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Partition of the Punjab (1947)

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Overlay of historical Punjab region on modern East and West Punjab betweenthem is the actual Radcliffe Line.
The Province
The Punjabi Princely States.

In 1947, the province of Punjab was divided between the new republics of India and Pakistan. The mostly Muslim western part of the province became Pakistan's Punjab Province; the mostly Sikh and Hindu eastern part became India's Punjab state in 1966. Many Hindus and Sikhs lived in the west, and many Muslims lived in the east, and so the partition saw many people displaced and much intercommunal violence. Lahore and Amritsar were at the center of the problem, the British were not sure where to place them - make them part of India or Pakistan. The British decided to hand both cities to India, but because of a lack of control and regulation for the border, Amritsar became part of India while Lahore became part of Pakistan. Areas in west Punjab such as Lahore, Rawalpindi, Multan, Gujrat, had a large Sikh population and many of the residents were attacked or killed by radical Muslims. On the other side in East Punjab cities such as Amritsar, Ludhiana, and Gurdaspur District had a majority Muslim population in which many of them were wiped out by Sikh guerrillas who launched an all out war against the Muslims. Although this boundary with Modern India referring only to present-day Pakistan (West Pakistan) and not aimed at formerly East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) borders except only the governments in question claiming the status of the District of Ferozepur and the tehsil of Pathankot (now evaluated as a district) between Pakistan and the Republic of India. It remained another unresolved issue although it was not formally disputed; passions still ran very high indeed on both sides of the International border. Many Hindus had expected the original boundary line to run farther to the west, thereby ceding the Lahore region to Hindu India, possibly granting them all of Gujranwala Division: Sialkot, Narowal, Gujrat, districts and Sheikhupura, Okara, Kasur districts of Lahore Division; and others, mainly the Muslims had also expected the line to run much farther east, possibly granting them control of the Red Fort city of Delhi to Moslem Pakistan, the Imperial capital of the Mughal Empire including an Eastern Punjab state for Sikhs of their own to govern, possibly Khalistan. The formal Partition of British India split the former British province of Punjab between the Dominion of India and the Dominion of Pakistan. The mostly Muslim western part of the province became Pakistan's Punjab province; the mostly Hindu and Sikh eastern part became India's East Punjab state (later divided into the new states of Punjab, Haryana, and Himachal Pradesh). Many Hindus and Sikhs lived in the west, and many Muslims lived in the east, and the fears of all such minorities were so great that the partition saw many people displaced and much inter-communal violence. Some have described the violence in Punjab as a retributive genocide.[1] Total migration across Punjab during the partition is estimated at 12 million people;[lower-alpha 1] around 6.5 million Muslims moved into West Punjab, and 4.7 million Hindus and Sikhs moved into East Punjab.

Proposed Peaceful Partition of 1947 Punjab.

Virtually no Muslim survived in East Punjab (except in Malerkotla and Nuh) and virtually no Hindu or Sikh survived in West Punjab (except in Rahim Yar Khan and Bahawalpur).[3]

Lawrence James observed that "Sir Francis Mudie, the governor of West Punjab, estimated that 500,000 Muslims died trying to enter his province, while the British High Commissioner in Karachi put the full total at 800,000. This makes nonsense of the claim by Mountbatten and his partisans that only 200,000 were killed": [James 1998: 636].[4]

During this period, many alleged that Sikh leader Tara Singh was endorsing the killing of Muslims. On 3 March 1947, at Lahore, Singh, along with about 500 Sikhs, declared from a dais "Death to Pakistan."[5] According to political scientist Ishtiaq Ahmed:[6][7][8][9]

On March 3, radical Sikh leader Master Tara Singh famously flashed his kirpan (sword) outside the Punjab Assembly, calling for the destruction of the Pakistan idea prompting violent response by the Muslims mainly against Sikhs but also Hindus, in the Muslim-majority districts of northern Punjab. Yet, at the end of that year, more Muslims had been killed in East Punjab than Hindus and Sikhs together in West Punjab.

Punjabi princely states map

Nehru wrote to Gandhi on 22 August that, up to that point, twice as many Muslims had been killed in East Punjab than Hindus and Sikhs in West Punjab.[10]

The Punjab Border.
Religion in Punjab Province (1941)[11]:42
Religion Population Percentage
Islam 18,259,744 53.22%
Hinduism [lower-alpha 2] 10,336,549 30.13%
Sikhism 5,116,185 14.91%
Christianity 512,466 1.49%
Jainism 45,475 0.13%
Others[lower-alpha 3] 39,442 0.11%
Total Population 34,309,861 100%
Congress Party Claim Line for their Partition of North-West India
Muslim League Party Claim Line for their Partition of Muslim Indian State


  1. "The partition of India and retributive genocide in the Punjab, 1946–47: means, methods, and purposes" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 14 April 2021. Retrieved 19 December 2006. Unknown parameter |url-status= ignored (help)
  2. Vazira Fazila-Yacoobali Zamindar (4 February 2013). "India–Pakistan Partition 1947 and forced migration". The Encyclopedia of Global Human Migration. doi:10.1002/9781444351071.wbeghm285. ISBN 9781444334890. Archived from the original on 22 January 2021. Retrieved 16 January 2021. Unknown parameter |url-status= ignored (help) Search this book on
  3. "A heritage all but erased". The Friday Times. 25 December 2015. Archived from the original on 24 April 2022. Retrieved 26 June 2017. Unknown parameter |url-status= ignored (help)
  4. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; no text was provided for refs named EPW
  5. "Sikh Social Warriors". Archived from the original on 23 July 2018. Retrieved 25 July 2018. Unknown parameter |url-status= ignored (help)
  6. "The 'bloody' Punjab partition – VIII". 27 September 2018. Archived from the original on 25 July 2018. Retrieved 25 July 2018. Unknown parameter |url-status= ignored (help)
  7. Ahmed, Ishtiaq (31 January 2013). "The Punjab Bloodied, Partitioned and Cleansed". Archived from the original on 9 August 2017. Retrieved 1 March 2017. Unknown parameter |url-status= ignored (help)
  8. Butt, Shafiq (24 April 2016). "A page from history: Dr Ishtiaq underscores need to build bridges". Dawn. Archived from the original on 10 August 2017. Retrieved 1 March 2017. Unknown parameter |url-status= ignored (help)
  9. Talbot, Ian (1993). "The role of the crowd in the Muslim League struggled for Pakistan". The Journal of Imperial and Commonwealth History. 21 (2): 307–333. doi:10.1080/03086539308582893. Four thousand Muslim shops and homes were destroyed in the walled area of Amritsar during a single week in March 1947. were these exceptions which prove the rule? It appears that casualty figures were frequently higher when Hindus rather than Muslims were the aggressors.
  10. Nisid Hajari (2015). Midnight's Furies: The Deadly Legacy of India's Partition. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. pp. 139–. ISBN 978-0-547-66921-2. Retrieved 18 December 2017. Search this book on
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 11.3 11.4 "CENSUS OF INDIA, 1941 VOLUME VI PUNJAB PROVINCE". Retrieved 23 August 2022.

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