Violence against women during the partition of India

Article on violence against women during the partition of India

During the Partition of India, violence against women was an extensive situation. It is estimated that during the partition between 75,000 and 100,000 women were kidnapped and raped. The rape of women by males during this period is well documented, with women also being complicit in these attacks. Systematic violence against women started in March 1947 in Rawalpindi district where Sikh women were targeted by Muslim mobs. Violence was also perpetrated on an organized basis, with Pathans taking Hindu and Sikh women from refugee trains. India and Pakistan later worked to repatriate the abducted women. Muslim women were to be sent to Pakistan and Hindu and Sikh women to India.

Quotes edit

  • The kidnapping of young women and the treatment to which they were subjected constitute a sordid chapter in the history of human relations. Poor innocent girls, young married women, sometimes with infants in their arms, were forcibly taken away to distant places. They were molested and raped, passed on from man to man. bartered and sold like cheap chattel. Some- times it was impossible to trace their whereabouts. When representatives of the Indian Dominion went to recover them they were concealed and denied access to their relations. Large numbers of them, when recovered, were brought to a refugee camp at Kunjah. Conditions in this camp beggar description. A young woman of 21, describing her experiences, said: “I stayed in the camp for two months. Camp life was very miserable. We were given chappatis full of lime and were constantly molested by the soldiers, Maulvis used to come and preach to us against the Indian Dominion...They told us that we would go to heaven sf we lived with them They said that it was foolish on our part to go to India... A party of young women who were brought to the camp said “We reached the camp on the fifteenth day It was nothing less than hell The flour was mixed with lime and drinking water smelt so foul that it made us ill to drink it... Sick children were given wrong medicines and some of them became blind and died as the result of the poisons given to them. The military guards brought their friends at night and molested the young girls in the camp. They pinched our breasts and made indecent jokes , those who were pregnant were shot down... A young girl of 14 or 15 sleeping by my side was dragged away and raped. When she resisted they kicked her Her face in the morning looked as if it had been scratched by a knife”
    • Khosla G. D. (1989). Stern reckoning : a survey of the events leading up to and following the partition of india. Oxford University Press. 230-3
  • Usually, rape and sexual assault were invariably followed by abduction of the victimised women. These abducted women typically became domestic servants and sex slaves. Many abducted women were sold into prostitution and some, in very rare instances, were married to their abductors and later claimed to be leading happy and respectable lives.
  • Armed Pathans, operating in bands, were perhaps the worst offenders in West Punjab, especially in the districts of the Rawalpindi division (where they were concentrated), for it was they who systematically preyed upon the refugee trains and convoys, carrying off women to be sold for as little as Rs10 or 20 to Muslim men. Non-Muslim women from Kashmir also were offered for sale in West Punjab, ending up as 'slave girls' in factories. A report from Sargodha district claimed,The Pathans brought a very large number of abducted women and children from the Kashmir front and they had been selling these like cattle and chattel. There were cases in which a woman had been sold thrice or four times. The Pathans had made this a regular trade.
  • "They shot everyone who couldn't recite the kalima - the Arabic-language Muslim declaration of faith. Many non-Muslim women were enslaved, while many others jumped in the river to escape capture."..."They had returned with war booty," he says. "Some had brought cattle, some horses. Most of them had brought arms, and many brought women. One Afridi tribesman walked back with two women in tow. They wept incessantly and just wouldn't stop.""
    • Partition 70 years on: When tribal warriors invaded Kashmir By M Ilyas Khan , 2017, BBC News [1]
