The Problem of Khalistan
But the foregoing table is only a faint indication of the problem involved. A separation of the Ambala Division from Punjab would mean the division of Sikhs of the Punjab into two provinces.
Are the Sikhs willing to be so divided ?
It is true that the Sikhs are a bare minority. Even in Punjab they are hardly more than 15% of the total population. But they are a virile community and their wishes cannot be lightly ignored.
The Sikhs have been a powerful factor in the politics of the Punjab. Since the annexation of their empire with British India, they have played a most noteworthy part in the making of the Punjab of today, and have made contributions towards the defence of India, and towards its economic and political life, which are out of all proportion to their numerical strength. They claim to be the best agriculturists and colonists in India. They have more than seven hundred gurdwaras in the Punjab, with rich endowments and undying memories of their Gurus, saints and martyrs attached to them. They have set up, and are financing, over four hundred educational institutions, colleges, schools, girls seminaries and technical establishments. They own the best and the most fertile lands of the province, and contribute more than 40% of the provincial revenue.
Their political importance has always been recognised. During the working of the Montford Reforms, one of the Executive Councillors always used to be a Sikh, and from 1926, when an additional Muslim member was added, till 1937, the Sikhs retained 25% representation in the Provincial Cabinet. Even when the Unionist Ministry had been formed, it was not considered as strongly entrenched as long as Sir Sikandar Hayat Khan had not entered into a pact with the Akali leader, Sardar Baldev Singh.
The Sikhs to the last man are opposed to Pakistan. They have refused to agree to the Muslim claim that Punjab is a Muslim Province. They challenge it on the ground that non-Muslims own in Punjab more than eighty per cent of the urban property and pay more than eighty per cent of the Income-tax and Urban Property Tax, an overwhelmingly major proportion of the industrial enterprises, mills, the insurance companies, the film industry and business, shop-keeping, trade and commerce is in non-Muslim hands, and the cultural life of the Province is primarily created and determined by impulses coming from non-Muslim sources.
They were the first to raise the battle-cry against Pakistan. The Sikh All-India Committee was the first to reject the Cripps proposals, on the ground that they had given the option of non-adherence to an All-India Union to majorities in the provinces. "We shall resist" they announced, "by all possible means separation of the Punjab from an All-India Union."
As the Sikh leaders pointed out in their memorandum to the Conciliation Committee, the Sikhs are irrevocably opposed to a partition of India on a communal basis. They consider the demand to be unnatural, reactionary and in opposition to the best interests of India, as well as of the portions and regions sought to be partitioned off. They see in it the death warrant of the future of the Sikh community as a whole, and are prepared to fight to a man against it.
The Sikh opposition to Pakistan cannot be lightly brushed aside. If Pakistan comes into existence in spite of the Sikh opposition, a homeland for the Sikhs, a Khalistan would have to be created in the Punjab. The Sikhs have at least as strong a claim for such a homeland as the Muslims. They have their own list of grievances against the Muslim rule in the Punjab, which is in no case less imposing than the list of the Muslim grievances against the Congress rule.
Their main complaint against the Act of 1935 is that by giving them 33 seats in a House of 175 in the Punjab, 3 seats in a House of 50 in the N.-W.F.P. and 6 seats in a House of 250 in the Federal Legislature, it has reduced them to complete ineffectiveness in all spheres of the political life of the country. The Muslims who formed about 13% of the population in the U.P., as the Sikhs did in the Punjab, have been given 35% seats in the U. P., whereas the Sikhs had been given only 19% in the Punjab.
But their greatest complaint is against the working of the Provincial Autonomy in their Province. Their proportion in the Executive Government has been reduced. All the key-posts that fell vacated or were vacated, became the monopoly of the Muslims—the Sikhs had been designedly excluded from effective participation in the administrative machinery. The Unionist Ministry had done everything in its power to thwart the work of Sikh educational institutions by reducing the Government grants-in-aid in some, and by refusing to recognise others, for the purpose of such grants-in-aid.
Again, Punjabi was admittedly the spoken language and the mother-tongue of the Sikhs, Hindus and the Muslims in the Province, and yet the administrative work of the Government was conducted in Urdu, written in Persian script, and Urdu had been enforced as the medium of instruction even at the primary stage. The Unionist Ministry had done everything in its power to thwart the teaching of Punjabi even if carried on solely or primarily by private enterprise.
The Unionists had done everything in their power to degrade and demoralise the Sikhs by interfering in the practice of their religion arbitrarily and merely with a view to make them feel that they were a subject and subjugated people in their own homeland. By executive acts, they had stopped the preparation and use of jhatka in Government and semi-Government institutions. In .fact, they alleged, the whole Government machinery under the Muslim majority rule was biased in favour of the Muslims and against the non-Muslims. A planned and sustained policy of discriminating against, and brow-beating, Sikh officials in the Government services had become an undisguised feature of the autonomy regime in the Punjab.
All this had resulted in the deterioration in the status and integrity of the public service, thus creating a state of affairs in which the elementary rights of neither the non-Muslim public nor the public services were safe.
