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Partition of Sindh I

Updated on July 16, 2017

The Partition of India on the 15th of August 1947 included some very poignant tales some of which may be systemically erased from public archives or records unless we take stringent measures to ensure that they remain intact so that posterity may remember the cost of freedom.

The Sindh province is bordered by West Punjab to the North, Rajasthan and Gujarat to the East and Baluchistan to the West. Like other provincial areas in the northern sector of the subcontinent it suffered major upheavals and population shifts during and post partition.

The threat of violence, often vocal, triggered a mass exodus and almost a million Sindhis left their ancestral homeland fearing communal riots and fled to India leaving behind most of their wealth and possessions.

Sindh is the second largest province in Pakistan and in terms of wealth density there is a large discrepancy in the province. The wealth is not proportionally distributed and there is a wide gap between the rich and the poor. It is commonly believed that Baluchistan is the most impoverished province in Pakistan but living conditions in some Sindh villages are equally as bad and fall well below acceptable levels.

The situation has been further aggravated by reports of repeated violence – a salient feature in many of the provinces. According to human rights organizations, the most serious breaches include extrajudicial and targeted killings, sudden disappearances and torture. Like Baluchistan there has been a recent spike in Sindh nationalism with calls for the formation of a breakaway republic – Sindhudesh which is backed by an armed militia, the SDLA.

According to the IGC (International Growth Center), political violence has long been endemic in Pakistan, but the scale, scope, and geographic distribution of the problem has not been systematically studied.

The problem is twofold, on the policy side, decision makers lack credible quantitative data with which to weigh the relative costs of politically-motivated violence against the many other challenges facing Pakistan and on the academic side, scholars lack the ability to quantitatively assess the role of violence in Pakistan’s political and economic development.

The Sindh province holds a majority of the seats in the Pakistani National Assembly and it is the most influential province in the Pakistani political sphere.

Therefore, the province is of some significance and while much of the internal turmoil is conveniently blamed on extremists, it is worth examining the internal policing and administrative mechanisms that operate within the province.

The province itself has a large number of migrants from Punjab and Baluchistan, many of whom have come in search of work. Karachi, the capital of the Sindh Province houses one third of the provincial population.

Pakistan presents us with a novel opportunity to study a unique democracy. In May 1999, Pakistani forces crossed the Line of Control (LoC) and launched a bold and belligerent attack which resulted in a high-altitude conflict, focused and centered, in and around the town of Kargil which is located approximately 205 km north-east of Srinagar (the summer capital of Kashmir).

During the conflict the Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was quoted as saying that he wasn’t aware of any plans to encroach on Indian territory and while it might sound far-fetched to some, it is both possible and plausible. It may have been what actually transpired.

While the Sindh province controls a majority of the seats in the national assembly, the Punjabis control the military. There is some discrepancy there and there is always the possibility that the military might have acted independently.

Much of the animosity is due to what was left behind and the lamentable loss of a rich and vibrant cultural heritage that was the result or the legacy of a hastily brokered partition especially with regards to Kashmir and Punjab.

The previously independent and autonomous Kashmir was reduced to the brink of social and economic disaster overnight.

According to most sources, the migration of the Sindhi from Pakistan to India and vice-versa was peaceful but that does not mean that there was no violence or that the level of violence that they were subjected to was negligible, acceptable or tolerable.

Other sources say that many of the Sindhis that migrated from India to Pakistan were exposed to very high levels of violence. Therefore, the animosity that still lingers in the air between India and Pakistan is tangible, conceivable and understandable.

There are tales of murder, rape, pillage and of people being set alight by the truckloads or train loads and it is difficult to determine how much of it is true and how much is fabricated but there is no doubting or denying that there was an extremely high level of violence that followed the partition of India and Pakistan.

© 2016 Kathiresan Ramachanderam and Dyarne Jessica Ward

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