Soon after the 1947 partition, for several reasons many of the Muslim refugees who had migrated to Pakistan started returning back to India. The most of the returning Muslim refugees to India, especially to Delhi, were coming from Karachi. One of the reasons of the re-migration of the Muslims (noted: most of them originally belonged to Northern India and were said to be Urdu-speakers) was that they were facing a severe housing and settlement crisis in nascent Pakistan. Severe clashes between Muhajirs in Karachi and native Hindus took place in Karachi. The religious and ethnic tension in Karachi rose to its peak on January 6, 1948. According to a Jang Editorial titled “Aman” on January 15, 1948: “the premier of Sindh [Muhammad Ayub Khuhro] does not like to see Hindustan’s Muslim Muhajirs in Sindh.”
On the other hand , a cartoon in Jang [Figure 1] projected a picture that the situation in Delhi has been changed for the Muslims and
Figure 1: A Visit to Chandni Chowk: The stall vendors are selling hot fresh fried kababs. The man with the bottle in his hand is selling alcohol (desi sharaab). The other two men standing at the center are talking: “Brother, we were in better condition with Muslims than we are with these Sikhs now.” (Reference: Jang Cartoon, January 15, 1948)
now Muslims are welcomed back. Perhaps the most crucial thing in restoring the faith of Muhajirs to re-migrate to India was the fast of Gandhi on January 12, 1948 to bring the peace to Delhi and provide good security to the Muslim population of the city. According to Abul Kalam Azaad in his book “India Wins Freedom” the actions of Gandhi produced a far-reaching affect on the morale of Muhajir Muslims and it encouraged them to re-migrate to India and claim all those properties and wealth they had left in their way of migration to Pakistan and later those left-over wealth and properties got in the hands of the Hindus and Sikhs, especially those migrating from Pakistan to India.
The Indian High Commissioner in Pakistan during the mid of March 1948 announced that thousands of Muslim refugees in Pakistan were returning back to India for their old homes. During the mid of May 1948, the British High Commissioner to India quoted a local newspaper saying that so far 200,000 to 300,000 Muslim refugees from Pakistan had arrived back in India. A report by Commonwealth Office sometime later highlighted that 100,000 to 250,000 Muslims had returned from Pakistan to India, and 40,000 among them alone had returned to Delhi.
However, the diary of Superintendent of Police, CID Delhi from March 27, 1948 had different statistics to say. According to the diary, the total number of Muslim refugees in Pakistan who arrived back to Delhi (India) up to May 1948 amounted to 16,350. According to the analysis of Vazira Fazilla-Yacoobali Zamindar in her book “The Long Partition and the Making of Modern South Asia: Refugees, Boundaries, Histories”, “if the number leaving (almost 4,450, but otherwise unremarked) is subtracted, then an increase in the Muslim population of the city amounted to only 11,900 — which was nowhere near the suggested 40,000 people.
In all these events there is something interesting — however couldn’t completely be agreed upon — which was highlighted in a secret report of Intelligence Bureau, dated June 11, 1948 (DSA F56/48-Conf C). The excerpts taken from the report argued that the Muslims were returning to India because they wanted to start communal riots and disturbances in order to influence the opinion of the United Nations Organisation (UNO) commission that was coming to India to settle the issue of Kashmir which had by then became a hot issue between India and Pakistan. According to Indian Government, the returning back of Muslims in abundance from Pakistan to India was actually a part of a planned-conspiracy by the government of Pakistan in order to take the revenge from the Hindus and Sikhs who had massacred the Muslims during the partition riots. The secret CID report further highlighted that it was a understood fact that some Muslims who have come all the way from Rawalpindi and other parts of Pakistan are being watched over by the intelligence people who found [some of] them lurking in the “Sabzimandi” area of Delhi dressed up in Hindu fashion telling other Muslims of the area that they had come to Delhi to avenge the wrongs done to the Muslims of Delhi. It is noted that the “Sabzimandi” area of Delhi prior to partition was predominated by the Muslims but now after the partition the dice was rolled against the Muslims of Delhi who had lost their predominance in “Sabzimandi” area, and their houses and other properties were occupied by the Hindus and Sikhs most of whom were those who came to India from the parts of Pakistan. The CID secret report further highlighted that the conspiracy to create havoc in Delhi was hatched by the Government of Pakistan; the sole aims of Pakistani government, according to the CID officials, were to create communal tension in Delhi, influencing on the opinion of UNO, and influence on the opinion of the “world” against the India.
Following to these events when they first began, the issue was highly debated in the Constituent Assembly of India on March 22, 1948. It was discussed that the India should reconsider its “open-door policy” for the refugees coming back from Pakistan to India. However, Jawaharlal Nehru reminded the Constituent Assembly about the promises they had made to Gandhi just before his death. It should be mentioned again that Gandhi was hugely in favor of those Musim refugees coming back to India from Pakistan. Nehru insisted that the Constituent Assembly should abide by the promise it had made to the Gandhi. However, it was still deemed necessary to take some actions to avert the communal tension in certain parts of the country. Consequently, India went on to discuss a “permit” system where anyone coming from Pakistan to India would first have to obtain a permission from India.
