Quaid-e-Azam and the Sikhs

Quaid-e-Azam with Master Tara Singh & Khizar Hayat Tiwana
Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah (1876-1948) was undoubtedly a fascinating, striking and remarkable personality. Possessed of excellent qualities of pen and mind, he played a significant role in changing the course of history and destinies of men in South Asia. A born leader of men, an experienced politician, a dynamic parliamentarian and a far-sighted statesman, he valiantly fought against the British imperialism and Hindu chauvinism in India and single-handedly won the battle of Pakistan.

More strikingly, the Quaid was not only a great defender of the cause of Pakistan, he equally struggled to safeguard the interest of all minority communities in India, irrespective of race, religion and colour. A moderate leader, he stood for a just and honourable treatment of them. Belonging himself to a minority nation, the Indian Muslims, he well understood the minority peoples. At the same time, he fully realized the dominating behaviour and mentality of majority people, the Hindus. A far-sighted politician, he did comprehend the future designs of Hindu majority raj in India. Anyway, the Quaid always remained anxious about the future of minorities in undivided India. “To live and let live” was the basic principle of his political philosophy. To support the cause of any community was an article of faith with him. He often sympathized the grievances of scheduled castes and frequently advocated the cause of Sikhs.

Sikhs, the followers of Guru Nanak (1469-1538) emerged as a simple, rather saintly sect in the Punjab during the early period of Great Mughuls (1526-1707). The early Great Mughal rulers particularly Akbar (1556-1605), had immense regard of them and their religion, and helped them in their rise and growth in one way or the other. But with the passage of time, the Sikhs forgetting their founder’s simple teachings of love, toleration, fraternity and oneness of God became a militant sect subsequently having frequent military conflicts with the Mughal rulers. These conflicts were mainly the result of misunderstandings mostly created by the Hindus, between the Sikhs and the Mughal rulers.

In fact, the Sikhs, though considered a martial community, are basically a simple people. They hardly distinguish their friends from their foes. Their characteristic implicit and inherent shortcoming of misjudging men and matters had often been exploited by the Hindus against the Mughal rulers in particular and the Muslim community in general. No wonder, the relations between the Sikhs and the Muslims almost remained strained throughout their co-existence in undivided India.

Despite the strained rather hostile background of Sikh-Muslim relations the Quaid, throughout his political career, remained moderate and sympathetic towards the Sikhs. He never hesitated to assist them in any genuine struggle to vindicate their rights as is evident from religio-political developments of the modern Sikh history. For instance, the Jaito firing case (February 21, 1924) was a tragic event in the history of the Sikhs. A Jatha of 500 Akali Sikhs clashed with the police, which resulted in considerable loss of life.” The shooting aroused sympathy for the Akali cause throughout India.” On February 27, 1924, 47 members of the Central Legislative Assembly moved an adjournment to discuss the Jaito firing. Strikingly, the Quaid was among the movers.

A more striking event of the mid-twenties was the enactment of the Gurdwara Act by the Punjab Legislative Council. It provided for the transfer of possession, control, management and internal administration of the Sikh gurdwaras and shrines from individuals (Mahants) to the Sikh community. A supplementary bill to the Gurdwara Act was moved in the Central Legislative Assembly by Alexander Muddiman, then the Law Member, to provide for a number of items that the Punjab Legislative Council was not competent to enact. On this occasion (September 1, 1925), Quaid-i-Azam took active part in the discussions. Supporting the Bill, he categorically remarked, “I am sure the House approves of this Bill…. there is nothing against it and we congratulate the Government upon having brought about this settlement and we willingly approve of this Bill…we rejoice that this great problem which affected the Punjab has been solved.

