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Bharat di Azadi Da Agman ate Sikh Stithi (Punjabi)

A Review by Gajindar Singh

Author: Dr Kirpal Singh
Publisher: Singh Bros, Amritsar
Pages: 148; Price Rs. 120/-
Edition: 2009

Dr Kirpal Singh is a foremost authority on Sikh History with over sixty years of research in this field. He is the author of over thirty books on Sikh History and has vast knowledge of the subject, specially the bewildering period of India’s Independence and its turmoil and vortex which involved the Sikhs in direct confrontation with the two main streams of power politics, the Muslim League headed by the barrister Mohammad Ali Jinnah and the Indian National Congress spearheaded by the barristers M K Gandhi and Jawahar Lal Nehru.

The history as told by the non-Sikh sources is, as usual, unconcerned about the fate of a small community like the Sikhs, who fared no better at the hands of the Congress leaders, who had their sights on more fruitful matters than the destiny of the Sikhs. Dr Kirpal Singh ably fulfills that lacuna by his relentless research from the Sikh point of view. He visited Great Britain three times to gather vital records, made notes of vital matters from the original sources concerning the Sikhs and interviewed the main characters in the transfer of power game to arrive at decisions and ascertain what could have been done to better the cause of the Sikhs but was missed, and the persons who were responsible for the lapses which cost the Sikhs dearly. History will not forgive the persons who did not have the right perspective about far reaching changes taking place in the subcontinent and left the fate of their community in the care of the British who were keen to get rid of the burden of transfer of power, or, the Congress leaders whom they ‘trusted’ without utilizing their own understanding of what was required to keep the Sikhs in the full flow of the historical process of sweeping consequences.

The eminent writer has an easy flow of the narrative which unfolds clearly demarcating the strengths and weaknesses of the main characters that sealed the fate of the Sikhs at a vital time when destiny was being shaped for the three main communities in India who were recognised by the British Imperial power as the chief players.

The Sikhs had, it seems, no leader to match the machinations of the sharp witted and stubborn Jinnah who understood the pulls and pressures of his situation or the wider interests, scope and vision of Gandhi or Nehru who had their own priorities and were resisting the League claims and to part with as little portion out of the Indian pie as possible, than taking up cudgels for salvaging the fortunes of the small Sikh community entrenched in a corner of the country in Punjab. What astonishes is the fact that Baldev Singh who was desperately aspiring for a career of a Central minister was not even an accredited leader of the Akali Party who were representing the Sikhs. He had won assembly seat in Punjab as an independent, with Akali support. He was picked by the British on the tacit ‘approval’ of Jinnah and Nehru and his credentials were confined to belonging to an affluent industrial family with refined mannerism and tastes. But why was he allowed so much leeway by Master Tara Singh and his Akali colleagues instead of asserting themselves is a matter which remains a mystery. Their case remained of no consequence, especially when Lord Mountbatten arrived on the scene and he found it sufficient to lend ears to the opinions of Nehru and Jinnah on all matters without concerning the future of the credited ‘third’ party, the Sikhs.

The author has clarified about the allegation of the tearing of the Muslim League flag by Master Tara Singh outside Lahore Assembly which was nothing short of a rumour spread by the League goons to start mayhem and mass killings of the Sikhs and Hindus in Punjab. The Muslim leaders never expressed regret or anguish about the wanton massacres in March 1947, which clearly indicates that they were least concerned about sincerely befriending the Sikhs to opt for staying in Pakistan. When the backlash occurred in August, 1947 they accused the Sikhs for all lawlessness in the region. This replies befittingly to the charges of the short-sightedness of the Sikh leaders by their falling into the lap of the Congress in preference to the options of joining with League and a set up within the confines of Pakistan. It was also the decision of the Maharaja of Patiala after his frank talk with Jinnah and Liaquat Ali Khan and their offers.

History was distorted by the undue haste of Lord Mountbatten who advanced the transfer of power from June 1948 to August 1947, leaving him no time to solve the Sikh tangle which he ignored. He wrongly surmised that the Sikhs could find a satisfactory solution by talking to the Congress leaders after the British had handed over the reigns of power to the two dominions. If Lord Wavell had been allowed to stay on as the Governor General, perhaps he could find lasting solutions to the Sikh angle. While the Congress leaders felt no urgency in formulating suitable plans of safe exodus of the Sikhs and Hindus and their considerable assets left behind in the lawless conditions of West Pakistan, they were very keen in pursuing the Sikh suggestions about partitioning Punjab, in order to get maximum territory into the Indian Union. They had wrong hopes of ultimate return of the populace to their original homes across the borders and things becoming normalized in due course. The Congress leaders, particularly Gandhi and Nehru failed to grasp the seriousness of the situation until it was beyond repair. They instead exhorted the poor inhabitants to stay put and face the onslaught of organized League gangs bent on cleansing their part of the subcontinent from non-Muslims.

Jinnah, on the other hand, gave instructions to the newly set up Pakistan administration ‘to get rid’ of the Sikhs by all means at the earliest from Pakistan soil. Pak ordinance allotting evacuee properties to the Muslim refugees on temporary basis was in gross violation about the possibility of return of the populace to their homes and hearths and clearly against the spirit of joint agreements between India and Pakistan. They also did not seriously enforce the recovery of abducted women on their side and allowed the victims to go with their abductors.

Another lapse on the part of the Sikh leadership and their Congress cohorts was in failure to emphasise the setting up of Nankana Sahib on the pattern of ‘Vatican State’. This shows disregard for the Sikh sentiments in the Indian leaders. It is the considered opinion of the author that it could be easily achieved without much fuss from the League leaders who wanted to form Pakistan at any cost.

The heart wrenching episode in the book under review is the behaviour of Baldev Singh who attended the London conference and was suggested by the British leaders at that late stage to stay back to lobby for the Sikh cause but he found it more important to return to India at the behest of Nehru to assume charge as the minister of Defence. On another occasion he declined discussions on merger of the two districts of the British Punjab with the Sikh states to form a possible Sikh area as an independent entity, saying that it would be too small an area to satisfy the Sikhs. Would it have been smaller than Israel and so many small independent states across the world?

In 2006, Dr Kirpal Singh wrote this valuable account of the partition of the subcontinent in his book, “The Sikhs and Transfer of Power”. The present volume in Punjabi is based on that text, improved and updated by the author.

Dr Kirpal Singh has the art of writing in easy flow about such grave matters like the subject matter of this book. It keeps the reader glued to the narrative richly laced with references and authoritative mentions.

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ęCopyright Institute of Sikh Studies, 2009, All rights reserved.