Review: The Garrison State: Military, Government and Society in Colonial Punjab, 1849-1947

The Garrison State: Military, Government and Society in Colonial Punjab, 1849-1947 (SAGE Series in Modern Indian History)

The following is a review sent in by Major Agha Humayun Amin (retd). As usual, Major Amin is sometimes, shall we say, harsh, but his knowledge of this subject is encyclopedic and always worth reading..

My first association with works of Professor Tan Tai Yong started in 2000 when he wrote an article that as per his own admission forms the basis of this book.

Although Professor Yong seemed at that time in 2000 to be a well meaning scholar,there were serious basic flaws in his research.

I wrote a letter to the Journal of Military History at that time in 2000 which that journal , keeping in line with its tradition of intellectual dishonesty, did not publish, citing lame excuses about lack of space. That letter is appended at the end of this review, so that the reader may have an idea about what was the basis of my criticism.

The West is in the habit of accepting so called scholars like Professor Yong as experts on Indo Pak history. So Journal of Military History of USA was merely following this strange tradition.

When I read this book under review in 2018 some 18 years after my initial critique I was disappointed to find that Professor Yong had not improved his knowledge , although most the faults he has committed in this book were entirely avoidable.

The first issue is regarding why the British started preferred Punjab and Frontier for the army recruitment.

First the assertion that it was only by the 1880s that the British started favoring soldiers from Punjab is wrong.

The hard facts of the situation are that some 90 % of the pre 1857 Bengal Army recruited from UP and Bihar had rebelled or disbanded in 1857 and an entirely new army was created, composed mostly of set of regiments raised in Punjab (frontier being its part) in 1857-58.

While Lord Roberts pronouncements can be credited as “ Martial Races Theory” a clear shift in British recruitment policy favouring Punjab over UP and Bihar had been initiated in 1857-58.

Peel Commission of 1858-59 had clearly laid the basis of this policy. Thus the “Peel Commission” constituted after 1857 to study and analyse the future composition of the Indian Army recommended that the native army should be composed of different nationalities and castes, and as a general rule mixed promiscuously through each regiment! Such system had existed in the Madras and Bombay armies but these were much smaller as compared to the Bengal Army. However, India was now viewed in terms of loyal and disloyal.

Professor Yong , if I am to understand this book , simply denies the existence of the British loyalist Syed Ahmad Khans landmark work “Causes of Indian Mutiny” written in 1859 and republished as an Indian translation in 1873.

This pamphlet which suggested formation of class regiments did have immense impact on British thinking and pre-dates Robert who only came into prominence after 1885.

Lord Canning’s views about the policy of “Divide and Rule” expressed in 1857 are thought provoking; Canning thus said in a letter dated 9 October 1857:’ “the men who fought against us at Delhi were of both creeds; probably in equal numbers. If we destroy or desecrate Mussulman Mosques or Brahman Temples we do exactly what is wanting to band the two antagonist races against ourselves…..as we must rule 150 million of people by a handful (more or less small) number of Englishmen, let us do it in the manner best calculated to leave them divided (as in religion and national feeling as they already are) and to inspire them with the greatest possible awe of our power .

Canning went further and very subtly defined certain guidelines regarding employment of various classes after 1857:-

“All exclusion of Mahomeddan, Rajpoots or even of Brahmans should be a matter of management rather than of rule; and indeed that it will be right to take an opportunity, though not just yet, to show by an exception here and there, that the rule does not exist. It is desirable that no class should feel that it had henceforward nothing to expect from the government”

The post 1857 British Civil Servants were convinced that the survival of British empire in India lay in carefully widening the communal divide, particularly the Hindu-Muslim divide. The subsequent British agreement to the right of separate electorate was also a part of this policy. The Muslim leaders of that time favored separate electorate for personal rather than communal reasons. Regardless of advantages or disadvantages, the Muslim feudal’s aim was to get into the viceregal or provincial council!