During the Gurdwara agitation, under the impact of which, the Gurdwara Act was made, many Sikh agitators had been arrested and made prisoners. Now that the Gurdwara question had been solved amicably, the Akali leaders demanded unconditional release of the Sikh prisoners. The Government was ready to accept the demand but conditionally. It insisted that the prisoners who had been convicted of serious violence of law and order would not be released. But the Quaid, continuing his speech on the introduction of the said Gurdwara Bill, vehemently urged upon the Government to release all the Sikh prisoners unconditionally. Strongly appealing and supporting the Akali leaders’ demand in this matter, the Quaid spoke thus “Sir, I appeal to the Honourable the Home Member [Muddiman], I appeal to the Government of the Punjab, and I appeal to the Government of India to consider whether they think that, in view of the position taken up by the Akali leaders and in view of the position taken up by the entire Sikh community with regard to … Gurdwara Act, there is not the slightest apprehension that any of these men who are now in prison are likely to oppose this Act or likely to resort to any violence or force and destroy the effect of this Act.” Cogently advocating the cause of the Sikh prisoners, he remarked. “Well, personally I am convinced that none of them will resort to such a position or such an action. Thus, may I appeal to Government not to insist upon this condition? I do expect on this occasion, the Honourable the Home Member to give some expression of opinion in order to meet the situation it can be considered to meet – I do not suggest for a single moment. Sir, that it is intention of the Government –that Government desire to humiliate the Sikh leaders. I hope that the words of His Excellency Lord Reading (G.G.) which were uttered in the House in his address to the Members of the Legislature recently will be remembered, and if you really wish to give effect to those expressions and those desires, then I appeal to you not to insist upon this condition.”

Likewise, we find him in February, 1927, asking the government about steps to make up the paucity of Sikh representation in services. He was really fighting for every genuine cause of Sikhs.

The Communal Award of 1932, a landmark in the history of minority communities in India, gave special weightage to the Sikhs in the Punjab, though at the cost of the Muslims. The Award was mainly the result of the deliberations of the Round Table Conference (1930-32). At these conferences, the Quaid acted as a great champion of the cause of the minorities. He was solely responsible for getting the Communal Award approved by the Legislative Assembly, otherwise, the Congress had vehemently opposed it.

The Sikhs had themselves played a negative role during the Round Table Conferences. Their delegates Ujjal Singh (b.1885) and Sampuran Singh had strongly opposed the Muslim demands, particularly that of the separate electorates. Instead, they unequivocally stood for joint electorates. So much so that they had in sheer retaliation of Muslim demands put forward a demand for partition of the Punjab according to their own wishes. At the same time, Master Tara Singh (1885-1967), then a rising leader of the Sikhs, had publicly. stressed this demand in India. But the Sikh demands received scant consideration. Nevertheless, whatever they received through Communal Award, they received mainly because of the efforts of the Quaid.

Next came the famous episode of Masjid-i-Shaheed Ganj (1935-36) when the Quaid played the role of an impartial mediator between the Sikhs and the Muslims. The Masjid originally belonged to the Muslims. But during their political domination in the Punjab, the Sikhs had illegally occupied it. Consequently, in mid-thirties the possession was disputed by both communities. As a result, communal frenzy rose high. The whole of the Punjab appeared to be in the grip of imminent danger of communal riots. But thanks to the Quaid's wisdom and mediation, the situation was controlled. Fortunately, his help was sought in the matter by both sides in time. He came to Lahore in February, 1935, and stayed there for a number of days. He met the provincial authorities, negotiated with Punjab Muslim leaders and met their Sikh counterparts. The Sikhs were really impressed by his unbiased mediation in the dispute. He was warmly received and garlanded by them. He addressed their meetings. Particularly, he addressed the meeting arranged by Sikh Students Union of Dyal Singh College, in which the Quaid was greatly admired for his services.

The Quaid showed more concern to improve Sikh-Muslim relations during the struggle for Pakistan (1940-47). The Pakistan Resolution (March, 1940), a great landmark in modern history of South Asia, envisaged Muslim domination in the Punjab as being the major Muslim majority province of would-be Pakistan. But Punjab had also exceptional significance for the Sikhs. It was the birth-place of their faith and community, major abode of their culture and society, main land of their past traditions and future dreams. Despite the fact, the Sikhs were politically in a weaker position, they were only 12-13 percent of the whole population of the province. Under democratic principle of majority rule on the basis of which the Pakistan Resolution was adopted, future seemed gloomy to the Sikhs. Hence they were naturally perturbed over the adoption of the Pakistan Resolution. The Quaid fully realised their anxiety. He assured them that they had nothing to fear.

