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Zindabad & Murdabad
Time, Mar. 17, 1947
The Punjab, athwart the historic northern invasion route, has long been India's political thermometer. Last week it read 'high fever.' In Lahore, Amritsar, Rawalpindi and over the intervening countryside, Moslems, Sikhs and Hindus slew and burned in wholesale lawlessness unsurpassed in British India in 90 years.
The Punjab riots ended a period of peace that has been jittery ever since the Moslem League's Mohamed Ali Jinnah spurned participation with the All-India Congress in the Constituent Assembly (TIME, Feb. 10). The bearded, sword-carrying Sikhs sided with the Hindus, eventually exceeded them in uncompromising denunciation of the Moslem cry for Pakistan (a separate Moslem state).
Not until the British last week proclaimed 'Governor's Rule,' and flew in substantial troop reinforcements, did the carnage begin to abate in the Punjab. By then, uncountable hundreds were dead, hundreds more were injured, and thousands of buildings had been smashed or burned. The riots came in a moment of governmental vacuum, after the resignation of Malik Khizar Hayat Khan Tiwana's coalition government. The issue was purely and simply Pakistan. The Moslems shouted 'Pakistan Zindabad!' (Up with Pakistan!). The Hindus and Sikhs answered back: 'Pakistan Murdabad!' (Death to Pakistan!). Then the knives began to flash.
The fighting began in Lahore, capital of the Punjab, but it was at fabled Amritsar, the Sikh holy city, that the greatest damage was done. TIME Correspondent Robert Neville, who visited Amritsar and later toured the troubled areas between Lahore and Rawalpindi, cabled:
'Coming up the grand trunk highway from New Delhi, you could see as far away as 14 miles clouds of smoke hanging over Amritsar. Now & then the high golden cupola of the Sikh's Golden Temple would glint through the pall. After three days of rioting, Amritsar's streets were barricaded, piled with debris. Whole rows of shops were gutted. Amritsar's famous hide bazaar was still burning, and its textile row, where merchants from all India came for cloth, was in smoking ruins.
'After three days & nights of terror, in Rawalpindi proper the situation is now fairly quiet, but in the surrounding countryside there is a reign of lawlessness on a scale not known in British India since the Mutiny of 1857. Every village is prey to roving gangs. Groups of scared refugees flee through the fields as gangs of 15 to 30 men trudge the highways, armed with long, dangerous-looking clubs. From the crest of one hill, I could see five villages burning. At Mandra junction at dawn on March 9, 2,000 Moslems swooped down on Hindu and Sikh quarters, looted and fired every building. Gangs stopped two trains outside Rawalpindi and hauled Sikhs, easily recognized by beards and turbans, out of the coaches and beat them to death on the platforms.'