In 1879 the Eden Commission set up to review the reorganisation of Indian Army observed and duly reported that the principle of “Divide and Rule” was being enforced as a policy and its implementation was being constantly scrutinised.

He has not mentioned the Eden Commission at all in his book.

On page 32 Yong makes entirely avoidable factual mistakes like placing Konkan (on the west coast of India) in the Gangetic Plains instead.

On page 33 Yong is wrong about rationale of change of recruiting ground.After all motives of policy makers cannot be judged by their external pronouncements.

The bottom line of British policy was political loyalty and the soldiers from UP and Bihar had proved their political disloyalty by rebelling en masse in 1857.

Pronouncements like Russian threat and thus Punjabis and Pathans being more suitable to encounter this threat were mere rationalizations of this fear of British not openly expressed.

On page 35 Yong fallaciously claims that Guides comprised mainly of Sikhs whereas Sikhs were not a majority in Guides at the time of its raising.

Delhi was not captured on 10th May as Professor Yong claims on page 45 but on 11th May. A very minor error but one that should not have escaped the sagacity of our Singapore expert on Indo Pak Military history.

On page-45 Yong comes out with strange distortions of history like stating that 12 European regiments were dispatched to Delhi in July 1857.

The European (British) infantry regiments at Delhi never exceeded seven in number and 8 if 9th Lancers the lone cavalry regiment was included.

Why Yong has to make such non factual statements is a mystery.

His reference to Jhelum district tribes being rebellious on page 48 is also fallacious as the only local rebellions that took place in Punjab were in Rawalpindi District and in Gogaira District.

On various pages like 48,49 etc Yong totally forgets even mentioning the Pathans who were recruited in large numbers in 1857-58 in addition to Punjabis.

The term Sikhs fought at Delhi (as on page 61) is incorrect . What many western and eastern so called experts like Wolpert and Yong called Sikhs were a mix of Punjabi Muslims,Sikhs and Pathans, all classified as Sikh Infantry.

On page 63 Professor Yong makes a serious factual mistake which has absolutely no connection with facts. He falsely and fallaciously states that “Hindustani elements of the Punjab Frontier Force were finally eliminated in 1883 …….”

This is an abosultely incorrect and non factual claim.

Hindustanis were a key component of Punjab Frontier Force Cavalry all along from its raising in 1849 till partition of India in 1947.

TABLE ILLUSTRATING ETHNIC /RELIGIOUS COMPOSITION OF PUNJAB IRREGULAR FRONTIER FORCE AS IN 1889

ETHNICITY/RELIGIONCAVALRY(TROOPS)INFANTRY(COMPANIES)TOTAL
Muslim-Hindustani (Incl Ranghar)6Nil6
Muslim-Pathan7.51623.5
Muslim-Punjabi4.51923.5
Total Muslim18 Troops35 Companies53 Troops/Coys
Sikhs142842 Troops/Coys
Hindu Jats Dogars/Others61723 Troops/Coys
Total Non Muslims2045 Companies65 Troops/Coys
Total38 Troops80 Companies118 Troops/Coys

Refers-Page-408 and 409 Lieut F.G Cardew Op Cit and G.G.O dated 2nd January 1889

On page 66 Yong again makes a totally wrong deduction.He claims that four Hindustani regiments were replaced by Punjabi Muslims.

Now this was an experiment to have one religion regiments which was carried out as below :–

In 1892-93 the British carried out a new experiment in the Bengal Army. They turned certain units into ethnically/religiously homogeneous units. Thus the following changes took place:-

Chart No. 12
Name of  UnitNew Ethnic/Religious Composition
1st and 3rd Bengal Native InfantryAll Hindustani Hindu Brahman
2nd 4th 7th 8th 11th and 16th Bengal Native infantryAll Oudh/Agra province Hindu Rajputs
13th Bengal Native InfantryAll Rajputana Hindu Rajput Unit
5th 12th 17th and 18th Bengal Native InfantryAll Hindustani/Ranghar  Muslim
6th and 10th Bengal Native InfantryAll Hindustani Hindu Jat  and Delhi Territory Hindu Jat

 

On page-66 Professor Yong makes a totally outrageous assertion which had no connection with facts. He claims that class company regiments gave away to single class regiments.There were single class regiments all along but majority of British Indian Army units were always multi ethnic-religion class company units right till 1947. This includes both first and second world war.

