Category Archives: Raj

100 Years Ago Today: The Lahore Division takes the field at Battle of Ypres

Soldiers of the Lahore Division of Britain’s colonial Indian Army went into action in Belgium for the first time on October 24th 1914. CN writer Christopher J. Harvie discusses a critical moment in the First Battle of Ypres.

Lahore Division

Eventually contributing over one million troops, the British Indian Army would become the largest source of volunteers from the Empire. The first units to the Western Front in 1914, parts of the Indian Corps of Indian Expeditionary Force A, arrived at a most desperate moment.

In two months of open warfare costly battles had been fought back and forth in the hinterlands of France and Belgium. Constant contact had worn the armies down, shrunk their reserves of manpower and turned the war into not much more than a grappling match.

Ypres became a grinding battle of willpower more than anything else.  Through heavy rains along ground already wet and miserable and days growing colder, villages, woods and shallow trenches were taken and retaken.  For almost four weeks of assaults and counter attacks, wearied men on both sides continued to hammer away at each other in a dogged and brutal fashion.

(“First Light of Dawn”, author’s post If Ye Break Faith)

Gone by this point were the sweeping, grand manoeuvres of large armies in the field. The conflict had now devolved to isolated skirmishes, both sides attempting to probe for the weak link that would open the ground wide again.

By mid-October, the low-lying, difficult terrain of Belgian Flanders was the only place remaining where either the Germans or the Allies might break through. The remainder of the front had settled into mutual defensive works or would be deliberately flooded by order of the Belgian King. To date, the BEF had incurred 57,000 casualties and in some places around the Ypres area of operations were so depleted as to be at a 12:1 numerical disadvantage.

India Arrives

On October 20th 1914, the Indian Cavalry Corps with the 3rd (Lahore) and 7th (Meerut) Divisions began to reach the front. With an immediate need to shore up the thinly held salient, the 3rd Division, having arrived first, was broken up. Individual brigades and battalions were sent where they were most needed. The Division would be blooded almost simultaneously in three separate engagements at La Bassée, Messines and Armentières.

Despite the home garrison being in the predominantly Punjab city of Lahore, which is now within Pakistan, the 3rd Division (referred to by its nominative “Lahore Division” on the Western Front to avoid confusion with the BEF’s 3rd Division) was composed of battalions of wide backgrounds including men of Baloch, Dogra, Ghurkha, Pathan, Punjabi and Sindhi heritage.  It came into its pre-war organisation during Kitchener’s reforms of the Indian Army in 1904, as part of Northern Command, with the Jullundur, Sirhind and Ambala brigades

“Where is my Division?”

The deconstruction of the Lahore Division wasn’t a discourtesy; at this point larger formations were of little use and these troops as with some British units became detached and used as “flying squads” to shore up the line during a very fluid situation. Lieutenant General Wilcox, GOC Indian Corps, noted in his diary in late October how the Division was taken apart:

“Where is my Lahore Division? Sirhind Brigade detained in Egypt. Ferozepore Brigade: somewhere in the north, split up into three or four bits. Jullundur Brigade: Manchesters gone south to (British) 5 Division (this disposes of only British unit) 47th Sikhs: Half fighting with some British division; half somewhere else! 59th Rifles and 15th Sikhs:In trenches 34th Pioneers (divisional troops) also in trenches 15th Lancers: In trenches. Two companies of Sappers and Miners fighting as infantry with British divisions. Divisional Headquarters: Somewhere?

(With the Indians in France, London: Constable, 1920)

With his brigades stretched so far apart and attached to other commands, General Wilcox was a Corps commander without a corps to command.

No Reserves

The soldiers of the Division had grown a domestic reputation as formidable warriors. Now as they entered a European battlefield for the first time, they proved themselves deserving. Desperately outnumbered and under pressure of constant German attacks, the Lahore Division in the localities it was set to defend held ground and went into counter attacks which helped solidify the British line outside of Ypres, the critical rail and road juncture of Flanders whose possession could dictate a heavy advantage.

