Slaughter at Sheikhupura: Impact of 1947 Partition on the Sikh Community

by Parminder Singh Sodhi

In the annals of human history, few incidents stand as stark reminders of calculated malevolence as the tragedy that unfolded in Sheikhupura, a district adjacent to Lahore, on the Western side, shortly after the Partition. Sheikhupura, known for housing Nankana Sahib, the birthplace of Sri Guru Nanak Dev, was once a prosperous land that generated substantial revenue, primarily for Sikh landowners.

Before the cataclysmic events of Partition, Sheikhupura boasted a thriving community of Sikhs and Hindus, with flourishing businesses, factories, and agricultural enterprises. The Sikhs, renowned for their hard work in cultivating the land, had turned this district into a productive and prosperous region. However, the harmony and coexistence were shattered by the dark clouds of religious fanaticism and violence.

The horrors that befell Sheikhupura’s Hindu and Sikh population were among the worst witnessed during the Partition, surpassed only by the atrocities in Rawalpindi and Multan. Pakistani fanaticism, fueled by a chilling murderous frenzy, led to the sudden and brutal demise of between 10,000 to 20,000 innocent lives in a span of just two days.

The genesis of this orchestrated violence lay in a conspiracy concocted between Muslim Leaguers, civil officers, police, and the military. The objective was nothing short of exterminating the Hindus and Sikhs of Sheikhupura and its surrounding areas. The sheer scale of the planned devilry marked this event as one of the darkest chapters in human history.

As soon as the Boundary Commission announced the awarding of Sheikhupura to Pakistan, Muslim Leaguers and their collaborators in the police and military machinery swiftly initiated plans for the looting and mass murder of Hindus and Sikhs. Attacks on the countryside commenced on August 18, with Sikhs and Hindus being forcibly expelled from their villages en masse.

Simultaneously, plans were set in motion to cleanse Sheikhupura town and other urban centers of their Hindu and Sikh residents. The Muslim population actively prepared for the impending rioting, with notable gatherings at the residence of Karamat Ali, a prominent minister. The 25th of August saw the burning of Hindu and Sikh houses in Gurdwara Bazar.

The nefarious plot escalated with the fabrication of an attack on a Muslim mohalla by Sikhs, a ploy designed to incite Muslims against Sikhs. On the same day, Ranigargha, with its Sikh population of 1,200, witnessed a vigorous attack. The ensuing chaos saw Sikhs being chased by a Muslim mob, followed by the military. The orchestrated violence reached its zenith when, by 5 o’clock that day, the Hindu-Sikh population in the area had been mercilessly slaughtered, and their homes reduced to ashes.

The tragedy of Sheikhupura remains etched in history as a chilling testament to the brutality that can be unleashed in the name of religious fervor. As we reflect on this dark chapter, let us strive to ensure that such atrocities are never repeated, and humanity moves forward towards a future built on tolerance, compassion, and understanding.

Parminder Singh Sodhi

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