Tuesday, February 27, 2024

Tragedy of Sikh Harassment and Executions in Lyallpur, Pakistan During Partition

by Saloni Poddar

Lyallpur, a region that constituted the richest spot for Sikhs in Pakistan, became a heartbreaking scene of harassment and violence against Sikhs by the Muslim population in Pakistan, instigated by their leaders.

Lyallpur stood as a testament to Sikh resilience and hard work. Through generations of toil, Sikhs had transformed a sandy wasteland into the granary of Punjab (Pakistan). The Sikhs of Lyallpur were not only economically prosperous but were also known for their discipline, love for independence, and highly developed social conscience.

As Pakistan came into being, a determined policy to eject non-Muslims, especially Sikhs, led to immediate harassment and murder. Just days after the establishment of Pakistan, two non-Muslims were stabbed to death near the Clock Tower in Lyallpur, a central location where a crowded peace meeting was being addressed by the Deputy Commissioner. This incident and others like it signaled the ominous direction for Hindus and Sikhs.

By the end of August, murder and arson by Muslims had become rampant in Lyallpur. Hindus and Sikhs were forced to move into refugee camps, seeking shelter at places like Khalsa College and the Arya School. The evacuation process began later, revealing the dire circumstances faced by the non-Muslim population.

General Jinnah’s Letter to the Governor || Source: SGPC Archives, 1950

The manner in which the Pakistan administration functioned during these times further exacerbated the suffering. Instances of extreme violence, such as the cutting off of a Sikh’s hand, went unpunished, with the victim facing arrest instead. During curfew hours, Muslims freely attacked Hindus and Sikhs, with the police failing to maintain order. Even during evacuations, Hindus and Sikhs faced repeated attacks, often resulting in loss of life and property.

From village to village, stories emerged of Hindus and Sikhs facing repeated attacks, killings, and looting during evacuations. The survivors sought refuge in places like Chak 272, only to face further attacks and extensive looting. Tragedy struck again near Salooni Jhal, where a large number of Hindus and Sikhs were killed, and their belongings were looted. Even at Balloki Head, the crossing point into India, survivors were robbed of their belongings.

The tragic events in Lyallpur during the partition highlight the immense suffering and persecution faced by the Sikh community. The prosperous and disciplined Sikhs, who had cultivated a barren land into prosperity, were forcibly uprooted and subjected to violence. The scars of partition continue to linger, reminding us of the human cost of religious and political divisions.

Saloni Poddar

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