BHARAT RAKSHAK MONITOR - Volume 6(2) September October 2003

 

Ethnic Cleansing in Pakistan during Partition: A Preliminary Statistical Analysis

 

Sridhar N.

 

 

 Introduction

The partition of India into the two countries of India and Pakistan in 1947 is a topic that has been much studied and written about.[1]  In particular, there have been a number of scholarly studies, books and films on the human tragedy that accompanied partition.  A very large number of people lost their lives in the orchestrated violence that took place for sustained periods of times and an even larger number of people were uprooted from their ancestral homelands and forced to migrate to new and unfamiliar places.  Researchers, authors and filmmakers have explored a variety of issues related to this tragic period of our history.

 

Of particular interest to us in this article is the issue of ethnic cleansing of minorities – specifically the Hindu and Sikh communities – in the newly formed country of Pakistan.  From the very beginning of the movement to create Pakistan, the proponents of this movement espoused a blatantly communalist ideology – the two nation theory.  The ethnic cleansing of the minorities with active participation of the rulers of the new state was but a logical extension of the theory that said that Hindus and Muslims had irreconcilable differences and could not live together.

 

The topic of ethnic cleansing in Pakistan has received a lot of attention over the years.[2]  Yet, there seems to be a surprising paucity of hard data on the extent of this ethnic cleansing except in the academic literature.[3]  There seems to be a wide diversity of numbers on how many people were killed or forced to migrate from their homelands.[4] [5] Many authors state that approximately 0.5-2 million people were killed and 10-17 million forced to migrate to either India or Pakistan.[6]  However, authors rarely give a breakup of these numbers by country.  Further, blame for ethnic cleansing is often equally assigned to both countries.[7]  Often, no sources are quoted to substantiate these claims.

 

The need for this article flows from this paucity of data on the partition of India and particularly in non-academic articles easily accessible on the internet.  The objectives of this analysis would be modest but it would hopefully serve as a source of credible data on the topic.  The specific questions that this statistical analysis would attempt to answer are:

  1. What was the extent of ethnic cleansing of minorities in Pakistan
  2. What does this mean in relative terms (i.e. proportions of populations) and in absolute terms (i.e. the actual number of people)
  3. Were there regional differences in the extent of ethnic cleansing of minorities in Pakistan?
  4. How did the situation in this respect compare with that in India?

 

The main source of data for conducting this analysis would be the census reports of undivided India in 1941 and the data from the censuses of India and Pakistan in 1951.  The reason for using these data is that these are credible and cannot be accused of bias. 

 

Data Description

The data used in this analysis is the set of population counts for the different communities in the two countries – India and Pakistan - in the years 1941 and 1951.  These numbers were obtained from the census report of undivided India in 1941 and the two censuses of India and Pakistan in 1951.  The census reports themselves are fairly easy to obtain, but the data involves a complication. The 1941 census data is available only for the undivided provinces of Punjab, Bengal and Assam and not for the units that became a part of India and Pakistan (the other provinces did not pose a problem since entire provinces went to one or the other country).  Thus, district-level and even tehsil-level data would have to be obtained and tabulated to separate the 1941 data for these provinces for the two parts that respectively went to India and Pakistan.  Fortunately, the Census of Pakistan 1951 has already done this tabulation for the 1941 census data for the different religious communities in territories comprising Pakistan then.  The corresponding numbers for India are then just the difference of the respective numbers for undivided India and Pakistan

 

The 1951 census in India as well as Pakistan were conducted in the last three weeks of February of 1951.  This, combined with the fact that the 1941 census for undivided India took place at the same time in the territories that were to later comprise India and Pakistan, allows us the opportunity for comparisons without the need for statistical adjustments.  Thus, these data provide us a sound basis for preliminary analysis.

 

The raw census data used in this study are given in Appendix I.

 

Proportions of Minorities

In order to investigate whether there was ethnic cleansing at all in Pakistan or not, it would be useful to compare the proportions of minorities in the territories that comprised Pakistan in the years 1941 and 1951.  A drastic reduction in the proportions of minorities gives prima facie evidence that there was ethnic cleansing.  It would not be conclusive and other pieces of evidence would be required to show that it was an organized campaign to drive out the minorities from the country.  However, it would be a good starting point.

