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Mass Suicide by Women of Rawalpindi in 1947

Thoha Khalsa is a village of Kahuta Region of District Rawalpindi in Pakistan. The village is located in the South East of Rawalpindi city at the distance of about 30 miles. The language used by its people is Pothohari dialect of Punjabi.The population is about 20,000 consisting Janjua Rajput, Ghakhar, and few others - all Muslims. Current inhabitants may not even know that is was a flourishing village of Sikhs before the partition of India (creation of Pakistan). The village was inhabitated by wealthy Sikh families - Bindras, Duggals, Anands, and Chandhoks.

The Well in Thoha Khalsa

The Partition Of India

Sectarian violence erupts in Punjab as Muslim League announces partition and creation of Pakistan, a Muslim only nation carved out of India. Sikh leader Master Tara Singh declares opposition to the partition and tears the flag of Pakistan in Lahore. To the dismay of Sikhs and Punjabis, Indian leaders Gandhi and Nehru cave in to the demand of Pakistan.
Master Tara Singh in Lahore

 Sikhs attacked in Rawalpindi

On the evening of March 6, Muslim mobs from the surrounding Pathan villages entered Thoha Khalsa and gave ultimatums to the Sikhs to convert. On that evening, the impact of their presence was negligible due to the lateness of the hour but the actual clashes started the next morning, when their numbers swelled to some thousands. The local Muslims who had earlier assured safety to the Sikhs, remained mute spectator when violence started.

After resisting for three days, the Sikhs hoisted white flags and negotiated truce with the Muslim mobs. Under the agreement, the mobs will loot their houses but will not burn them, kill men, or dishonor the women. The Sikhs collected Rs. 20,000 and gave to the mob leaders as demanded. They then abandoned their own houses and all gathered in the central Haveli of Sardar Gulab Singh. His mansion was huge with large boundary wall. Others took shelter in the "Dukh Bhanjani" Gurdwara located next to Gulab Singh's mansion.
Haveli of Gulab Singh, Thoha Khalsa
From Gulab Singh's Haveli, they saw their houses being looted and burned for six days. After looting the houses, the Muslim mob turned to Gulab Singh's Haveli and surrounded it. Their intentions appeared menacing and it was clear that they do not intend to honor the terms of the truce,
Muslim Mobs with their loot
But when defeat and dishonor was imminent, Sikh men started to prepare for the battle till death. While their men fought, the Sikh women started gathering near a well around the garden. When just women and children were left, Maan Kaur led all the women to a large well inside the Haveli. She recited "Japuji Sahib" the Sikh prayers and jumped inside the well. Over 93 Sikh women followed her and all committed mass suicide in order to save their honor.

Eyewitness Accounts

An eyewitness who was a young Muslim boy in the village at that time, recalls the event:

"It was almost after noon, and I watched from nearby with two of my friends. Some of the women held their children in their arms. They sobbed desperately as they jumped into the well. In about half an hour, the well was full of bodies. I still remember when Bhansa Singh killed his wife with tears in his eyes. In the span of some hours, I witnessed the deaths of almost 25 women. It was such a horrible scene. I went closer and realized that those who were on top were trying to submerge their heads so they don't survive. No space remained. A few came up and jumped again. It was a terrible scene. They were determined to die rather than sacrifice their honor." 

Description by Sardar Pritpal Singh of Thoha Khalsa, who as a young child attempted suicide along with his sisters and mother but survived somehow.

Eyewitness account of mass suicide by Sikh women by an 85 year old Muslim resident of Thoha Khalsa village:
 

Raja Masood Akhtar Janjua, himself a Muslim Rajput form the area demonstrates the well where Sikh women committed suicides and how locals believe that any one who killed or looted Sikhs in this village, suffered bad fortune.



Sardar Manmohan Singh Bindra describes in details the entire sequence of events - Muslim mob attacks, fightback by the Sikh men, the mass suicides of Sikh women, and how he himself survived the massacre.

In Thoha Khalsa, on March 12, 1947 after long and heroic resistance, 200 Sikhs were killed.  The women were asked to embrace Islam, but 93 of them, old and young, decided to escape dishonor by drowning themselves in a well, which they did.  The Muslim invaders, aghast at this tragedy, fled from the place.  A little later, the military arrived and rescued the survivors.