On page 70 again he totally misses out naming the Pathans who were an important ethnic group in recruitment.

Also Professor Yong makes no mention at all of transfer of four non Punjabi districts to Punjab as punishment in 1857-58. These four districts Rohtak, Karnal, Gurgaon and Hissar were important recruiting areas right till 1947.

On page 80 he forgets to note that Hindu Jats from Rohtak were not Punjabis at all.

On page 96 his assessment that dominant land holding classes districts joined the army is false. Districts that contributed maximum soldiers to the army in Punjab were the poorest districts and had few large feudals. The richest districts with fertile land holdings and powerful feudal like Multan and Montgomery contributed one of the lowest numbers of soldiers to the army.

There is hardly any  mention of alienation of land act 1901 that was landmark in Punjab socio-military history. SS Thorburn a crucial British decision maker is not even mentioned in the book nor in the bibliography. Thorburn had theorized that if money lenders are not restrained and checked by law there can be a rebellion in the British Indian Army. He wrote a book “Mussulmans and Moneylenders” proving his theory. His recommendations were translated into a law restricting powers of Hindu money lenders in Punjab, which was a landmark achievement in Punjab’s military history but this whole chapter has been totally ignored by Professor Yong.

Professor Yong should have mentioned that Punjab from beginning was a non regulation province and this contributed towards an arbitrary administrative tradition but we find this aspect nowhere in his book.

What Professor Yong has stated in his book are a series of well known facts about Punjab military history supported by many references which impresses his readers. But in the process he has missed many important aspects of Punjab military history.

While he concentrates in stating that Unionists were foremost in supporting British war effort , he totally forgets that as per Jinnah Sikandar Pact of 1938 Unionist and Muslim League were one party and Mr Jinnah and his Muslim League were the most important component in supporting British war effort in 1939-47.

He fails to analyse that British short term goals favouring political loyalty in military recruitment played key role in division of Pakistan in 1971 as a Punjab dominated military and civil service was against transfer of power to the majority East Bengal all along from 1947 till 1971.

By and large an interesting book but a mere repetition of facts.

I would classify it as useful for the layman but some of its factual and analytical errors need to be rectified in a future edition.

APPENDIX- LETTER SENT TO JOURNAL OF MILITARY HISTORY COMMENTING ON PROFESSOR TAN TAI YONGS ARTICLE-An Imperial Home-Front: Punjab and the First World War (pp. 371-410)- Vol. 64, No. 2, Apr., 2000 of The Journal of Military History

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

Sir,

I was deeply impressed by the excellent article by Professor Tan Tai Yong published in your journal, but the readers who have a pretty vague idea about the subcontinent may form outwardly correct but essentially erroneous conclusions, which may be unfair to Punjab’s role in Indo-Pak history. I may add that my intention in making these points is in no way to prove that the worthy author does not know his subject. Indeed as earlier stated, I have been deeply impressed by his grasp of Indian history and some very thought provoking remarks that he has made about the civil military relations in Punjab. The author has done an excellent job despite the fact that it is no mean job to understand Punjab history while being based away from there.

