Shah Almi Bazar And Lahore During Partition

Adnan Tariq's study utilises innovative historical methods, including oral history and interviews with eyewitnesses, particularly from the initial generation of Lahoris

Shah Almi Bazar And Lahore During Partition

All too often, we find that historians tend to devote less scrutiny to crimes committed by Muslims in West Punjab against non-Muslims during the Partition of India and the division of Punjab. This omission is partly due to a lack of thorough research, or a desire to avoid controversies by refraining from pointing fingers at the perpetrators. It is clear that there is a crucial necessity to reconsider and reevaluate the history of Partition from a new perspective to understand the abrupt shift of Punjab's pluralistic environment, which had endured for centuries, into a religious fervour. 

Acts of social crimes, including killings, rape, looting, and the compelled displacement of non-Muslims or Muslims from Muslim or Hindu-majority regions, impacted men, women, and children on both sides of Punjab, forming a tragic chapter in our collective memories. Despite extensive literature on partition, violence, migration, and settlement in Punjab, there is a pressing need, 76 years later, to focus specifically on the locality of Lahore for a more profound insight into Partition Studies and violence studies. Dr Adnan Tariq’s book, titled Lahore @ Partition Violence, Cross-Migration, and Regeneration 1947-1961, marks a paradigm shift in the historiography of Pakistan by presenting an impartial examination of the local history of Lahore.

Assistant Professor Dr Adnan Tariq, affiliated with the Department of Archival Studies/History at Government College University Lahore, is a dynamic young historian specialising in the modern history of South Asia. The book at hand is an outcome of his doctoral dissertation submitted to the University of the Punjab. His study provides a comprehensive perspective on the partition, migration, violence, and resettlement, distinguishing it from prior literature that often leans towards assigning blame to one of the involved parties. By focusing on the local history of Lahore, the author specifically scrutinises the origins and repercussions of partition of India and division of the Punjab. 

He notes that Muslim residents of Lahore engaged in unlawful activities against the Hindu and Sikh elites, particularly in Shah Alam Market, known as one of Asia's major commercial hubs. His argument implies that by examining the Lahore situation, one can infer a broader pattern: just as Sikhs and Hindus committed crimes against innocent and unarmed Muslims in East Punjab and the rest of India, a similar trend occurred in West Punjab, with Muslims engaging in comparable acts. Consequently, forced migration, violence, and rehabilitation became inevitable outcomes. He concludes that, in all cases, Lahore suffered significant losses in terms of both human lives and material resources, including the departure of its most skilled individuals and a substantial drain on wealth. The study is a local history aims at investigating the dynamics of violence, migration, and rehabilitation in Lahore, the capital city of United Punjab from 1947 to 1961. By applying interdisciplinary approaches Dr Adnan uncovers that the violence in Lahore is not solely a consequence of communalism; rather, it is a multifaceted phenomenon influenced by the localised class structure prevalent in colonial Lahore. 

His research establishes connections between local dynamics, the division of labour, residents and commercial spaces, providing support for diverse arguments about violence rooted in local initiatives and aspirations for change. Therefore, the author constructs a cohesive narrative elucidating how the diverse incidents of violence contributed to the departure of non-Muslims from the West Punjab to India. The author employs various theoretical concepts, such as the ethnic cleansing theory, riots, massacres and genocides to reconstruct the history of the exodus, with a specific focus on the city of Lahore. When recounting numerous incidents in Lahore, a diverse range of violent occurrences is commonly utilised, considering the distinctive characteristics of each district or region and identifying numerous commonalities. In reconstructing social history, Dr Adnan has utilised a diverse range of tools and research methods, incorporating firsthand accounts from living individuals, including perpetrators, as well as references from newspaper reports, confidential police weekly abstracts, First Information Reports (FIRs), and Governor fortnightly reports. The book is divided into four chapters, and here is a concise overview of each chapter to enhance comprehension of the content.

The first chapter, titled "Mayhem and the City," explores the colonial evolution and communal dynamics of Lahore. It particularly emphasises the growing Hindu bourgeoisie and the prevalent mob mentality within the Muslim community. Despite their numerical majority, Muslims were largely drawn from the impoverished stratum, giving rise to communal tensions and a fault line in the socio-political landscape of colonial Lahore. The upheaval in 1947 brought advantages to the proletariat and lower-middle-class Muslims, allowing them to establish a presence in the social structure of Lahore. This study is an outcome of the central inquiry into how individuals respond when they perceive a serious threat to their religious community and the reasons behind their feelings of insecurity, leading to actions such as violence or migration. It delves into understanding how people adapt to new circumstances and examines the responses of both the state and society to immigrants. The argument explores the nexus between politics and violence, centring on the tumultuous nature of the initial phase of violence in Lahore. This outbreak of violence was largely a repercussion of Amritsar's influence on Lahore, prompting Muslims to retaliate with street stabbing and arson. The RSSS orchestrated systematic assaults against specific Muslim targets, employing advanced weaponry and resorting to bombing. While the third June plan clarified the partition, it did not disclose which side was to bear the brunt of the fallout. However, Dr Anan argues that the primary catalyst behind the riots was socio-political and economic rather than religious, as the Hindus maintained a robust middle-class status, preventing a straightforward conversion of both communities into a binary economic opposition. 