Lord Mountbatten visits Thoha Khalsa

The news of the massacre at Thoha flashed on national newspapers. The Viceroy of India, Lord Mountbatten visited the village to assess the situation firsthand.
Mountbattens in Thoha Khalsa
He saw the loss of property and life at Thoha Khalsa:
MountBattens at Gulab Singh Haweli
 He met with the survivors and heard their ordeal directly:
Sikhs describe Thoha Khalsa Violence
Lady Mountbatten led the rescue and hospitalization of the victims.
Lady Mountbatten with Sikh Ladies of Rawalpindi
Life survives somehow ... and the survivors reached the safety of refugee camps in Delhi, India and lived to tell their stories. 
Survivors of Thoha Khalsa

 References

  1. https://nation.com.pk/29-Dec-2014/the-forgotten-massacre
  2. http://thohakhalsa.blogspot.com/p/history_7.html 
  3. https://tribune.com.pk/story/619750/agony-of-women-during-partition/
  4. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Violence_against_women_during_the_partition_of_India
  5. https://feminisminindia.com/2017/06/27/partition-punjab-violation-women/

Comments

  1. Amazing work Arvind. All our generations must be retold and retold about all this.
    Thanks

    ReplyDelete
  2. Every tale has two sides to it. Humanity is what is important, and it is there in this, in ample measure.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Every tale has two sides to it, or many more. Humanity(or lack of it) is what is important, which are here in ample measure.

    ReplyDelete
  4. I am a Pakistani and am horrified by this story.I live in Islamabad, near this village. Our country is still haunted by such invisible devils who appear from nowhere, cause havoc ad then vanish.I have been abroad and met numerous Sikhs whom I found to be very openhearted sincere and loving people. I admire the bravery of Sikh warriors and am sure in the pre partition times Sikhs were respected by the local population.However no one likes violence and a mob never has discipline.I lament the indifferent behavior of the neighbors who could have provided some protection at least to the women folk.
    Sadly this insanity continued and we saw a repetition in East Pakistan where human life and honor was torn to taters, sadly both our governments were involved since it suited their political designs.I was once gain shocked when teh Army assaulted teh Golden Temple which I always believed was un thinkable.Then this happened in Red mosque at Islamabad. Now we see killings and Bomb blasts in the mosques in Pakistan. Who these people are and who motivates them we do not know.Looking at the interests of the world powers in the region, I feel our honor and lives are at the mercy of world powers who have no respect for our humanity in spite of their love for humanity. One possible solution to this dilemma is that we openly condemn the atrocities committed by our ancestors and undo the bad feelings created by those whom we do not even know.We could together recon who is up to this inhumanity and root such invisible powers out I on my part apologize from all the affected Sikh brothers.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Agreed brother ... the insanity of partition pitted brothers born to the same mother against eachother. We Punjabis share the common heritage, same familynames, and the same genetic lineage. Nothing can justify the human atrocities we committed against each other for the sake of religion - Even God (Allah, Khuda, Ishwar, or Akal Purukh) whould have felt ashamed at the inhumane actions of his creatures. But we do'nt learn from history and keep making the same mistakes ,, over and over again.

      Delete
  5. i belong to the family of SANT GULAB SINGH....let me tell you the events narrated r half truth. the well which u see is not the one in which the 90 odd women and children jumped.....there was none to do the last rites..for ur info it was sealed.i know all the three who survived and were pulled out after the army reached...history has been buried with all those who drowned in the well...i am trying to pen a book on the facts of those three days 9 to 11 march 1947..the story revolves around one survivor...who i was born to in 1951.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Hardaman, since I discovered the Thoha tragedy it has flabbergasted me. I am a Lahori and yesterday visited the place and probably the well of Gulab Singhs haveli. Please keep me informed about your book.