 

Figures 1 and 2 show the relative proportions of minorities in the territories that comprised West Pakistan and East Pakistan respectively in the years 1941 and 1951.  Figure 3 shows the relative proportions of minorities in the whole of Pakistan in 1941 and 1951.  We have aggregated all the non-Muslim minorities together for this analysis.  Some patterns are clear from this analysis.  West Pakistan shows prima facie evidence for ethnic cleansing.  The proportions of minorities reduced from over 1/5th of the population in 1941 to a negligible level in 1951.  The pattern for East Pakistan is somewhat different.  While there was a substantial reduction in the proportion of minorities between 1941 and 1951, it does not demonstrate evidence for ethnic cleansing at least in this period.   We shall investigate these differences and possible reasons for these differences in subsequent sections of this article.

 

Figure 1: Comparison of Ethnic Mix - 1941 and 1951

West Pakistan

 

Figure 2: Comparison of Ethnic Mix - 1941 and 1951

East Pakistan

 

Figure 3: Comparison of Ethnic Mix - 1941 and 1951

Pakistan (West Pakistan + East Pakistan)

 

The numbers in Figures 1 through 3 also constitute a credible and indisputable source for the proportions of minorities in 1941 and 1951 in Pakistan and in the two wings of the country.  This, in my view, is an important contribution of this article since existing articles on the subject quote a wide variety of numbers for the proportions of minorities, usually without backing them with any credible source.

 

To investigate these numbers further, we now compare the proportions of Muslims and non-Muslims in the different provinces of West Pakistan (with East Pakistan constituting a province by itself).  The current configuration of provinces in present-day Pakistan is used for the purpose of this analysis.  The four provinces (with the configuration in 1951 in parenthesis) are Punjab (Punjab + the princely state of Bahawalpur), Sind (Sind + the princely state of Khairpur + Karachi federal area), NWFP[8] (NWFP Settled Districts + NWFP States) and Baluchistan (Baluchistan Districts + Baluchistan States).  Currently, there is also an area called the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA).  These areas were part of the ‘NWFP States’ in 1951 and hence are included in the NWFP numbers in our analysis.  Figures 4 through 7 present the analysis for these four provinces respectively.

 

Figure 4: Comparison of Ethnic Mix - 1941 and 1951

Punjab Province (Punjab + Bahawalpur)

 

Figure 5: Comparison of Ethnic Mix - 1941 and 1951

Sind Province (Sind + Khairpur + Karachi Federal Area)

 

Figure 6: Comparison of Ethnic Mix - 1941 and 1951

NWFP (NWFP Settled Districts + NWFP States)

 


Figure 7: Comparison of Ethnic Mix - 1941 and 1951

Baluchistan (Baluchistan Districts + Baluchistan States)

 

 

 

The analysis of the minority proportions for the provinces of erstwhile West Pakistan reveal that there is prima facie evidence for ethnic cleansing in all the four provinces, though its degree differs by province.  NWFP had the worst degree of ethnic cleansing – while its minority population was the smallest amongst the four provinces in 1941, it managed to almost completely rid itself of all minorities living there.  Punjab came close to NWFP in the scale of ethnic cleansing and in some senses it was worse since it had the largest minority populations amongst the four provinces – the minorities in Punjab constituted 71.28% of all minorities in Pakistan. Baluchistan also reduced its minority population from about 8.5% to about 1.5% of its population.  The best situation was in Sind, where the minorities continued to constitute about 8.5% of the population in 1951.  However, there is evidence for ethnic cleansing even in this province since it had a high 28.6% minority proportion in 1941. Also, a study that ends in 1951 does not tell the complete story since ethnic cleansing in Sind continued after 1951.

 

To summarize the discussion in this section, that there is evidence for ethnic cleansing of minorities and particularly of Hindus and Sikhs in Pakistan and particularly in West Pakistan.  This seems to have happened in all four provinces of West Pakistan, though its degree was the greater in NWFP, Punjab and Baluchistan than in Sind.

 

Absolute Population Numbers for Ethnic Cleansing

The analysis till now was based on proportions of minority populations in Pakistan in 1941 and 1951.  However, this does not give us a picture of how many people are likely to have been killed or forced to migrate from Pakistan to India during partition.  The main problem that we run up against when trying to estimate these numbers is that we do not have any numbers for 1947 – immediately before the killings and migration began.  There were special censuses conducted in India in 1948 and 1949 but none in Pakistan.  Additionally, the 1948 and 1949 numbers only give a picture of the situation after partition.  We do not have numbers for the situation before partition.  Thus, we have no way of separating the numbers for killings and migration from those for natural growth of population of the various communities.

