By Vishav Bharti Chandigarh

Aug 12, 2022  

Description: Killers were aplenty, saviours too
The reports that appeared in The Tribune on March 18 & Aug 2, 1947

When communal frenzy had gripped leaders and workers of the most of the political parties in Punjab, there were saviours also who were from these very parties or from the masses.

Everywhere there were brave people, who stood up against the murders, recounts Rajmohan Gandhi in ‘Punjab: A History from Aurangzeb to Mountbatten’.

There were shining examples of humanity, says Ishtiaq Ahmed, Professor Emeritus, Stockholm University, and author of ‘The Punjab Bloodied, Partitioned and Cleansed’. “It has often been said that it is in times of crisis that humanity shines. Indeed, amidst all the carnage in the Punjab, there were non-Muslims who displayed their humanity and, at great risk to their own lives, saved those of Muslims.”

Shining examples of humanity

It has often been said that it is in time of crisis that humanity shines. Indeed, amid the carnage in Punjab, there were non-Muslims who showed humanity and, at great risk to their own lives, saved those of Muslims. —Ishtiaq Ahmed, professor emeritus, Stockholm University

Freedom fighter and communist leader Sahib Singh Salana’s heroic tale is still afresh in the memory of the people in the villages along the Grand Trunk Road near Khanna. In his memoir ‘Meri Aap Beeti’, he recalled how he, along with his fellow villagers, saved 40 Muslim women from attackers. “The rioters belonging to Ikolaha village reached Baghour and started threatening the villagers. They wanted to kidnap the women who had taken shelter there. The villagers contacted us. We brought the hapless women to Khatra village and saved them.”

“Thus, the people belonging to Khatra, Salana, Ramgarh and Baghour saved Punjab from getting ashamed in those dark times,” he wrote. Salana was later instrumental in organising a gathering of 21 villages to boycott Ikolaha village for massacring innocent Muslims. But the boycott did not last long.

Several such stories have been documented by Prof Ishtiaq Ahmed in his book like Bawa Ghansham, a Sikh belonging to the Communist Party of India who saved hundreds of Muslims by giving them refuge. Another was Babey Daktarni (doctor), the elderly wife of a Sikh doctor, who saved many lives.

Similarly, Babu Labh Singh, an Akali leader, was killed when he was visiting Muslim localities in Jalandhar to seek forgiveness. Later, the Civil Hospital and a gurdwara in Jalandhar were named after him.

Ahmed tells the story of two Sikh girls who, having fallen into the hands of Muslims at Hathi Gate in Amritsar, were saved by the general secretary of the Muslim League Mir Anwar Saeed.