too trying to convert over and over again the Muslims of Pakistan to Islam but none came close to the single-minded determination and high scholarship of Maulana Maudoodi, the Maulana an indefatigable writer, his Urdu prose very lucid, which made his influence all the more pernicious and lasting.

True or apocryphal the story is related of the poet Firaq Gorakhpuri visiting from India and taken by Faiz Ahmed Faiz to Heera Mandi. This was during the Zia years and as the evening progressed, the company entranced by the singing, the liquor finished and the word went out for some more but at that late hour none was to be had. At which Firaq reportedly exclaimed, “Kya kumbukht Partition thhee, husn aik taraf reh gya, sharab aik taraf reh gayi.” (What a luckless Partition, beauty left on one side and liquor on the other – although the actual adjective he used was somewhat more colourful than 'kumbukht'.)

Firaq was allowing himself poetic licence because there is no shortage of ‘husn’ in Hindustan and no shortage of the stuff which makes poets tick on this side of the border. But there is no doubt that in Heera Mandi in its heyday there was a great deal of ‘husn’ and Faiz Sahib being a discerning man, and a much admired man in different walks of life, could not have taken his guest to any but the best establishment. So Firaq, we can safely infer, was speaking from the impression of the moment.

But if ‘husn’ on a grand scale once dwelt in Heera Mandi, we have managed to preserve very little of it, under the onslaught of piety which began with the ban on booze in 1977 many of the older establishments moving away to safer and duller parts of the city.

A good part of Lahore’s professional class of beauty has crossed the sea and gone over to Dubai, adding to the riot and colour of that latter-day Babylon. Dubai is an Islamic sheikhdom, its religion Islam, but its religion not threatened by song and dance or the other invitations to sin over which Islamic scholars have in vain debated and fought for the last 1400 years, that is since the advent of Islam, without of course coming to anything like a final conclusion.

By contrast despite our size to Dubai’s relative smallness in physical terms, our faith always has been so much more fragile, always in danger. That is why our divines can’t leave us alone, sparing no effort to convert and reconvert us to Islam. Given our fixation with religion, and our incompetence in other spheres, we must be the most converted country on earth.

Now in the narrow streets where in the evenings revellers walked and painted faces hung out from balconies, and the sound of the tabla, the harmonium and the jhankar of castanets (pazebs) came from behind curtained doors, what you see are row upon row of shoe shops selling khussas (native footwear).

Indeed, we seem to have a thing about shoe shops.

Lahore’s fabled Mall where gents strolled on the pavements in the late afternoons from one teahouse to another – everyone knowing the regular tables of this legal luminary or that man of letters, or indeed that gentleman at large – has become a different place, large shoe stores occupying the once elegant spaces. That’s life, I suppose, or at least life as played out in our parts where we are yet to figure out the purpose of our national existence.

In the Lahore of old, the Pakistan of yesterday, poets and writers, intellectual cranks and impassioned orators, occupied the public space where in societies not dead you hear the sound of laughter – Peter Ustinov called laughter the most civilized sound in the world – and the echo of ideas, whether wise or foolish, being debated.

The Lahore of Faiz, of Munir Niazi, of Sufi Tabassum and Habib Jalib, of Noor Jahan and the likes of Ustad Amanat Ali Khan – I am forgetting Ustad Daman and so many others – the Mall which resounded to such slogans as the ‘East is Red’ and student rallies were taken out, believe it or not, in memory of Patrice Lumumba, that Lahore now dominated by a different kind of fervour, represented most strikingly by the warriors of the Defence of Pakistan Council and Hafiz Muhammad Saeed and Maulana Ahmed Ludhianvi.

And on the bench of the Lahore High Court where once presided the legendary Rustam Kayani cometh another presiding spirit who after stepping down from the bench takes enormous pride in representing as his counsel that other hero of Islam, Mumtaz Qadri, who for the greater glory of the faith emptied his Kalashnikov magazine into the back of the Punjab governor whose bodyguard he was supposed to be.

In this climate of enlightened opinion, scarcely surprising then if even after the slaughter of 23 FC soldiers at the hands of the Taliban – the unwatchable video promptly uploaded – our good and great in whose hands by a sardonic Providence has been entrusted our uncertain destiny should be hemming and hawing and still be in great and grave doubt as to what should be done.