Britain had no reserves ready to deploy. The Regulars were all but spent, most of the Territorial’s were still assembling and the large volunteer force to become known as “Kitchener’s Armies” had barely begun to train. The addition in late October 1914 of two trained and motivated divisions quite possibly staved the disaster of collapse at Ypres. By month’s end the Indian Corps had suffered 1,565 casualties.

For Valour

Not two weeks after his 26th birthday, Sepoy Khudadad Khan and his machine gun team were facing a severe German attack, October  31st 1914. He remained at his post despite wounds and the loss of the other men of his detachment,  keeping his gun firing-the only remaining machine gun in action- only leaving after the enemy had bypassed his position believing him dead. For his actions, Sepoy Khudadad was awarded the Victoria Cross, the Empire’s highest award, himself being the first South Asian recipient of the decoration.

“The Jewel of Punjab”

Today, Lahore is the capital city of Punjab Province in Pakistan, known affectionately as “The Jewel of Punjab.” It lies close to the border with India. The city was a place of contention and violence during partition in 1947  but exists now as a thriving commercial and cultural centre.

This article was originally published in Centenary News

Pakistan’s Identity Battle Plays Out in Lahore

Bhagat_jpg_1225585g

The battle for Pakistan’s identity is playing out in Lahore’s streets and – oddly, on its thoroughfares and intersections. On 23rd March, this year, a group of civil society representatives gathered at Lahore’s Shadman Chowk to commemorate the 82nd death anniversary of Bhagat Singh, a Sikh freedom fighter renowned for his revolutionary struggle as part of the independence movement, and who became stuff of legend when he was hanged by the British in 1931 after a brief but eventful insurrection against colonial rule. The gathering, however, was disrupted by members of a religious group which was holding a protest aimed at denouncing the idea of renaming the chowk after Bhagat Singh, simultaneously.

The chowk and the adjacent area used to be Lahore’s central jail during the British Raj, and Bhagat Singh is believed to have been hanged at the site of what is now Shadman Chowk.

Late last year, a group of Lahoris made progress in getting local officials to rename a busy traffic circle for Bhagat Singh, a Sikh revolutionary who. They see it as a chance to honor a local hero who they feel transcends the ethnic and sectarian tensions gripping the country today — and also as an important test of the boundaries of inclusiveness here.

But in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, questions of religious identity also become issues of patriotism, and the effort has raised alarm bells among conservatives and Islamists. The circle was named in 2010 for Chaudhry Rehmat Ali, a Muslim student who coined the name Pakistan in the 1930s, and there was an outcry at the news that it might be renamed for a non-Muslim.

“If a few people decide one day that the name has to be changed, why should the voice of the majority be ignored?” asked Zahid Butt, the head of a neighborhood business association here and a leader of the effort to block the renaming.

The fight over the traffic circle — which, when they are pressed, locals usually just call Shadman Circle, after the surrounding neighborhood — has become a showcase battle in a wider ideological war over nomenclature and identity here and in other Pakistani cities.

Although many of Lahore’s prominent buildings are named for non-Muslims, there has been a growing effort to “Islamize” the city’s architecture and landmarks, critics of the trend say. In that light, the effort to rename the circle for Mr. Singh becomes a cultural counteroffensive.

“Since the ’80s, the days of the dictator Gen. Zia ul-Haq, there has been an effort that everything should be Islamized — like the Mall should be called M. A. Jinnah Road,” said Taimur Rahman, a musician and academic from Lahore, referring to one of the city’s central roads and to the country’s founder. “They do not want to acknowledge that other people, from different religions, also lived here in the past.”

A recent nationwide surge in deadly attacks against religious minorities, particularly against Ahmadi and Hazara Shiites, has again put a debate over tolerance on the national agenda. Though most Sikhs fled Pakistan soon after the partition from India in 1947, the fight over whether to honor a member of that minority publicly bears closely on the headlines for many.

A push to honor Mr. Singh has been going on here for years. But it was not until the annual remembrance of his birth in September that things came to a head. A candlelight demonstration to support renaming the traffic circle had an effect, and a senior district official agreed to start the process. As part of it, he asked the public to come forward with any objections. The complaints started pouring in.

