Communal disturbances

Report on developing partition situation by British High Commisioner in India, 15 September 1947
(DO 133/59)


From the High Commissioner for the United Kingdom
To Commonwealth Relations Officer
15th September 1.30 p.m.
Priority Immediate Secret

My telegram No. 749 dated 13th September.

1. PUNJAB Following is main information received during last two days regarding situation.

A) There was continued tension in rural areas of East Punjab but movement of refugees has continued satisfactorily.
B) In Ambala District situation was reported to have deteriorated greatly and in Rohtak district heavy killing was reported at one place (please treat this para. as confidential)
C) Mob of 25,000 people attacked village about 30 miles North of Delhi but was beaten off by military force.
D) Disturbed conditions continue in Jullundur, Hoshiarpur and Kapurthala.
E) Sikhs attacked Muslim refugee column near Amritsar and inflicted about 60 casualties on raiders (please treat name of communities concerned and number of casualties as confidential).
F) Sikhs attacked a refugee train between Jullundur and Kapurthala and inflicted about 70 casualties. Raiders also suffered heavy casualties.

4. CASUALTIES. Nehru at Press Conference on 12th (September) said that the official and non-official sources estimated number of deaths in Delhi disturbances roughly at 1,000. Official verified figures of casualties in disturbances in West and East Punjab were 15,000 killed but he felt these figures were very low and might be doubled or trebled.

A) Official figures on view in Government House Map room show that between 17th August and 7th September 325,000 Muslim refugees and 838, 000 non-Muslims had crossed over principal frontier posts between Pakistan and India. Nehru at Press Conference said that by September 12th one and a quarter million persons have come from West Punjab to East Punjab and similar number from East to West. Probably another half a million are waiting to be moved.
B) Delhi refugee figures obtained from Map room show that on 12th September there were 162,000 non-Muslim refugees of which only 12,000 were in refugee camps, the remainder staying with friends or relatives. On same date there were 90,000 Muslim refugees in about six camps and 14,000 more had been cleared from Delhi during the preceding two days. Nehru said nearly quarter of Delhi population now consisted of refugees.

6. EXCHANGE OF POPULATIONS. In his prayer speech on 13th (September) Gandhi said that transfer of population would mean nothing but greater misery and wished that India and Pakistan would unitedly make up their minds against transfer of population. In contrast Nehru said that they had not been thinking of exchange of population but it was forced upon them and they had to carry out their duty.

7. SIKHS. Nehru in press conference said that he found in reports, especially in foreign reports, statements made that blame, if not all a great part of it, lay with Sikhs. That was not fair to Sikhs, who had undoubtedly misbehaved themselves as others had misbehaved but to cast blame on Sikhs was completely wrong.

Extract from earlier telegram report dated 19th August 1947, (DO 133/59)

First reactions came from ministers of Pakistan Government. Nishtar Ghazanfar Ali Khan and Chundrigar condemned it violently. Nishtar called it a parting kick by the British while Chundrigar said that decision might persuade Pakistan not to remain in the Commonwealth. Singha, leader of Christian Community in Pakistan, said it was a one sided award and most unfair to Pakistan. Reactions of Hindus and Sikhs in east Punjab to award is that the Non-Muslims did not have a fair deal and that it is a great betrayal of both sides. It is also reported that responsible circles in Delhi (presumably Hindu), consider that award relating to Chittagong Hill Tracts is untenable because Radcliffe exceeded his terms of reference in making proposals regarding them.

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