The Voice from the Rural Areas:
people of the rural
1. The biggest landlord of the village who had
a decision making authority in all the matters of the village and all the
villagers were satisfied with his position and justice.
the farmers with small holding, then tenants
Chuhras whose duty was sweeping etc.
The Punjab had been under the foreigners that helped the non-Indian
or Arab origin castes like Araeen, Qureshi or Syed, Awan, Qizalbash, Ansari,
etc. to settle in the region who further achieved a big influence in the
social and political affairs in the name of religion.
Kammis was a professional class and not only poor but also considered as
low-castes in the society. They were economically dependant on the Muslim
and the Sikh farmers whether the farmers had small or big land. In the
Muslims and the Sikhs had been living for centuries door to door as good friends though they had an antagonistic historical past more deep-rooted than the Hindu-Muslim enmity. Hindu and the Muslim heroes had different regions and times while the Muslim rulers and the Sikh heroes were contemporary and in the same land. Therefore, we see a direct clash between the Muslim rulers and the Sikh religious personalities. Both the communities sought the way to live together and ostensibly they were living with the Muslims on the basis of social inter-action and interdependence. The other factors may be summarized as:
Muslims and Sikhs used to enjoy the folk stories of Heer Ranjha, Sassi Punu,
Sohni Mahinwal, Mirza Sahiban, etc, sitting together sometimes for whole
night. Every village had one place of sitting where all the interested
people gathered and had pranks for whole night. The non-Muslims mostly
joined the Muslims on the Moharram processions and other occasions
like marriage or death ceremony.
folklore of the
The conversions within caste mainly the Jatts proved blessing. The Jat Muslims were sympathetic towards the Jat Sikhs who were the relatives by blood. They had changed their religions but still were brothers. It shows that the land of five rivers originally had been a liberal society and we see no persecutions or clash at the time of conversions. The cultural traditions overrode the religion in some areas of life. For example, there is no caste system in Islam and Sikhism and both believe that all human beings are equal irrespective of caste, status or colour. But both could not get rid of the traditional culture and no Jat liked (even today) to marry his daughter with a kami. The Muslim and Sikh Jatts had deep adherence to their religions but naturally were influenced more by the culture than the religions.
position of the Muslims and Sikhs varied in the two parts of the
The socio-economic interdependence further encouraged tolerance. Being in the same streets, mandis, fields, cultural functions and other economic activities both were bound to the mutual interests. The Chaudhri and Sardar of the villages used to help their poor village fellows irrespective of their religious affiliation. Baba Jewna recalls that Odham Singh being a wealthy zamindar of the area, used to protect honour of all the Hindu and Muslim communities of his village. For these qualities, he was called “Bapu,” by the Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims. He had pledge to bear all expenditure of the marriage party called Barat of the poor families because he owned all the girls of the village as his real daughters. Sometimes he paid the land revenue of the poor cultivators whenever they were unable to pay the same. During the month of Ramazan (the Islamic month in which the Muslims observe fasts) he arranged Sehri and Iftari for the people who were not stable financially. He regularly attended the Eid address and appreciated the good points. According to Niamat Ali from Sikhan Kanwan Wali (Kartarpura), the Sikhs of that village were mostly Jatts and Nihangs. They were encamped into two rival groups. The Sikh Chaudhris always rendered their financial and moral support to the Muslims whenever they needed particularly on the occasion of the marriages of their sons or daughters.
political identity and constitutional rights hit the traditional
arrangements particularly in the urban areas and they observed disputes on
the religious festivals but the rural areas had an ideal and peaceful life.
The tradition of revenge and blood feuds of the rural
The Panchayat composed of the eminent persons of all the communities of a village moreover had a full and an independent decision-making authority. During the British rule, all the prominent families were declared as zaildars and numbardar/lambardars which were given administrative and judicial powers. People were satisfied as their own people were making decisions and there was no involvement of the police and courts. Any dispute between the Muslims and the Sikhs was confined to the village and due to the non-availability of publishing activities the dispute was never supposed to travel to the other cities, villages and political parties. Chaudhri Khadim Hussain Chahal recalled that once the Muslim youth humiliated the Granthi on the way which infuriated the non-Muslims but the Punchayat resolved the issue and placated the non-Muslims within an hour. Such folly was never to be quoted and repeated in future. This shows the integrity and morale of the Panchayat, the implementation of its decision and its respect among the villagers.
tradition of ‘exchange of turbans’ was a symbol of brotherhood or
friendship. Pagg (turban) was a sign of honour for all
Punjabis and could end enmity even after some bloody fight. If two men of
any castes or religions had exchanged their paggs (turbans) then
their relationship would become stronger than the blood relations. Each
could sacrifice property and even life for each. This tradition also played
an important role in securing the peace of the rural
between Muslims and Sikhs
the natural arrangements, the position of the Muslims was hit severely
because the Hindus and the Sikhs were sound financially. Religiously and
socially they were much close to each other. They had no deep-rooted
differences in social life as they could inter-dine, inter-marry, etc. while
the Muslims were financially weak and isolated in the mainstream of life.
