Ajj Aakhan Waris Shah Nuu,
Kiton Qabraan Wichon Bol,
Tey Ajj Kitaab-e-Ishq Daa,
Koi Agla Warka Phol
Ikk Royi Sii Dhi Punjab Di,
Tu Likh Likh Maarey Wain,
Ajj Lakhaan Dhiyan Rondiyan,
Tenu Waris Shah Nuu Kain
Uthh Dard-Mandaan Diya Dardiya,
Utth Tak Apna Punjab
Ajj Bailey Lashaan Bichiyaan
Tey Lahoo Di Bhari Chenab
(Today, I call Waris Shah,
“Speak from inside your grave”
And turn, today,
the book of love’s next affectionate page
Once, one daughter of Punjab cried;
you wrote a wailing saga
Today, a million daughters,
cry to you, Waris Shah
Rise! O’ narrator of the grieving;
rise! look at your Punjab
Today, fields are lined with corpses,
and blood fills the Chenab)
This poem by legendary Punjabi poetess Amrita Pritam truly resonates the sentiments of those affected by the 1947 partition of Punjab.
Punjab, the land of five rivers, has endured a lot.. The land which gave us many great personalities; ten Gurus of Sikhism, legendary poets like Waris Shah, Bulleh Shah, Baba Farid, Shiv Kumar Batalvi and Amrita Pritam, great warriors like Maharaja Ranjit Singh, freedom fighters like Shaheed Bhagat Singh and Shaheed Sukhdev Thapar and great leaders like Dr. Manmohan Singh, has never slept in peace.
We all know about the atrocities of the Mughal emperors who tortured and killed non-Muslims. Punjab was the worst affected. Then, Maharaja Ranjit Singh braved the British armies and made it difficult for them to invade this great land. But, when Punjab fell into the hands of the Britishers, after the demise of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, more brave men took birth to save their motherland. At a time, when the people of India had deep faith in the ideologies of Mahatama Gandhi, a new ideology was shaping in Lyallpur, Punjab. With the rise of Bhagat Singh, the Britishers had no other solution but to hang him. Bhagat Singh was martyred, but his ideologies hold true and are still alive in the hearts of every human.
At one point of time, the Britishers feared that Gandhi‘s popularity was overtaken by that of Bhagat Singh‘s. Bhagat Singh‘s ideology portrayed the real problems faced by the people of the pre-Independence era.
That said, the next big change for Punjab came in 1947..
Labor Party had won the elections in England. Lord Mountbatten, the great-grandson of Queen Victoria, was chosen as the last Viceroy of India. He came with his wife and daughter and lived in the Viceroy House in Delhi. With the tensions between the Congress Party, headed by Nehru, and the Muslim League, headed by Jinnah, rising, a situation of riots became more evident. Lord Mountbatten knew that he would not be able to control the Hindu-Muslim riots. Jinnah was demanding a separate state for the Muslims. Nehru wanted a united India. Mountbatten was worried at the grim situation in Bengal, and then the riots broke.. Almost 5,000 people died in the Bengal riots, just before partition. Mountbatten sent Gandhi to control the mob and pacify them. But it seemed like even the Mahatama could not control the disaster that was unfolding in Bengal.
In the West, Central Punjab, where Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims had lived like families for centuries, now held grudges against each other. Mountbatten sent an army of 60,000 to Punjab, hoping that he will control the situation. But we all know how that turned out..
Independence for India was to come in June, 1948. But because of the grim situation heralding, Mountbatten preponed it and decided to hand over the reigns of the ‘two’ countries to their new leaders , in August, 1947. What would have taken 18 months, took just 3 months, because Mountbatten was too fearful to be responsible for the killings that would take place because of the partition..
Sir Cyril Radcliffe was flown in from England to draw the lines on the map of India. The man who had never in his life, set foot on this great land, held the fate of over 88 million people. He started the work in June, 1947, and the Radcliffe line, as it is known now, was released on 17 August, 1947.