The Sikh claim of nationhood also is not less strong than the Muslims who claim Punjab as their homeland. " I place my claim," wrote Master Tara Singh, " upon the fact that the Punjab is not a Muslim Province. I do not even admit that the Muslims are in majority in population." "Punjab history," he further wrote, "is the Sikh history. It is the birth-place of the Sikh religion and the Sikh gurus. Most, if not all, of the Punjab martyrs are Sikh martyrs. The Sikhs are the only people who take pride in Punjab culture and language ... A Muslim poet will sing of Mecca and Medina, a Hindu poet will sing of Ganga and Benares, but it is the Sikh poet who sings of the Ravi and Chenab. The Sikhs alone are true Punjabis."
On a less responsible plane, the All-India Sikh Students' Federation, Lahore, could express itself even more strongly :
"If there is a separate nation in India, it is the Sikhs. They are unique in the world, they have a common appellation suffixed to their names—at once both a sign of their homogeneity and exclusiveness. Alone in the world, they wear sword as a religious injunction and an article of faith. Alone in the world, they have a script which is exclusively their own. Alone in the world, they throw the challenge of solidarity even in matters of dress and appearance . . . Internally, we are a compact, well-knit and disciplined people. We have our own ceremonials, we have our own seat of authority, Sri Akal Takht Sahib ... By all tests, we are a separate nation, with our ideology of life."
Ideas sometimes grow with terrible rapidity. If the idea of Pakistan, originating in the minds of some irresponsible Cambridge youths could take to its present dimensions, the idea of Khalistan also can become equally powerful. If Pakistan finds
its goal, Khalistan cannot be far behind.
But apart from the opposition of the Sikhs, let us try to find answer for the question whether Punjab can at all be partitioned. If the Sikhs do not agree to Pakistan, and one can be sure that they would never agree, then the only alternative would be to concede a homeland in Punjab to the Sikhs also. That would mean a partition of the Punjab, but is a partition of the Punjab practicable ?
The idea of a partition of Punjab is not new. Sir Geoffrey Corbett had placed it before the Round Table Conference. It was discussed in October 1942 by a number of Hindu and Sikh leaders at Delhi. It may be suggested at first that if a dividing line is drawn from north to south right across the Lahore Division, it would place the Divisions with overwhelmingly Muslim majority, Rawalpindi and. Multan, on the west and the Divisions with overwhelmingly non-Muslim population, viz., Ambala and Jullundur, on the east, and that it would also be a fair distribution of the Muslim majority and the non-Muslim majority districts of the Lahore Division between the two parts.
But it is much easier to draw a line on the map than lay down the frontier posts. To which of the two parts of the Punjab would Lahore belong ? If we draw the dividing line east of Lahore we shall be placing Lahore and Amritsar into different areas. Can a proper frontier line be drawn anywhere between Lahore and Amritsar ? A look at the physical map of the Punjab will be enough to point out that there is no natural line of demarpation anywhere in this area. If an artificial line is drawn this will
be so unnatural as to cut up even the canal system of the area into two parts.
In fact, the Punjab is deeply united by a number of ties, regional, economic, communal, lingual, educational and cultural, the whole thing gathered up in a long tradition of administrative unity.
Moreover, we have to keep this fact in mind that we have to draw a line not between two provinces but between two states, the State of Khalistan and the State of Pakistan, which might very well be on fighting terms in the future.
It is not likely that the Sikhs are going to agree to any reasonable settlement. Their attitude over the Shahidgunj Mosque, was an indication of their mentality. If they would not part with a disused and dilapidated mosque, they are unlikely to surrender the most fertile tracts of the province to the Lahore Government (or is it
to be the Rawalpindi Government ?).
The attitude of the Sikh community towards separation was emphatically expressed to the Sapru Committee in a memorandum signed by twenty top representatives of the community. This is a document that cannot be ignored :
"The position of the Sikhs in India is so unique that it is impossible to find even a distant parallel to it. They are six million in population, out of whom over four million live in British India. Thus on a population basis, they constitute the third largest community in British India, the other two being Hindus and Muslims. But their political, historic and economic importance is out of all proportion to their numbers.
"The rise of Sikhism was coeval with the emergence of the Moghul power in India in the fifteenth century, till by the end of the seventeenth century, after having tried all peaceful and legitimate means of persuading the aggressive Muslim conquerors to let them and the Hindus live a life consistent with their self-respect and dignity, they constituted themselves into a military and militant organisation called the Khalsa. Throughout the eighteenth century, they faced a relentless war of extermination and faced it so well and heroically that it is impossible to find a comparision in the whole history of mankind, where a weak and oppressed people resolutely stood in dignified protest against the greatest Empire of the time and carried the torch of resistance and revolution from, generation to generation till by their matchless sacrifices and superhuman determination they emerged as the foremost political power in Northern India.