Traders of Shadman Market, the local trade group led by Mr. Butt, threatened a strike. Chillingly, warnings against the move were issued by leaders of the Islamic aid group Jamaat-ud-Dawa, largely believed to be a front for the militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba. Clerics voiced their opposition during Friday Prayer.

The issue quickly became a case for the city’s High Court, which said it would deliberate on a petition, initiated by Mr. Butt and a coalition of religious conservatives, to block the name change. That was in November, and the case still awaits a hearing date. The provincial government has remained in tiptoe mode ever since. “It is a very delicate matter,” said Ajaz Anwar, an art historian and painter who is the vice chairman of a civic committee that is managing the renaming process.

Mr. Anwar said some committee members had proposed a compromise: renaming the circle after Habib Jalib, a widely popular postindependence poet. That move has been rejected out of hand by pro-Singh campaigners.

Mr. Rahman and other advocates for renaming the circle paint it as a test of resistance to intolerance and extremism, and they consider the government and much of Lahore society to have failed it.

“The government’s defense in the court has been very halfhearted,” said Yasser Latif Hamdani, a lawyer representing the activists. “The government lawyer did not even present his case during earlier court proceedings.”

The controversy threatens to become violent. On March 23, the anniversary of Mr. Singh’s death, police officers had to break up a heated exchange between opposing groups at the circle.

Mr. Rahman and the other supporters have vowed to continue fighting, saying it has become a war over who gets to own Pakistan’s history.

“There is a complete historical amnesia and black hole regarding the independence struggle from the British,” Mr. Rahman said, adding of the Islamists, “They want all memories to evaporate.”

 {Link: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/03/31/world/asia/plan-to-rename-traffic-circle-provokes-outcry-in-lahore-pakistan.html?ref=global-home&_r=1&}

Rare pic: Akbari Gate of Lahore

Akbari Gate

Akbari Gate of walled city of Lahore. This gate exists no more. This pic was taken in 1962 by an unknown photographer.

Posted by:  Shiraz Hassan

 

Lohari Gate of Lahore, A Rare Image.

A rare image of Lahori Gate, one of the 13 gates of Lahore. It was taken by an unknown photographer in 1900.

 

Posted by: Shiraz Hassan

 

 

 

Personal histories: attention Lahore buffs

I have received this letter from Suniti Mohindra based in the US, who is searching for many answers. This email was so interesting that I am publishing it with Suniti’s permission. I am going to look for materials but I would request the readers to help our friend in undertaking this amazing project. History is not the domain of the rulers only. Personal histories are even more important for they give us a humanistic vision of our past and the present. Please leave any information here in the comments section RR

Dear Raza Rumi,

I was researching for the history of Lahore the great City of Punjab where my grandfather Ralla Ram Mohindra came to for his college education in 1892/3 and while finishing his college he came across an advertisement in the local paper where the East India Company was advertising for educated persons for the development of the Railway in East Africa called the Uganda Railway. My Grandfather hailed from Malsian district Jullandhar from the Soodhan Mohalla his father being in the business of leasing land to the farmers and hence from a rich family that believed in Education and the values to be gotten wherefrom. My Grandfather without telling his father Lala Moti Ram (he was the only son) applied for this post was immediately called to Calcutta where he was given a crash course in Administration and telegraphy and with a handsome advance given a ticket to sail for Mombasa, Kenya to report to the General Manager George Whitehouse[who was later knighted]as the Railhead Station Master and took the Railway from Mazeras to Kisumu on Lake Victoria the period was 1896 to 1901.

I am putting together history of my family and was wondering if you may be able to help me in constructing the aura of the Great City of Lahore the then Capital of Punjab. I have pieced together some aspects but these only relate to the fact that there were four sections of the city etc. Is there any material that would help me grasp what the Metropolis of that time was and what great thing it was for some one from a village to come to this Great City, get Educated there and them get the dare devil outlook for adventure and exploration in a spirit of fearlessness to a distant part of Africa then known as KALA PANI.. my love for Punjab aside, the great adventure of my Grandfather and what motivated a young man in his late teens to embark on such a journey is what I want to get a handle on.

