The Dispatches Of Hira Singh: Punjab Burning – 1


I have just finished reading a book on the Partition of my home state – The Punjab. The word Punjab means – The Land of the Five Rivers.

On the 14th August 1947, Pakistan became a free country, and India followed on the 15th August.

On the 17th August, the boundary between the two countries was announced, and suddenly many people found themselves in No Man’s Land.

Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs had lived together in harmony for hundreds of years. There were differences, of course, but things were amicable on the whole.

However, from 1858, the British sought to split the Hindus and Muslims, and as the Indians started to push for Independence, discussions on how to share the power post Independence started. However, more of this later.

Riots started in the early part of 1947, and as rumours started to spread, post 15 August, the riots became worse.

Fuelled by gangs and hired criminals, gangs of Muslims, Sikhs and Hindus wrought havoc on each other.

I read about men who’s limbs were ripped apart. Trains of refugees making their way to the border, did not reach their inhabitants safely. As they would be slaughtered, blood would be seen to be oozing through the train doors, and the train would go straight to the cleaning yard.

A man (a child at the time) recalls the last sight of his mother – her stomach slit open, and with her intestines falling out. Another recalls the last sight of his mother – her skull smashed with a hammer, and her brains falling out.

Children with their skulls smashed against a wall.

Children and infants tossed up in the air, and impaled on spears as they fell to the ground.

Women paraded naked, raped, and then their breasts were sliced off. Like slices of salami.

Men cut up into pieces.

Altogether, 500,000 – 750,000 people were killed, or died, in the most brutal manner in a few months.

A man mentioned that he still has nightmares on account of the memories of those days.

A few million people rendered homeless, and having to cross the borders. Kids walked over one hundred kilometres to cross to safety. One recalls that he escaped slaughter only because he hid beneath a pile of dead bodies.

The mayhem took place during the monsoons, and it was a heavy one.

The leaders did not expect this mayhem, and relief camps were a disaster. Many died due to disease, or were drowned in the rivers.

We have no memorial like Auschwitz.

The British only wanted to leave India, and to forget the mess that they had created.

The three wise men of India? Next time….

What right did the leaders have, to drive people to this mayhem?

What happened to Indians?

Why the barbarism?

Remember, war is fought on the ground. These days, generals and Presidents press a button, and then address the adoring Press.

There is no glory to be found here, except in the stories that I read, of ordinary Indians who tried, at risk to themselves, to save members of the other community.

There is no glory to be found here, as people were ripped out of their homeland, and transported across a border – either to a new and strange country, or across the border of death in the most brutal manner possible.

Shared history has been destroyed, and what has been left – at the political level, and to some extent at the human – is bitterness.

The world writes on and on about World War II. However, much of the problems of today’s world stems from the events of those days.

World War II and the Partition of the Punjab are more closely linked than many realise.

But, which politician cares to repair a life and heritage destroyed?


  1. It was a dreadful time, and the British surely should have foreseen the mess that was caused by the hasty, casual, drawing of the line of partition, but by then they just wanted to be gone. The real heroic stories are those of the ordinary men and women, Hindu, Sikh and Moslem, who risked their own lives to save those of other religions from the mobs.

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