In the course of his presidential address he delivered on the occasion of the adoption of the Pakistan Resolution, the Quaid particularly spoke about the apprehensions created among the Sikhs by the Resolution. He said, "I have had an admiration and respect for the Sikh community and I want my Sikh friends to thoroughly study the constitutional problem of India as it stands today. I am sure that they would be much better in the North-West Muslim zone than they can ever possibly be in a united India or under one Central Government. For under one Central Government their voice would be negligible.

The Punjab in any case would be autonomous sovereign unit. And, after all they have to live in the Punjab. It is obvious that whereas in a united India, they would be mere nobodies, in the Muslim homelands constituted in the western zone of the federated autonomous states, including the autonomous sovereign state of the Punjab, the Sikh would always occupy an honoured place and would play an effective and influential role".

The Quaid continued to try his best to create mutual confidence between the two communities. But the Sikhs proved irreconcilable. They played in the hands of the Hindus and the British, who instigated them to put forward a parallel demand for a separate Sikh state only to thwart the Pakistan demand, when the fact is that the Sikh leadership themselves considered it as "impossible demand" and had rejected it. Ujjal Sing and Giani Kartar Sing (b.1905) once said explicitly that the "Azad Punjab" or the "Sikh State Scheme" was only a counterblast to Pakistan. Otherwise the Sikh leaders were not sincere in their demand for a separate Sikh State. The Sikh historian, Khushwant Singh, himself remarks, "Sikh leaders did not press the case for a Sikh state with sincerity. No one took their line of approach seriously'.

While speaking with reference to the Cabinet Mission Plan (1946), over which the Sikhs were seriously perturbed, Khushwant Singh points out more clearly the absurdity of the Sikh demand, "The way the Sikh spokesmen", says he, "worded their demand for a Sikh state-not as something inherently desired, but simply as a point in an argument against Pakistan ____ robbed the suggestion of any chance of serious consideration. As a result, the Cabinet Mission took no notice of Sikhistan, Azad Punjab or Khalistan". The Sikh delegation interviewed by the Cabinet Mission was only serious and united in its opposition to Pakistan which continued to be augmented day by day. The fact is that the more Pakistan demand attained momentum the more the Sikhs became furious and violent. They made every possible effort to frustrate it. They considerably harmed the cause of Pakistan.

It is asserted by writers including Khushwant Sing, Penderel Moon, Michael Edwardes, Ian Stephens and Kirpal Sing that Muslim League was only responsible for the increasing Sikh opposition to Pakistan demand. They assert that the League leadership in pre-independence days made no sincere effort to win over the favour of the Sikhs towards Pakistan scheme. This is absolutely a wrong thesis. The League leaders, particularly the Quaid made every possible effort to win the favour of the Sikhs and assured them of their rights. "Jinnah had time and again", as writes Ch. Muhammed Ali “assured the Sikhs that their rights would be fully safeguarded in Pakistan.” Speaking in the same context, Jamil-ud-Din Ahmad says, "Not once but on several occasions the Quaid-i-Azam made gestures to the Sikh community which, however, were not reciprocated". This was very much evident from his speeches and meetings with the Sikh leaders.

In a speech at Jullundhur on November 15, 1942, Quaid-i-Azam spoke on the Sikh-Muslim question, remarking, "Since I am on the Punjab soil, I should like to say that the question between the Hindus and Muslims is an all India question and the question between the Sikhs and the Muslims is that of Pakistan and, for all practical purposes, it is a question between the Sikhs and the Muslims in the Punjab". He continued, "If our Sikh friends wish, and we wish, that there should be understanding and settlement between them and us, then I tell them. `Let us not talk at each other but let us talk to each other'. We have no design on our Sikh friends. I only appeal to them to free themselves from extraneous influences, meet us and I am confident that we shall come to a settlement which shall reasonably satisfy our Sikh friends".