 

Another way to analyze this is to derive estimates for the populations of each ethnic community in Pakistan in 1951 under the hypothetical scenario that there had been no ethnic cleansing.  Comparing this hypothetical population with the actual populations in 1951 would give us estimates of the gap.  This estimation needs to be done using extrapolations of 1941 populations.  We run into another difficulty in this extrapolation.  We have no way of knowing the growth rates of different communities in Pakistan because the growth rate is confounded with movements of large masses of people in both directions.  Therefore, we compute the growth rate of each community for undivided India as a whole.  For 1951, we add the populations of each community in both India and Pakistan and compare them with their respective populations in 1941 to obtain the growth rates for each community for undivided India.  We make the assumption that the growth rates were the same in the two countries in order to project the population for each community in 1951 in both the countries.

 

A more sophisticated analysis could be done if we had data on populations of different communities for Pakistan and India in the censuses before 1941 and those after 1951.  This would have allowed us to use time-series methods or other statistical techniques to more accurately estimate the populations of the various communities in the two countries under the above-mentioned hypothetical scenario.  This involves a large amount of data collection (district level data would need to be aggregated for every census before 1941).  That is a topic for future research.  However, in the absence of these data, the assumption of equal growth rates in the two countries is reasonable.

 

Figures 8 through 10 show the results of this analysis for West Pakistan, East Pakistan and Pakistan.  The two numbers compared in each of these graphs are the hypothetical population of non-Muslims in 1951 if there were no ethnic cleansing and the actual numbers according to the 1951 census.  The difference between these two numbers would constitute those who were killed or forced to migrate to India.  A limitation of this analysis is that it cannot separate out the numbers of those killed but can only look at the sum total of these two.  Also, it must be borne in mind that these numbers critically depend on the assumption on growth rates.  Yet, they give an approximate picture for the extent of ethnic cleansing.

 

Figure 8: Comparison of Hypothetical vs. Actual Minority Populations in 1951

West Pakistan

 

Figure 9: Comparison of Hypothetical vs. Actual Minority Populations in 1951

East Pakistan

Figure 10: Comparison of Hypothetical vs. Actual Minority Populations in 1951

Pakistan (West Pakistan + East Pakistan)

 

The key number of importance for this analysis is the difference between the hypothetical and actual populations of non-Muslims in 1951.  As seen in figures 8 through 10, this difference is about 7.76 million for West Pakistan, 6.93 million for East Pakistan and about 14.69 million for Pakistan as a whole.  This number is considerably different from the statistics that have been used till now.  The 1951 census for India reported 4.699 million displaced people from West Pakistan and 2.549 million people from East Pakistan and a further 0.047 million who were displaced people from an unspecified location (i.e. they did not indicate whether they came from East Pakistan or from West Pakistan).[9]  These numbers for displaced people are vastly different from our numbers of the difference between hypothetical and actual populations in 1941 .  Some potential reasons for this difference come to mind.  One number that the difference between hypothetical and actual populations includes but the census count of displaced people does not include is the number of people who were killed in the violence during partition.  In addition, there were reports of conversions of large number of minorities (particularly Hindus and Sikhs) to Islam,[10] [11] though there are no reliable estimates for how many conversions took place.  Thus, the difference could represent the numbers killed or converted.  The numbers in our analysis constitute relatively reliable estimates for these numbers.  If we take these numbers at face value, it would seem that about 7.46 million people were either killed or converted into Islam in Pakistan as a whole during partition.  The numbers for West Pakistan and East Pakistan are respectively 4.69 million and 2.54 million.  Table 1 depicts these numbers in detail.  Since the typical numbers for those killed in Pakistan during partition range from half a million to a million people, these numbers might suggest that a very large number of people were forced to convert to Islam due to the circumstances they found themselves in.  While there has been anecdotal evidence[12] as well as popular writings[13] for this, we are not aware of attempts to quantify this.  It must be noted however, further research is required to rule out alternative explanations for the difference between our estimated numbers and the number of displaced persons reported in the Census of 1951.

 

Table 1: Displaced Persons and Our Estimates for Ethnic Cleansing: Pakistan

 

Place from where the refugees originated

Number of Displaced Persons from Pakistan to India (million)

(Source: Census of India 1951)

Difference between Hypothetical and Actual Populations

(million)

Difference : Persons unaccounted for

(million)

A

B

B-A

West Pakistan

4.69

7.76

3.06

East Pakistan

2.54

6.93

4.39

Pakistan

7.28

14.69

7.41

 

 


Note: The numbers for West Pakistan + East Pakistan in the Census 1951 numbers (in column A) do not add up exactly to the numbers for the whole of Pakistan since there were 0.047 million displaced people for whom the place of origin is unspecified.

