Hazrat Musleh-e-Maud’s tireless efforts to save millions from displacement
Tahmeed Ahmad, Ahmadiyya Archive & Research Centre
The Sikhs of Punjab
The Muslims and Hindus were clearly the biggest two parties involved in the partition, but not the only ones. As mentioned before countless parties in Punjab alone had a claim to the land. What you might call the “third” party, were the Sikhs and the key problem with them was exactly that. Their right and claim would often get squashed between the two giants, Muslims and Hindus.
However, it was not all doom and gloom, there was one faction who was quite fond of them and that happened to be the British. The reason was that the Sikhs had proven themselves quite excellent during the war, and so had the Muslims, whilst the Hindus had generally been a disappointment. Evident from their lack of participants in the World War. (Proceedings of the Indian History Congress, Vol. II (1978), pp. 823-831)
Nevertheless, this fondness led the British to make an unimaginable mistake which could have led to disastrous consequences for the Boundary Commission’s work. Arthur Henderson, later Baron Rowley, was the Under-Secretary of State for India and Burma when he spoke to the Parliament on 14July 1947:
“A question has been asked as to what is meant by other factors. It surely waist mean that the primary basis is to be whether the majority of the population is Muslim or non-Muslim, but that in certain cases there may be special factors of a different kind which would justify a departure from this principle.
“The provision that other factors will be taken into account has been made primarily to enable the commission to have regard to the special circumstances of the Sikh community in the Punjab, where considerations such as the location of their religious shrines can reasonably be taken into account up to a point.” (Hansard, HC Deb. 14 July 1947, Vol. 440, https://hansard.parliament.uk)
“What the Under-Secretary had failed to see is that the Sikhs were not the only “neglected” party during the partition. There were hundreds of communities, dozens of kingdoms and countless other factions in India. Just look at the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community for an example. They too boast of huge numbers, their founder’s birthplace was Qadian […]. The places he visited during his lifetime are also spread throughout Punjab. If we start including the Khulafa, then the list would be never-ending.
“The Sikhs were assisted in their stance by British ignorance. One of the ‘other factors’ was an assurance that their Holy Places would be respected; it is a safe bet that the Under-Secretary who made this pledge was thinking of Amritsar and a handful of other places, and was not aware that the Sikhs claimed some 700 of them […]” (On the margins of history: from the Punjab to Fiji, Oskar Spate, p. 52)
One can only imagine the uproar that took place following the Under-Secretary’s statement. In response, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community wrote a letter of protest to the Prime Minister:
“A statement was made by Mr Henderson at the Parliament where he states that the words “other factors” used for the terms of reference of the Boundary Commission are for the purpose of taking care of the Sikh’s holy places. This statement is very untimely, totally inappropriate and completely baseless. This statement has, apart from unjustly influencing the work of the commission, opened the door to extreme injustice to Muslims […]. It is not at all conceivable that when the Viceroy has already announced the terms of reference by the consensus of the Indian parties and according to these terms of references, the Commission has already started its work, what need had Mr Henderson for this statement? Mr Henderson has also forgotten that the words “other factors” have not only been used for the Punjab Boundary Commission but have also been used for the Bengal Commission, though there are no Sikhs in Bengal. Thus, Mr Henderson’s statement must be immediately corrected.” (Al Fazl, 22 July 1947, p. 2)
Fighting the Muslim case
There was no doubt that the Ahmadiyya Community as a whole was heavily involved in the partition, but there was one other member of the community who had an important role to play; Hazrat Sir Muhammad Zafrulla Khanra. He was instructed by Mr Jinnah to represent the League during the Punjab Boundary Commission.
“As I was getting ready to leave for England, a message was received that the Quaid-e-Azam wanted me to reach Delhi. As I went to see him he said he wanted me to plead the case of the Muslim League before the Punjab Boundary Commission.” (Tehdise Nemat or Recollection of Divine Favours [English], p. 522)
At the time of this request, Sir Zafrulla Khanra was under the employment of the Nawab of Bhopal and had some work to do in London. Nevertheless, Jinnah had reassured him that, as the dates of the Boundary Commission would be closing in by the time Zafrulla Khanra returned, ample help would be at his disposal by his arrival to Lahore.
Making way to India
Over in London, the Ahmadiyya Muslim Community had successfully hired Oskar Spate. An account of his first interaction with the Community can be found in his book On the margins of history: from the Punjab to Fiji, page 47:
“[…] On 30 June, a letter from an unknown, one Mirza Ali, Imam of the London Ahmaddiya Mosque: Could I help them to make sure that their sacred city, Qadian, stayed on the right side when the Punjab was partitioned?”
