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Lost Heritage: Sikh legacy in Pakistan

17th December 2015: I got a call from S. Gurpreet Singh Anand called me and invite me over tea. I was excited to meet him as he had just put me in touch with Janab Faqir Syed Saifuddin of Fakir Khana Museum of Lahore. Faqir sahib comes from the legendary family of Faqir Azizuddin, the trusted minister of Maharaja Ranjit Singh.

So on 19th, I reached his office in West Delhi. As expected, I received a warm welcome by this warm gentleman. Later I learned that he is an avid traveller, who also holds the honour of being first Sikh on North Pole, and perhaps only Sikh to cover both North and South pole. As I made myself comfortable, he presented me with a book, which in few minutes became the most precious possession in my book collection. He gifted me Amardeep Singh’s “Lost Heritage: Sikh Legacy in Pakistan”.

LostHeritage-Cover

I love books and have collected all kinds of, that I could get access to. But this case was different. When I held this book in my hands, I had a very strange vibe, something unexplainable. It was a mix of excitement and nostalgia. As I removed the layer of shrink wrap, my fingers were trembling. This has never happened before. As a practice, I turned the book and read back cover. Then checked index. S. Gurpreet Singh Anand jee was watching me and waiting for me to react. But all my reactions had travelled back in time and here I was sitting like a wax statue, staring at the precious contents of this book with stone eyes.

This book is about what Sikhs have left in Pakistan and how partition has separated Sikhs on both sides of border. Book starts with introduction of a Sikh doctor serving in Pakistan and later author introduces his audience with more Sikhs in active service in Pakistan. Book is a systematic journey through Gurudwaras, Forts, Havelis, Schools and other buildings related to the Sikh Raj. The chapters on Faqir Khana Museum and Princess Bamba Collection will force readers to time travel into the bygone era of Sarkar Khalsaji, Maharaja Ranjit Singh. As Faqir Syed Saifuddin Sahab show rare artefacts from Sikh Raj, the book takes a different turn.

LostHeritage-AuthorAuthor has travelled across West Punjab, North-West Frontier and Pak Administered Kashmir to gather information. It has 60 chapters with 507 photographs and lots of rare information. Author, S. Amardeep Singh, born in India and studied at Dehradoon and Manipal Institute of Technology, now lives in Singapore. He is an amazing photographer and his exhibitions and work is appreciated across globe.

From Havelis to Gurudwaras, Amardeep did not leave a stone unturned. But the most interesting part is that he mentioned about revered Muslim Sufi Saints. Many modern day self proclaimed religious preachers would love to draw a line between Sikhs and Muslims. Whereas, there was a very high level of religious harmony back then. When connecting with god, religion is perhaps the last thing that would matter. Our Gurus and Sufi saints understood this well. May be that’s why, there are so many Muslim contributors to Sri Guru Granth Sahib Jee and Sain Mian Meer Sahib of Lahore laid the foundation of Golden Temple in Amritsar.

Amardeep visited many Forts and gave a detailed description. While talking about Forts and Havelis, he did not restrict himself to the Sikh religion, but to the fact, that the property was built, modified or at least used by the Sikh Rulers/Nobles. There are many structures which were built before Sikhs took over and All that SIkhs left is now being used by modern occupants. Some are government offices, some schools, some residences and some are simply lying abandoned in a a dilapidated state.

While the content of this book is very precious, what forced me to take a bow and salute the Author was his photography skills. I could not believe my eyes when I saw the pictures. They were simply perfect. Books has some shots, which made me wonder, how did he manage to get this shot. The frame, the composition, lighting, everything seems perfect.

Now I am confused. What should I call this book? “A travel guide”, “A Coffee Table Book”, “A Photo-Journal”, “A Heritage Guide”……. Perhaps, this unique masterpiece is a combination of all.

I must thank Mr. Amardeep Singh jee for his brilliant talent and effort in putting up this masterpiece for rest of the world.

