Wednesday 23 December 2020

135 - Everchanging Borders of Punjab (Historical Geography of Punjab)!

Punjab is an important historical region in Hindustan or the northern India. The word Punjab, meaning five rivers, in Persian came into use after the Muslim conquest of this region. Its natural boundaries are considered to be the Indus in the west and Yamuna in the East, Himalayan foothills in the north, and somewhere south of the confluence of five rivers of Punjab. But these boundaries are ill-defined and vague and kept on changing over the centuries. For example, Punjabi or its dialects are still spoken in large areas across Indus. In this article, we shall discuss the geographical boundaries of Punjab over the last three centuries. 

Punjab during the Mughal era, around 1700 AD.

As we can see in the map given above (and below as well), during the Mughal times the Punjab region was divided into three subahs. Lahore subah, lying between Indus and Sutlej, including presnt day Jammu region. While the areas south of Sutlej were part of Delhi subah. More intriguing are the boundaries of Multan, with northern Sindh and even a few faraway regions in Balochistan are shown as part of Multan. I leave this question to my readers how authentic is the map given below. 

A map showing subahs of the Mughal Empire in 1700 AD.

Sarkar-i-Khalsa in Punjab at the time of the death of Maharaja Ranjit Singh, 1839.

The Mughal Empire went into a rapid decline in the eighteenth century and in the middle of the century, they lost control of Punjab to the Sikhs and Afghans. The Sikhs ultimately won the contest with the Afghans for the control of Punjab under the leadership of Maharaja Ranjit Singh. He not only united all the petty states of Sikh sardars but also vastly expanded his kingdom in all directions by conquering Multan, Kashmir and Peshawar.
Punjab at the end of 1st Anglo-Sikh war in 1846 AD.

By the early nineteenth century, the British had become the supreme power and Punjab was the last to fell to their expanding empire. The first war between the two powers was fought in the winter of 1845-1846 and the Sikhs were defeated after a series of bloody and hard-fought battles. According to the treaty of Amritsar, signed after this defeat, Sarkar-i-Khalsa lost the territories between Beas and Sutlej rivers. Jammu was separated from the Punjab state and the Dogra rajas were recognized as the rulers of this state. Kashmir valley was also sold to Dogras. They further expanded their state and conquered Gilgit, Baltistan and Leh areas in the 1840s.

In 1849 after the Second Anglo-Sikh war Punjab was annexed to British India as a new province. Here it is pertinent to mention that some other Sikh states in the Malwa region succeeded in maintaining their independence by willingly coming under the protection of British India as the paramount power. A treaty was signed in 1809 between the Maharaja Ranjit Singh and the British, under the terms of this agreement river Sutlej was agreed upon as the border between the two countries. Thus barring Ranjit Singh against taking any action against these states. These states survived until 1947.

Punjab in 1858, after the merger of Delhi Territories with Punjab.

The British Indian Empire was sailing smoothly when suddenly the storm of 1857 rebellion burst upon it and almost the whole of north India was affected by it. Punjab mostly remained peaceful, except for rebellions by a few battalions of the Bengal Army stationed in Punjab. The Delhi city was the first to fall on 11 May 1857 but was recovered by late September the same year. Until then Delhi was part of North West Province, after the war due to some reasons the British thought it better to administer Delhi city and adjoining districts of Rohtak, Gurgaon, Hissar, Karnal, Ambala etc from Lahore. Thus the province was enlarged considerably and its boundary in the east reached the Yamuna river. These newly merged territories were mostly Hindi speaking. Some areas in the southeast of Delhi, formerly possessed by Muslims Nawabs, who rebelled against the British in 1857, were given to the Sikhs States of Patiala, Nabha and Jind, as a reward for actively supporting the British during the war of 1857.

Creation of N.W.F.P. as a separate province in 1901.

In 1901 a new province was created by separating six districts of Dera Ismail Khan, Tank, Kohat, Peshawar, Mardan and Mansehra, across the river Indus from Punjab. These districts were mostly populated by Pashto speakers. The new province was given the name of North West Frontier Province. 

Punjab after the separation of Delhi in 1911.

For administrative reasons, the British planned to shift the capital from Kolkata to Delhi in 1911. King George V laid the foundation of the new city on 2 December 1911. It took twenty years to complete the city and the viceroy Lord Irwin formally inaugurated it on February 13, 1931. Before that Delhi was a district of Punjab. 

The situation of Punjab in 1947. 