Similarly, while explaining the Pakistan question to some Sikh students on March 24, 1944, the Quaid declared, "I am of opinion that every community is entitled to the right of self-determination and I do not want to deny this right to the Sikhs. But you must send me some scheme showing that the Sikhs are in majority in such and such contiguous territory". He further declared that the League would certainly concede that right. But the Sikhs never responded positively. On the contrary they frequently accused the Quaid of hatred for the Sikhs. They charged that the Quaid considered them a sub-national group. But the Quaid always politely clarified his position. Rebutting the allegation of a sub-national group, in the course of a speech at the press conference in Lahore on August 5, 1944, he remarked, "It has been brought to my notice that the Sikhs think that I have described them as a subnational group, and they feel hurt. This is only a constitutional phrase, which means people belonging to a nation who are scattered all over a given territory or even islands, such as the Muslims are in the minority provinces, and at the time I used the expression sub-national group', I made it quite clear that so are the Muslims in certain provinces". He added "I think it was clear at the time I made that speech, and since this question has been asked, I again make it clear, if possible, more clear. Sub-national group does not mean that the Sikhs are not a nation. I do not dispute that the Sikhs are a nation. The recognised leaders of the Sikhs of their authorised organisation are welcome to send their proposals to me, if they like. They should give us their considered demand now and forget the past. So far as the Muslim League is concerned, we are ready and willing to meet them in every way". He further remarked "We want to give the minorities such a deal that afterwards they may not feel that they have been taken in, but that they should be happy. This is the spirit in which I want to approach the whole problem'.

The fact is that the Quaid during the crucial moments of the struggle for Pakistan made every possible effort to placate the Sikhs and accommodate. He frequently met their top-class leaders and held negotiations with them, seeking an amicable settlement to avert the imminent partition of the Punjab. He held two settlement talks with Yadvendar Singh (1913-1974), Maharaja of Patiala, one of the greatest pillars of Sikh politics. The first meeting between the two was held on April 2, 1946, at the residence of Teja Singh, a retired chief engineer who had served as a Minister in Jaipur and Patiala states. The second meeting was arranged, a year later in early May, 1947 by Mountbatten (1901-1979), the last Viceroy of India. Two more meetings are said to have been held after the second meeting, the one at Quaid's residence at 10 Aurangzeb Road, and the other at the Imperial Hotel, New Delhi.

The details of these meetings are hardly available. But the meeting which took place at the Quaid's residence at Delhi, has, however, beer mentioned by K.H. Khurshid, his private secretary, somewhat elaborately. According to him Maharaja Patiala, Yadvendar Singh, a swarthy, tall, nearly 61/2 ft, handsome young man, arrived at 10 Aurangzeb Road to keep his appointment with the Quaid. The 3rd June Plan had been announced. The Muslim demand for Pakistan had been accepted. Although they were not fully satisfied, their objective had been achieved in the main. The Hindu majority areas were already represented in a sovereign Constituent Assembly. Nehru (1889-1964) had kept his tryst with history. But the Sikhs found themselves in the doldrums.

The Maharaja and his entourage, consisting of 3 or 4 other equal sturdy Sikhs, resplendent in their uniforms, Khurshid further writes, waited in the anteroom, opposite to his office. Their lively conversation and bonhomie indicated as they had not a care in the world. The Maharaja apart from running his own state, had recently been given an additional responsibility as Chancellor of the Chamber of Princes. He was burdened with fairly heavy duties. The Sikhs of the Punjab were disillusioned and confused. Their leadership was facing a serious crisis. A section of Sikhs looked up to the Maharaja for guidance. They also had a somewhat muffled feeling that the Congress had betrayed the Sikhs by accepting partition contrary to repeated assurances given earlier. He, therefore, could not but be a worried man.

This was the situation in which Maharaja of Patiala, Khurshid goes on, had come to see the Quaid. Any cooperation, understanding or settlement had become well-nigh impossible. The Sikh had become leaderless, angry and uncontrollable. No one could accept any responsibility. The Congress had seen to it. The Maharaja asked the Quaid what the terms and conditions would be, if Patiala were to accede to Pakistan. The Quaid, in a characteristic gesture, handed -the Maharaja a writing pad and pen and said, "You write down the conditions, and I shall accept them". The Maharaja wavered and could not decide. The Maharaja, Khurshid continues to record, later admitted that the Quaid had offered him almost "everything under the sun." But the Brahmanic spell had been cast, the Sikhs were obfuscated to think clearly.