If you wish to buy this book, www.lostheritagebook.com should help. Book is already available on Amazon US and will be soon available on Indian e-Comm portals as well. Till then, one can order it from this website.

I clicked few pages for you…

PageGurudwaraPage428Page342PagesPage303Page-HaveliPageFaqirKhanaPage237

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The Radcliffe Award

This award, given to India in the form of “Radcliffe Line”, was the most bloody and painful gift ever. The Prime Minister Clement Attlee of the United Kingdom stood in London Parliament on 20th February 1947 and announced:

  1. British Government would grant full self-government to British India by June 1948 at the latest,
  2. The future of Princely States would be decided after the date of final transfer is decided.

On June 3rd 1947, Lord Mountbatten, then Viceroy of British India proposed the following plan:

  1. Principle of Partition of India was accepted by the British Government
  2. Successor governments would be given dominion status
  3. Implicit right to secede from the British Commonwealth

This plan got Royal Assent from King Geroge VI of England on 18th July 1947 as the “Indian Independence Act 1947”. It was “An Act to make provision for the setting up in India of two independent Dominions, to substitute other provisions for certain provisions of the Government of India Act, 1935, which apply outside those Dominions, and to provide for other matters consequential on or connected with the setting up of those Dominions.

The Act’s stated that:

  • division of British India into the two new and fully sovereign dominions of India and Pakistan, with effect from 15 August 1947;
  • partition of the provinces of Bengal and Punjab between the two new countries;
  • establishment of the office of Governor-General in each of the two new countries, as representatives of the Crown;
  • conferral of complete legislative authority upon the respective Constituent Assemblies of the two new countries;
  • termination of British suzerainty over the princely states, with effect from 15 August 1947, and recognized the right of states to accede to either dominion
  • abolition of the use of the title “Emperor of India” by the British monarch (this was subsequently executed by King George VI by royal proclamation on 22 June 1948).

The Act also made provision for the division of joint property, etc. between the two new countries, including in particular the division of the armed force.

Following this act, Cyril John Radcliffe, 1st Viscount Radcliffe, a British Law Lord was sent to India on 8th July 1947. He was given just 5 weeks cut India into two parts, based on religion. Two separate boundary commissions were setup, one for Punjab and one for Bengal. Both were chaired by Radcliffe. The Punjab Boundary Commission consisted of Justices Mehr Chand Mahajan, Teja Singh, Din Mohammed and Muhammad Munir. The Bengal Boundary Commission consisted of Justices C. C. Biswas, B. K. Mukherjee, Abu Saleh Mohamed Akram and S. A. Rahman.

He started drawing the bloody line, which is popularly known as the Radcliffe Line. It divided India between the modern day India and the Pakistan (which later split into East and West Pakistan).