 

 

An interesting analysis would be to calculate the numbers of displaced people and those that we conjecture were killed or converted as proportions of the hypothetical population of minorities in Pakistan as a whole and its two wings.  This would give a fairly accurate picture of what proportion of people were ethnically cleansed.  It is a cleaner measure than the comparisons of proportions of minorities in the population in 1941 and 1951 (depicted in Figures 1 through 7) because that is sensitive to the number of incoming (Muslim) migrants into Pakistan.  These proportions are shown in Table 2.

 

Table 2: Displaced Persons and Our Estimates for Ethnic Cleansing: Pakistan

Proportions of Hypothetical Populations in 1951

 

 

Place from where the refugees originated

Number of Displaced Persons from Pakistan to India

Difference between Hypothetical and Actual Populations

 

Difference : Persons unaccounted for

(% of total minority population)

(% of total minority population)

(% of total minority population)

West Pakistan

53.79%

88.93%

35.15%

East Pakistan

15.27%

41.67%

26.41%

Pakistan

28.70%

57.92%

29.23%

 

 

The numbers in table 2 show that almost 89% of the minorities in West Pakistan were ethnically cleansed, i.e. killed, converted or driven out of the country.  Almost 54% of the minority population ended up as refugees in India, while a very high 35% of the minority population is simply unaccounted for.  These are people who were likely killed or converted into Islam.  The situation was different in East Pakistan, but there are also points of similarity.  While only 15% of the minority population of East Pakistan ended up as refugees in India by 1951, as much as 26% of the population is unaccounted for – i.e. killed or converted.  While the number of refugees as a proportion of minority population differs substantially from those in West Pakistan, the numbers unaccounted for is in the same ballpark.  This contrast requires further analysis to understand some of the factors responsible for it.  We shall attempt to speculate on some potential factors in subsequent sections.  In sum, this analysis suggests that one in three people belonging to the minority community in Pakistan was either killed or forced to convert to Islam.  We are not aware of any study that discusses this shocking suggestion and backs it with evidence.  It definitely requires far greater attention from the academic community than has been given till now.

 

Situation in India

Partition caused violence on both sides of the newly created border in 1947.  There were riots on both sides and migrants streamed into both countries.  However, authors have often assigned equal blame to both sides in terms of ethnic cleansing.[14]  It is not our case that there was no  violence against Muslims in India in the days preceding and after partition.  However, we shall demonstrate using an analysis similar to the one done for Pakistan that the situation in India was drastically different from that in Pakistan.  While there was violence and while a large number of people migrated across the borders, there was no ethnic cleansing of the kind witnessed in Pakistan and particularly West Pakistan.  Please note that unless we specifically refer to ‘undivided India’ when we refer to India, we imply those territories that went on to constitute India in 1947.

 

In the case of India, our analysis would focus on Muslims, since they were the main aminority migrating to Pakistan and it can be safely assumed that there were no non-Muslim migrants to Pakistan.  Figure 11 depicts the proportion of Muslims and non-Muslims in the censuses of 1941 and 1951 in the territory that went on to constitute India in 1947.  The proportion of Muslims in the population of India declined from 13.24% to 9.70%.  While this shows a decline, it is nowhere close to the numbers we saw earlier for Pakistan.  It may be useful to recall that in West Pakistan, the proportion of minorities fell from 20.91% to 3.36% in the same period.

 

Figure 11: Comparison of Ethnic Mix - 1941 and 1951

India

 

 

 

Similar to our analysis of hypothetical populations in 1951 in Pakistan, we project the Muslim population of India from in 1941 to estimate the Muslim population in 1951 if there were no partition, with its associated violence and migrations of people.  The key number of interest, as before is the difference between the hypothetical population and actual population of Muslims in 1951 in India.  This analysis is shown in Figure 12.

 

Figure 12: Comparison of Hypothetical vs. Actual Muslim Populations in 1951

India

 

 

The difference between the hypothetical and actual Muslim population of India in 1950 is about 7.66 million.  This number represents the total number of Muslims who migrated to Pakistan or were killed in violence.  Unlike in the case of Pakistan, there are no reports of forced conversion of people from Islam into other religions in India during partition, either in contemporaneous publications of those times or in subsequent writings, including by Pakistani authors.  

