What Really Happened in 1947 : An Open Letter to Khushwant Singh
Mr Khushwant Singh,
Though there is no doubt that you know about our country and our history far better and more than I, but whenever I re-read some of your writings I feel a sort of uneasiness at your reputation for being an upright and infallible historian.
One of the cruelest and most shameful wounds on the face of our recent history is the 1947 partition riots. I was not born then but I have heard and read so much about that colossal bloodbath that I feel like almost having lived through it. And I have spent a part of my waking time wondering why it all happened?
"Muslims said the Hindus had planned and started the killing. According to the Hindus, the Muslims were to blame. The fact is, both sides killed. Both shot and stabbed and speared and clubbed. Both tortured. Both raped", these innocent looking words written by you in Train to Pakistan have almost become an aggressive slogan which goes blatantly against historical accuracy. I do not know what you exactly had in mind when you wrote this, probably to ensure peace in future, you sacrificed the truth. Of course it is a fact that both sides committed acts of terrors, but their motives for action were polar opposite: the Sikh attack on the Muslims in East Punjab was a pure retaliation when after months of abnormally superhuman tolerance against the clearly preplanned and highly organized offensive to cow down Sikhs, a means to carry on among them a total campaign of murder, arson, loot and abduction of Sikh women, Sikh patience finally broke down. In contrast to this the Muslim operation, totally unprovoked, had begun as early as December 1946, as a result of what millions Sikhs and Hindus had already lost their property, ancestral homes and near and dear ones for no fault of their own.
Your favorite nightmare - that famous jeepfulls of armed Sikhs which you saw on the road to Delhi in August '47, who boasted of killing whole villages of Muslims, were doing that because they had seen their mothers, sisters or daughters literally torn apart. They were simply not in right state of mind. This is not to suggest that they be declared totally not-guilty or what they did was justified but please let's not put them in the same category as those Muslims who did all this under cold command of the League to cause havoc and exodus of absolutely innocent infidels.
And I don't want to add this but I must: In fact the Muslim launch was so outrageously unrestrained that the only way of discouraging the massacre of Hindus-Sikhs on the western side was simply to start doing same on this side.
Now please don't get me wrong - I am not one of your mindless anti-islamists so abundant these days, who look at everything through a prism of hatred. In fact, just like you, most of my friends are muslims. One of them is Mr M. A. Khan, a highly commendable person, one of the few brave people who had the courage to stand-up against the fire-spiting Dr Zakir Naik (just like you once dared to oppose Bhindrawale's hate-preaching ! ). This is what Mr Khan recently wrote to me about you : "I have some following of Khushwant Singh. He is big useful idiot of Islam. I have seen his other commentaries which is similarly themed. However, over last few months, I have noticed a change in his tone. Too bad, he is not going to last long at this age in order to undo part of great harm he has done by placating Islam out of his utter ignorance. "
Though unlike Khan I cannot dare to accuse you of "utter ignorance", for your offensive against truth goes deeper. In A History of the Sikhs you have even tried to apologize for what Muslims did in 1947! You have tried to shift the whole blame onto Sikhs by adjudging them culpable of "playing peace-makers" and having "professed neutral creed" and even just for being richer than Muslims ! Here it needs a really keen eye to see the inconspicuous blow you have dealt : Sikhs may or may not have played peacemakers for all you care, what you really wanted to impress here is that Sikhs and Hindus are different ! This seed sown by you would later become the kernel to the philosophy that played disaster and almost brought to the nation to another partition. In the early eighties as the Harimandir Sahib was being fortified, Bhindrawale, an uneducated peasant, would tell a western journalist that Sikhism is a "revealed religion" and he himself is leading "people of the book" i.e. the Sikhs are not only not-Hindus but are also anti-Hindus like all abrahamic creeds essentially are.
What's more, you have carried this mischief to 1984 anti-Sikh riots by stating here and there that they were done by "hindus" agitated by Indira's murder. You know far better than anyone else that the perpetrators of that carnage had nothing to do with being hindu etc. they were simply Congress-hired mobs to do the job. Your use of the term Hindu in this context is what I find highly disturbing. Besides it should be noticed that these "riots" were so well planned and highly coordinated ( full government machinery was used ) that the Sikhs got no chance to hit back. By the way, today if Mr Manmohan Singh, our very-much Sikh PM gets killed by the Sikhs over anything, I am sure we can expect Congress mafia to hit innocent Sikhs with same ferocity.
The problem is that you carry so much influence that even such half baked put-ons apparently gain currency with time - Tavleen Singh, taking cue from you, even went as far as to remove the Indira's murder totally out and make the whole episode look like a pure Hindu-Sikh confrontation! What I am dying to know is really what you people get out of it ?
The sort of secularist symmetry you want to show is simply not possible because the limited friction between Sikhs and Hindus, (as opposed to that between Hindu-Muslim or Sikh-Muslim), is totally artificial and it is nothing but result of negationism of history and the cunning twisting and turning of current events by our dedicated historians occupying positions of influence. During the Punjab militancy there were no direct Hindu Sikh confrontations, ( it is a happy news that our media did not try to make some out of thin air though I am sure the mediapeople with "secularist" bend of mind would have loved it ), all blood was spilled between a handful of mislead Sikh youth and security forces ( among them main being Punjab Police - totally composed of Sikhs ).
Perhaps what you are really trying to do is to "balance history" like Holocaust Deniers try to do at home : the offensive of Germans against Jews seems to be over-whelming to them so they subdue it as much as they can and then make up and add some imaginary Jews-targeting-the-German thing !
The days when you went to school and formed your view of the things, the world was in a different phase altogether, at that time perhaps "selective reading of history to promote national integration" had a real meaning and a just approach. But if we look at the world now, especially at Islamic states and other milder instances of oppressionism, we can see lies don't seem to work anymore.
Most respectfully yours
Jagmohan Singh Khurmi