      Delete
  6. for the last 10 years or so people from both sides post such tragedies but governments do not say a word. I think at least names of all those who died like this may be engraved at all such sites lest we forget and repeat

    ReplyDelete
  7. This is just 1 event in the long line of rampage, mayhem, murder, rape, pillage etc that have been happening since jihadis came to attack and loot India, a thousand year ago. It's the same story all over India for hundreds of years. The life of a Kaffir was always worthless and the wive/sister/daughter of a Kaffir was always a maal-e-ganimat.

    Battles happened everywhere. Everytime the attacker Jihadi army lost the battle, things back went to normal but every time they won, then only 3 options for Hindus.
    Convert. Die. Slavery.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Honestly this monkey balancing is what you have to do
    These people were asked to convert
    Where the hell is the same example you would find on the other side
    Ur punjabiyat died the day muslim Punjabis saw Hindu & Sikh Punjabi woman as war booty stop with this one sided love
    Common Punjabi muslim hates u & it's a fact

    ReplyDelete
  9. Beware all non-muslims who find themselves in muslim majority areas anywhere - you are not safe. If you do not prepare to organize and fight, you /your descendants will meet this fate sooner or later. Kashmiri pandits learnt this the hard way, even after all the lessons from history. You can learn urdu, arabic script, go gaga over your friendly muslim neighbours, you are only lulling yourself into a false sense of security. Bengal border districts and Malabar are next.

    ReplyDelete
  10. Facts in chronical order are as follows :
    Tara Singh , Akali leader , real name Nank Chand Malhotra from Rawalpindi hacks down Muslim League flag on March 3,1947 with his nacked sword outside Punjab Assembly , Lahore at the head of leaders and MLAs from the Congress, Akalis and Hindu Mahasabha . He shouted PAKISTAN MURDABAD weaved his sword at Muslim gathering , thereby , inciting them !
    On 6th. March ,1947 some Sikhs attacked in Pindi , home Distt. of Tara Singh and after that fierce attacks till 11th March , including jumping of Sikh women in village well to save their honor , lest they fall into Muslims hands! Their men not confident of fighting Muslim mobs and protecting their ladies!
    Tara Singh , after that planned to KILL Mr. JINNAH and innocent Muslims ! Read TOP SECRET report of Lord Mountbatten of August 5,1947. This plan of FOOLISH Tara singh leaked out to the Muslims on 5 th August ,1947 and soon after that Sikhs were killed and ousted from the West Punjab . Soon after Tara Singh incited Sikhs in East Punjab to kill and oust Muslims !

    ReplyDelete
  11. Hey man why you show the one side of coin after born of Pakistan It hadn't given their deserve army fleet and weapons,India just want kill Mulsim and Make shib rule over all India(under that rule lower caste were killed by higher caste for higher caste guilt)and you know if Iman rise in one muslim heart it will be bad for others true mulsim only fight for God and man hadn't found any mistake in quran because it is from Allah.Silh killed muslim rape their sister who gurd skin relatives home when they listened the village under Pakistan but they killed them
    Listen muslim can't compromise lord order for others
    So beware don't express wrong news

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Mr. Anonymous, the true facts hurt sometimes ... the sufferings of the people of Thoha Khalsa can not be erased from the history because you have a communal mindset or prejudice against other religion or community. Both sides of Punjabis sufferened in mindless sectarian violence unleashed on the masses. Muslims suffered in East Punjab and Sikhs/Hindus in West Punjab. Both are equally wrong and there is no need to justify that dark period. These are crimes against humanity and needs to be shared with our future generations so these incidents do not happen again.

      The incident at Thoha Khalsa is well documented and cannot be denied. Please watch the videos in the blog where local Muslims from Thoha Khalsa village are describing what happened. Islam is a peaceful religion with Holy Quran dedicated to one creator that you call Allah. I am with you when you talk about the greatness of Allah and his love for us all .. but you are on your own when you use it to justify attorcities committed against fellow humans in the name of Allah. You again stand alone when you mention Jehad against non-Muslims and when you mention Shariah - an outdated philosophy that denies equal rights to all humans specially non-Muslims and women.

      So please open your radical blinders and see all humankind as one ...all of us are created by the same God and deserving equal rights .. its a crime to use the name of Allah to commit atrocities agains others .. and Allah will not forgive you for that ... same goes for all those who commit heineous crimes agains Muslims too.

      Delete

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