Non-serious, wavering and irresponsible behaviour of the Sikh leaders can well be visualised from another meeting between the Quaid and Master Tara Singh said to have been arranged through some Sikh student leaders, as referred to .by Sardar Kapur in his well-known memoirs, namely, Sahi Sakhi written in Punjabi in Gurmukhi script. Sardar Kapur, an influential ICS and back-door player of Sikh political game in the Punjab, records in his said memoirs that this meeting was to be held in a bungalow in Lahore (on a certain date) at 11.00 a.m. Tara Singh reached the appointed place at ten.

He was briefed. Apparently, he looked inclined to hold talks with the Quaid. But strangely enough, at about quarter to eleven, he all of a sudden changed his mind, having been struck with a queer panic, slipped away very mysteriously from the back door of the bungalow only ten minutes before the Quaid's arrival. A few days later, when he (Sardar Kapur) talked to Tara Singh with regard to Sikh-Muslim compromise, he said that reconciliation with the Muslims was out of the question because it were they who had martyred the (two) sons of Guru Gobind Singh (1676-1708).

Such was the mentality of the top-most Sikh leaders at the time of the partition of India. Tara Singh perhaps did not know that Guru Gobind Singh, despite all his resentment whatsoever, was himself ever prepared to dialogue with emperor Aurangzeb with a view to reach an agreement him.

Despite the irresponsible behaviour of Master Tara Singh, the influential leader of the Sikhs, the Quaid continued his efforts to reach a peaceful settlement with the Sikhs. He made every possible offer to them with regard to the establishment of their own homeland as is also evident from Sardar Kapur's memoirs. Sardar Sahib writes that in May 1947, the Quaid came to Lahore. With the support of Master Tara Singh, he wanted to get the following proposals accepted by the Sikhs.

(i) The Punjab should not be divided and whole of it should be included in Pakistan, recognising the country lying between the Ravi and Jumana rivers as the motherland of the Sikhs. Within Pakistan, the Sikhs shall be a sub-nation and as such shall enjoy complete internal autonomy.

(ii) The Muslims accept that the Sikhs shall have 33% and 20% reserved seats in the Punjab and the Central Legislative Assemblies respectively, having the same percentage of Punjab's High Court and Pakistan's Supreme Court.

(iii) Either of the two offices, the Governorship or Chief Ministership of the Punjab be held by a Sikh.

(iv) The Sikhs shall have 40% share both in the Pakistan's army and the military high command.

(v) In Pakistan no Law or Constitution shall be implemented which is considered by the majority of the Sikhs as ultra vires to their interest unless, however, it is declared otherwise by the higher courts.

These proposals prove eminently that every possible offer was made to the Sikhs. The question is why the Quaid was offering so much to the Sikhs. His considered opinion in this regard was that if the Sikhs agreed to live with the Muslims, neither Punjab nor Bengal would be divided because then it would not be possible for the Hindus to demand the partition of these two provinces. The division would take place only on the demand and for the sake of the Sikhs. But the division, if it came, would break the spine of the Sikhs as well as the back of Pakistan. The Quaid was told that the Sikhs were afraid of the Muslim majority. In this regard, their previous experience was not good either. According to Sardar Kapur, the Quaid smiled and said that it was in fact the Muslims who ought to feel frightened because Pakistan created with the help of Sikhs would provide statutory assurance and guarantee to their religion, worship places, life, property, land and other interests with the result that within a period of less than six months after the emergence of Pakistan all Hindus living in Pakistan would declare themselves to be Sikhs, thus making the Sikhs (in the Punjab) a majority and converting the Muslims into minority.

Sardar Kapur records that he was tremendously impressed by the Quaid's farsightedness and pragmatic approach. He conveyed the Quaid's feelings to the top Akali leaders who instead of appreciating it behaved indifferently, rather ridiculously.

Such indifferent and irreconcilable attitude of the top most Sikh leaders is further evident from another meeting between the Quaid and the Maharaja of Patiala which has been recorded only by Sardar Kapur in his memoirs. He writes that after the failure of Jinnah-Tara Singh meeting, which in fact did not take place as the later changed his mind at the last moment. It was decided that a meeting between the Quaid and Maharaja of Patiala should be arranged. The Quaid accompanied by some Muslim and Sikh ICS officers went to Patiala. He met the Maharaja and told him that the Sikhs, like the Muslims and the Hindus, were undoubtedly a separate nation but as they did not have a majority in any area, it was not possible for the British to create Khalistan for them, even though they did not intend to leave the Sikhs unshielded. The Quaid assured the Maharaja with full responsibility that the proposals which he was going to place before the Maharaja would not in any way be obstructed by the British Government.

