Even though Partition invokes an emotional upsurge of varied experiences in both India and Pakistan, yet it’s important to objectively recollect the role of both the colonisers and the colonised in the most pro-Raj province of Punjab, says historian-biographer Rajmohan Gandhi.
In his latest book, “Punjab: A history from Aurangzeb to Mounbatten”, Rajmohan narrates a 240-year-old story of the then undivided Punjab, beginning with the death of Aurangzeb till 1947, and looks at possible reasons which led to Partition.
Rajmohan, the grandson of Mahatma Gandhi, says he always wanted to recount the history of undivided Punjab province until Partition which resulted in the division of the province in two parts, East and West Punjab. Reasons were both personal and academic.
“I remember growing up as a child in Delhi when it was transformed into a ‘Punjabi’ city. There were Hindus, Muslims, Jats, Mathurs and Tiwaris and then suddenly Muslim boys left my school, we then had a Punjabi principal. So many Muslims left Delhi and people from across the border came to India. My grandfather (M K Gandhi) too was killed in that context. This was the motivating force,” Gandhi told reporters.
The need to revisit what led to the partition of Punjab, a province, which contributed the most to suppress the freedom struggle strictly made him focus on the need to look objectively at the avenue.
“…The Punjab trio’s second recommendation was that a native regiment should contain potentially adversarial companies. Thus, a Punjab based regiment might have a ratio of say two companies of Sikh Jats to two of Punjabi Muslims, one of the Hindu Jats (or Dogras) and two of Pashtuns. This thinking also meant that at the all-India level the three armies of Bengal, Bombay and Madras should remain segregated and have little to do with one another,” reads an excerpt from the book.