The Saga of Partition : Selfless Saviours Untold Saga of India’s Partition
The RSS swayamsevaks have always risen to every crisis faced by the country, whether natural or man-made. One such crisis befell India when our leaders, in their eagerness to enjoy the perks of freedom, meekly accepted the Partition
When we talk about the holocaust of Partition, it is often argued that we should not harp on something that took 70 years back. Why to rake up the horrifying past? Why to nourish a tendency for clinging to the past?
But in the larger interest of the society and the country, it is absolutely essential and desirable to bring to light the monumental tragedy that took place in 1947.This ever-inspiring history is etched in the blood of swayamsevaks, our mothers and sisters and soldiers. On the one hand, the whole country was celebrating the advent of freedom with full fervour, each and every Mohallah of Pakistan-occupied parts of Sindh, Punjab and Bengal was singed in flames. The shops and houses of Hindus were being openly plundered. It defies imagination to articulate the atrocities that our mothers and sisters were subjected to; caravans of wailing refugees were marching to India after losing not only their material possessions, but their loved ones too. How can we forget their indescribable, endless sufferings, and why should we do so?
The RSS swayamsevaks have always risen to every crisis faced by the country, whether natural or man-made. One such crisis befell India when our leaders, in their eagerness to enjoy the perks of freedom, meekly accepted India’s Partition, whereas they had always assured the countrymen that, come what may, India’s dismemberment will never be accepted. The people had been lulled into such false assurances. That’s why they were totally unprepared for any contingency arising out of the Partition. But it became a reality and not only shops, houses, and agricultural fields, but the lives of Hindus too were imperilled in the newly created Pakistan. At this juncture, swayamsevaks with the spirit of selfless service to the society, religion and the country, came forward and mitigated the people’s woes.
The first need was to take Hindus to safe places, look after their needs of sustenance and then rehabilitate them on arrival in India. The swayamsevaks accomplished all these tasks with courage, bravery and conviction, without worrying about their own lives. They did whatever was necessary for protecting the Hindus. It is not possible to describe this all in one article, however, a few examples are cited below:
A committee was formed to help the refugees coming from Western Punjab, after being subjected to plunder and ravages. The committee comprised of Congress members as well as the swayamsevaks. But troubles started erupting right from the beginning. The Congress members not only used to indulge merely in issuing statements, but also used to shamelessly gobble the help material handed out in cash and kind for the victims. The swayamsevaks were delivering their duties with conviction and reliability. Despite it, the Congressmen used to create roadblocks in the way of selfless services being rendered by the swayamsevaks. Then swayamsevaks started working separately by forming ‘Punjab Relief Committee.’ After the swayamsevaks severed their ties with the Congress committee, it became virtually defunct, as it had very few people driven by a selfless spirit.
The homeless and uprooted refugees needed to be supported in multiple ways as they were forced to flee their homes leaving all their valuables behind. Most of them had to abandon their homes with bare minimum possessions. At the call of the Sangh, all Sikhs supported the help mission with open arms. The swayamsevaks used to get more than expected cooperation wherever they went. People would contribute new, rather than old, worn out clothes. There was no dearth of clothes, medicines and foodgrain in the relief camps run by the Sangh. The swayamsevaks used to go around seeking help by taking out a sheet and in no time the sheet used to get filled up with money contributed by the people. At the root of this overwhelming support was the people’s profound belief that there won’t be any misuse of the contributions made by them and the money handed
over to the swayasevaks would reach the people for whom it was meant.
In the beginning, the Sangh’s office was opened in the mansion of Diwan Krishan Kishore Thakur in Ratan Bagh area of Lahore. Two relief camps were set up, one opposite the station and the other in Arora Vansh Hall. When the work increased, the office was shifted to the mansion of Dr Gopichand Narang at Montgomery Road. His mansion had a huge vault, which used to be choked with the relief material. Gradually, the area of the committee got extended as the requirement rose manifold. The committee had to undertake several other works, apart from the rehabilitation of the homeless. For instance, escort children, women and elderly people, during riots, to safe places or relief camps; protect the Hindus in the midst of riots; give a befitting reply to assailants; take the injured to the hospitals and arrange for their treatment; organise funerals, extinguish fires and arrange for the rescue of women with the help of Army. The number of refugees was growing by the day as the displaced were coming from all corners. Soon, the branches of the relief committee were set up in towns and villages too. The committee got the same support everywhere as it had in Lahore.
