SOURCE-MATERIAL ON THE MURDER OF
BHAGAT KANWAR RAM
Collectet,researched and compiled by;
Dr.Dur Muhammad Pathan.
Since the assassination of Bhagat Kanwar Ram, very important books have been written and compiled. However, serious research effort is yet to be done in this regards .Such as not any book contains reference to FIR, official correspondence and press reaction in details. I am sharing here-with some material and information so as to add something in Source-Material and to enable Researchers to compile more comprehensive story of a great tragedy that took place in the land of love and peace
In the last decade of the British rule in Sindh, Sindhis – Hindus and Muslims – opted for division of hearts and minds for pleasing their political pandits .They proved themselves un-capable of solving and resolving their problems and invited other political and religious parties of All-India level to indulge in Sindh affairs. Most of those parties earned their name and fame on the cost of Sindh and Sindhis. The political philosophy of Muslim League was based on religion. Whereas, Congress was claiming nationalism as spirit of its political ideology. In Sindh, Khilafat Tahrik had already introduced ‘religious-oriented’ politics in the Muslim segment of the society. Muslim League availed this opportunity and tried to cash this bent of mind of Muslims. It is only way for Sindhi Muslim League leadership to make their party more popular in Muslims of Sindh. Hence, stage was set during ‘Sindh Provincial Muslim League Conference-1938’ to make issue out of Manzilgah problem. Soon after that conference, Masjid Manzilgah restoration Committee was formed and agitation was started with exploitation of religious sentiments. Seth Haji Abdullah Haroon, G.M.Syed ; Muhammad Ayub Khuhro and Pir Ali Muhammad Shah Rashidi played their leading role in that movement launched in the name of restoration of Masjid Manzilgah. Soomro’s Government initiated dialogue with Muslim League leaders for the resolution of the issue, but, “ It was only after opposition from Mr. G.M.Syed, MLA, that the Restoration Committee on the 5thNovember 1939, decided to accept with certain modifications the proposal of Government. Mr. G.M.Syed, continued to criticized the Sindh Government and was alleged to have said that the Muslims on no account surrender the Mosque to non-Muslims and if force was used against them, the injuctions of Islam TO TRAT OTHERS AS THEY TREAY YOU would be observed, Government being held responsible for any disturbances which might occur”. In real leaders of agitation intended to divide Sindh ideologically on religious lines so as so as Sindh Muslims own the political philosophy of Muslim League.
When Sindh stood divided politically and religiously, ugly events stated taking place. Assassination of Bhaghat Kanwar Ram was one of them. Government of Sindh, vide its Confidential Memo No.P-25-H(S)/39, dated 22nd of November, 1939, informs Home Department of the Government of India about the murder of Bhagat Kanwar Ram. It reads: “ An event of first rate importance which sent a thrill of horror throughout the province occurred during the fortnight under report. On the night of the 1st November a well-known Hindu singer and preacher was shot and killed in a railway carriage at Ruk Station while the train was moving out. One of his followers was also injured. The victim, Bhagat Kanwar Ram by name, was immediately sent to Sukkur but expired when the train reached Bagerji.The perpetrator of the crime escaped, but it is known that he was armed Muslim, who fired at the Bhagat at point blank range wounding him fatally. This wanton and cold-blooded murder has deeply shocked the Hindus, specially those of Upper Sindh, who held him in high esteem. Whether or not this dastardly crime has any communal significance is not at present known, but it is not so long ago that the son of the Pir of Bharchundi was assaulted in Sukkur Bazar by Hindus for carrying on proselytizing propaganda, and shortly after there was a rumour that the Muslims had, as a reprisal, murdered this same Bhagat Kanwar Ram at Rauti in Ubauro Taluka”.
BODY TAKEN IN A PROCESSION: “The dead body of Bhagat Kanwar Ram was taken in a procession at Sukkur. The District Magistrate laid down the route by which it should proceed but in spite of his orders it was taken through a locality he had particularly wished to avoid, as it was inhabited by the Muslim element. It was with great difficulty bthat the procession was shephereded to the place origionally fixed for its termination. In spite of the District Magistrate’s orders the procession also went past the Manzilgah which was still occupied by Muslims. By this time the crowed had swelled to 10,000 and at one time during the melee the dead body nearly dropped out of its bier. Hindus claimed this as a triumph and with loud acelamations rushed the body towards the Manzilgah. The leaders of the procession had vanished by this time and none or less rebellious crowd shouted slogans and vociferously claimed a victory. However, the occupants of the Manzilgah remained quite.” (Sindh Government’s Report).