 

It would be useful to see, as we did in the case of our analysis of Pakistan, how our estimated difference between hypothetical and actual population of Muslims in India compares with official statistics on displaced people in Pakistan.  The Census of Pakistan 1951 reports a total Muhajir (refugee from India) population of 7.23 million.[15]  This number is remarkably close to our estimated difference between hypothetical and actual populations of about 7.66 million.  Compared to about 7.41 million unaccounted for people from the minority communities in Pakistan, there are about 0.43 million unaccounted for Muslim people in India in 1951.  The fact that the numbers based on our estimate is close to the actual number of refugees as per the Census of Pakistan gives us confidence on the robustness of our methodology.  These numbers are in Table 3.

 

When we look at these numbers as proportions of the hypothetical Muslim population in India in 1951, this contrast becomes even starker.  Table 3 again has these numbers in terms of proportions of the hypothetical population.  The number of Muslims who migrated from India to Pakistan or got killed in violence was 17.95% of the total hypothetical Muslim population of India in 1951 as per our estimate (i.e. hypothetical minus actual Muslim population in India in 1951).  Recall that in West Pakistan, 88.93% of the hypothetical minority population was found to have been killed or forced to migrate by an identical analysis.  This number was 57.92% for the whole of Pakistan.  The proportion of Muslims in India who migrated to Pakistan or were killed is lower not just than the corresponding numbers for West Pakistan but also those for East Pakistan (41.67%).   Thus, while there is evidence for ethnic cleansing of minorities in West Pakistan in particular, there is no evidence for the same in India. 

 

Table 3: Displaced Persons and Difference between Hypothetical and Actual Populations: India

 

 

Number of Displaced Persons from India to Pakistan

(Source: Census of Pakistan 1951)

Difference between Hypothetical and Actual Populations

Difference :

Persons unaccounted for

A

B

B-A

Actual Numbers

(million)

7.23 million

7.66  million

0.43 million

Proportion of Hypothetical Muslim Pop. in 1951 (%)

16.95%

17.95%

1.00%

 

 

Even more interesting is the result on the number of people unaccounted for, i.e. the difference between our estimate of those who migrated or were killed and the official census number for migrants.  The number of such unaccounted for Muslims in India is 0.43 million or 1.00% of the hypothetical Muslim population in India in 1951.  Thus, while a large number of Muslims can be believed to have been killed in violence in India during partition, they constituted 1% of the total population.  This is a large number, but is not even close to being comparable to the corresponding number in Pakistan – a shocking 35.15% in West Pakistan and 29.23% in Pakistan as a whole.

 

 

Summary of Results

The following points summarize the results of the analysis we have conducted till now.

  • There was a drastic drop in minority population as a proportion of the total population in Pakistan after partition. In West Pakistan, the proportion of minorities came down from almost 21% of the population to about 3% between 1941 and 1951.  Even in East Pakistan, this number came down from about 29.5% to about 23%.  The drop in minority populations was high in all four constituent provinces of West Pakistan, though it was highest in Punjab and NWFP and lowest in Sind.
  • Almost 15 million people belonging to the minority communities were either killed or converted to Islam or forced to migrate to India during partition.  This number is substantially higher than usual estimates.
  • Of these 15 million, about 7.28 million migrated to India and the rest are unaccounted for.  Presumably, they were either killed or converted into Muslims.
  • As much as 89% of the minority population in West Pakistan was affected by ethnic cleansing, i.e. killed, converted into Islam or forced to migrate to India.  Even in East Pakistan, 41% of the minority population was ethnically cleansed. 
  • In India, by comparison, the total proportion of Muslims who migrated to Pakistan or were killed in violence was less than 18% of the total Muslim population.  It is a high proportion but certainly no comparison with those for Pakistan.  The total number of migrants to Pakistan was 7.23 million by the year 1951 and the number of people unaccounted for is relatively small at 0.43 million.
  • An important fact that is not often acknowledged in western and even Indian writings on the subject of partition is that at partition, Pakistan had a higher proportion of non-Muslims than India had Muslims.   Yet, the leadership and people of India chose a secular path for the country and enacted a constitution that gave equal rights to all citizens irrespective of faith.  On the other hand, Pakistan, which had a higher proportion of minorities made it a policy to drive them out of their ancestral lands and worked towards a constitution that denied equal rights to non-Muslims.[16]  Today, Pakistan has virtually no religious minorities (i.e. non-Muslims) left while India has a larger proportion of Muslims than it had in 1951.

