Although we generally assume, that Panjab was the scene of mass murders of Sikhs during the partition, there was also another battle ground, which saw scenes from West Panjab being re-enacted on its minorities. I found this article and wouild like to share it with the forum members, and encourage members to also share any links/stories, that they feel the cyber sangat may benefit from.
The savagery that gripped the Subcontinent at a moment in history which should have been its most glorious remains inexplicable. While a great deal of academic work has been completed in India on the massacres and the movement of millions from one part of the divided land to the other, little of that has been done on our side, which is yet another pity that can be added to the long list of pities that every Pakistani carries in his heart.
Some years ago, I published a book of reminiscences about Jammu and how its Muslim population had been all but decimated in 1947, ironically with the connivance, if not at the directions, of the Maharajas government, which was supposed to have protected them. That slim book remains the only first-hand account, as far as I know, of what life was like for the Muslims of Jammu before 1947 and what happened to them as India and Pakistan awoke to freedom. Some copies of the book, Memory Lane to Jammu, found their way to Jammu and several people who read it later said that they really had no idea what had happened to the Muslims of Jammu city and outlying areas in 1947. Included in the book was a first-hand account recorded for the late Justice Muhammad Yusuf Saraf by Dr Abdul Karim, more than twenty of whose family members were killed and whose daughter was abducted, never to be found. He himself received eleven sword and knife wounds on his body and was left for dead.
A couple of months ago, I received an email from Bal Kishan Gupta, a retired engineer who lives in Georgia. He wrote, I read your article on Jammu 1947 on the website. It is a heart rending account of the massacre of Muslims in Jammu. I am from Mirpur and was a witness to the slaughter of the Hindus and Sikhs of Mirpur. As a matter of fact, I am one of the few survivors of the Alibeg concentration camp. As Muslim refugees from Jammu mark the anniversary of the November 5 Jammu killings, the Hindu and Sikh survivors of Mirpur remember the November 25 holocaust of Mirpur. He asked if I would publish his story and I said I would.
The account he sent me is harrowing. He was only ten at the time but he says he has a photographic memory. Many members of his immediate family, including some of his uncles and his great grandfather, a man of ninety, were killed in Mirpur. Some of what Gupta has recorded I have tried to corroborate from sources on our side but without luck. Hardly anything is on record. Even Justice Saraf in his two-volume history of the freedom movement in the State has confined his account to the military encounters that took place between bands of Pathan irregulars, sections of the Pakistan army and freebooters and the remnants of the Maharajas forces. It is not a satisfactory account and its gung-ho, super-patriotic tone is troubling because I expected more objectivity from a judge and Kashmiri patriot.
Justice Saraf writes that Mirpur district had Hindu majorities in its three principal towns of Mirpur, Kotli and Bhimber. Many Hindus fleeing from West Punjab had taken refuge in Mirpur town, swelling its non-Muslim population to 20,000. According to him, local mujahids and Pakistani volunteers cut off the Mirpur Cantt and a 500-strong force moved towards Mirpur town which was surrounded by the second week of November 1947. A force of 1,000 of tribesmen from Dir also joined in. Most of the atrocities committed against the non-Muslim residents of Mirpur were by these men, though Saraf does not record that. The outer defences of Mirpur city crumbled and many houses were set on fire. He writes, At about 4 pm (on 23 November) a column of humanity was seen emerging from the barbed wire enclosure on the Eastern side, made up of civilians and flanked by Dogra troops, which soon abandoned their helpless charges. The caravan scattered and as Saraf puts it their condition was pitiable; the effects of the fighting and the conditions of siege were clearly noticeable; they were emaciated, exhausted and frightened. By the evening, there was no Hindu or Sikh left in Mirpur town. Saraf records that while some Pathans as well as local Muslims wanted to kill the Hindus and abduct their women, they were prevented from doing so and the people who had now become refugees in their own land, were sent to Alibeg Gurudwara which was turned into a refugee camp.
Guptas memories are different. As a ten-year-old child I, along with 5,000 Hindus and Sikhs, was held prisoner in the Alibeg prison. On March 16, 1948, only about 1,600 prisoners walked out from Alibeg alive. I was one of them. Most of the survivors of Alibeg have died since the horrific massacres. As one of its few survivors, I feel compelled to document the events I witnessed. Around November 25, 1947, there were nearly 25,000 Hindus and Sikhs living in Mirpur. During the citys capture, close to 2,500 were killed in the infernos that erupted due to Pakistani artillery fire. Another 2,500 escaped with the retreating Jammu and Kashmir army. The remaining 20,000 were marched in a procession towards Alibeg. Along the way, Pakistani troops and Pathans killed about 10,000 of the captured Hindu and Sikh men and kidnapped over 5,000 women. The 5,000 Hindus and Sikhs who survived the 20-mile trek to Alibeg were imprisoned. In Janaury 1948, the Red Cross rescued 1,600 of the survivors from Alibeg. Between 1948 and 1954, around 1,000 abducted Hindu and Sikh women were recovered from Pakistan and Azad Kashmir.
Gupta writes, My grandmother Kartar Devi, my paternal uncle Mohanlal Gupta, and my maternal great-grandfather Lalman Shah were some of those who died in the infernos of Mirpur. My mother Padma Devi and my aunts, Rajmohni Gupta and Sushila Gupta, were some of the women kidnapped from the Mirpur courthouse. My wifes grandmother Diwan Devi Gupta and aunt were among those killed during the forced march towards Alibeg. My wifes cousin, Sesh Gupta, was one of the girls kidnapped by Pathans. Her fate is not known to this day. My mothers uncles, Lal Chand Dhangeryal, Chander Prakash Dhangeryal, Dina Nath Dhangeryal, Khemchand Bhagotra and her many cousins (whose names I do not remember) were killed. I saw Sardar Ibrahim in Alibeg surrounded by his bodyguards. The only helpful Muslims to visit Alibeg were Chaudhri Abdul Aziz of Datial village, who saved many Hindu children and women in his village, and Fateh Mohammed of Serai Alamgir who saved some Hindus from being slaughtered.
Many Mirpuri Hindus and Sikhs settled in Jammu, where there exists a Mirpur Road and a memorial sacred to the memory of the men, women and children who were killed for no other reason except that they were Hindus and Sikhs. I close this sad story with a snatch from the poem Faiz Ahmed Faiz wrote on his return from Dhaka: When will the eye behold the sight of grass without blemish? How many rains will it take for the blood spots to wash away?