Before the birth of Pakistan, the Punjab Relief Committee used to look after the DAV camp with the support of the people, but when Pakistan was formed, the Government of India took up the responsibility of that camp. The committee now had most of the salaried people, but 100 swayamsevaks rendered honorary services. It was their responsibility to bring back Hindus stranded in riot-affected areas and the kidnapped women.
The Congress committee had set up a refugee camp in Amritsar. But people were so fed up that they did not want to see the faces of their workers. Like Lahore, the swayamsevaks had set relief camps for the displaced at other places too. There was an arrangement for 5,000 people in Dera Baba Nanak; for 10,000 in Madhavpur; 3,500 in Sujanpur; 4,000 in Gurdaspur; 7,000 in Batala, and 1,000 in Dharmval. In Abohar, 65,000 people were fed for 15 days and 25,000 people were given utensils
As you Sow, So shall you Reap
The swayamsevaks were instructed to rule out stampedes, keep their calm and raise the morale of the people. They had put in their best in this regard, but conditions were being created under which people were fleeing to places like Amritsar. Even then, the swayamsevaks presented inspiring examples as per their cherished ideals. They had ample opportunities to go to either east Punjab or Delhi, taking their assets and material possessions with them. But the swayamsevaks, including their family members, did not take this escapist route.
Bhai Parmanand was a famous Hindu leader; his son Mahavir was one of the dynamic and hardworking workers in Lahore. In view of the impending crisis, one of Parmanand’s employees asked his aunt, “Please handover your precious belongings, I will safely take them to Ludhiana. You will get back all your stuff if you did not have to leave Lahore.” His aunt got two trucks filled with home articles. When Parmanand came to know about it, he refused, saying “We are persuading people not to leave Lahore. If we too leave with all our paraphernalia, it will weaken the morale of the people, leading to chaos.” He did not allow the trucks to leave. Consequently, when he had to leave Lahore after Partition, he returned empty-handed. There are several examples like this.
The Brave Brothers of Punjab
On August 17, 1947, when the Boundary Demarcation Commission declared that Jhang will go to Pakistan, the Muslims of neighbouring areas attacked it, instigated by powerful leaders of Muslim League, Sayad Husain and his Abid Husain of Shahjevana town. The Sangh had a strong branch in Jhang and two of its dedicated workers Kishanchand Narang and Balkrishna Narang, lived near Nurshah Gate, the starting-point of the attack. The two brothers thought that if the marauders were not checked at this point, it would lead to the brutal massacre of thousands of Hindus in the city.
The narrow passageway opposite their house led to the way ahead. Both of them took out their swords and faced the mob. The attackers had not expected such vehement resistance. They set their house on fire and started torturing their womenfolk, but the two brothers kept on fighting. After some time, an enemy’s sword cut off the hand of Balkrishna, still he did not give up. Till their last breath, the two brothers did not let the rogues enter the city. They could have first thought of saving their family, but for the sake of people of the city, they laid down their lives. Their sacrifice ensured the passage of thousands of Hindus to safe palaces.
The fanatic goons had already made a hell of people’s lives. Setting fire to Temples and Gurdwaras had become their perverse obsession. They had become sworn enemies of Sikhs. When the Sikhs realised that it had become impossible for them to live in Multan, several of them came to the Sangh office, along with their sacred book Guru Granth Sahib. Krishnalal Sharma, who was later to become a member of legislative assembly, was a pracharak there. The Sikhs requested Sangh officials to take care of this heritage as they would be compelled to leave Multan. Such was people’s faith in the dedication of swayamsevaks.
Rescue of Gurdaspur
It had almost become certain that Gurdaspur District will be a part of Pakistan. If it had been so, there would not have been any place connecting Kashmir with India and India would have lost its direct connection with Kashmir. Till August 15, flags of both India and Pakistan were flying in Gurdaspur. Muslims were all emboldened and Hindus were in low spirits. During those days, ration-cards used to carry the word ‘Hindu’ or ‘Muslim’, besides the details of family written on it. As part of their plan, the swayamsevaks assumed the garb of food inspectors and went door to door to examine ration-cards. They collected the necessary information and sent it to the Boundary Demarcation Commission, making it change its decision. The data thus collected saved Hindu-dominated Gurdaspur from becoming a part of Pakistan, preventing the inevitable massacre of Hindus.