 

Why were the situations so different in the two countries?

It has been established by this analysis that the situations in the two countries were vastly different.  While there was violence on both sides, there is no evidence of ethnic cleansing of Muslims in India.  But there is at least prima facie evidence for ethnic cleansing of Hindus and Sikhs in Pakistan, particularly in West Pakistan.  While an analysis of the comprehensive set of factors responsible this difference is beyond the scope of this article, it would be useful to look at the vastly different positions of the leadership on the two sides.

 

Both in words and in actions, the leadership in India was attempting to put out the flames of hatred and violence that had spread as a result of partition.  On the other hand, the leadership of the Muslim League in Pakistan was doing all it could to incite violence and force the minorities out.  This was in line with its ideology whose central premise – the two nation theory – was that Hindus and Muslims could not live together.  Therefore, it was but a consequence of this theory that minorities had to be forced out of Pakistan.

 

Selected quotes from the leadership of the Muslim League, given in Table 4, demonstrate how this was an organized campaign with the Government of Pakistan completely on board.

 

Table 4: Selected quotes of Muslim League leaders espousing violence

 

Leader

Quote

Mohammed Ali Jinnah

“Direct Action by Muslims will lead to one hundred times more destruction than the Direct Action of the Hindus.”[17]

Raja of Mehmoodabad

 

“It is the dictatorship of the Koranic laws that we want —and that we will have — but not through non-violence and Gandhian truth.”[18]

Sardar Shaukat Hayat Khan

“The Punjab Muslims do not believe in non-violence and should not, therefore, be given cause for grievance because once the Muslim lion is infuriated it would become difficult to subdue him.”[19]

 

 

The Muslim League formed a militia force by the name of Muslim National Guards to implement the plan to kill, convert and force out the minorities, particularly Hindus and Sikhs.[20]  Nothing was done by the leadership to inspire confidence amongst the minorities that their lives and properties would be protected in Pakistan.  To the contrary, it was made adequately clear that they would not have an equal status with the Muslim majority population.  The Objectives Resolution was passed by the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan on March 12, 1949 and it made amply clear that Muslims would have a higher status in the country than the minorities.[21]

 

The contrast with the situation in India cannot be starker.  The architect of India’s independence, Mahatma Gandhi, spent the last several months of his life trying to douse the fires set throughout the subcontinent.  In fact, even as the country was celebrating the dawn of independence  on August 15, 1947, he was far away in Noakhali, walking from village to village, trying to fight violence through non-violence and appealing to the innate goodness of people.  He succeeded to a great extent in his efforts.  In Calcutta, he single-handedly managed to douse the fires of violence through a fast unto death.  It must be noted that Calcutta was where the violence began, when the Muslim League Premier of Bengal, Hussain Shaheed Suhrawardy let loose an orgy of violence that killed thousands, primarily Hindus.  After his fast unto death succeeded in ending violence there, the then Governor General of India, Lord Mountbatten called him a one-man army.  In the last few days before his assassination, he managed to quell violence in Delhi, again through a fast unto death.

 

Not only Mahatma Gandhi, but the Government of India and the leadership of the Congress Party were trying their best to contain the violence in the territory of India.  The Constituent Assembly of India, in sharp contrast to its counterpart in Pakistan, played a major role in instilling confidence amongst the minorities.  It adopted a constitution that provided full constitutional rights to all people, whichever community they may belong to.  As a result of this, 82% of the Muslim population residing in India at that time continued to live in the country.  Only 18% thought it fit to migrate.  While not denying that many Muslims migrated because of the communal riots, the patterns of this migration (most of those who migrated were professionals) also shows that a substantial proportion of them went to Pakistan in order to take advantage of the opportunities the new country offered them in the Government Services.

 

In sum, it would not be unreasonable to conclude that the huge difference in the proportion of people who were killed or forced to migrate in the two countries was primarily due to the fact that there was an organized campaign to spread terror amongst minorities in Pakistan while it was quite the opposite in India.  It is no wonder therefore, that while Pakistan has virtually no minorities today, India has a larger Muslim population than Pakistan.