Ironically, the abundance of Urdu-speaking/Muhajirs in the government and bureaucracy were helpless in preventing the mass migration of Muhajirs from Karachi back to Delhi (India). Muhajirs endlessly wrote letters — one of which can be found in the “letter to editor” in the Jang edition of March 27, 1948 with the title “Muhajireen ki Hindustan Wapsi” & March 29, 1948 with the title “Wapas Ja Rahe Hain” — and criticised the Pakistani government for failiing to provide adequate refuge to “the very people who had struggled for the Pakistan.”
Figure 2: “Aah! This Selfish World”. The unreadable Urdu text at the bottom translates as: “In case all the Muhajirs leave Pakistan for India, then only the Government Officers will be left here to build this country.” (Reference: Jang, April 9, 1948)
To project the inability and inaction of the Government of Pakistan to address the grievances of Muhajirs, a cartoon, presented in Figure 2, was printed in the Jang edition of April 9, 1948.
The cartoon evidently highlights the concerns and feelings of Muhajirs toward the inaction of their [brother] Muhajirs in government.
A resolution for the Rehabilitation of Muslim Refugees was emotionally discussed in the Constituent Assembly of Pakistan on May 20, 1948. The former premier of Sindh, Muhammad Ayub Khuhro, was accused and vehemently criticised for spreading the anti-refugee sentiments. This was yet another phase of a tension between Sindhi political leaders and the “Muhajir” leaders who happened to be in the federal government of Pakistan and bureaucracy in abundance.
On the other hand, the federal minister for refugees and rehabilitation, Ghazanfar Ali Khan blamed the Indian Government for providing a support to the Muslims to return back to India. He also criticised the remarks of Nehru that that traffic between India and Pakistan was “one-way”, meaning that only the refugees from Pakistan were going [back] to India. Gazanfar Ali Khan pointed out that thousands of Muslims from India were continuing to come to Pakistan by sea, therefore it was never a “one-way” traffic. According to the estimates of Ghazanfar Ali Khan, the problems concerning refugees gained strength with time as more Muslim migrants arrived in Pakistan. He ultimately pointed out that the source of refugees problems was the constant influx of Muslims from India to Pakistan. He also asked the Indian government that it should not allow the mass migration of Muslims from India to Pakistan. In order to not sound conflicting with the notion that “Muslim League” was the representative of all the Muslims of sub-continent, Ghazanfar Ali Khan is further said to have rhetorically bluster that Pakistan has never closed its doors for the Muslims; it is the home for all the Muslims of the world; however, so many Muslims should not be accommodated [as of now] in order to prevent the early [economic] demise of Pakistan.
At this point, India had finally rolled out its “permit” system, where anyone coming from Pakistan to India would first have to obtain a permission from India. At the beginning of the Indian introduction of “permit” system, the Pakistani government opposed it. Following to Pakistan’s objection, India proposed that a “two-way” traffic could be introduced with the help of both Pakistani and Indian government via which all the refugees would be given the chance to return to their original homes. This ingenious proposal of India was almost tantamount to the notion of reversing the partition’s displacements. However, on August 19, 1948, during a cabinet meeting, Liaquat Ali Khan rejected the Indian idea of reversing the partition’s displacements and sought to threaten India to retaliate with the equal measures.
Not long after that, on September 4, 1948, Pakistan introduced the “permit” system just like India’s. The Pakistan Control of Entry Ordinance introduced in 1948 was implemented on not just non-Muslims but also the Muslims. In the coming days the “permit” system was heavily criticised by the government in East Pakistan so as in some government sections of West Pakistan. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs pointed out that it was almost impossible for Pakistan to keep a strong vigilance over its borders and the long sea-coast; therefore, on that ground the Ministry suggested that the government of Pakistan should abandon the “permit” system and rather take its control over the sale of the “lower-class” train and ship ticket via which the heavy majority of refugees were arriving in Pakistan. On the other hand, the Interior Ministry defended the “permit” system and argued that the economy of Pakistan was in the thick of it, therefore it was necessary to keep the influx of refugees regulated through a “permit” system. The Interior Ministry also presented the stats of growing population in Karachi which, according to the Ministry, would impair the overall economy of Pakistan. The Interior Ministry also cited an example of Hyderabad which was ruled by a Muslim Nawab, but was taken over by the Indian Army in September of 1948; it argued that had it not been the “permit” system in functioning, the deluge of refugees would have arrived in Pakistan from Hyderabad just within few days, affecting the security and economic condition of Pakistan.
More on “Muhajirs” in the next write up.