  • The Punjabi Sikh and Hindu girls and Kashmiri women are proverbially beautiful, so they were in great demand in the Muslim countries of Africa and the Middle East. They were sold there by the barbarian Muslim kidnappers for very high prices. These ill fated women were confined in their purchasers' harems and bound to accept concubinage
    • — Amal Kumar Chattopadhyay, Slavery in India, pg. 129
  • In this nefarious design, the Pakistan Government made an internal secret agreement called “Zen and Zar “with the Pathan mercenaries according to which if Mirpur city was captured, the captured women would be taken by the Pathans and the immovable property would be the share of Pakistan Government.
    • — C P Gupta, Fall of Mirpur, The Daily Excelsior[2]
  • No one could predict how long this sold-off woman would remain there. These poor women were housed by the government in the Kunja camp as there was fighting going on in Kashmir. The army handed them over to us when they were useless...All 600 had been used by the Pakistani army...Pakistan's attitude was that it should be thankful that it had managed to recover so many women. Naturally, they would not admit that they had any hand in the situation the women found themselves in.
    • Borders & Boundaries: Women in India's Partition By Ritu Menon, Kamla Bhasin — Borders and Boundaries[3]
  • One Muslim member of the Legislative Assembly was said to have five hundred girls in his possession in West Punjab, while an abducted Muslim girl from a well-known family was reported to be with the Maharaja of Patiala. In West Punjab police officials, members of the Muslim League and landed magnates were involved.
  • The following strategy, the Report continues, was used wherever the mobs attacked: First of all minorities were disarmed with the help of local police and by giving assurances by oaths on holy Quran of peaceful intentions. After this had been done, the helpless and unarmed minorities were attacked. On their resistance having collapsed, lock breakers and looters came into action with their transport corps of mules, donkeys and camels. Then came the ‘Mujahadins’ with tins of petrol and kerosene oil and set fire to the looted shops and houses. Then there were maulvies with barbers to convert people who somehow or other escaped slaughter and rape. The barbers shaved the hair and beards and circumcised the victims. Maulvis recited kalamas and performed forcible marriage ceremonies. After this came the looters, including women and children.
    • Report on the Disturbances in the Punjab (March/April 1947), AICC File No. G-10/1947, Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, New Delhi. quoted in State and Nation-Building in Pakistan: Beyond Islam and Security, المحررون: Roger D. Long‏، Gurharpal Singh‏، Yunas Samad‏، Ian Talbot‏
  • The trouble for the non-Muslims in general, and for the women in particular, started in March, 1947. Whatever may be the causes of the Rawalpindi and Multan riots, it is admitted that these were of terrific nature Lord Mountbatten, the last Viceroy of India, aftcr visiting district Rawalpindi reported to the British Government in England, "The whole of the Hindu-Sikh part is an absolute wreck, as though it has been subjected to an air raid."2 Several Hindu and Sikh villages were wiped out. Justice Teja Singh, a member of the Punjab Boundary Commission, stated before the Commission that during the Rawalpindi riots, "A large number of people were forcibly converted, children were kidnapped, and young women abducted and openly raped."3 Though a separate number of female casualities is not available, the official figure of deaths in the district of Rawalpindi was 2,263 which was considered far below the actual numbcr.4 Thc womcn were subjected to maximum humiliation and torture. Their agony can be judged by the fact that a number of women jumped into wells to save their honour. It is as unbelievable today as it was at that time. But fortunately Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru visited the village on 14th March, 1947, and he was told about thc incidents of ladies jumping into wells. His staff photographer took photographs of the bottom of the well with the help of a flashlight. These photographs showed the decomposed limbs of the bodies. One copy of a photograph was given to me by late Sant Gulab Singh in whose land the well existed. He told me that his wife was the first to jump into the well. The photograph has been published in my book Shahidian.

