Empathising With Partition Victims: Mercy Deaths Are Not The Same As Honour Killings

Empathising With Partition Victims: Mercy Deaths Are Not The Same As Honour Killings
Thoha Khalsa would have been another nondescript albeit picturesque and peaceful village, if not for a blood-curdling event in 1947. Politicians had demanded the partition of British-ruled India. As far as the mobs were concerned, there would be a country for Muslims, and the people of other religions would be killed, converted, or evicted. Already, through Direct Action Day, a clear message had been sent through violence.  The misdeeds would ignite riots and the hatred that festers to this day.

At first, the mobs tried to bully the Sikh minority at Rawalpindi.  However, the latter were well-armed and defeated the attackers.  Embarrassed by the defeat, the mobs attacked vulnerable villages in the surrounding areas.

Thoha Khalsa was one such village.

There, dozens of Sikh women jumped into a well and performed Jauhar; in other words, they committed suicide. A handful of Sikhs had resolutely defended their hamlet against a frenzied Muslim mob. Vastly outnumbered and undermined by being in a hostile jurisdiction, their position became hopeless. The fanatics had eyes on the ultimate prize – the women of the “kafirs.” Nothing was going to stop them – their preaching sanctioned their actions. It was a reward for what had been presented to them as “jihad.”

But they would be denied the plunder that day. After performing prayers, the Sikh girls, led by the elder ladies, jumped into the well. Some were pregnant, and others had infants with them.  They jumped till the well was full of death and couldn’t receive more. The sight unnerved the raiders, who left without looting or claiming any prize. The military later rescued a few survivors.

This event was not an isolated tragedy. Across the land, Sikhs killed their daughters and sisters, usually by beheading, drowning, or poisoning. Many went through this fate and encouraged others to “save their honour.” It was a euphemism for avoiding rape by any means necessary. Mothers performed self-immolation with their children beside them, while the fathers and brothers fought the attackers.

It always happened as a last resort, when all was lost, and the jeering mobs hovered to inflict indignity.

The unlucky women were captured and openly gang-raped over days, butchered, mutilated, or sold into slavery.  Though Muslims, at the receiving end of vengeful attacks, also practiced such killings and suicides, Sikhs are condemned the most by historians.

Such behavior is prevalent worldwide and throughout history among the victims and the vanquished – the goal is always to write their fate instead of an enemy sealing it with humiliation. The wounded soldiers at times pleaded with their comrades to deliver them from agony or what would befall them in enemy hands.  And the friends with grief honoured the last wish. It was not done out of some ritualistic code of ethics in the name of superficial honour. It was to save the victims from the worst.

What is more despicable than the tragedy of the actual event is that several decades later, some individuals are judging the actions and fate of these hapless victims. Such people, aping the trendy Western intellectual labels, have the audacity to blame the victims for their misfortune. Not having seen an honest day's work and living in cocoons, it is easy to take the high road. Hiding behind clichés and disguising themselves as peaceniks, they have misled people by describing these tragedies as honour killings. Unfortunately, some Sikhs have jumped on this bandwagon and are marching as self-loathing cowards of the fifth column.

Instead of understanding and sympathising with the tormented souls forced to extinguish the life they lovingly brought into this world, the wretched modern-day critics are defiling their memory.  Where is their condemnation of the raiders who brought upon this misfortune?  The vocal social-justice warriors become dumb and mute when questioned about their one-sided tirade which targets the victims.

Most people of this perspective are beneficiaries of British colonialism. They got their education at English schools; some went to Britain for higher education. This gave them a false sense of snobbery and a delusional sense of intelligence. They mimic the West but utterly fail. They are crows that have attached a peacock’s feather to their tails and think they have become peacocks.

Be it the battlefields of feudal Japan and India, or the hell of modern conflict from the US Civil War to the Pacific Front of the Second World War, cases of desperate suicide and mercy killings abound. The critics of the unfortunate victims of Partition violence should examine this history before sitting in judgement on hapless civilians facing something which no human should ever have to face.