Violence, Partition and Locality of Lahore: A Critical Reappraisal.

Byline: Adnan Tariq and Muhammad Iqbal Chawla

Much have been written on the history of violence in India but an academic study of violence on the locality level has not yet been produced. Therefore, this studyaimed to address that gap by focusing on the history of violence in Lahore before the partition of India. The city of Lahore is not only a locality because of its multifold factors. It has alsobeen a main hub of socio-economic, religious and political activities of the Punjab and India for centuries. Therefore, whatever and whenever unsual political developments took place in Lahore theyhad serious implications for the region in particular and the Indian subcontinent in general. The violence, once it erupted in Lahore spread to the entire province likea wildfire. Thiseventually forced migration of non-Muslims from Punjab's western areas, which were included in Pakistan, to East Punjab.

Therefore, it is important to understand the nature, mode and development of this violence in Lahore,which occurred before the partition of India.This violence caused bitterness in people across the new borders of the two countriesfor which all the communities involved blameeach other for its beginnings.


The wave of violence, which first appeared in Lahore in the month of March 1947, was unprecedented. It was the result of gradual estrangement among the communities.At the same time it involvedthe swift transformation of inter-communal relations, which led to deterioration between the various large religious communities of the city in which all of them were equally involved. In a deep analytical study, it would not be sufficient to declare any of the three large communities, whether Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs,as solelyor primarily responsiblefor the violence. In fact, the violence in Lahore cannot be related to the theme of 'who-started-it', by putting all the blame on solelyone singlecommunity who initiated thatchain of violence. The responsibility for the initiation of violence in Lahore owed all of its responsibility to the conflicting actions of different communal stakeholders who resided here.

However, once the violence erupted it quickly engulfed the entire city in its flames. By June 1947 it had spread widely and eventually led to the 'Great Fire of Shah Alami', Lahore. This articleexplores and analyzes the eruption of that violence in Lahore. The study primarily consists of three thematic segments. It deals with the eruption of violence with the participation of all the communities on almost equal footing. The first themedeals with the then-existingoverall political climate which proved the fuse for the violence. Second theme would revolve around the typology of violence along with the localized cause and effects including many other supplementary factorswhichcontributed to the intensity of violence. During this phase, the role of the 'crowd' or 'mob in dispersed form' formed the leading carrier which to the flow of our main argument. It would be pointed out that the Muslim crowds had played a leading and major role in the perpetration of many acts of violence.

That argument, however,should not lead us to conclude that it was an organized violence on the part of 'Muslim Crowd.' Rather the Muslims were perpetrating that violence pertheir own whims. On the other hand, the violence perpetrated by non-Muslims was much better organized and planned most of the time. However, the simple numerical strength of the Muslims played a decisive rolein not permitting the non-Muslims to capitalize on their more organized acts of violence. In order to accurately detailthe character of violence and its various transformations, particularly those whichinvolved crowd behavior, a look at the phases, typology and dynamics of collective violence is important. In the next place, an analysis would be offeredregarding the acts of spontaneous violence and the 'planned' acts of violence. This study revolves around that 'First-Phase' in which rival communities participated on equal footing and it seems that riots had been turned into 'urban terrorism.'

This phase began on the March 4 and endedaround June 20. It has been furthercategorized into three sub-phases according to the changing character of violence. In the following study, all these phases along with peculiar features and distinguish characteristics have been substantiated empirically. In that empirical construction different theoretical concepts have been used to facilitate this presentation as required. Plethora of literature has been produced on the topicunder discussion. In his 'Study of Lahore', Ian Talbot has presented a profound and intelligent analytical description of the violence in the city of Lahore.1 To explain and analyze the above-mentioned events in order to comprehend the violence from its eruption to the end, Paul Brass's theory of Retributive Genocide seems to be most befitting theoretical framework. Passing through different phases,that theme is quite helpful and strong.2

Our focus will be to substantiate that postulate of Retributive Genocide, though many of its details will be enlarged and modified.Thus, our main goal would bemake an addition to the relevant domain, which could help to create a better the understanding ofthe different phases and typology of violence.