REACTION: A spontaneous hartal was observed by the Hindus throughout the whole of Sindh on the 3rd November. Speaking on this subject at a meeting at Jacobabad, on the 3rd of November, attended by 4 Muslims and 600 Hindus, Mr. Amin Khoso, MLA, alleged that the murder of Kanwar Bhagat, like all other troubles, had been engineered by some secret Government agent in order to bring the two communities into conflict. Communal feelings raised by the murder continue to be given yent to from the Hindu platform and press; but prominent Muslim leaders have also deplored the crime. Hartals and processions followed by largely attended meetings were held at Sukkur and Hyderababad on the 2nd November and at Karachi on 3rd November. At Karachi an Arya Samaj volunteers clothed in black and carrying a spear and pick-axe led the procession. One speaker said that the murder of Bhagat Kanwar Ram was a challenge to the Hindus who should organize themselves to oppose the anti-Hindu element and to support the Arya Vir Dal with men and money. The Assembly Members were referred to as Patharidars and heads of gundaism. The Speakers at Sukkur delivered bitter harangues and stongly condemned the Sindh Ministry for its impotency alleging indirectly that the Ministry was to be blamed for the murder. One exited speaker remarked that the only way to put a stop to such murders was to end Islam.
At Larkana a meeting was held on 8th November where the Hindus condemned the Ruk murder and expressed acute disappointment at the so-called weakness of the Sindh Government. The Hindu General Panchayat of Sukkur resolved to send an All-Sindh Hindu Deputation to wait on His Excellency, who, whoever, advised them to seek an interview with Premier in the first instance. Rohri Panchayat has stopped Hindus from purchasing fish and meat for a whole month in order to urge Government to unearth the conspiracy responsible for the Ruk murder. Public suspicion regarding the murder rests on the Pir of Bharchundi or some of his followers.Hindus all over the province are passing resolutions demanding the grant of arms licences more freely and requesting the authorities to re-attach Sindh to Bombay and thus safeguard Hindu life and property. (Source: Ibid).
PRESS REACTION: The murder of Bhagat Kanwar Ram received prominence in press for so many days. The event was given editorial and first page importance by the Hindu press. The ‘Sindh Observer’ and ‘sansar Samachar’ alleged openly that the murder was commited by the followers of the Pir of Bharchundi. The later newspaper remarked that the Bhagat Kanwar Ram was a sacrifice to the policy og Government regarding the Sukkur Manzilgah. The ‘Al-Wahid’ said the it was unfortunate that the murder of Bhagat Kanwar Ram is widely commented on in a communal strain, although the deceased himself was sufi, and as such entirely free from communal sympathies, while his death is deplored by all communities. The incident, regrettable as it is, is unfortunately invoked to make communal capital . Other Newspapers those gave full coverage and comments on the murder were The ‘Congress’, The ‘Karachi Daily’, The ‘Hindu’, and The ‘Qurbani’, etc.
Sindh Observer, in its issue of 3rd November 1939, offers its comments as follow: “ Kanwar Bhagat Ram’s Murder – A Singer, Saint and Sufi – A simple man with Divine Mission – Why he was killed?”. The paper writes: ‘ Several rumours are in circulation as to the cause of this murder. That he was murdered by design and not by accident goes without saying. Who conceived this murder and who executed it? It is the mystery that must immediately be solved not only for the sake of the reputation of the Sindh Government, but also for the sake of the peace of this Province. Though, Kanwar Bhagat died a martyr, the long arm of the law should immediately reach the perpetrators of the heinous crime. It is recalled in this connection that there was some trouble at Sukkur some weeks ago between a certain section of Hindus and Muslims on account of an alleged assault on the son of an influential Pir, well-known in Sukkur district. It was alleged that some Hindus committed the assault though it was not for serious nature. The Pir’s followers were incensed, advanced on Sukkur, and decided to take the law into their hands. The action of the District Magistrate, the visit of the Premier of Sindh to Sukkur to calm down passions, the willingness of the Hindu leaders of Sukkur to apologize to the Pir for an assault said to have been committed by an unknown person or persons brought down the tension and settled the matter.