The Sangh office had undergone expansion in Jammu by the time of Partition. That’s why the swayamsevaks had been able to save the life of Maharaja Hari Singh. It so transpired that Maharaja was about to take a sojourn in border areas for six days beginning October 18. The treacherous Superintendent of Police and Chief of Staff of Jammu-Kashmir conspired to kidnap the Maharaja by leaking about his stay’s information to the enemies. The swayamsevaks alerted the Maharaja about it two days before his intended visit. Maharaja changed his sojourn plan at the eleventh hour frustrating the evil designs of his detractors.
Col. Pathania was defending Kotli Nagar, under siege by jihadis, with the help of a small contingent. For 56 days, Colonel Pathania and the swayamsevaks safeguarded the town against jihadis. At last, the army reached the place to protect Kotli Nagar. But this help only resulted in taking the Hindus to safety out of Kotli Nagar. And, the battle waged successfully for 56 days could not prevent Kotli Nagar from becoming a part of Pak-occupied Kashmir.
The swayamsevaks were ready to work at various levels. The Army was near Chhajan, but it was not feasible for its armoured vehicles to reach there. So, Chief Engineer Daulatram employed labourers to construct a roundabout but the labourers were working at their own pace. The Chief Engineer met the then Sangh Pramukh Amrit Sagar and sought his help. He immediately pressed 60 swayamsevaks into his service. Unlike paid labourers, the swayamsevaks began the work on a war footing and completed the roundabout in three hours.
The same thing happened when an airstrip was required in Punch for the landing of Army’s aircraft. Brigadier Pritam Singh intimated Amrit Sagarji about it. Both of them called a meeting of the citizens and the displaced people. After getting an enthusiastic response, the work began in right earnest on the area comprising Hazuribagh orchard. Soon the area was converted into a flattened ground. Along with the swayamsevaks, the contribution of citizens was
exemplary. After round-the-clock work for 72 hours, the airstrip was successfully prepared and 35 planes began landing daily. The airstrip enabled deployment of a large contingent of Army, which tilted the scales in India’s favour. Not only Punch was snatched from Pakistan but the lives of 40,000 citizens were saved. The committee headed by Pandit Premnath Dogra helped around 3 lakh people from March 15, 1947 to October 10, 1947. Hundreds of families were rehabilitated and 20 camps were organised from Jammu to Kathua.
The secessionist forces had chalked out a conspiracy to occupy Delhi by wrecking havoc. But the swayamsevaks risked their lives to take possessions of documents detailing this conspiracy and handed them over to the then Home Minister. The intensive military operation launched on the basis of these documents, saved Delhi, though not without 100 swayamsevaks laying down their lives.
The swayamsevaks had sent the relief material to Punjab after collecting it in Delhi. But when the refugees started coming to Delhi, arrangement were made for them. A huge relief camp was established opposite Birla Temple housing about 25,000 refugees. The people were also helped in getting employment or starting businesses.
Lest We Forget
The tragedy of Partition could not be averted, but the message it left for the Hindu society is yet to be imbibed by people. We need to learn the right lessons, so that the society does not have to encounter the same situation again. The first lesson of Partition is that such a tragedy should never be allowed to happen. In order to ensure it, the people have to stay ever alert, active and vigilant to protect the national interests in the way that they dedicate themselves body and soul to their own welfare as well as that of their families. We, the brave people, should worship but in no way it should degenerate into personality-worship. We should bow our heads to all those who are working selflessly in the service of nation, but we should never obey if any of their actions is detrimental to the unity and integrity of Bharat. We should exercise our judgment under all circumstances.
In terms of the second lesson, innumerable incidents took place where women, instead of getting into the evil clutches of the enemy, took their own lives or requested their family members to cut off their heads to save them from disgrace. The whole society is responsible for reducing women to such weak and abject state. Also, when women abducted by raiders came back, their families could not muster the courage to protect their honour and those who did, the society did not accept them. The same mindset still prevails. We need to shun it.
The third lesson is that those who wanted to cast their lot with Pakistan, went there. But those who remained in India have not embraced Bharatiyata (Indianness) in a holistic sense. They could have become completely Indian but they did not. The ill-consequences of vicious politics are apparent even today. The one who does not learn from history is doomed to meet with failure.
The writer is National Org. Sect. of Bharatiya Sahitya Parishad