The Quaid, as Sardar Kapur records further, proposed that instead of a Sikh state, Greater Patiala should be demanded by the Sikhs, which should include all the Sikh states lying between the Jumana and the Ravi as well as some parts of the Punjab province, as the whole of this area was the ‘motherland' of the Sikhs. The Maharaja of Patiala being the undisputed commander of the Sikh community should be the ruler of this Greater Patiala which should join Pakistan and have all possible statutory rights. The Maharaja said, that he needed "some time so that he could think over the matter and that he would respond to the Quaid's proposal in due course of time". But the same night, the Maharaja, as Sardar. Kapur records further, secretly communicated, through his Sikh Prime Minister, the details of his talks with the Quaid to the Congress leaders in Delhi. This was, according to Kapur, a breach of the trust which the Quaid had reposed in His Highness. As a result the talks broke down.

Despite all these untoward circumstances, the Quaid really left no stone unturned to seek a settlement with the Sikh leaders in general and Maharaja of Patiala in particular. But regrettably, the topmost Sikh Leaders including the Maharaja remained unchanged. Referring to his meetings with the Quaid at Vice regal lodge and at 10 Aurangzeb Road as referred to earlier, the Maharaja of Patiala himself admits in his reminiscences published in 1959 that the Quaid had offered a Sikh state about the time of Partition. While referring to his meeting with the Quaid at a dinner given by Mountbatten, the Maharaja remarks, “Talks started and offers were made by Mr. Jinnah for particularly everything under the sun [as quoted earlier], if I would agree to his plan. There were two aspects-one was based on the idea of a Rajasthan and the other one for a Sikh state-Punjab minus one or two districts in the south. I told Mr. Jinnah that I could not accept either of his two proposals. Two days later, I was asked by Mr. Jinnah to have tea with him. I accepted and went and had tea at his residence in New Delhi. After about half an hour, Mr. Liaquat Ali Khan came and discussions began very much on the same lines as those we had two nights before. We again parted unchanged in our own points of view.”

But despite these facts, the Sikh historians like Kirpal Singh maintain that the efforts for Sikh-Muslim settlement in the Punjab failed only because of the unfavourable attitude of the League leadership. Referring to the meetings and negotiations held between the Muslim League and Sikh leaders for a Sikh-Muslim settlement, Kirpal Singh writes, "Mr. Jinnah and Liaquat Ali Khan agreed to the formation of the Sikh state with its separate military establishment within Pakistan, provided that Sikhs did not insist on the partition of the Punjab and agreed to join Pakistan. The Sikhs demanded the right of opting out of Pakistan for the Sikh state to which the Muslim leaders did not agree". Hence the Muslim-Sikh talks, claims Kirpal, broke down. No better comments can be made on Kirpal's assertion than those of Sardar Kapur Singh. Sardar cogently writes that an expectation from Quaid or the Muslim League that they would create a state for the Sikhs within Pakistan and then arm it with right of secession so that the Sikhs might break up Pakistan whenever they so desired could come only from a people too simple like the Sikhs.

The fact is that it was only the Sikh leadership and not the Muslim League leadership, which utterly failed in demonstrating political wisdom and far-sightedness at the time of Partition, a fact which can be further well visualized by M. H. Ispahani’s views which he has aptly made in this regard.

M.A.H. Ispahani had been a close associate of the Quaid. He took an active part in the Pakistan movement. He was a close eyewitness to all developments with regard to the Pakistan movement. His remarks on the matter under discussion are also noteworthy. He says, "It was during this critical period that the Quaid-e-Azam endeavoured his best to persuade the Sikhs to see reason, not to press for a tiny state but to join hands with the Muslims and share their good or bad fortune. He guaranteed them all the freedom that they wanted and assured them a life free from fear of overlordship, a life of peace and prosperity. But they refused to see reason and accept the hand of friendship which was being offered to them on behalf of the Muslims".

