On September 24, 1947, the train of refugees stopped at Kamoke, a prosperous Hindu-Sikh trading centre situated a few miles from Gujranwala in what is now Pakistan. Dada said, “The train was stopped by Muslim gangs, who wanted to loot and kill and rape people.” These mobs were abetted by members of the police force and National Guards, who distributed the captured girls among themselves. In fear of this eventuality, Avtar Singh “shot all his daughters dead, because he didn’t want his girls to fall into the hands of Muslims”. According to anthropologist Veena Das, sexual violence was used in 1947 as a method of “polluting” communities. If women were the custodians of honour, then defiling them ensured victory.
Avtar Singh’s throat was slit, and his grievously wounded body dumped on a nearby riverbank. Playing dead, he slumped in agony. But a slight movement alerted a member of the mob, who beat him with a stick, worsening the injuries. Rescued by Indian soldiery, he was taken to a hospital where he was reunited with his son, who was initially unable to recognise him, and one of his daughters, who had miraculously survived her father’s gunshot. The overall number of casualties and women abducted in the Kamoke massacre is unclear, but archival evidence puts the figure in the hundreds.