Notional Division of Punjab.

Once it became clear that Punjab would be divided on religious lines a notional division of Punjab was made in July 1947. It was based on simple majorities of Muslims and non-Muslims in the districts. 

Radcliffe Award on 17.08.2020.

To decide the final border between India and Pakistan a boundary commission was set up under a British barrister Mr Cyril John Radcliffe. He was given just five weeks to complete this extremely contentious and gigantic issue. His decision was made public on 17 August 1947. The dividing line which he suggested is called Radcliffe line and forms the border between India and Pakistan. It also divided Punjab in to two parts. 

Punjab from 1948 - 1956 AD. 

After the independence both parts of Punjab in Pakistan and India went under many administrative changes. The case of Pakistani Punjab was much more simple. The population, after the migration of Hindus and Sikhs, was ovewhelmingly Muslim and linguistically too was homogeneous with overwhelming population speaking Punjabi or its different dialects. So no big changes were required. However, Bahawalpur the only princely state of Punjab that acceded to Pakistan, was merged with the Punjab province in 1955. 

The situation in the Indian part of Punjab was more complex. Besides district there wre almost 33 princely states apread all over Punjab. These states were organized in to two groups. The states in Himalayan mountains were merged and given the name of Himachal Union Territory, these all states were Hindi speaking and ruled and inhabited mostly by Hindus. While the states in the plains were merged together to form PEPSU (Patiala & East Punjab States Union). These states were mostly Punjabi speaking, except three small states near Delhi. These were eight in number, the four larger ones were ruled by Sikhs and four smaller were ruled by Muslim rulers. 

Punjab 1957 - 1966 AD. 

In 1957 India took another major step towards the reoganization of the Punjab state. PEPSU was ablished and merged with the Punjab state.

Punjab after the creation of Islamabad Capital Territory in 1960 and the reogranization of Indian Punjab in 1966. 

Though almost all Mulims of Indian part had migrated to west in 1947, but still the followers of two religions were ihabiting this state, Sikhs and Hindus. Another issue that was causing resentment and unrest in the state was the issue of state's official lanague. More than half of the state's population was Hindi speaking. Sikhs were particularly resentful, because even after 1947 they were a religious and a linguistic minority in new Punjab. Indian constitution allowed the creation of new states or their reorganization on linguistic basis. Indeed in 1956 major inetnal changes were made, particularly in the southern and western areas of India and new states were created on the basis of language spoken in a particular area. The Sikhs on the basis of the same principle demanded a Punjabi Subah. But because of some reasons, the central government in Delhi draged their feet on this issue. Hindus of Punjab, both Hindi and Punjabi speaking too were not supportive of this idea. But the Sikhs are not a people to be cowed down by pressure tactics, they agitated for almost two decades before their demands were accepted and Hindi speaking areas were separated from Punjab and two states of Himachal Pradesh and Haryana were formed out of these areas. Thus finally the demands of the Sikhs were accepted and they became a majority in Punjab, first time in their history. Probably the great contribution of Sikhs in the war of 1965  finally convinced Indira Gandhi to accept the demands of the Sikhs. 

Map showing the location of Punjab in India in 1947.

Map showing the distribution of Population and Area between Pakistan and India. 

I hope the poeple having interest in the hisotry and geography of Punjab will like it. I do appreciate my readers for the suggestions or poinitng any mistake in facts or maps. For the more details abou division of Punjab you may visit my following post: 

Tariq Amir
December 23, 2020.
Doha - Qatar. 

Thursday 17 December 2020

134 - Borders of Pakistan

It is common knowledge that the state of Pakistan came into existence on 14 August 1947, after a long political struggle. Its idea was based on the two nation theory and on the same principle India was divided into two separate countries. But, have you ever thought that how and when the borders of this new state came into existence? Now, this is the topic of this post that how and under what circumstances Pakistan got its geographical borders. All these borders were attained at different times and under different circumstances.

We shall start from the Sindh – India border, the oldest of all the borders of Pakistan. It is interesting to note that all the historical regions of Pakistan, Sindh is the only one, which became part of Pakistan completely, all others are only partially inside Pakistan. Sindh is an ancient country and its borders are more or less the same for many centuries. The British occupied this province in 1843 and made it a part of the Bombay Province. However, even during this time, the borders of Sindh were quite distinct. Eventually, it was separated from Bombay in 1936. In 1947 Sindh joined Pakistan and its border with Bombay and Rajputana became the international border between Pakistan and India. The length of this section of the border is approximately 995 km.