The Empire they built was destroyed by the diplomacy of the British added by the fatality of circumstances, in the middle of the nineteenth century, but even their worst enemies will not assert that the Sikhs surrendered abjectly to the British, or laid down arms without a struggle.
"Since the annexation of the Sikh empire with British India, the Sikhs have played a most noteworthy part in the making of the Punjab of today, and have made contributions towards the defence of India, and towards its economic and political life, which are out of all proportion to their small numerical strength, but which are in keeping with their historic role in the political and cultural life of India.
"The Note prepared by S. Harnam Singh, M.A., B.Sc., LL.B., Advocate, under the title
'Homeland of the Sikhs' may be treated as part of this memorandum. The facts and figures on this point are so clear and overwhelming that nothing but sheer audacity can account for any claim to the contrary, including the facetious claim that the Punjab is a Muslim Province, or that it comprises one of the homelands of the Muslims. The Sikhs have more than seven hundred historic Gurdwaras in the Punjab with rich endowments, and undying memories of their Gurus, saints and martyrs attached to them. The Sikhs have set up and are financing over 400 educational institutions, colleges, schools, girls' seminaries and technical establishments, thus making a contribution towards the educational progress of the Province out of all proportion to their numerical strength and far in excess of any such contribution made by other communities, particularly the Muslims. The policy of, and the atmosphere prevailing in, these institutions are more liberal and non-communal than in any similar institution run by other communities."
The major heads of the Provincial Receipts are land revenue, excise, stamps and water rates, which in themselves constitute seventy-six per cent of the total revenues. Of these, it can be asserted, the Sikhs contribute more than forty per cent. One has only to refer to the difficulties experienced in the early colonisation days and see how the Colonisation Officers are full of praises for Sikh Colonists. By sheer dint of hard work, the Sikhs have not only made barren and waste lands fertile but also have created an insatiable desire amongst Punjabis for canal irrigated land which has incidentally raised the price of land. The Sikhs own the best and most fertile lands of the Province, the fertility of which is not so much the result of accident as the result of sustained labours of the Sikh cultivators themselves.
The claim put forward by the Sikhs to the Cabinet Mission was a Sikh state extending from the Chenab to the Sutlej, subject to modifications. It would, however, be difficult to resist the claim to a line between Lahore and Atnritsar, Lahore being the seat of Pakistan, and Amritsar the seat of Khalistan.
This matter on examination leads to the following conclusions :
In the twelve tahsil areas shown in the table at page 115 the Sikhs and Hindus combined are in excess of the Muslims. In order to let the Sikhs have Amritsar, their religious centre, as also some other prominent towns, wherein are situated important Sikh shrines, and also in view of the concentrated Sikh population consideration, these tahsil areas will have to be excluded from Pakistan. These tahsil areas along with the Sikh states of Phulkian, etc., will give to the Sikhs a cultural home. The boundary line between the Muslim Punjab and the adjoining non-Muslim cultural region comprising the twelve tahsils shown in the table, the Sikh states, the Kangra district and the Ambala Division, will run as shown in the map (Plate IV).
We have not touched upon the question as to whether these areas after their exclusion from the Punjab should form part of Hindustan or constitute a separate sovereign state. That would need a book on Khalistan, its pros and cons. We are at present concerned with Pakistan and its consequences, of which Khalistan is the very first.
The total area thus excluded from the Punjab (British as well as States) will be 38,878 sq. miles and the Punjab without these areas will comprise only 74,328 sq. miles. The community-wise population of these areas is— Hindus 46,54,962, Sikhs 23,58,351 and the Muslims 29,24,408. After their exclusion from the Punjab the community-wise population of the province will be as follows :—
Others about 7,00,000
Total ... 1,57,93,822.
In case a purely Muslim Pakistan is considered desirable, exchange of population between the Punjab, as constituted after the exclusion of the said areas, and the same Hindu and Sikh areas will extend to 29,24,408 Muslims of the latter areas and 39,88,729 Hindus and Sikhs living in the former. In other words exchange of population will involve about 69,13,137 people and their property. And in case exchange of population is not effected between them, the population percentage of each community in the Punjab will be—Muslims about 70.31 per cent, Hindus 14.71 per cent and Sikhs 10.53 per cent.
Now if we compare these population percentages of the communities with those which will prevail in the case of keeping the ten tahsils other than Una and Garhshankar of Hoshiarpur district (as shown in the table) within Pakistan, we find that the results achieved by their exclusion along the Ambala Division, etc., is not very substantial and will not affect the communal problem materially.
Of course, it is up to Mr. Jinnah to concede the Sikh demand, as it is up to Master Tara Singh to waive it. Mr. Jinnah visualises a sovereign Islamic State. Master Tara Singh visualises a sovereign state of the Khalsa. Both may be right and justified, but history and Providence have placed Muslims and Sikhs in such a position that argument alone cannot solve differences which are irreconcilable.
When matters come to such a pass, war is the only right and complete arbiter. The boundaries of Pakistan must be settled by war.
But now we are anticipating another of the consequences of Pakistan.