Thus, we reach the month of July, and months and months of vigorous planning had boiled down to the 30 days, in which the fate of Punjab was to be decided. As Professor Spate was preparing for his travels, Hazrat Sir Zafrulla Khanra still had some day’s work ahead of him before he could return. It was during those days that Sir Cyril Radcliffe made his way to India.
“The Earl of Listowel to Rear-Admiral Viscount Mountbatten of Burma
“4 July 1947
“I was glad to get your letter of 27th June covering personal report number 10. It is certainly excellent that you have succeeded in getting Radcliffe as Chairman of the Boundary Commission. He is approaching the whole matter in a most public-spirited manner and will, I have little doubt, fill the role admirably. As you have already been informed by telegram, he is hoping to leave for Delhi on Sunday [6 July] and Lady Radcliffe hopes to join him about 10 days later.” (The Transfer of Power 1942-47, Vol. X, p. 903)
On 8 July 1947, Sir Cyril Radcliffe, the Chairman of the Boundary Commission arrives in South East Asia. Meanwhile, Professor Spate was making his final preparations for his journey:
“I knew nothing of the Ahmaddiya beyond the name, and had never heard of Qadian, but I had one qualification: I had written what I believe to have been the first article on Pakistan by a professional geographer. […] Then on Wednesday, 9 July the Imam rang: I was to meet him tonight, urgently, at India House (luckily, across the road from LSE) for passport affairs. India House was very rude: there was a reception on, I was wearing scruffy corduroys, and they asked me to leave by the back door. And no Imam! On Friday he rang again: I must leave tomorrow, Saturday, and I still hadn’t got the necessary Iraqi transit visa. […] “Somehow, on Saturday [12 July] morning I got the visa and a couple of books on boundary-making from the Royal Geographic Society, and by 14:05 hours was on the coach for the British Overseas Airways base on Poole Harbour, a lovely sunny drive.” (On the margins of history: from the Punjab to Fiji, Oskar Spate, pp. 48-49)
Back in Qadian, Hazrat Khalifatul Masih IIra was calling for local Ahmadis who were knowledgeable in drafting and cartography to gather at Qadian, possibly intended to help Professor Spate or the Ahmadiyya Memorandum.
“An urgent need for Ahmadi cartographers
“An urgent and immediate matter is in need of Ahmadi draftsmen and cartographers. Thus, whichever Ahmadi draftsman and cartographer sees this announcement should make his way to Qadian at once. This announcement is only targeting those who worked privately or are pensioners.
“Furthermore, this announcement is also for anyone working within these fields as a profession. This work will last till 12th July. This is why you should urgently make your way to Qadian. So that the work might be completed on time.
“In charge, Office of the establishment of peace and conciliation, Qadian.” (Al Fazl, 9 July 1947)
Back in London, our last key participant, Hazrat Sir Zafrulla Khanra has finished up with his work and is headed toward India.
“Friday 11 July: Chaudhry Mushtaq Ahmad Bajwa, Imam Masjid Fazl London reports that Chaudhry Sir Zafrullah Khanra Sahib has left for India.” (Al Fazl, 14 July 1947)
It is during these days that the Ahmadiyya Memorandum is somewhat completed, but Huzoorra wanted reassurance that nothing written in there might harm the greater Muslim case that was being fought by the Muslim League. Huzoorra then went with Sheikh Bashir Ahmad Sahib and Hazrat Maulvi Abdur Rahim Dardra to the house of Justice Munir, where Justice Din Muhammad was also present. There, they went through the Ahmadiyya Memorandum and discussed the political aspects of it. Huzoorra states:
“If we had not done so then Radcliffe would not have had to use any sorry excuses, rather he would have presented the Ahrar edict and said that since Ahmadis are not Muslims, they have been taken out. That would leave the Muslims at only 45%, making them the minority in the face of non-Muslims. Therefore, this district would have had to join Hindustan.” (Al Fazl, 2 January 1951)
Gathering at Lahore
After a meeting with Lord Mountbatten, Nehru, Patel, Jinnah and Liaquat Ali, Radcliffe had discovered the intensity of his work. (The last days of the British Raj, p. 196)
He first visited Calcutta, sorting out the “easier” one of the Boundary Commissions, then on 14 July, he arrived at Lahore.