Borders of Pakistan.

Sindh 1931.

Further northeast of Sindh, the princely state of Bahawalpur was located. This state was established in 1727 by Nawab Sadiq Muhammad Khan Abbasi. The ruling family is called Daodputras. They claim to be descendants of Abbasid caliphs. This family ruled this state until the state accepted accession to Pakistan in 1947 and its border with Rajputana became the international border. Bahawalpur acquired its final borders sometime during the 1820s. Anyway, the state signed a subsidiary alliance with British India in 1833, such kind of alliances though curtailed the freedom of a state, but it gave it more political and geographical stability. The length of this border is approximately 565 km.

Punjab 1931. 

North of Bahawalpur lies Punjab. This is where the most difficult border had to be decided while partitioning this important province. This task was given to the Radcliffe commission and this commission published its award on 17 August 1947, three days after the independence of Pakistan. This section of the border starts at the point where the border of Bahalwapur with India ends and goes up to the border of Kashmir, commonly known as the Radcliffe line. It is the newest border of Pakistan and its length is approximately 527 kms.

Now if we turn northwest of the Radcliffe line, Punjab’s border with the state of Jammu and Kashmir starts. This border was defined when in 1846 the British defeated the Khalsa state of Punjab and recognized the state of Jammu as a separate state under the Dogra family of Jammu. Now a days this section of the border is known as the Working Boundary with a length of 205 km. 

Jammu & Kashmir 1931. 

Further north west of the working boundary the border of Pakistan and India runs through the territories of the state of Jammu and Kashmir. This border was known as Cease Fire Line and was the result of the ceasefire agreed upon between India and Pakistan on 1 January 1949. In the Simla agreement of 1972, it was renamed as Line of Control (LoC). It starts at the point where Pakistani controlled Kashmir starts and ends at a point known as NJ980420. The length of the LoC is 740 km.

Before 1984 the LoC was not demarcated further to the point NJ98420 and the line was assumed to moving northeast towards the Chinese border terminating at Karakoram Pass. All the maps prior to this time and even today most of them, show the same location of the line. It left the whole of the Siachen glacier within Pakistan.  But in 1984 Indian forces infiltrated the area and now the line runs northwest towards the border of China, leaving the Siachen glacier inside India. Its length according to my estimate is around 110 km. 

So the total length of the Pakistan-Indian border, starting from Sir Creek to Siachen Glacier is 3142 km. I calculated the length of the borders by closely drawing a path along the border on google earth. The length of the LoC is given in an article on Wikipedia. However, the contact line between the two countries at Siachen is a more tricky affair. It is not demarcated at all and no source gives its exact length. Even no maps are available showing its location, except the following source:

From this point further westward, Pakistan’s border with China starts. It has two parts first with the Shaksgam valley, which was decided by Pakistan and China under an agreement in 1962. The rest of the border north of Gilgit is much older. Its dates back to at least the 1840s when Dogras started ruling this area or perhaps its origin could be older than that time. In 1947 this area sided with Pakistan and since then it is Pakistan’s international border with China and its length is about 440 km. 

In the west, Pakistan shares a very long border with Afghanistan. British power started penetrating these areas in the 1840s. After the Second Anglo-Afghan war, Afghanistan was forced to surrender vast areas to British India, under the agreement of Gandamak, signed in 1879. Then in 1893 a further agreement was signed which finally decided the border between Afghanistan and British India. This border is known as Durand Line. Its length is 2,430 km.

Afghanistan 1851.

Balochistan 1931.

On the west, Pakistan shares its border with Iran. British power’s influence penetrated into Balochistan in the 1840s and 1850s. In 1871 a treaty was signed with Iran and the border was agreed upon between Iran and British India. The length of this border is 909 km.

Prior to the supremacy of British India, areas now forming Pakistan were ruled by the above-mentioned powers. 

The above map shows the area, which different powers surrendered to the British before they became part of Pakistan in 1947. So we can see that Punjab, Kashmir, Gilgit Baltistan and parts of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa were gained from Sikhs and Dogras. While Sindh was conquered from the Talpur dynasty.  On the west, Afghanistan was forced to surrender large parts to the British. While Bahawalpur and Kalat etc. were semi-independent states ruled by Muslim rulers as part of India with British India to be the paramount power. 

Tariq Amir

December 17, 2020.
Doha - Qatar.