Any help from you would be most helpful and please accept my gratitude which I shall duly acknowledge for the courtesy extended.

With respect and regards,

Suniti Mohindra

Lahore’s Secretariat record may lose ‘shelter’

By Intikhab Hanif writing for the DAWN
LAHORE, Sept 28: There is a plan to shift the Punjab Civil Secretariat’s colonial central record room to an adjacent ‘unsafe’ location, putting at risk the province’s vital links with its past being kept alive since 1924 in the shape of official files.

The purpose behind the move is stated to be the desire to create a conference hall on the existing premises of the record room, making officials wonder as to how this was required to be done when the secretariat already has a huge committee room and the historical Darbar Hall for cabinet and official meetings. Continue reading

Lawrence Gardens, Lahore

Posted by Raza Rumi –
I visited the Lawrence Gardens in August and managed to take a few pictures.
The cricket Pavillion
Lawrence Garden Memories, Lahore
The relaxing policmen

Lawrence Garden Memories, Lahore

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Lahore as in the 19th Century – Goulding’s recollection

Colonel H.R. Goulding was ADC to the King-Emperor T.H. Thornton, a distinguished British official, was secretary to the Punjab government in the 1860s

EXCERPTS found here:

First printed in 1860 for private circulation, these summaries of the history of Lahore were incorporated, in 1876, in a guidebook which was a joint piece of work by T.H. Thornton and J. Lockwood Kipling
H.R. Goulding writes about Old Lahore and the Mall:

It is of interest to recall that the beautiful Mall of which we are so justly proud and which is admittedly one of the finest public roads in Pakistan was first aligned in 1851 by Lieut-Colonel Napier, the Civil Engineer, who described it as “a direct road from Anarkali to Mian Mir.” He submitted alternative estimates for its construction, one for Rs12,544 and the other for Rs10,428. The former was for kankar throughout, the latter for an under layer of bricks with a kankar surface. Colonel Napier thought that the cheaper design would be sufficiently durable, but, in transmitting both estimates to the government of India, the Board of Administration remarked that they thought that as this road would be “the great thoroughfare not only with Anarkali but also with the city,” it would be more economical in the long run to sanction the higher estimate.

The Government of India, however, accepted Colonel Napier’s opinion and sanctioned, in April, 1851, the lower estimate. No noticeable alteration either in alignment of width seems to have been made till Sir Ganga Ram was Executive Engineer in charge of the Lahore Provincial Division, and extensive improvements were carried out in the sections east of the Post Office crossing. Later still the whole length of the Mall was remodelled on its present lines under the personal supervision of the late Mr DuCune Smythe, Chief Engineer, who, in turn, was supervised by the then Lieutenant-Governor, Sir Charles Rivaz. It was nothing unusual to meet, on a winter’s morning, these two high officials in earnest consultation by the roadside. On one occasion the writer saw the chief Engineer kneeling on the ground with a measuring tape in his hands, while on another the Lieutenant-Governor, who never allowed the felling of a tree if it could possibly be avoided, was personally superintending the marking of certain roadside trees which had to come down when the Mall was being realigned and widened opposite the Mayo School of Art. Continue reading

Lahore’s Lawrence Gardens

I am homesick so I am posting an old piece on the majestic Lawrence Gardens of Lahore.

Lahore ‘s Lawrence Gardens, baptised the Bagh-i-Jinnah in the post-independence era, represent the quintessential Raj ethos.Lawrence Gardens

Built primarily for the sahibs and memsahibs, the park has managed to maintain its dream-like beauty for a century and a half. The colonial maps drawn up in the mid-nineteenth century show that eastward of Charing Cross, Gardens existed on the right. In the place of the Freemasons’ Hall, there was once a ‘circular garden’; and what is now the Lahore Zoo was another park called the New Garden.