It was decided that the total wealth of the government offices will be divided between India and Pakistan, with 80% of the share in India’s hands and 20% of it in Pakistan’s. Property dispute was easier to resolve and everything was divided in the end. But what became a difficult task was the division of people…
On 7 August, Jinnah left his Delhi home and flew to Karachi, bidding adieu to India, forever..
On 14th of August, 1947, Lord Mountbatten flew to Karachi to celebrate the Independence of newly formed Islamic Republic of Pakistan. On the night of 14th August, Delhi was drenched in rain. Despite of this, hundreds of people braved the rain and came to the Constituent Assembly, Delhi, where at the struck of 12 a.m., Nehru took the oath as the first Prime Minister of India.
While Karachi and Delhi were busy in the celebrations of a long fought battle for freedom, Central Punjab was burning.. Yes, on 15th of August, 1947, freedom came. But it was the freedom to loot, the freedom to burn, the freedom to rape, the freedom to murder…
Around 4.5 million Hindus and Sikhs came to India and around 6 million Muslims went to Pakistan between August 1947 and March 1948. But the harsh reality remains, that more than 1 million innocent Sikhs, Hindus and Muslims were butchered in cold blood.
It was a mayhem.. Punjab was, once again, the worst affected.
“Freedom is for the educated people who fought for it. We were slaves of the English, now we will be slaves of the educated Indians—or the Pakistanis.”- Khushwant Singh, Train to Pakistan.
It is true that the British lost their biggest asset, India. But Punjabis lost a lot more. They lost their everything; their land, their cattle, their houses, their families, their friends, their business, their lives…
“…People were killing their own women. My father took a sword and beheaded my elder sister, Maan Kaur, in front of my eyes. On the upper floor, I could hear my uncles beheading my aunts. None of the women and girls resisted..”– A Sikh refugee from Pakistan..
“…They cut my father’s body in a hundred pieces. I saw them throwing children into fire. My mother hid me under the dead bodies..”– A young refugee..
The partition of a country is just as painful as the partition of a home. When two brothers divide their father’s home into two parts, both the father and the mother cry.. It was, thus eventual, that the Punjabis mourned this partition..
Who is to blame? Jinnah? Nehru? Gandhi? Mountbatten? Who?
When ties between Jinnah and the Congress party severed, he left India and went to live in London. One night he heard a group of Muslim boys talking about that India should be divided into two parts- India and Pakistan. PAKISTAN. ‘P‘ from Punjab, ‘A‘ from Afghania, ‘K‘ from Kashmir, ‘S‘ from Sindh and ‘TAN‘ from Balochistan. That is how the name Pakistan was minted. But to their surprise, Jinnah rebuked those boys, saying that there was only one good thing the Britishers did in India, and it was to unite the whole country, and they wanted to do away with it? Yes, Jinnah was never a separatist.
But when he returned to India, and joined the Muslim League, Jinnah came to know the reality of Indian Muslims…
“..They (Hindus) wouldn’t let us drink water from the same tap. They would attach a pipe from the tap and tell us to drink water from the other end of the pipe..”– recounts a Muslim refugee of Pakistan..
“..Our mother never allowed us to take meals with our Muslim friends..”– says a Hindu refugee of India..
Once, Jinnah was asked by a group of schoolchildren that why was he pressing for the formation of Pakistan? Why didn’t he want unity? Jinnah went quiet for a while. The kids thought that he didn’t have any answer. Then Jinnah took a glass of water and drank half of it. He then offered the same to the Hindu children. They REFUSED to drink it. He then offered the same to the Muslim children and they drank it. Jinnah replied, “This is why.”.
The land of five rivers was brutally ripped apart. The land where iconic love stories of Heer-Ranjha, Soni-Mahiwal, Laila-Majnu and Mirza-Sahiba, fostered, has forgotten the meaning of love itself. Punjab has never been at peace since…
Ajj Sabhey ‘Qaido’ Ban Gaye,
Husn Ishq Dey Chor
Ajj Kithon Liyaiye Labh Ke
Waris Shah Ikk Hor…
(Today everyone is, ‘Qaido’
thieves of beauty and ardor
Where can we find, today,
another Warish Shah, once more)