Firstly the politics of Punjab right from the advent of the Muslim invaders in the tenth century was highly complicated. It was this particular situation which played the most significant role in Punjab’s remaining loyal in First World War rather than all British measures. The British it may be noted inherited the situation once they annexed Punjab in 1849. They exploited it to full advantage. Punjab was initially a Hindu majority province in the tenth century. By the seventeenth century it became a Muslim majority area as a result of efforts of Muslim missionaries. This has been well covered by various British authors like “The Preaching of Islam” by the famous Professor T.W Arnold of Magdalene College, a distinguished figure of the “School of Oriental Studies” at the University of London (Page-197 – Aligarh – The First Generation – David Lelyveld-Princeton University-1978). The foundation of the Sikh religion in the early sixteenth century by Guru Nanak (1469-1538) and his successors further complicated the communal equation. The Sikhs a purely Punjabi religion came in conflict with the Muslim Mughal Government at Delhi from the period 1581-1606 (Refers-page-245-Cambridge History of India-The Mughal Period). They were ruthlessly persecuted from 1606 to 1799 by first the Mughals till 1748 and then by the Afghan raider Ahmad Shah Abdali. The Sikhs retaliated most resolutely and brilliantly and resorted to guerrilla warfare as a result of which they became masters of Muslim majority Punjab by 1809 under the brilliant Ranjit Singh. The US readers may note that the Sikh number never exceeded the figure of 10.5% of the total population of Punjab. (Census Report of Punjab-1881-Lahore. Pages-14 & 15-David Lelyveld-Op Cit and Page-8- Prelude to Partition-David Page-Oxford University Press-Karachi-1987). The Sikhs whose holy places had been desecrated by the Muslims during the period of conflict from 1606-1748 retaliated by turning many Muslim mosques into stables and military stores magazines during their rule, which lasted, from 1799-1849. Once the English East India Company got involved in the Second Sikh War the Muslim feudals who were initially Sikh vassals like the Tiwanas etc now defected to the British side and played an active role in assisting the British in the final conquest of Punjab. The Punjab Muslims about 54% of the province as it was in 1919 welcomed the British conquest of Punjab and hailed it. The British followed a clever policy of rehabilitating the Sikhs and also restoring Muslim places  of worship. A subtle development followed. The Sikhs and Muslims competed with each other in loyalty to the British, the Sikhs in order to regain a part their lost total dominance and the Muslims to gain their due share in terms of share in the population which had been denied to them since 1799. It was this complex equation that ensured that Punjab stayed loyal in 1857 and in WW One. The evidence about Muslim Sikh hatred may be gauged from the 1947 riots in which at least a million people were killed in Punjab once the British left India. The Punjabi Hindus who were about 33.46% of the population gained the most right from 1606 till 1947. Initially they stayed loyal to the Mughals and retained their prosperous status. Later the Sikhs found the Hindus better subjects than the Muslims and patronized them. Under the British also the Hindus being a largely urban community gained the maximum advantages accruing from Western education and commerce and stood out as the richest and most educated community of Punjab in 1947.

A word about the observation on page-409-that the status of the rural notables in Punjab did not deteriorate like that of their counterparts in United Provinces (UP). The real story is different:  The UP Taluqdars gained as much out of British rule as the Punjabi feudals. After all the province stood second after Punjab in recruitment drive in the army. The decline of the United Provinces feudals started only after 1947 once the urban dominated Indian National Congress instituted land reforms that deprived these feudals of a large part of their land. The difference between Punjab and UP was the fact that UP by virtue of having been colonized some 73 to 46 years (depending on the region) earlier than the Punjab had a much higher literacy (Western Education) rate and a much larger Hindu middle and independent professional and business class which was educated and the feudals despite continuous patronage by the British failed to do as well as in Punjab in the elections. In addition the province as compared to Punjab had a much larger industrial base and thus a very large industrial worker class. The Punjabi feudals had little future in Pakistan too since the majority province East Pakistan was not feudal dominated. However, the Punjabi feudals by combining with the civil military elite of West Pakistani origin coerced the East Pakistanis to renounce their actual majority in 1956 and thus ensured that the feudal hold was retained in Pakistan. They also collaborated with all Pakistani military governments and maintained their pre-1947 hold.