Quotes from S.G.S. Talib: Muslim League Attack on Sikhs and Hindus in the Punjab, 1947 (1950) edit

Talib, S. G. S. (1950). Muslim League Attack on Sikhs and Hindus inthe Punjab, 1947. Amritsar: Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee. [6] [7] [8] 232-3
  • The assailants did not spare even little children. It was naked beastliness performing a devil’s dance. Children would be snatched from the hands of their parents, tossed on spears and swords, and sometimes thrown alive into the fire. Other cruelties equally horrible were perpetrated. Women’s breasts, noses and arms would he lopped off. Sticks and pieces of iron would be thrust into their private parts. Sometimes the bellies of pregnant women were ripped open and the unformed life in the womb thrown out. In some places processions of naked Hindu and Sikh women are also reported to have been taken out by the Muslims mobs. (81)... At Nara, in the tehsil of Kahuta, Sikh women and children were burnt alive, and the women were tortured in ways most devilishly ingenious and sadistic, which it is not possible for any decent human being to describe.... All this was done in village after village after the Muslims had given assurances of safety on the Koran to Hindus. Hindu women were molested and abducted. Altogether 50 villages in this tehsil were looted with arson, murder and abduction of women. Ears, noses and breasts of women were cut off, and they were raped in the presence of their husbands, brothers, fathers and sons.
    • Talib, S. G. S. (1950). Muslim League Attack on Sikhs and Hindus in the Punjab, 1947. Amritshar: Shiromani Gurdwara Parbandhak Committee.
  • There is a marked difference in the behaviour of Muslims and Sikhs towards women and children captured during this fight. While Muslims everywhere dishonoured, abducted or murdered Hindu and Sikh women and children, Sikhs never resorted to anything of which they might have reason to be ashamed. On the first day of attack, several Muslims got killed by an infuriated Sikh crowd in a locality which was at the junction of a Muslim and non-Muslim zone, not very far from the centre of the Sikh influence. More than one hundred Muslim women and children, whose menfolk had either been killed or had run away for safety, fell into the hands of the Sikhs. Sikhs kept them safe and fed them for the two or three days that the fighting lasted and all communications in the town were cut off, and later sent them under escort to the City Police Station, These women acknowledged the chivalry and courtesy of the treatment of the Sikhs towards them. (156)
  • When everybody had got into the train and as the engine was whistling to indicate that the train was going to start, a huge crowd of Muslims came from the side of the Mandi and factories. They were armed with rifles, chhuras, axes, barchas and other lethal weapons... The women-folk were not butchered, but taken out and sorted. The elderly women were later butchered while the younger ones were distributed... The children were also similarly murdered. All the valuables on the persons of the women were removed and taken away by the mob...
    During these visits I also saw a large number of Hindu women in the houses of the Muslim inhabitants of Kamoke. All of them complained that they were being very badly used by their abductors.
    • Statement of Shrimati Laj Wanti, widow of Shri Manak Chand Age 23 years, caste Khatri, resident of Nurpur Sethi, District Jhelum, to the Chief Liaison Officer, Lahore.
  • “On 4-10-47, a small caravan of about fifteen non-Muslims tried to cross the bridge Ravi from Pakistan to this side. They were entrapped by the Muslim Military picket on the other side of the bridge. That caravan included four women. The male members of the caravan were murdered during the night. Our Military picket on this side of the bridge heard shrieks and cries of the victims. The Gurkha Jamadar in charge of the picket saw the women with Military (Muslim). They kept those women in their tents during the night and the military picket on our side heard their shrieks too during the night as if they were being raped. Later on those women never crossed the bridge on this side.
    • Copy of paragraph 1 of a report dated 6-10-1947 submitted by S. Harbhajan Singh, Magistrate 1st Class, Gurdaspur to the Deputy Commissioner, Gurdaspur.
  • “Girls abducted from Mirpur side are sold in Jhelum city at Rs. 10 or 20 each. The local police refuses to interfere on the ground that the girls were not removed from the Punjab and also they express their helplessness because of the attitude of the armed Pathans possessing these girls. I am bringing this to the notice of the West Punjab Government but I am afraid nothing would come out of it and in our helplessness all these girls shall have to stand hardships for all their lives and suffer misery.”
    According to the information received most of the girls abducted from Jammu and Kashmir States and some of the girls abducted from Gujranwala, Jhelum, Mianwali, Jhang and Dera Ghazi Khan districts are taken to the North-west Frontier Province and from there to the tribal territory. At Mansera and some other places (North-West Frontier) there are regular camps where Hindu girls are being sold.
  • A British Officer of the M. E. O. of West Punjab reported (September, 1947) that at a place near Sheikhupura he was called to rescue a Hindu girl, who had been carried away by Muslim National Guards. He found the girl in a hut with 4 of her captors, who had raped and cut off her breasts and were now frying them. He shot the lot.

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