The Sikhs, not Punjabi Muslims, constituted the toughest, most warlike component of the population of undivided Punjab.

With Partition we got rid of the Sikhs and on our own we are giving proof everyday of being unable to handle the extremist mess we ourselves have created. Punjab in command and Punjab shaking at the knees – and Ranjit Singh, alas, not arising from his Samadhi to come to our rescue.


[Courtesy: The News]

February 22, 2014

Conversation about this article

1: Onkar Singh (United Kingdom), February 22, 2014, 2:33 PM.

Indeed, the subcontinent would have been completely different and its citizens on both sides of the divide far better off if a third, buffer territory had been demarcated to the Sikhs. Now both countries are in the death grip of its respective fundamentalist nuts and the Sikh population is being brow-beaten to lower its standards and values to the level of the desis on the Indian side. A definite 'Lose-Lose-Lose' scenario for all concerned. No small share of the blame goes to the immoral Brits who fled within days of determining they couldn't milk the land for any more freebies.

2: Ari Singh (Sofia, Bulgaria), February 22, 2014, 4:56 PM.

India almost lost the 1971 war with Pakistan. [It was openly acknowledged then by both sides that the Sikh soldiers on the front were instrumental in changing the tide of the war ... exactly as they had been in Kashmir in 1947]. Imagine, if Sikhs had had a separate buffer state ...

3: Jasbir Kaur (Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada), February 22, 2014, 8:18 PM.

Another half-century from now, the Indians too can experience similar nostalgia and reminisce on how India too could've been saved if Sikhs had not been messed around by the disease called Hindutva.

4: Kaala (Punjab), February 22, 2014, 10:52 PM.

#2: India had almost lost the war not only in 1947 and 1971 but in 1965 too and was saved by the Sikhs. Had it not been for General Harbaksh Singh on the ground and Marshal Arjan Singh in the air, the history of this country would have been very different. Again, in the Kargil war in 1999, had it not been for Israel's help with UAVs and other hi-tech equipment, they would have lost this one too.

5: Raj (Canada), February 22, 2014, 11:37 PM.

Itedda-e-ishq hai, rota hai kya? Aagay aagay dekhye hota hai kya. This is only the beginning of the decay, the final act is yet to come.

6: R Singh (Surrey, British Columbia, Canada), February 23, 2014, 4:10 AM.

Sikhi principles are for the whole world, and not just for Punjab.

7: Dr Birinder Singh Ahluwalia (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), February 23, 2014, 10:06 AM.

I am going to reiterate what I have said many times before - the last time I checked, Punjab has been governed since independence by democratically elected (and rightfully so) political entities including the Akali Dal or the Akali party (a party claiming to represent Sikhs) and the majority of the legislators are and have been Sikhs all this time. So, in my humble opinion, people who prefer or advocate a separate state are misguided and their thoughts are not rational. I would suggest that Punjab should exist and work out its future within the secular fabric that India has promised to be, and all Sikhs in the diaspora should assist Punjab and India as a nation to achieve their full potential.

8: Kaala (Punjab), February 23, 2014, 12:06 PM.

Good to read your opinion, Dr. Ahluwalia, but do you really think India can evolve into a truly democratic and secular nation with a federal structure of governance where the rights of states and ethnic minorities are secure? As it stands right now, it is a completely theocratic, communal and lawless country. Delivery of justice is selective. Democracy can never succeed in a country where the institutions that define a democracy like the judiciary, media, government and law enforcement are not independent and impartial. Democracy can never succeed in a country where the population is not empowered, educated and free thinking. Do you really think democracy can succeed in a country where a vote can be bought for a bottle of cheap country liquor? Let me tell you an interesting fact: the fiendish mobs that went around killing, raping and burning Sikhs in Nov 1984, each member of the mob was paid Rs. 500 and a bottle of liquor for each kill. Do you really think democracy can succeed in a country where a vast majority of the population can kill for a little money and cheap liquor? Furthermore, unless they control their population, there is no way they can educate, empower and democratize 1.2 billion people.

9: Sunny Grewal (Abbotsford, British Columbia, Canada), February 23, 2014, 1:11 PM.