But it is said that some of the bolder and reckless spirits among the followers of the Pir were not satisfied with the apology of the Hindus and wowed that ‘these Kaffirs should be taught a lesson for daring to assault the Pir’s son. It was feared that they marked out Kanwar Baghat for murder and that some policemen had to be sent to his village to guard his life. As any stranger appearing in his village would be easily detected and traced. These conspirators chose the occasion of his return from Manjhand for this unspeakable crime.
Here are some clues for tracing culprits. The police of Sukkur and the District Magistrate ought to be in possession of more reliable information as they knew the LIFE OF THE Bhagat was in danger at one time. How for the Manzilgah agitation has contributed in this murder is also a subject worth investigation. The followers of the same Pir are in illegal possession of the same Manzilgah from which they have not yet been ejected. The Pir was scheduled to say prayer with his followers today in the Manzilgah. The Hindus of Sukkur are in great ferment on account of this murder. It requires all the ingenuity of the District Magistrate of Sukkur to keep the peace and prevent the development of many untoward events. This is opinion in Karachi.”
CONGRESS REACTION: Mr. C.T.Valecha, MLA, President of Sukkur Congress Committee, sent telegram to Dr. Choithram P. Gidwani, MLA and Vice-President of the Sindh Provincial Congress Committee inviting him to visit Sukkur to understand the situation after the murder of Bhagat Kanwar Ram and see what could be done. Dr. Choitram alongwith Prof. Ghanshyam Jethanand, leader of Sindh Assembly Congress Party, visited Sukkur and after holding talks with Hindu leaders and the Magistrate, issued statement that was published in The ‘Sindh Observer’, in its issue of 10th November 1939. The statement is based on the same hypothesis doubting crime committed by followers of the Pir of Bharchundi. Important passages are produced for adding more to readers’ knowledge:
“ An special armed guard was statined at the house of Bhagat Kanwar Ram and a licence for gun was immediately issued in his name. The apprehension about his life was so genuine that from that time to the day of his murder, the Bhagat was always accompanied in his travels by two private guards armed with guns.
It is clear that the murder of Bhagat Kanwar Ram was deliberate and premeditated. In our opinion the authorities should have gone deeper into the matter when reports about danger to Bhagat’s life were made to them and should have taken action against any person or persons from whom there was apprehension of murder, irrespective of his or their position. We are further of opinion that the police at the Ruk Station at the time of murder utterly failed in their duty in pursuing the culprits.”
PIR IS ARRESTED: Pir of Bhachoondi was arrested at Sukkur on the 8th of October, 1940, under the Bombay Regulation XXV of 1827 and was brought the same day to Karachi. His son disappeared in Bahawalpur State The Government intended to arrest him also.
His arrest occupied a prominent place in all the newspapers. The ‘Hindu’ remarks that the action of the Government was opportune, proper and justified, as the Pir had hand in all the murders which were committed in the Rohri Division. The ‘Sansar Samachar’ congratulates the Government upon the step. The ‘Qurbani’ is not satisfied with the arrest under the Regulation of 1827 and suggests that the Pir should be tried and awarded a heavy sentence. The ‘Shikarpur Gazette’ remarks that although the arrest is belated it has given considerable satisfaction to the oppressed Hindus and has infused a new life into them. The ‘Hayat’ states that the Pir has been arrested to please the Hindus and will be set free when Government wish to please the Muslims.The paper suggested that he should be tried in an open court. The ‘Bab-ul-Islam’ and ‘Paigham-Sulh’ also write in the same strain. The ‘Al-Wahid’ however, remarks that the internment of the Pir of Bhachoondi would be futile so long as there is no change of heart among the Hindus and Muslims. The Hindu press commented at length over the murders which were committed in the Rohri Sub-Division duiring last fortnight.