The Social Sources and Dialectics of Crowd Violence in Lahore

A study of all the social sources and socio-political dynamics would enable us to have a conceivable picture to start with. Social sources comprising the local crowd and the previously existing communal antagonisms in the city of Lahore,constitute the dynamics along with the patterns and types of violence. The escalation of violence had much connectivity with the above-defined and mentioned sources and dynamics. Even collective violence lasted up to three months.3Collective violence sometimes arises where law is lacking, weak and openly partisan.4 We see that particular feature in the second phase of violence followingthe announcementof the departure of British which produced a transitional mindset with ultimate repercussion on the sporadic violent atmosphere. Here we see the lacking, weakening and partisanship of law. Depending on additional socio-political variables all four forms of collective violence, lynching, rioting, vigilantism, and terrorism were more likely to appear in case of Lahore..

Arson, for example as a variable, was used to the greatest effect by Muslim gangs in Lahore. Rival communal groups had their influence onrespective crowds along with respective socio-political positions and actions in Lahore, since the happening of the last elections in the united India. Then the civil disobedience movement had provided a befitting political orientation to the crowd in Lahore, assisted by the socio-locale forces. However, it is important to dissect the dynamics and character of those 'crowds' on different parameters. The dynamics on which Muslim crowd moved were supportive of each other. That crowd was formedbased on certain important considerations ranging from its social sources to political engineering. In its primary sense it was a crowd with dense retrospective footings, as it had emerged from the deprived classes of Muslim Lahore. That deprived class was composed of menials, daily wageworkers, and street-criminals.

Then on the second line of its composition, civil d isobedience movement had infused a single-headed political orientation into that crowd, converting it into a loosely connected adherent political body. The crowd had a 'common object' of violence, even in the dispersed format. Muslims of Lahore, who participated in the communal violence,acted independently of the MLNG. Looking at the violence conducted by Muslims in Lahore, it was mostly on their own. There was passive support for them from either MLNG or Muslim elements in the civil machinery, i.e.,Police, etc. Apart from certain cases when Muslim elements in police or other civil authorities had provided considerable assistance to the crowd, many of the acts of violence and a majority of the cases of stabbing, arson, loot and plunder resulted only from the whims of the 'crowd'. Deputy Commissioner of Lahore,A.A.Williams, mentioned that particular point in his memoirs about the cathartic nature of the civil disobedience movement.

His assertion was that the Muslims of Lahore had expressed their socio-political agitation for almosta year. However, that expression had resulted in lessening of violence in the following agitation period. Thus, we could find in the following arguments that the Muslim crowd in Lahore had formed itself in Lahore a year before with much cathartic opportunity.5 The Muslim Guards seized the opportunity to mobilize support for the party in Lahore's various neighborhoods, and acquired a larger urban support with national connotation. By that time, private armies in the city of Lahore had adopted their proactive positions. Keeping in viewtheir clandestine activities, the government had officially banned all the militant wings in Punjab. The search of the office of RSSS in Lahore passed off without incident. However, the raid on MLNG office in Lahore had provided an excellent opportunity to the Muslim League to capitalize on its strength for a massive display of power.

During the raid on the office of the MLNG in Lahore, its leaders resisted whichresulted in the arrest of eight high-ranking League members.6 Inside one of the rooms, were steel helmets, which the MLNG had purchased from second-hand dealers in Lahore market. This raid caused a stir and a civil obedience movement was startedby making Lahore its most active center. Among the rival communities of Hindus and Sikhs, a different kind of popular body/crowd emerged due to some peculiar features among them. Muslim League civil disobedience movement in the city had shaken the confidence of non - Muslims, as they loomed with eccentric hostility as little to do in...

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