It is stated in the article that “Yet, despite all of this, the colonial state in the Punjab seemed to have emerged in 1919 very much intact and unweakened in any way”. It did not happen this way. British repressive policies in Punjab brought them in conflict with the more aware urban populations of cities between Rivers Jhelum and Sutlej as a result of which the British were confronted with the first serious anti-British political agitation in Punjab as a result of which martial law was imposed in Punjab. Property worth many millions was destroyed or looted (including an American missionary’s house and his mission’s excellent hospital which was giving free treatment to the poor in Chuhar Kanna). (Refers-Page-271- “Disorders Inquiry Committee-1919-1920-Report” – British Perspective-Volume Two -Superintendent Government of India Press-Calcutta-1920). Amritsar city was handed over to the army where at least 379 peaceful demonstrators were killed (Refers-Page-187-1919 Disorders Inquiry Committee Report) by the British-Indian troops, communications all over the province were attacked (Refers-Page-railway stations were attacked and Gujranwala town was bombed by the Royal Air Force. Summary Military courts were set up which sentenced 108 people to be executed out which at least 23 were maintained while remaining were converted to transportation for life to the Andaman Islands! (Refers-Page-235-1919 Disorders Inquiry Committee Report-Op Cit). At least 258 people as per official report were sentenced to be flogged from 5 to 30 times (Page-231-1919 Disorders Inquiry Committee report) and a large number were publicly flogged with posteriors naked ( I can send you some photographs if you like). Other punishments like crawling in the streets rather than walking were imposed on common people! In short a province that had been most loyal to the Empire was handled so injudiciously by two hot headed Irishmen i.e. Governor Michael O Dwyer and Brigadier Dyer that the British lost a great part of the goodwill that had been created through tangible well meaning and just measures of so many Britishers from 1849 till 1919! Such was the Punjabi indignation that Michael O Dwyer the hero of the article was shot to death by a Punjabi student studying engineering in London in 1940! The student who was hanged within a month stated at his trial that he was avenging Jallianwalla Firing and the outrages committed on Dyers orders in 1919. The urban population was alienated and the anti-British congress emerged as the second largest party in the 1936 elections. The British policy was efficient but short sighted and in the long run failed as later events proved. The Punjab disturbances of 1919 shook their confidence and certainly weakened their hold on India. In Second World War their recruiting drive in Punjab was based on the slogan of self-rule and was a negation of all imperialist ideals! The Duke of Connaught on eve of inauguration of the Indian Legislature stated that “the shadow of Amritsar lengthened over the fair face of India” (Refers-Page-347-India-A Modern History-T.G.P Spear-University of Michigan-Reprinted India-1989).

There is another important point that the writer has missed. Punjab as a province was a British creation. There were at least four different ethnic groups in Punjab. The Punjabis in the areas between Indus and Sutlej and Jamna rivers in the northern half of Punjab, the Hindustani enclave of Ambala division which was not Punjabi, the Seraiki speaking areas of the south, again distinct from Punjabis and the pastoral Baloch tribes in the southern part of the province. The major recruitment took place only in two of these four ethnic groups i.e the Punjabis and the Hindustani districts, which had been transferred to Punjab as a punishment for having taken part in the rebellion of 1857. Chhottu Ram who belonged to this region was not a Punjabi. Then there was another major motivation in joining the army i.e. economic. This motivation had an important region specific characteristic, which has not been described by the author. This was confined only to districts with rain irrigated and barren lands north of river Jhelum including northern part of Shahpur and one subdivision of District Gujrat which is south of river Jhelum, or to the Hindustani districts (Hissar, Rohtak Gurgaon and large parts of Karnal) of the south east part which consisted of the most barren and non-productive land of the province. The areas south of these rivers were less keen in contributing recruits for the fighting arms. Thus Lahore district’s performance was most pathetic; keeping in view the fact that it was population wise one of the biggest districts of Punjab did not contribute as many recruits as expected. Thus the British report of Services Rendered by the Lahore district observed that “As compared with other districts the recruiting activities of Lahore district were not as good as could be desired. The villagers in the neighborhood of Lahore city did not readily enlist in the combatant ranks, they made too good a living as daily labourer in and about the city to think of entering the service” (Refers-Short Record of the War Services Rendered by the Lahore District-1914-1919- Compiled in the Deputy Commissioner’s Office, Lahore, Punjab-Printed at Mufeed I Aam Press-Lahore-1919-Punjab Public Library-World War One Section-Lahore).

