Gurdwara Dera Sahib: A Tale of Destruction and Devastation During the Partition

by Manjari Singh

Amidst the tumultuous upheaval of the 1947 Partition, Gurdwara Dera Sahib, a revered Sikh shrine in Lahore, Pakistan, became a tragic emblem of the violence and destruction that engulfed the region. This sacred site, commemorating the martyrdom of Guru Arjan Dev, the fifth Guru of Sikhism, was subjected to relentless attacks, bearing witness to the horrors of communal strife.

From the very outset of the Partition’s chaos, Gurdwara Dera Sahib found itself under siege. Despite its proximity to the Lahore Fort, a stronghold of the Additional Police and military, the gurdwara remained vulnerable to the relentless onslaught. Water supplies were deliberately cut off, leaving the approximately 150 devotees trapped within its walls, facing the agonizing prospect of succumbing to thirst.

As the attacks intensified, the gurdwara’s sanctity was violated with impunity. Gunfire rained down upon the premises, transforming the serene atmosphere into a scene of terror. The adjoining building, engulfed in flames, cast an ominous glow over the gurdwara, casting a chilling shadow of destruction.

Seeking refuge in the mausoleum of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, situated a mere ten yards away, a group of Sikhs hoped to escape the marauding mobs. However, their sanctuary was shattered as the frenzied cries of “Pakistan zindabad” echoed through the air, accompanied by vile slurs directed against the Sikhs. The gates of the gurdwara and mausoleum were riddled with bullets, leaving no doubt about the malicious intent of the attackers.

The atrocities at Gurdwara Dera Sahib were not isolated incidents. The Baoli Sahib gurdwara, nestled amidst densely populated Muslim neighborhoods in Dabbi Bazar, was set ablaze on June 4th. The tranquil gurdwara was transformed into an inferno, trapping the unsuspecting Sikhs within, leaving them to face a gruesome fate, either burned alive or mercilessly shot dead.

Gurdwara Janam Asthan, another revered Sikh site, endured relentless attacks from June onwards. The Muslim police pickets, ostensibly stationed to protect the gurdwara, instead facilitated arson and assaults on the sacred premises. On August 11th, the Baulch Military entered the gurdwara under the pretext of searching for concealed bombs. Their presence proved deadly, as they ruthlessly killed 13 innocent Sikhs.

The desecration of Gurdwara Dera Sahib and other sacred Sikh shrines stands as a stark reminder of the devastating human cost of the Partition. These acts of violence not only shattered the physical structures of these revered places but also inflicted deep wounds upon the collective psyche of the Sikh community. The echoes of the gunshots, the crackling flames, and the anguished cries of the victims continue to reverberate through the corridors of history, serving as a poignant testament to the resilience of the Sikh spirit.

Manjari Singh

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