 

The regional differences between West Pakistan and East Pakistan is a topic that deserves further study.  However, some potential reasons why the project of ethnic cleansing did not succeed to the same extent in East Pakistan as in West Pakistan include the calming influence of Gandhi during his long stay at Noakhali and Calcutta and a higher minority proportion to begin with (with geographical pockets where they constituted a very large proportion of the population).  The latter reason also holds in Sind, where some areas like the Tharparkar district had large concentrations of minority populations.  Perhaps, this provided them greater protection than in areas where they were in smaller numbers.

 

Conclusions

We conducted this analysis with the objective of finding hard numbers for the extent of ethnic cleansing in Pakistan during partition.  Hopefully, this study would serve as a source of reference for those who want to know these facts.  It would also hopefully motivate further research in this area using credible data sources and a rigorous methodology.

 

This study found strong evidence for ethnic cleansing in Pakistan and particularly in West Pakistan.  It also compared these numbers with corresponding numbers for India and found that there is no case for apportioning blame to both countries.  There was no evidence for a corresponding ethnic cleansing in India.  West Pakistan had a higher minority population (21%) than India (13%) in 1941 but by 1951, Pakistan had virtually no minorities left (3%) while India continued to be home to a substantial Muslim minority (9%).  This analysis stops at 1951 but a further analysis would reveal that while the Muslim minority in India has increased over the years (reaching 12% in 1991), it has continually declined in both West Pakistan and East Pakistan.  This analysis is however, beyond the scope of this article.

 

The study reveals that about 15 million people belonging to the minority communities in Pakistan were ethnically cleansed during partition.  These numbers are substantially higher than existing numbers quoted in most articles and books.  While our estimates are not foolproof, they would suggest that many of the established numbers might need to be revisited.  It would be important to note however, that these numbers are in terms of 1951 population – hence accounting for growth (birth and mortality), a more accurate number could be arrived at for the entire period (in other words a discounted value could be arrived at to get a better estimate of the actual numbers ethnically cleansed).

 

An interesting, albeit chilling finding of this analysis is that there are almost 7.5 million people belonging to the Hindu and Sikh minority populations of Pakistan that are unaccounted for over and above those who migrated to India.  Some of them would have been killed and others converted from their faiths to Islam.  This fact seems to have received inadequate attention amongst researchers till now and more research may perhaps reveal much more than this limited analysis could reveal.

 

At this stage, it would be in order to list some of the limitations of the study presented in this article.  First, it is based entirely on census data.  Therefore, while it may have revealed interesting facts, it cannot go into the underlying causes for these facts.  Second, the extrapolation of the hypothetical populations of minorities in 1951 (if there were no partition) is relatively crude as we had to depend only on data from 1941 and 1951.   A more sophisticated analysis could have been conducted if more data were available.  Third, our estimates depend on the assumption of equal growth rate of population for various communities between the two countries.  If we had time-series data available from before 1941 and after 1951, we could have arrived at more accurate growth rate numbers.  While some of the numbers would change with more accurate growth rates, our results are likely to remain directionally the same.  Additionally, the fact that the number of migrants to Pakistan as per the census is almost equal to our estimate gives us confidence on the robustness of this result.  Fourth, some of our conclusions (e.g. the number killed/converted)are sensitive to the assumptions of equal growth we have made.  These numbers can therefore be taken as first-cut estimates rather than conclusive facts.

 

Future work would attempt to analyze some of the issues raised by this study in more depth.  It would also attempt to conduct a more rigorous analysis using additional data from censuses starting from 1901.  In addition, it would attempt to look beyond 1951 to analyze continued ethnic cleansing in Pakistan even after 1951.  This is of particular relevance in the context of East Pakistan and Sind, where the extent of ethnic cleansing till 1951 was somewhat lower than in other provinces of Pakistan.

 

 

Appendix I

Raw Data Used in this Study

Sources: Census of India, 1941, Census of India 1951 and Census of Pakistan 1951

 

Table A1: Population Counts for Religious Communities - Pakistan and India : 1941

 

Province/State

Population Count in 1941 (‘000)

Muslims

Hindus

Others

Total

Baluchistan Districts

439

45

18

502

Baluchistan States

346

10

 

356

Present Day Balochistan Province

785

55

18

858

NWFP Settled Districts

2789

180

69

3038

NWFP States

2378

 

 