There was a very important qualitative motivational difference in the motivation to join the army in the Sikhs and the Punjabis, which should have been pointed out. The Sikh motivation to join the army had a definite link with their minority status. This produced in them an intense feeling to improve their political and economic standing vis-a-vis the two larger groups i.e. the Punjabi Muslims and Hindus. Thus the Sikhs despite being only around 10.5% contributed 88,000 combatants to the army while the Muslims despite being a 54% group contributed only 136,000 recruits! This had two reasons first was the Sikh preponderance in fighting arm units before the war over the Punjabi Muslims as well as their feeling of relative insecurity as a minority community. Despite all this loyalty the Sikh quota was relatively reduced after the war because of the significant role that some Sikhs had played in the Ghadar Movements. Here it would be interesting for the American readers to note that it was the liberal influence of USA which induced the Sikhs who had settled in California to embark on the Ghadar Movement. The Ghadar party had its base in the US West region, where it was founded on 21 April 1913 at Astoria (Oregon State) by Punjabi immigrants (mostly Sikh who had reached California as farm labourers or exiles before WW One) Refers-Page 262-A Dictionary of Modern Indian History-Parshotam Mehra-Oxford University Press-Madras-1985).

The author did not discuss the role of the British system of class composition of Indian units in preventing rebellion. The same is true for the activities of the Ghadar Party activists in the army and certain military mutinies in units recruited from races inhabiting Punjab and their effect on the class composition of the post-1918 Indian Army have also not been discussed. The British were greatly helped in the mixed class composition of Indian Army to which they had resorted from the period 1864-1885. This system played a major part in preventing mutiny in the Indian Army. Under this system the vast bulk of cavalry and infantry units consisted of different companies of various classes in any single unit. Like a unit with two Sikh and two Punjabi Muslim Companies. A unit with a Pathan Muslim and a Dogra Hindu Squadron etc. This ensured that the Muslims would not combine with the Sikhs and the Sikhs would be too eager to report in case the Muslims were up to something nasty! This system proved a success in WW One. On the other hand the experiment of having one-class units failed. Thus 129 Baluchis which was one of the very few “All Muslim Units” was made a mixed class unit after the war. This happened since many of its Pathans defected to the German lines in France. The 15 Lancers which was an “All Muslim Unit” was disbanded after the war since its Pathan Muslim Squadrons resisted orders to fight the Turks in Mesopotamia. The 5th Light Infantry which was an “All Muslim Unit” with two companies of Ranghar Muslims from Punjab province mutinied en masse at Singapore in 1915 and was disbanded after the war. Thus after the war with the exception of one infantry unit all fighting arm units were made mixed class units. The Ghadar Party infiltrators penetrated Indian Army and did partially succeed in subverting 23rd Punjab Cavalry (this scribes unit) where at least 12 soldiers were court martialled and executed (Refers-Page-141-An Account of the Ghadar Conspiracy-1913-15-F.C Isemonger and J. Slattery-Lahore-1919 and Page-8-A Short History of 11 Cavalry (Frontier Force-Lieut Colonel Mohammad Khalid-Privately Published-Quetta-1999-Copy held by this scribe).

Later research proved that the most crucial role was played by the pre-war existing Indian Army in October-December 1914 in Ypres area where the British Second Corps was at its last gasp at Ypres at a time when in words of the official British historian, “The position was critical, for the allies were outnumbered and outgunned. There was no prospect for several days while it was known that the enemy was bringing up large bodies of troops from the east” (Page-23-The Indian Corps in France-Lieutenant Colonel J.W.B Merwether and Right Honourable Sir Frederick Smith-John Murray-Ablemarle Street-London-1919.). The reinforcements later sent played a significant but not as decisive a role as that by the Indian Corps at Ypres in October-December 1914.