“Rear-Admiral Viscount Mountbatten of Burma to Sir John Colville
“9 July 1947
“Partition is going ahead very rapidly, and the Defence Services Committee is being particularly successful in its work. Radcliffe, the Chairman of the Boundary Commission for Bengal and the Punjab, arrived yesterday, and goes to Calcutta tomorrow and to Lahore next Monday. I have urged on him the need to try and finish the job by 14th August.”
On 14 July, Sir Cyril Radcliffe had a meeting with the members of the Punjab Boundary Commission where the various issues of the Commission were decided. Among which were:
• Date of submission for the memorandum was 18 July
• The Commission would be held at Lahore High Court
• 20 tickets would be issued to each party to attend the Commission
• The Press would not be permitted to publish any unauthorised report
• Justice Din Muhammad would preside the Commission in the absence of the Chairman.
That’s right, Sir Cyril Radcliffe, the Chairman of the Boundary Commission would not be present.
When Hazrat Sir Zafrulla Khanra arrived at Lahore on 14 July, he was met by Nawab of Mamdot. He informed him that Radcliffe was already in Lahore and had subsequently called for a meeting the next day 11am. Thereafter, the lawyers of the Muslims League would meet Sir Zafrulla Khanra at the residence of Nawab of Mamdot at 2:30pm.
At the meeting with Radcliffe, they were told to file their written statement/memorandum by 18 July and the discussions of the Boundary Commission would start from 21 July. According to Al Fazl, Huzoorra was in Lahore from 13 to 15 July, accompanied by Hazrat Mirza Nasir Ahmadrh, Hazrat Maulvi Abdur Rahim Dardra, Hazrat Malik Ghulam Faridra and Hazrat Chaudhry Fateh Muhammad Sayalra. (Al Fazl, 14 and 16 July 1947)
Preparing the case
After the meeting with Radcliffe, Sir Zafrulla Khanra made his way to the Mamdot Villa where he was to meet the League lawyers. When he asked them about the case, they said: “What case?” None of them knew, nor were they there to help him. Sir Zafrulla Khanra soon realised that the help he had been promised by Jinnah had been forgotten and he now had just two days to prepare the League case against parties who have had months to do the same.
There was no point talking or complaining to Jinnah now, he told Nawab of Mamdot to get him two alert and skilful stenographers and equipment for typing by the next morning. As the Nawab went to make the preparations, Sir Zafrulla Khanra began praying:
“Alone, humble and helpless and a heavy burden of responsibility”, I begged my maker, “How should I shoulder it alone? You know I am but a cypher and all power resides in you. Out of your abundant mercy and grace bestow on me understanding, give me strength and be my Guide and Helper.”
And help came and so did a guide, in ways no one could have imagined. As he finished his prayers, he was approached by Khawaja Abdur Rahim who had, out of his own interest, collected papers and maps containing the official figures of the populations of each religious community in villages, police stations, tehsil and district of the Punjab province. This was a treasure for someone in Sir Zafrulla Khan’s position. After Khawaja Sahib, four other lawyers came to join Sir Zafrulla Khanra, giving him all he needed to prepare the case.
However, the greatest help came from Hazrat Mirza Bashiruddin Mahmud Ahmad, Khalifatul Masih IIra.
Hazrat Sir Zafrulla Khanra writes:
“The Imam [Huzoorra] of the Ahmadiyya community was camping at Lahore in those days. On Wednesday afternoon his emissary, Maulana Abdul Rahim Dard, came inquiring as to when he the Imam could come over and tell me about some important aspects of the partition plan. When I offered to go over the emissary said that the Imam did not wish to distract my attention from the crucial task at hand, hence he would come. The Imam came and handed me copies of some important references relating to the principles of partition. He had also sent for the original books from England and if received in time he said he would pass them on to me. He also told me that an expert British professor of defence strategy whom he had invited at his own expense had already arrived and was busy preparing maps and other documents. He would brief me on the defence aspect after I had compiled the written statement. The books were received just in time and were of great help in the arguments and Prof Spatt [Spate] had also fully explained to me the defence dimensions.
“The council for the Hindus, Mr ML Sitalwad, had forcefully demanded the area up to River Jhelum to meet India’s defence needs. But he could not back the demand with any cogent argument as I presented the maps prepared by Prof Spatt [Spate] and explain their significance. The Imam remained present during the arguments to help me with his prayers.” (Tehdise Nemat or Recollection of Divine Favours [English], pp. 525-532)
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