RadcliffeLine-2

Problems & Loopholes in procedure

  1. Radcliffe never visited India before this date
  2. He couldn’t travel the length and breadth of India during his 5 week stay
  3. He kept distance from Lord Mountbatten and other Indian Politicians, who knew India well, in order to stay unbiased (which in-turn proved fatal)
  4. There was no outside participant (such as United Nations)
  5. There was lack of sufficient survey data and regional demographics
  6. Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims were kept in the border commissions, but their internal fight made the decision tougher. Worse, the family (wife & 2 children) of Sikh Judge was killed a few weeks earlier.
  7. Britain was in ‘war debt’ and could not afford arranging for adequate resources.
  8. Punjab Border Commission was to draw a line right through homeland of Sikhs and Bengal Border Commission was to draw line through Chittagong, home to Buddhists in order to divide India between Hindus and Muslims.
  9. Buddhist tribes in Chittagong Hill Tracts had no official representation and were left without any information to prepare for their situation during partition.
  10. Line could be drawn only through the British controlled areas, leaving as many as 562 princely states to the hands of their rulers to decide, which side to join. States like Kashmir and Junagadh had ruler from different religion than their majority population, which ended up in major conflicts.
  11. Major states like Hyderabad, Jodhpur, Rewa, Gwalior, Jaisalmer, Bahawalpur comprised most of the Indian land and were forced to choose one side.
  12. Hindu majority areas like Khulna and Buddhist majority Chittagong Hills were given to Pakistan while Muslim majority Murshidabad and Malda fell in India. Similarly, major Sikh settlements of Lahore, Rawalpindi & Multan went to Pakistan while Muslims rich Gurdaspur, Jalandhar and Ludhiana were given to India.
  13. Sindh, from where the name “Hind”, “Hindi” and “Hindustan” is derived, was given to Pakistan leaving as many as 1.4 million Hindus in a stiff. Half of them fled to India.
  14. Several important factors were ignored by Radcliffe, which was complained by every party in India.
  15. A rough line was drawn on paper, leaving several regions in dilemma. We still have few homes in Bengal, where one room is in India and other in Bangladesh
  16. Entire process of division was kept secret and only core committee knew of the draft
  17. Partition was declared on 17th August 1947, two days after Independence. Many villages hoisted flag of different countries for 2 days, until the confusion was cleared on 17th. For example, Malda was taken by East Pakistan Administration and Pakistani flag was hoisted, until Indian Administration reached after 4 days with correct documents and replaced the flag.
  18. Since Partition was declared after the British handed over control, the responsibility of Law & Order during Migration was left to the hands of newly formed governments, who were still taking account of their security strengths and weaknesses. It took them several months to get law enforcement agencies in place, during which, the mass massacre happened.
  19. Only 50,000 security personnel were deployed in Punjab, to protect 14 million migrating individuals. There was less than 1 soldier per square mile.

Eleven days before returning independence to India, Lord Mountbatten works with his advisors to divide India peaceably. New Delhi, India, August 4th, 1947. (David Douglas Duncan)

Aftermaths

  1. India had population of 390 Million during partition, out of which 30 million were to fall in East Pakistan and 30 million in West Pakistan.
  2. 14 million people were displaced, making it largest mass migration in history
  3. As per one estimate, 500,000 were killed
  4. 7.2 million Muslims, who reached Pakistan in hope of their ‘own’ country were branded as “Muhajir” (Migrant)
  5. Approximately 80,000 women were abducted during movement. Less than 30,000 were recovered by 1954. Much more were raped and killed.
  6. Several minor battles were fought to annex the princely states and the regions under control of Portugal. Operations of Hyderabad, Goa, Dadar & Nagar Haveli and Sikkim are prominent.
  7. The Hindu ruler of the state of Jammy and Kashmir decided to not to choose any side. However, soon after the partition, the tribal forces from Pakistan invaded Kashmir. Maharaja of Kashmir requested India of protection, at which Lord Mountbatten asked him to sign the Instrument of Accession before any help can be provided. Half heartedly, Raja Hari Singh signed the instrument and Jammu-Kashmir officially became part of India. Soon Indian Forces reached Kashmir to help Kashmiris from invading tribal forces. However, a major portion was already taken and instead of massive bloodshed, Nehru chose UN’s intervention for the peaceful resolution. The matter is still a major reason for conflict between the two countries and is considered as the ground for various wars and cross border terrorism.

The Grand Trunk Road

We’re marchin’ on relief over Injia’s sunny plains,
A little front o’ Christmas-time an’ just be’ind the Rains;
Ho! get away you bullock-man, you’ve ‘eard the bugle blowed,
There’s a regiment a-comin’ down the Grand Trunk Road;

– Rudyard Kipling

Thousands of years ago, when the earliest known human civilizations decided to explore far far away lands, the concept of migration started. One such migration forms the famous archaeological finding called the ‘Cemetery H Culture’, which spreads from Harappa in Pakistan to the Ganga-Yamuna Basin in India, covering entire East-West Punjab (circa 1700 BCE). This is also considered to be the nucleus od Vedic Civilization. As we all know, this Indus Valley Civilization revolved around trading. They established common paths to move between various settlements, which are used till date.