@7 Dr. Ahluwalia: In the early 90's, the Congress party was elected to power in Punjab after Sikh voters had boycotted the election polls. Beant Singh was elected through the Hindus in the cities and on their behalf butchered the Sikh community through rape, torture and extra judicial killings. In a true democracy, a community should not have to fear if it loses to elect its first choice, or if it refuses to exercise its right to vote in protest. In Canada, many ethnic communities are not represented in elections (Sikh-Canadians are an exception). However, none of these communities have to worry about dire repercussions for not exercising their right to vote or their inability to elect representatives from within their own ranks. If India was a real democracy, the interests of Sikhs would be represented even in the absence of their ability to participate in the election process, or in their failure to make a significant mark on the final outcome of an election. This is not the case in India. We might have Punjab in our hands (for now), but we cannot rely on the power-brokers in a one state to advance our interests in a country where Hindu interests come first ... even though it professes to be a secular country. I do not support Khalistan; however, I can understand how the idea of a separate nation could be tempting.

10: Sunny Grewal (Abbotsford, British Columbia, Canada), February 23, 2014, 1:12 PM.

@8 Kaala ji: It is possible to educate 1.2 billion people, the question is: Is it humanly possible to educate 1.2 billion INDIANS?

11: Kaala (Punjab), February 23, 2014, 3:05 PM.

@10 Sunny ji: The way it worked in Punjab in those days, the Police would be paid money as reward for eliminating the youth by the Central government. The Police (or their armed forces counterparts) would first abduct innocent youth and ask for ransom from their families. If the ransom was not paid, they would be killed in fake encounters and the "invoice" sent to Delhi. The dead bodies of these youth were never found. It is estimated that around 30,000 innocent youth were killed in the name of fighting 'terrorism'. Many of these policemen were Sikhs themselves and killed their own people for money and that is why I say that without education and economic empowerment, no democracy will succeed.

12: Raj (Canada), February 23, 2014, 9:28 PM.

Re Dr. Ahluwalia's comment: Please think of the history -- all of it related on this very site -- of how Hindus have contributed to the atrocities against Sikhs. Every incident of shaheedi, from the Gurus to the present day, has had a Hindu hand in it. Guru Arjan to the sahibzadey, were butchered by administrations of the day because Hindus played a dual game.

13: Ajay Singh (Rockville, Maryland, USA), February 24, 2014, 8:08 AM.

I agree with Dr. Ahluwalia. Let me add that Pakistan was also created so that Muslims could enjoy democracy free of the Hindu slave mentality. In case you have not heard, it is a failed state. It is Muslim-on-Muslim with a knife, no Sikhs or Hindus. Do we honestly think that we are different human beings? That Sikhs will not resort to measuring the length of beards and turbans to classify Sikhs? Let us stop playing victims and claim what is ours constitutionally. We haven't ventured in India, so far our exodus has been to foreign lands not in other Indian states. That is where our focus needs to be; carve out a Khalistan and we will be at each other's throats within a decade. We need room to grow and explore. Don't forget, we chose not to side with Mr. Jinnah because then the Muslims were our killers.

14: Karimul Fateh Singh (India), February 25, 2014, 5:15 AM.

@ #13: If a community still needs to fight constitutionally even after 64 years of India being republic and 67 yrs of independence that tells the community you do not belong here. It is the responsibility of the state to grant its citizens every right to live a life full of dignity and honour. When a state fails to keep that promise, then the voice of dissent is bound to grow. You have labeled Pakistan a failed state. Agreed, but what has India become? A worse failed state than Pakistan! In India, six states in the northeast are insurgency hit, nine states of India are fighting the Naxals. Add to that Kashmir. Which brings you to 15 out of 27 states in India in a mess. That gives you a failed nation. No matter that they are failed states, but they are sovereign and independent which is enough for both of these nations to take the right decisions to set their future path for greater glory ... something which sadly Sikhs do not have and will not have till they have a Nation of there own.

15: Sangat Singh (Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia), February 25, 2014, 6:36 AM.