Ispahani continues, "With the approach of Independence, Liaquat Ali Khan had several talks with his Cabinet colleague, Baldev Singh. Mr. Jinnah met Sikh leaders and assured them that if they joined us, they would receive a very fair deal. In the later stages, i.e. on the eve of Independence, he was even prepared to concede to the Sikhs a small homeland of their own within the borders f West Pakistan wherein they could be autonomous in the day-to-day life and administration of the State".

When the Quaid was making his utmost efforts for an honourable settlement with the. Sikhs, when he was "offering everything under the sun" to conclude a Sikh-Muslim alliance for future, ironically, the Sikh leaders were making the matters worse by delivering fiery speeches. They were frightening the Muslims with genocide. Master Tara Singh was particularly furious. He repeatedly made explosive speeches in early March, 1947. On March 3, he declared, "Let the Khalsa Panth now realise the gravity of the situation. I expect every Sikh to do his duty. We shall not submit to Muslim domination. Oh! Khalsa rise and gird up your loins. The momentous hour has approached. May God be our guide and guard us". The following day (March 4), he stood on the steps of the Punjab Assembly Chambers, brandished his sword and shouted, "Pakistan Murdabad. Raj karega Khalsa bagi rahe na ko" (Down with Pakistan. The Sikh will rule, none else will survive). He roared further, "The time has come when the might of the sword alone shall rule. The Sikhs are ready. We have to bring the Muslims to their senses". Such provocative speeches and activities of the Sikh leaders led to violent communal riots in the Punjab. The Muslims suffered horribly. Their houses were burnt and their properties looted. They were massacred everywhere in East Punjab. They were forcibly driven out to West Punjab. Indeed, the Sikhs were mostly responsible for the complete destruction of Muslims in East Punjab. They had literally gone mad. Sikh and Hindu leaders instigated non-Muslims to migrate from Pakistan areas particularly from West Punjab. They wanted to cripple Pakistan economically.

In the course of these tragic events, some Muslims thought in terms of retaliation. They begged the Quaid to release funds and approve the formation of a volunteer corps to fight the Sikhs. The Quaid was a moderate and civilised leader. He could never think of violent retaliation. His answer to such proposal was in harmony with his long history of honest dealing. He said "How can you expect me to approve of such a scheme? I am not a hypocrite. I have just signed the Peace Appeal (which was also signed by Sikh and Hindu leaders) and I expect the Musalmans to observe the spirit of the appeal".

But the Sikhs did not pay any heed to the Quaid's assurances and his moderate and civilised political conduct. They again proved a simple people, and were again exploited by the Hindus and the British. By. rejecting Quaid's offer, they indeed committed Himalayan blunder. No better comments can be produced here than those of the Quaid. Talking to M. H. Ispahani about the Sikh tragedy, he remarked, "The Sikhs are not in their senses. By their unwise attitude, they are applying the axe to their own skins. Wait and see what happens after Hindu India and Muslim India become two independent nations. The Hindus, once they are comfortably settled down, will turn on the Sikhs and it will only be a matter of time before they cease to be an important, separate and influential community. The Sikhs will then rue the day but it will be too late.”

The way the Sikhs were treated by the Hindu majority, particularly by the Congress leadership in the post-independence period, proved the prophetic words of the Quaid. The Congress leaders who mischievously used the Sikhs against the Muslim League or the Muslim community as a whole, now altogether changed their attitude. In Mid August 1947, aptly records Sardar Kapur, when the Sikhs and the Muslims were engaged in brutally killing each other in both parts of the divided Punjab, Mountbatten, now the Governor-General of India asked Sardar Patel (1875-1950): “What have you thought about the Sikhs?” Patel replied, “These imbecile people have cut their own throat. They have now missed the bus.” Sardar Kapur’s remarks perhaps are not incorrect when he says, “The fact is that Raja Gulab Singh Dogra, Gernail Teja Singh and Gernail Lal Singh the traitors of 1846 were reincarnated in the form of Maharaja Yadvendar Singh, Master Tara Singh and Sardar Baldev Singh in order to make the Sikhs slaves in 1947.”

Source: Nazria Pakistan Trust

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