This reality marked division of the society into two rival camps on the
basis of the religious adherence.
religion kept the two communities distinctive always far away from each
other throughout the history. The concept of halal-haram, antagonistic
memories, issue of Jhatka, Azan, route of religious processions, music
before mosques, etc. moved them ultimately to the bitter past. The Sikhs
never allowed the Muslims to touch their pots because, to them, this touch
would make them religiously impure (Bhitt jana). Comrade Bishan Singh
smiled and said “sometimes the Muslim class fellows deliberately touched
our lunch in the school just to eat the better lunch and we had to be hungry
for whole day.” Although such issues mainly hit the urban areas but the
issue of Shahidganj and the Muslim demand for a separate state on the basis
of religion attracted the rural masses gradually through the political
conferences organized by the Shiromani Akali Dal and the all-India Muslim
League which consequently influenced the rural
year 1947 brought bloody riots and the migrations started. Some Muslims and
Sikhs helped the migrants while some condemned the Sikhs and mourned about
what they lost during the bloodletting moves while crossing the rival
community areas. None of the people (who were interviewed) called it
‘partition’ rather dangey or lutmaar. The accounts reveal
the Muslims and Sikhs who were linked by the blood relationship, friendship,
agricultural or business partnership, etc. did help each other and felt
pains on the departure of their fellows. Mostly they requested the people of
the rival community not to leave them and the village. The accounts also
disclose that the people from humble background, non-Indian castes and Kamis
were mainly involved in the killing and plundering. They intimidated the
rivals so that they would provide them an opportunity to take away their
precious belongings. Professor Khizr Virk told that they sent their Kammi to
Sardar Mangal Singh Virk, head of their Sikh relatives to come to their
village but they fled away to the Indian the same night. It was revealed
latter when both met in the
The Muslims helped the Sikhs and Hindus during the difficult time mostly by the Jat Muslims because they had been relatives. They did not like the decision of the partition but were unable to change the decision. They tried to facilitate the departing friends thinking it their moral duty. Ch. Akbar Ali Chahal from Kanganpur (district Kasur) himself escorted a poor Hindu family up to the river Satluj who in return helped many Muslims in crossing the river. When the Muslims tried to offer some money etc. to the mahtam, he refused flatly and requested them to convey his regards to Chaudhri Akbar Ali. By this, he wanted to convey a message of love and compensation. It was another picture of the partition.
poor migrants faced mostly physical loss while the rich families lost
property and the social status. The partition brought a major shift in
restructuring the social status of the families in both the Punjabis. An
interesting discussion I had with Sardar Ajmer Singh Sidhu and Narvair
Singh. Narvair Singh expressed his feelings that MA Jinnah, Nehru and
Gandhi, all were non-Punjabi, no pain they could feel on the bloodshed of
the Punjabis? This statement indicates towards a major problem of leadership
crisis of the region. The leadership crisis historically hit the
Date of interview?
Place of Interview?
Profession before 1947?
of the Muslims and Sikhs in your village?
of the Sikhs and the Muslims?
of relationship between the two communities?
did your garanthi or maulvi tell about the Muslim rulers?
you proud of /what did your religious people teach you in your
childhood/boyhood/ on the Muslim rulers?
you think that Hindus were your friends?
you fight on the religious issues like Aurangzeb’s policy, cow-killing,
azan etc. etc.?
which occasions you and the Sikhs were together?
you (Sikhs and Muslims) inter-dine and inter-marry?
you have the same language and dress?
did you manage affairs with the other community?
you interested in the politics?
there any political party branch in your village?
any political leader visit your village?
were your feelings about the
were your feelings on the news that the Sikhs/Muslims would depart for ever?
you any physical training centre (as offshoot of the political party) in
were the people who intimidated the Sikhs and looted their homes?
are your views about Master Tara Singh? (Muslims)
are your views about Quaid-i-Azam? (Sikhs)
you play any role during the migrations?
you any picture or document of the combined society?
you happy on the Sikhs’ departure to
Originally this Questionnaire was in Punjabi (Shahmukhi). I have translated
it into English for convenience.