There is a quote: "An army of lions (Sikhs) led by asses". There was no such dearth of them to be dazzled by the wily Brahmans and their surrogates. The Sikh leaders met the Cabinet Mission on April 5, 1946. On the same day Jawahar Lal Nehru issued the statement: "The brave Sikhs of Punjab are entitled to special consideration. I see nothing wrong in an area and a set up in the North wherein the Sikhs can experience the glow of freedom." This was to win the confidence of the Sikhs and befool them lest they should look for the security for their rights elsewhere. Here was another missed opportunity: Late Winston Churchill had a message conveyed in confidence to Baldev Singh to stay behind for a couple of days in London, so as to evolve some way to enable the Sikhs to have political feet on their own on which they may walk into the current of World History. According to George Abell, the British idea was to see how the Sikhs could be fitted in either of the two dominions with due safeguards, an idea spelled out by Cripps to Baldev Singh in the form of a question on April 5, 1946. Baldev Singh, merely a son of a Sikh rich industrialist and with no other qualifications, virtually a buffoon, disclosed the message of Churchill to Nehru. Nehru drafted a statement on behalf of Baldev Singh, to write that the Sikhs had thrown their lot with the Congress and did not want anything from the British, and sent it to Churchill. Nehru also ensured that Baldev Singh would leave London for India with him. The rest is history. I believe that Baldev Singh, when on his deathbed, did realize that costly mistake. Have we learnt any lessons? Maybe the Aam Aadmi Party might provide some respite to choose some lesser evil. (Ref. "The Sikhs in History" by Dr. Sangat Singh, 2002)

16: R.S. Minhas (Millburn, New Jersey, USA), February 25, 2014, 11:41 AM.

Power needs to go to the people, and not concentrated with leaders. It is odd that Nehru, Jinnah, Mountbatten, etc. and other outsiders who were non-Punjabis, got to decide the domicile status of a people who lived there for centuries. The powerless population was given no choice. Engineering a solution for political gains, which resulted in the largest migration in human history and further polarization, is bound to result in more of the same. It is fertile ground for any rogue politician to exploit this fantastic demographic to "democratically" circumvent laws. We see it now in Pakistan as well as in India.

17: Kaala  (Punjab), February 25, 2014, 12:54 PM.

@13: Do you think Sikhs would not kill Sikhs without us having a homeland? 'Sikhs' have killed more Sikhs than the Indian state could ever do and they did it not out of any conviction but for power and pelf. The Indian state first economically strangulated the Sikhs and then used the illiterate and impoverished segments to kill other Sikhs. So, as of now, more than anything else, the Sikh peasants of Punjab need education and economic and social progress. Without these, a Sikh state, if it were to ever come about, will never succeed.

18: Bikramjit Singh (London, United Kingdom), February 26, 2014, 12:22 AM.

Ajay Singh ji: Sikhs do not have a history of murdering fellow Sikhs because of the length of their beards. Muslims do have a long history of killing fellow Muslims, going back to a few years after the death of Mohammed. Sikhs have tried the India experiment for 67 years and we have seen it fail miserably for Sikhs having caused the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Sikhs without even an iota of justice having been served. So, should we not go for Khalistan because you have nightmares of Sikhs killing other Sikhs because of the length of their beards?

19: Ajay Singh (Rockville, Maryland, USA), February 26, 2014, 2:07 PM.

Bikramjit Singh ji: I did take some liberty in my writing, didn't mean it literally. But if anything, I am a realist and I do honestly believe that all human beings are basically same, good and decent most of the time and not so for maybe a little while. I don't think we are any wiser, smarter or dumber than Pakistanis but, yes, make no mistake, we are just as capable of murdering fellow Sikhs as any community capable of killings their own. We did our share of bloodletting during 1947, some may take a measure of solace that it was not Sikh on Sikh. How would you characterize sanctioned killing by K.P.S Gill, how about the 6 Sikh Generals during Operation Bluestar, Bua Singh, Beant Singh (true to his name), Surjit Singh Sandhu, how about the Akalis (Badal, Tohra, Longowal) since they knew about the pending attack, the current PM who has stood by and made federal ministers out of known killers. Not saying he is capable of murder but certainly can play footsies with them. Are (or were) they not Sikhs? They killed a lot of Sikhs and some of them were so young they had no beards to measure, no turbans either. How about the gurdwaras that claim to be aligned to certain 'castes'? Are these Sikh institutions? I am just making arguments to make my point. They may appear harmless now but the trajectory is pretty clear ... to me. I think deep down the idea of Khalistan reflects our reaction to the wrongs being done to us, but I am absolutely sure that that is not facing our fears but running away.

20: Kaala (Punjab), February 27, 2014, 11:18 AM.