In the second chapter, entitled “Great Fire of Shah Almi Bazar and the real Exodus,” the conflagration at Shah Almi Bazar emerges as a pivotal event in the history of West Punjab. Local dignitaries, security forces, and indigenous youths collaborated in setting the city ablaze, triggering widespread ethnic cleansing and a mass exodus. In a span of two months, almost the entire non-Muslim population was compelled to vacate the city, with daily casualties from street stabbings and arson numbering in the hundreds. Lahore, once a prominent colonial metropolis to be emulated, underwent a significant transformation in its identity with the expulsion of the non-Muslim community. The authorities endeavoured to control the situation, yet, as per Dr Adnan, the deployment of police and military forces escalated the conflict into a war of extermination.

In the third chapter, named "City on Transit," the Punjab Boundary Force was tasked with ensuring the safe evacuation of non-Muslims from the central district of the city to the transit camp and East Punjab. Despite authorities contemplating the repatriation of evacuees, the unanticipated surge in refugees and the massacres in Princely States complicated the process of settling the displaced population. Poorly managed affairs resulted in confusion regarding the status of evacuee properties and trust institutions. While the partition council finalised the allocation of governmental assets and buildings, the handling of non-governmental complexes, trust institutes, and evacuee properties followed a distinct protocol. Eventually, trust institutes managed their properties through mutual transfers to other buildings situated on the eastern side.

The concluding fourth chapter, titled "The Story of the City with Change" examines the post-partition period in Lahore, Pakistan, placing a particular focus on the reintegration of evacuees into their residential properties. Due to a legal delay lasting eight years, initial allotments were made on a temporary basis. The official allocation process began in 1955 after the Indian government revoked the property rights of Muslim refugees in India. Dr Adnan also observes that the illegal occupation of evacuee properties took place from 1947 to 1957, leading to corruption within the allocation procedure. Predominantly owned by non-Muslims, with Hindus as the primary proprietors, most factories were affected. The pharmaceutical sector in Lahore underwent notable transformations, with authorities giving priority to immigrants possessing pre-partition experience in the field. Although the textile industry occupied a significant position before the partition, its industrial infrastructure faced limitations in the post-partition era. This was primarily attributed to the departure of resources, both in terms of manpower and capital, from Lahore to India.

In short, the communal tangle in India, Punjab and Lahore, especially in the last decade of united Punjab, has been discussed by many scholars like Ian Talbot, Ishtiaq Ahmed, Ilyas Chatha, David Gilmartin and Muhammad Iqbal Chawla, yet, there hasn't been a concentrated investigation delving into the social history that primarily uncovers history from the grassroots level, covering aspects like partition, migration, violence, and rehabilitation. This study utilises innovative historical methods, including oral history and interviews with eyewitnesses, particularly from the initial generation of Lahoris. Thus, Dr Adnan has admirably established a digital database of interviews with the initial generation of Lahoris to comprehend the religio-political, social and economic phenomena in colonial and post-colonial Punjab. His depiction of how Lahore experienced destruction, fragmentation, and division during the partition period, as well as how it was reconstructed after the creation of Pakistan provides valuable lessons from history. In this context, this research represents a significant addition to the current body of knowledge in the fields of partition studies, gender studies, violence studies, as well as mob psychology and behavioural sciences. It is expected to function as a guide for upcoming researchers, prompting them to delve more profoundly into various paradigms linked to the histories of Lahore and other notable cities like Rawalpindi, Faisalabad, Multan, Amritsar, Jalandhar, Delhi and beyond. My sincere congratulations go to both the author and the publisher for making this book accessible to a wider audience. I wholeheartedly recommend this book to students, researchers, academics, historians, political scientists, scholars in the humanities, and anyone with an interest in colonial and post-colonial studies, the British Empire, violence studies, gender studies, Punjab Studies, and related subjects.

The author is the former Dean of Arts and Humanities at the University of the Punjab in Lahore