This was followed by the Agricultural and Horticultural Society Garden, which was the original name of the city’s beloved Lawrence Gardens. The Agriculture Horticulture Society of India established it in 1860 and years later, in 1904, the department of agriculture assumed maintenance responsibilities.

Since 1912, approximately seven acres of the park have been managed by the Government College, Lahore. To this day, it maintains a delightful botanical garden replete with a greenhouse and experimental fields.

The annexation of the Punjab in 1849 and the successful control of the 1857 uprising in many regions of northern India resulted in the consolidation of the British Empire. Due to its strategic location, the Punjab was central to the architecture of the colonial power. Lahore was to become a major outpost of the empire. Therefore, the sahibs had to create social and cultural spaces for themselves in otherwise unfriendly and unfamiliar surroundings. A garden in the heart of British Lahore was essential.

True to the colonial policy, the new garden would be a continuation of the Mughal tradition of creating baaghs as the aesthetic expression of self-indulgence. This project, however, was to reflect the expanse of the Empire. Thousands of saplings of different exotic species were imported from many colonies around the world. By 1860, all the necessary preconditions – such as identifying and acquiring hundreds of acres of land – had been met. Continue reading

Alfred Woolner


Alfred Woolner

Originally uploaded by yasir nisar

“Alfred Woolner was the vice chancellor of the Punjab University from 1928 to 1936. His is the only statue left of many that were positioned in front of prominent buildings during the British Raj in a wave of imperialistic civic zeal. Now, with the title of ‘colony’ no longer hanging over our heads, we are in a better position to appreciate the aesthetic value and historical importance of these effigies. That is if it’s not too late.

The statues were a significant part of my youth,” said Sajjid Abbas, a septuagenarian Lahori who knows the city like the back of his hand. “I would often walk down The Mall and take photographs of these beautiful sculptures because I knew that they would disappear one day.” There were a total of ten such statues, each narrating the grandeur and the might of British rule, said Mr Abbas, taking a walk down memory lane and relating the history of each of the sculptures. The first on Mr Abbas’s list of these “emblems of British authority” is the bronze statue of Queen Victoria that was placed in the pavilion of the assembly chambers.

Read more here: http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=story_6-8-2004_pg7_27

Lahore Museum has yet to catalogue its antqiues

Newsitem from here:

The Lahore Museum, reportedly the biggest museum of Pakistan, having a 113 year-old history has yet to have its own catalogue of antiques to ease visitors.

The foundation stone of the museum was laid down by Prince Albert Victor in 1890 and the construction work completed in 1894.It contains a huge collection of antiques related from the Stone Age to the freedom struggle of the Muslims of subcontinent. Continue reading

Lahore: Public Sculptures from the Raj

Raza Rumi 

Sheraz from Islamabad has contributed this amazing account of Lahore’s eclectic past. The influence of the British rulers resulted in erection of sculptures at public places, not an uncommon practice in the colonies. Most of these relics of the past are no more. Some have been conserved while others were removed.

Sheraz writes

“The statue of Lala Lajpat Rai (1865-1928), who, while leading a procession with Pandit Madan Mohan Malaviya to demonstrate against the Simon Commission, faced brutal baton charge and died of fatal injuries on November 17, 1928, was somewhere in the vicinity of Kim’s Gun or zamazama – the famous cannon on the Mall, Lahore. This statue is no more there.

Another statue in this area was of Sir Ganga Ram, who gave many beautiful landmarks to the city of Lahore. What happened to this statue has been narrated by Saadat Hassan Manto, the celebrated Urdu short story writer, in one of his short stories on the frenzy of communal riots of 1947. Manto writes that an inflamed mob in Lahore, after attacking a Hindu mohalla, ‘turned to attacking the statue of Sir Ganga Ram, the Hindu philanthropist. They first pelted the statue with stones; then smothered its face with coal tar. Then a man made a garland of old shoes climbed up to put it round the neck of the statue. The police arrived and opened fire. Among the injured were the fellow with the garland of old shoes. As he fell, the mob shouted: “Let us rush him to Sir Ganga Ram Hospital.”

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