@19: All these guys that you mentioned were collaborators on the payroll of our foes and did all the killings at the behest of their masters. Now, the question that I ask you, should we be at the mercy of our foes and their collaborators or should we have the capability to defend ourselves? These were puny henchmen who could have been easily taken care of by the law. They collaborated because wealth and power were with someone else. We too could have hired them if we had the means. Now, how to get those means? By having control over our resources and having a capability to deter those who think of harming us. We were attacked because our foes knew that we did not have the means to defend ourselves. Do you really think we can have these capabilities under the present conditions? I always come to Jews and Israel because we both have faced similar situations. Jews also suffered a similar genocide and established the State of Israel. Today, who can touch them? Such is their strength.

21: Bikramjit Singh (London, United Kingdom), February 27, 2014, 1:00 PM.

Ajay Singh ji, your argument is flawed. Citing hired murderers of the state as proof of Sikhs being able to kill Sikhs also does not give any substance to your argument. If anything, they provide evidence that Sikhs need the protection of their own state to prevent any repetition of the violence they have suffered over the last decades. In any democratic state, there is never a 100% agreement on every issue but as long as the citizens do not resort to violence to enforce their views, then that state is as strong as any in the world.

22: Ajay Singh (Rockville, Maryland, USA), February 28, 2014, 8:58 AM.

Bikramjit Singh ji, it is always the henchmen who do the killings, regardless of political, societal boundaries. Stalin or Hitler didn't personally commit murders, it was their henchmen. Neither did ALL the Hindus during the times of the Gurus or Ranjit Singh, it was their henchmen out for personal gain. Again, taking historical liberties here, not absolving anyone of their crimes. Bhindrawale said it best that Sikhs are NOT asking for Khalistan but if you force it on us, we will not refuse. Now, I am saying the current arguments for Khalistan are woefully short of rational reasons. There is no difference in its makeup, philosophy, rationale than say Pakistan or Hindustan. It will be identical to them and subject to the same pitfalls. How will Khalistan be different than the present neighboring states? Tell me something that will make me want to fight for it and promise me that my generations to come will enjoy the fruits of whatever ... there is nothing. From the Five Rivers we are down to TWO, and that too not under our control at the source. We will lose Patna, Hazur Sahib, Delhi, we've already lost Nankana and Punja Sahib. Khalistan is, I feel, doomed to struggle ... and, remember, I am a Sikh who is totally in agreement with you on our present condition. Tell me how we will be better in Khalistan, not how bad we are in India. What is different in Khalistan that will protect Sikhs from murdering the henchmen of any type?

23: Kaala (Punjab), February 28, 2014, 11:31 AM.

@22: Please consider these facts: 1) Over 25 billion dollars collected annually from Punjab as Central taxes and nothing comes back for development. 2) Chief Ministers of Punjab go to Delhi with a begging bowl, get nothing while states in the Hindu belt, like UP, gets whatever they want. 3) Industrial investment denied to Punjab on grounds of being a border state close to Pakistan while the same criteria does not apply to other border states like Himachal Pradesh on the Chinese border. 4) Tax concessions to encourage industrial growth denied to Punjab while neighbouring states granted these concessions. 5) Punjab forced to share water with non-riparian states in violation of India's own laws. 6) Punjab farmers not allowed to sell their produce in open market. Forced to sell to the Govt. agencies at much lower prices. 7) Sikhs branded as terrorists / separatists if they ask for their political and economic rights and killed with impunity. 8) Drug trafficking and demographic invasion encouraged by the state's agencies to destroy the Sikh community. The effects are already visible. Now, please share your thoughts about the future of Sikhs in this country.

24: M K S (New York City, USA), February 28, 2014, 2:21 PM.

Kaala ji, the most concise argument for Khalistan I've ever come across. Every Sikh needs to create a poster of these points and hang it on the wall. The best elevator pitch if there was one. Thank you.

25: Kaala (Punjab), March 01, 2014, 11:27 PM.

Punjab has the potential and the means to be another "Switzerland". Though economically choked and not allowed to develop our economic and industrial potential, being landlocked, and after having suffered death, destruction and discrimination, we still produce more wealth per capita then any other state in India can ever hope to do. Make no mistake about it, all this is due to the Sikh way life and thought. You will hear reports of people dying of hunger in other parts of India but never in Punjab. Sikhs have enough of deep inner resources and a healthy sense of self-esteem, which prevent them from being like the desis that over-populate this sad subcontinent.

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