April 26, 2017
One of the biggest enigmas of India’s partition history is how Sindh, in its entirety was assigned to Pakistan, even though Hindus constituted a large minority in the province. Hindus made up almost a quarter of Sindh’s population at the time of partition. In most cases, they lived cheek by jowl with their Muslim neighbours. However, as a mercantile community, Hindus made up the majority in almost all urban centres in pre-partition Sindh. The city of Karachi was evenly split between Hindus and Muslims, but Shikarpur, Larkana, Sukkur and Hyderabad had solid Hindu majorities. Hindu communities, while spread throughout Sindh, were numerically strongest in the South-Eastern part of the state, bordering present day Rajasthan. It seems that even though large Hindu communities would have been left behind, Sindh could be neatly cleaved in the South East and the four sub-districts of Umerkot, Nagarparkar, Mithi and Chachro could have easily been assigned to India as a homeland for Hindu Sindhis.
It is not that the British had any aversion to splitting provinces along communal lines when it came to India’s partition. Bengal and Punjab are obvious examples but Sylhet district of Assam stands out as the case in point. Assam province was almost as Hindu as Sindh was Muslim. Yet, the British went ahead and removed its Muslim majority Sylhet district and awarded it to Pakistan. However, they defied their own logic when Hindu-Buddhist majority Chittagong Hill tracts district of Bengal was awarded to Pakistan instead of India. Clearly, there existed a certain randomness in which partition was effected. While religion was the predominant criterion, local infrastructure, natural resources etc. were also used as criteria while partitioning India. However, even considering all parameters, randomness persists. For example, why was Hindu majority Khulna awarded to Pakistan, while Muslim majority Murshidabad went to India. Sindh remaining with Pakistan in spite of clear and obvious grounds for its partition is in some measure attributable to this randomness.
That Sindh remained with Pakistan in its entirety is commonly attributed to two broad reasons. The first is that unlike rest of India, Sindhi Hindus and Muslims lived in peace and amity and that the communal atmosphere in Sindh was never as charged as in Punjab or Bengal.
While that is partly true (Sindh had its own share of communal disturbances), the fact remains that Sindhi Hindu community was forced to flee Sindh soon after partition once the Muhajirs arrived.
It is also a fact that local Sindhi Muslims connived with the Muhajirs in encouraging the flight of their Hindu brethren. The second reason is that as Sindhi Hindus made up only around a quarter of Sindhi population, they were under-represented in the legislatures and as a political force. There is some truth in this aspect as well. Congress, even when it was at its peak in pre-partition India, could never form the government in Sindh, which continued to be dominated by Muslim Leaguers. One mustn’t forget that it was in Sindh that the Pakistan resolution was first passed. All of this points towards Congress’s inability to gather Sindhi Hindus as a political force and the failure of Sindhi Hindus to wake up to the reality of their being rendered refugees were Sindh to go to Pakistan. Tellingly, on the day when Sindh was severed from India, the President of Congress was a Sindhi Hindu, by the name of J B Kripalani. Kripalani was someone who called for partition of Bengal and Punjab but failed to demand the same for his own people.
Not so long ago, Tharparkar and Umerkot districts in the South-Eastern part of Sindh, bordering Rajasthan used to have a Hindu majority. However, Hindus of Pakistan have fallen on bad times. Demographically insignificant, belonging to an enemy religion, deprived of a homeland they can call their own and exposed to the ferocity of political Islam, their numbers have been steadily dwindling either through conversions or migrations. The failure of India’s political leaders to fight for a homeland for Sindhi Hindus has meant that no future exists for Hindus of Sindh, while those who migrated to India have been cut off their cultural roots. That all of Sindh went to Pakistan is a tragedy, the blame for which must lie on the short sightedness of our leaders