Letter from the Editor of Frontier Gazette to MA Jinnah.
Letter from Sant Singh Talwar, Editor, Frontier Gazette, to M.A. Jinnah,
24 February 1947
Peshawar, 24 February 1947
I am one of those Sikhs who honestly think that the peace and prosperity of Northern India lie in the cordial and brotherly relations of [sic] the Muslims and Sikhs. My paper, the Frontier Gazette, Peshawar, will bear me out on this point. We have always maintained very good relations and in the last Muslim League ministry, the non-Muslim Minister was a Sikh gentleman. My paper was the only non-Muslim paper which supported the League Ministry throughout very vehemently. Incidentally, I may point out that up till now my paper was on the Congress Government's black list. In the present Provincial Assembly the only non-Muslim MLA in opposition is also a Sikh2 gentleman.
It, therefore, pains me and thousands of other Sikhs of my way of thinking to see that once again the eccentric and short-sighted League leaders in the N.W.F.P. have started a very damaging agitation on an extremely-ill-advised and wrong issue. Whereas in the Punjab some courageous Sikhs have joined the League Civil Disobedience Movement for civil liberties, in the N.W.F.P., I regret to say, that eccentric opportunist, Mr. Abdul Qaiyum Khan, and fanatically blind Arbab Abdul Ghafoor Khan, started agitation purely on communal and religious issue. This ill-conceived move may help Mr. Qaiyum etc, to win cheap popularity but it has already extremely embittered the sweet relations of [sic] the Sikhs and the Muslims in this tiny province.
The facts of the case are that a widowed Sikh girl named Paisri, aged 22 years, under pain of death was compelled to conversion[sic] and marrying [sic] a Muslim. She was forced to declare [her conversion to] Islam in the mosque and gave a statement to this effect to a magistrate in Hazara, where the atmosphere for non-Muslims was very dangerous at the time. When the Sikh Relief Committee started work and refilled the Sikhs with confidence, the fact of Paisri's forcible conversion was brought to their notice. They approached the district authorities and the Ministry for getting back the girl. I must frankly confess that although this minor incident was quite of a minor nature, the Ministry thought it proper to bring the girl to the Headquarters of the Provincial Government.
It is surmised in well-informed quarters that this was a clever move on the part of the Ministry to entrap the League leadership in a communal net and thus defame the League in the eyes of the Frontier minorities and, more especially, the Sikhs, who are still out of the Congress. The girl was kept in the Premier's house from 8th to 18th February 1947. When the League leaders learnt about this, they easily fell into the trap and started an agitation. The girl had already stated before the Premier and others that she was forcibly converted and married to a Muslim. The Premier, thereupon, sent for the mother and the so-called husband of the girl to Peshawar, and in their as well as in the presence of the European Chief Secretary, the Muslim Deputy Commissioner and the Muslim Superintendent of Police, asked the girl to give a statement to the Muslim City Magistrate. All of them assured her that if she was a Muslim she will be allowed to go with her Muslim husband, and if a Sikh, she will be sent with her mother. The girl gave the statement that she was always a Sikh and that she was forcibly converted to Islam and married to a Muslim.
This should naturally have silenced the wrong and damaging agitation, because Islam does not permit forcible conversion. Besides this, from the political viewpoint it was also essential to abandon this bad issue and thus win the confidence of the minorities[to show] that in the Muslim-majority provinces of Pakistan, ,Religion, Culture, and other rights of the Minorities are quite safe. But, as usual, Mr. Qaiyum failed to appreciate the dire and far-reaching consequences of the situation and thought it fit to sacrifice the most important principles for winning cheap popularity. He got himself arrested at Mardan and now both in Mardar and in Peshawar this communal and foolish agitation is going on. May I point out that the Hazara Muslims are more religious and League-minded. Out of eleven seats of the Assembly, Hazara returned ten League members. There, the Muslims rather welcomed this decision that the girl herself went to the Sikhs and there is no agitation at all there. Similarly, the sane and far-sighted Muslims in Peshawar also condemn this wrong agitation and wholly and solely blame Mr. Qaiyum and Arbab Ghafoor for this. Since the move is taking a communal turn, and it may now spread to other districts and the Tribal Areas, I, as a true Sikh and a true Frontier man, request you kindly to intervene and stop this wrong agitation. The Nawa-i-Waqt and other sane Muslim papers of the Punjab have also advised the Frontier Muslims to abandon this un-Islamic issue and to fight for civil liberties only.
Your immediate or rather telegraphic intervention is eagerly sought, because you are the only one who can stop such wrong means.
An early reply would highly oblige the Sikhs of this province.
My paper, The Frontier Gazette, of 24th instant is being sent to you under a separate cover for your kind perusal.
Yours sincerely, SANT SINGH TALWAR, Editor, Frontier Gazette
Serious riots broke out in Dera Ismail Khan on 14 April when 18 people were reported killed and 900 shops and private buildings torched. From D.I.Khan the riots spread to Tank which was [invaded] by Mahsud tribesmen from across the border. The raiders burnt down practically the entire town. ...This was to pose a serious threat to stores of grain and other commodities. And inasmuch as southern Waziristan depended upon Tank for its food supplies, ramifications were bound to be widespread...
By 25 April, when the army brought the situation to some semblence of normalcy, the toll had risen to 118 killed. While almost the entire Hindu-Sikh population living in rural areas, approximating 16,000 and many more in the towns, had move into refugee camps or spilled over into neighbouring Punjab. By mid-May, an estimated 60 percent of the minority community in Peshawar, Mardan and Kohat had left the province; the percentages in Hazara and D I Khan being much higher...