On 5th November four dacoits attacked the village of Sumar, killed one Hindu and injured four others. events of same nature took place in the length and breadth of Sukkur District. Rumours were current in Karachi that large scale trouble involving raids from Baluchistan and Bahawalpur by the followers of the Pir of Bharchoondi were to be concerted during the Ramzan Eid gathering and the District Magistrates of Sukkur, Larkano, and upper Sindh Frontier were warned to keep a close watch on the situation and take the maximum precautions. The Eid, however, passed off peacefully.
The Report/Letter of 6th of November, 1940 by the Governor of Sindh to the Viceroy of India to apprise him of the Sindh situation, also includes this subject. It throws light on un-told aspects of the story. He writes: “ The actual arrest was easily effected, but we have not succeeded yet in capturing his son, who is really the more active agent for evil. The trouble is that not only is the country extremely difficult, but escape is easy into Bahawalpur and also on the south-east towards Rajputana. We have been told at different times that his son has been in hiding in Jaipur and Jaisalmir, but we have no confirmation of that. The Bahawalpur authorities had no desire to shelter either Pir or his son and in fact they have expressed themselves as ready to co-operate.
The Muslim League under the guidance of Sir Abdullah Haroon and Pir Ali Muhammad Shah Rashdi first took up the line that there was no case of any sort against the Pir and he should not have been arrested. As, however, the series of murders on very much the same pattern continued after the arrest and it becomes increasingly evident that these were being carried out by the adherents of the Pir, the authorities of the Muslim League found themselves some what embarrassed. So also did two of my Ministers, namely the Chief Minister (Mir Bandah Ali) and G,M.Syed, who had shown themselves unduly sympathetic towards the Pir of Bharchoondi and had tried to get me to take into consideration a proposal that he should be released from jail but required to live in a house in Karachi. I told them very frankly that until I had got the Pir’s son in jail and until I was satisfied that we had got on top of this trouble, I would not give any consideration to any proposal for releasing Pir from his present custody. Three of my Ministers went to visit the Pir in jail and first I heard of it was after the visit had taken place:; but I do not think I could have taken objection to their paying a visit, because it was easy for them to say that they were anxious to induce the Pir to realize the folly and wickedness of his ways and exercise his undoubtedly vide influence for the restoration of peace. Mr.G.M.Syed, however, has created a very bad impression among the Hindus by his action in taking to the jail a present of fruit and sweets for the Pir.
The next move came three or four days ago from Sir Abdullah Haroon, who now appears to have reached the conclusion that the Pir and his son and their followers are responsible for these outrages on Hindus and moreover that if these outrage continue it would be difficult for the Muslim League Ministry to servive. He was allowed two interviews with the Pir and claimed to be convinced that the Pir was prepared to co-operate in stopping the murders. My Ministers agreed with him and we got as far as bringing down to Karachi one of Pir’s Khalifas who was under preventive arrest under the Sindh Frontier Regulation. The idea underlying this plan of the Muslim League was that Pir should give an autographed letter to each of three of his Khalifas at present under detention and that Sir Haji Abdullah Haroon himself should proceed to Sukkur and offer security to the District Magistrate, Sukkur, for the good behaviour of these three persons if released. On release, these persons were to proceed to three centers,(1) the Pir’s own home, (2) in the Jacobabad District and (3) in Baluchistan, and convey the message of the Pir contained in the autographed letter that the murders were to cease. One of the Khalifas was produced here yesterday, but the arrangement broke down because Sir Haji Abdullah Haroon announced that he was unable to leave Karachi for Sukkur owing to his agitation over an incident in a mosque which had taken place the night before. He subsequently sent a second letter giving further reasons why he was unable to leave Karachi, to effect that only one of the Pir’s Khalifas had been brought down and that he would not be sufficient for that purpose. Actually, it is pretty clear that he decided that he cannot carry on the terms of his offer and that he does not wish to be in any way responsible……………(The letter is lengthy, hence three paragraphs are left because of their less importance)………
That is all that I can say at present. I have it in mind if any further trouble occurs, to convey a message to Pir of Bharchoondi that he is running the risk of being transferred to the Andmans or some equally unpleasant place. I trust that there may be no need to make any such proposal to you and I am having that law on the subject examined.”