2378

Present Day

NWFP Province

5167

180

69

5416

Punjab

11744

2082

1861

15687

Bahawalpur

1099

174

68

1341

Present Day

Punjab Province

12843

2256

1929

17028

Sind

2999

1035

65

4099

Khairpur

254

50

2

306

Karachi Federal Area

153

186

26

365

Present Day

Sind Province

3406

1271

93

4770

West Pakistan

22201

3762

2109

28072

East Bengal

29577

11918

430

41925

Pakistan

51778

15680

2539

69997

India

42222

254320

22461

319003

Undivided India

94000

270000

25000

389000

 

 


Note: The Census of Pakistan 1951 is not consistent about reporting religious communities other than Hindus and Muslims.  In some cases, they have been aggregated as ‘others’ and in other cases, they have not been aggregated.  In order to maintain comparibility, we have aggregated individual community into ‘others’ wherever they have been separately reported.  This does not affect our analysis, which focuses on Muslim and non-Muslim populations in the two countries.

 

 

 

Table A2: Population Counts for Religious Communities - Pakistan and India : 1951

 

Province/State

Population Count in 1951 (‘000)

Muslims

Hindus

Others

Total

Baluchistan Districts

594

4

4

602

Baluchistan States

543

9

 

552

Present Day Balochistan Province

1137

13

4

1154

NWFP Settled Districts

3217

2

4

3223

NWFP States

2642

 

 

2642

Present Day

NWFP Province

5859

2

4

5865

Punjab

13511

20

401

13932

Bahawalpur

1808

13

2

1823

Present Day

Punjab Province

15319

33

403

15755

Sind

4149

454

3

4606

Khairpur

309

10

 

319

Karachi Federal Area

968

16

23

1007

Present Day

Sind Province

5426

480

26

5932

West Pakistan

27741

528

437

28706

East Bengal

32227

9239

466

41932

Pakistan

59968

9767

903

70638

India

35000

304000

22000

361000

Undivided India

94968

313767

22903

431638

 

 



Endnotes

 

[1] A select bibliography of material on the partition of India in 1947 is available at the following link http://www.sscnet.ucla.edu/southasia/History/Independent/partition_bibliography.html

 

[2] Two books that have concentrated on this topic include Now It Can be Told by A.N. Bali (Akashvani Prakashan, Jullundur City; year of publication unknown) and Muslim League Attack on Sikhs and Hindus in the Punjab: 1947 by Gurbachan Singh Talib (S.G.P.C. Amritsar, 1950).

 

[3] See for instance Pravin M. Visaria (1969), “Migration between India and Pakistan 1951-61”, Demography, Vol. 6, No. 3, pages 323-334.

 

[4] Ahmed, Ishtiaq (2002), “The 1947 partition of India: A Paradigm for pathological politics in India and Pakistan,” Asian Ethnicity, Vol. 3, No.1, pages 9-28. (http://www.sasnet.lu.se/partition.doc)

 

[5] Muthuswamy, Moorthy (1999), “Demanding Land from Pakistan”,  available at the following link http://www.saveindia.com/crimepak.htm

 

[6]  See for instance, The Sole Spokesman: Jinnah, the Muslim League and the Demand for Pakistan by Ayesha Jalal (Cambridge University Press, 1985).

 

[7] see, for instance http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/static/in_depth/south_asia/2002/india_pakistan/timeline/1947.stm

 

[8]  NWFP is an acronym for North West Frontier Province

 

[9]  These numbers are quoted in Visaria (1969), op. cit.

 

[10]  See Talib op. cit.

 

[11] see also Urvashi Butalia (1998), The Other Side of Silence: Voices from the Partition of India, Penguin India, for some personal accounts relating to conversion of people after partition.

 

[12] See for instance, Butalia (1998), op. cit.

 

[13] See for instance Cracking India: A Novel (Ice Candy Man) by Bapsi Sidhwa (William Heinemann, 1991), on which the film 1947 Earth was based.

 

[14] See endnote 7 above for instance or Andrew Whitehead’s “Refugees from Partition”, in the India Disasters Report (http://www.indiadisasters.org/idrpdf/Refugees/Refugees-Partition%20refugees.PDF).  

 

[15] Visaria (1969), op. cit.

 

[16] The Objectives Resolution of the Pakistan Constituent Assembly set the parameters for the constitution in explicitly Islamic terms.  The full text of the resolution is available at the following link: http://www.pakistani.org/pakistan/constitution/annex_objres.html

 

[17] Talib (1950), op. cit.

 

[18] Ahmed (2002), op. cit.

 

[19] Talib (1950), op. cit.

 

[20] Talib, ibid.

 

[21] See endnote 16        

 

 

Copyright Bharat Rakshak 2003