The real reason why Punjab responded to the British war effort lay in four factors. Firstly, an excellent British policy to bring prosperity in Punjab by excavating canals which was initiated in 1852. Recruitment to the army in increased numbers from 1857, and grant of lands as reward of war services was initiated in 1858 and brought great prosperity to the provinces populace residing in the barren poor and non-productive regions of the northern and south eastern districts of Punjab. Secondly, the extreme political backwardness of Punjab in terms of education by virtue of being the last region to be captured by the British and being under hold of feudal lords who discouraged spread of Western education. This system enabled the feudal lords to act as recruiting agents for their own personal ends. The disturbances of 1919 it may be noted took place in the canal-irrigated areas and in cities with the more aware and educated urban population.

Thirdly, the economic factor of getting land as a reward for war services also played a major role in the motivation to get recruited. This again was true for the people from the barren districts. Finally it was the complex communal divide of the province with various ethnic and religious groups and the sharp urban rural divide with the vast bulk of the illiterate and poor rural population under total domination of feudal lords and the extremely small intensely nationalistic and anti-British educated urban population further reinforced by the highly aware and over enthusiastic idealistic but highly unrealistic US and Canadian Punjabi Sikh and Hindu Indian community.

The negative result of the whole affair for the British was the fact that too many expectations were aroused. The Indians believed in vain that India for its war services will “take a place among the nations besides Canada, Australia and New Zealand, but India was bitterly disappointed” as one Britisher admitted. (Refers-Page-411-A Matter of Honour-Philip Mason-Jonathan Cape and Bedford-London-1974) Once these expectations were not fulfilled disturbances started in India and these started from Punjab which had suffered the most in terms of casualties in the War in 1919. The foundation of modern anti-British political mass agitation was thus laid in 1919. The British were forced to introduce legislative government, forced to grant Indians commissions in the Armed Forces which the military establishment had successfully resisted from 1757 to 1917. In short the price that they paid was too heavy and counter-productive. Michael O Dwyer the hot blooded Irishman mishandled everything.

India in 1919 was an explosive place. While about 60,000 Indian soldiers had died in WW One, some sixteen million Indians during the same period had died of Influenza ! This was a greater number than total dead in all countries in WW One due to the war ! (Refers-Page-155-English History-1914-45-A.J.P Taylor-Penguin Books-England-1977). The seeds of the anti British Indian politics were planted by Michael O Dwyer and Dyer through out of proportion enthusiasm in the recruiting drive and in unduly repressive measures in 1919. The British held on to India for 28 more years but they had lost the goodwill and great admiration for their policies in Punjab so painstakingly planted by a long list of British administrators from 1849 to 1914 through justice and fair play it takes many decades to grow a forest but just one matchstick to burn the work of centuries.

How do I sum it up as a Pakistani? The only gainers in the whole process were not the common men in Punjab but the Punjabi Muslim feudals who have survived till todate and even today constitute an important political force in Pakistani politics. They fooled the British and the Pakistani masses whose leaders they became after 1947. These Punjabi feudals served the Sikhs even when Sikhs used the Muslim mosques as stables! They switched over to the British side once the Sikh State was destroyed in 1849. They served the British once the Bengal Army under a Muslim leadership rebelled in 1857. They served the British in WW One and Two and got huge economic rewards in return. About three years before Pakistan’s creation they switched on to the Muslim League a largely urban dominated party in 1944-47 and pushed the relatively more enlightened Punjabi Muslim urban elite aside ! In the period 1951-58 they betrayed the Muslim League and joined the civil military bureaucratic clique of Pakistan. Todate their achievements include collaboration with all martial law governments and dominance of all democratically elected governments of Pakistan including the present military government! I am a great admirer of late Abraham Lincoln but I must admit as the Punjabi Muslim feudals have proved that sometimes some people manage to fool all the people all the time!

Kind Regards

Major Agha Humayun Amin (Retired)

[email protected]

 

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