GTRoad_Ambala

In around 3rd century BC, as the Mauryan Empire was flourishing, a road was built to the main centre of learning ‘Taxila’ and later even further up to Balkh in Khurasan (now in Afghanistan) from Patiliputra (now Patna). This road was used by every traveller who had to cross Khyber Pass and enter into the Hind. The same route was used by invaders like Ghori and Ghazni. With time, the road reached the eastern end of empire, which today falls deep inside Bangladesh. A Greek observer recorded that Samrat Chandragupta Maurya poured manpower to maintain this road. This road is mentioned in several ancient texts and appears as “Uttarpath” (Northern-Road).

SherShahSuriTime passed and rulers came and went, ruling over the entire breadth of Hindostan, which stretched from present day Afghanistan to eastern ends of Bangladesh. In 16th century, as Emperor Babur came to India, he hired Farid Khan (aka Sher Khan) an Afghan born in Sasram (Bihar), who later dethroned Babur’s son Humayun and took  over the throne of Delhi, and became Emperor of Hindostan. This general, popularly known as Sher Shah Suri decided to restore this ancient path and make it more useful. He deployed enormous labour to revive the Uttarpath and connected his hometown Sasaram to Agra. He died soon after that, the Mughals that came afterwards connected Kabul (Afghanistan) with Chittagong (Bangladesh) using this road. Today, this road connects the capitals of 4 countries and covers a total distance of 2500 kilometres (1600 miles). During this time, this road was known by many names, eg: Shah Rah-e-Azam (“Great Road”) or Sadak-e-Azam or Badshahi Sadak.

Map

In 18th century, as the British came, they maintained this road and later converted it to a motorable road. They started calling it the “Grand Trunk Road”, sometimes also referring to it as the “Long Walk”. During that period, it was maintained between Howrah and Peshawar.

ShambhuSerai

kosminarIt is very interesting to see how the Afghans & Mughals built ‘Kos Minars’ at each ‘Kos’ (ancient measuring unit with 1 Kos approximately equal to 1.8 Km). They also built forts and most important, Caravan Serais (Inns) at regular distances. These Serais had a mosque, rooms for travellers, area reserved for animals and lot more to offer to travellers than they can ask for while travelling for thousands of kilometres. Many of these Serais are lost, but most of them still exist. Today, huge urban settlements have come up around those historic serais and the only way to identify is to check the name of locality, as most of them still use the old serai names.

 

Popular Towns on the GT Road

 

afghanistan_small Afghanistan

starKabul, Surobu, Jalalabad, Torkham (Khyber Pass)

 

pakistan_small Pakistan

Torkham, Landi Kotal, Wali Khel, Ali Masjid, Jamrud, Peshawar, Nowshera, Attock, Wah, starIslamabad, Tarnol, Rawalpindi (& Taxila), Gujar Khan, Jhelum, Kharian, Gujrat, Gujranwala, Kamoki, Muridke, Lahore, Wagha

 

india_small India

Atari, Amritsar, Kartarpur, Jalandhar, Phagwara, Goraya, Ludhiana, Khanna, Sirhind, Rajpura, Ambala, Shahbad Markanda, Kurukshetra, Karnal, Panipat, Sonipat, starDelhi, Ghaziabad, Bulandshehar, Aligarh, Etah, Kannauj, Kanpur, Fatehpur, Khaga, Allahabad, Handia, Gopiganj, Varanasi, Mohania, Sasaram, Dehri, Aurangabad, Dumri, Dhanbad, Asansol, Raniganj, Durgapur, Bardhaman, Howra-Kolkata, Gaigata, Bangaon, Petrapol

 

bangladesh_small Bangladesh

Benapole, Jhikargacha, Jessore, starDhaka, Sonargaon, Jamaldi, Daudkandi, Comilla, Feni, Baroiar Hat, Sitakunda, Bhatiari, Salimpur, Chittagong

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