The Punjab by PJ

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The Punjab 1847 to 1947  by PJ,  Scarborough 1985,  (06/01/30)

'The five rivers with our blood did run, the day we should have been free, Countless tortured souls in anguish cry, "Was this our destiny?"

Since the siege and storming of the Golden Temple at Amritsar, the murder of Mrs Gandhi, the terrorist acts by Sikh extremists, and the retaliation by the Hindus, the name of the Punjab has been in the news.  Friends and acquaintances have shown a casual interest in these events, some not knowing where the area is or the reason for the unrest.  This interest not being sufficient to warrant a visit to the library to look up reference books has led me to try to explain what the Punjab was, who the Punjabi people were, and relate some of the events before and after the partition in 1947.  It is not a detailed history, just a list of events that fashioned the lives of three generations of my family between the mid 1880's and 1947, and I hope I have laid it out in a simple and easily absorbed form.   I apologise if my feelings come to the surface at times, but even after nearly 40 years it is not possible to forget what happened in 1947.

The undivided Punjab consisted of 136,000 square miles.  This was 15,000 square miles greater than the total area of England, Scotland, Wales and the whole of Ireland.

The Punjab was partitioned by the English in 1947 and shared between Pakistan (Moslem) and India (Hindu), the Western part going to Pakistan and the Eastern part to India.  The Punjab mentioned in the press recently is in India. and it contains what used to be East Punjab after the partition and which was only about one third of the undivided Punjab, the other two thirds being in Pakistan and called West Punjab after the partition.  The Pakistanis have since dropped the name of the Punjab,  For example the town of Lahore (the capital of the undivided Punjab) before partition was referred to as Lahore,  The Punjab; after partition it became Lahore, West Punjab, Pakistan; now it is just Lahore, North Pakistan.  The part of the Punjab now in India contains only the River Beas and half of the River Sutlej, so calling it The Land of the Five Rivers is incorrect and the Sikhs, if they ever get their own state, will call it Khalistan (Land of the Pure).

In effect the Punjab ceased to exist in 1947. 

Indian and Pakistani agitators moved into the Punjab and spread unrest and fear amongst the uneducated masses with tales of massacres, mutilations and rape.   The Sikhs and the Hindus in the west were told of the terrible things that would happen to them under a Moslem regime, and the Moslems in the east were told of what their lot would be under a Hindu-dominated regime.  The makeup of the population changed overnight as millions of Moslems, Sikhs, and Hindus who had lived together for hundreds of years suddenly fled to "safer" areas on either side of the new border, but very few arrived at their destinations, a great number being slaughtered and young women and children abducted before they reached safety.  Refugees also poured in from the rest of the sub-continent into both sides of the Punjab and killed, abducted or drove out a lot of the remaining inhabitants, taking possession of their homes, shops, factories, etc, if they had not already been destroyed.  As a large percentage of the young male population was still in the army, stationed all over the sub continent, the people left behind did not have their men folk to protect them.  What before 1947 was a colourful and cosmopolitan Punjabi nation formed over thousands of years by a variety of invaders and peaceful settlers and consisting of the descendents of the Aryans, Greeks, Persians, Turkomen from the area around Samarkand and Bukhara in Central Asia, Afghans, Pathans and the original inhabitants, and with a variety of religions, namely Moslem, Hindu, Sikh Christian plus a host of smaller ones, became overnight in the West Punjab a mainly Moslem population and in the East Punjab a mainly Sikh and Hindu population. 

The Punjabis had their own language and culture and were as different from the people of the rest of the sub-continent as the English are to the Finns.

The Punjab no longer exists and a large number of its people are scattered all over the world, so if this short account is of little interest to people today perhaps it can be regarded as an epitaph to the Punjab and its people, who were allies of the English from the late 1700's until the mid1880s, and even after they were annexed in 1849 gave everything they had to help their former allies. 

They kept their part of the bargain.  

Source references:

The Afghan Wars by T.A. Heathcote

The Sikh Wars by Hugh Cook

The Indian Mutiny by Christopher Wilkinson-Latham

Six Minutes to Sunset by Percival Spear

India Britannica by Geoffrey Moorhouse

Freedom at Midnight by Larry Collins & Dominique Lapierre.