As you drive through Laliani en route to Kasur from Lahore, you pass by Adday vali Maseet — Mosque of the [bus/tonga] Stand. Today, few know that it was paid for by Zaildar Sardar Anant Singh, a Bhular Jat and a rich land owner of Laliani. The land was donated by the Sardar’s kinsmen, who had converted to Islam and the Sikh paid for the building.
The following story may no longer be current in Laliani for the tellers — those who lived through the 1940s are few now — but it has been recorded by the Punjabi historian Iqbal Qaiser. It is based on interviews conducted during the last decade of the last century.
Anant Singh was a man possessed of goodness of the soul. He was the owner of a large tract of farmland and among the richest men in the district, yet his soul had the fakir’s humility. As he was one day riding his horse through his farm, he came upon an obviously newly-wedded couple walking to Laliani.
Who were they, he asked, and where were they headed? The young man replied that he, a Christian of village Katloi, was a son-in-law of Laliani and on his way with his bride to see his in-laws. Sardar Anant Singh dismounted, helped the young woman onto his horse and taking the reins led the young couple straight to his home.
There this good man gifted the couple a mare, a buffalo, material enough for a number of suits each as he would his own son-in-law and daughter on their first visit home. Then having fed them a lavish feast, he had them escorted to the bride’s family. When they who knew lived, it was said that there was scarcely a family in Laliani, regardless of their creed or caste that had not at some time or the other availed of the kindness of Anant Singh.
Now, there lived in Laliani a man called Jala (Jalal) of the caste Teli (whose grandsons I met a couple of year ago), a hoodlum who ran an evil gang of four. When the riots of August 1947 erupted, he connived with the inspector in command of the local police post. This policeman, so the tellers maintain, was of the view that all the rich land owners — mostly non-Muslims — should either be killed or expelled and their properties annexed.
And so, with evil in his heart, the inspector invited Sardar Anant Singh to the station house, ostensibly to discuss expatriation procedures for non-Muslim families. But he had arranged with Jala and his gang to lie in wait. There, right outside the police station in full view of the police force and many others who had benefited from the munificence of Anant Singh, Jala and his partner Karim Buksh attacked and slew the good Sardar.
With him gone, chaos descended upon the Sikh community. Leaderless and surrounded by mobs baying for blood, they sought refuge in the local gurdwara. Jala and Karim Buksh set the temple alight and all those who had taken refuge within perished in the flames. To have slain a man of such kindness and generosity as Sardar Anant Singh Bhular is said to have possessed, a man who had a heart of gold and whose soul was lit by divine light, must have taken a callousness and barbarity of the meanest strain.
And so, the story does not end there. Karim Buksh died in the 1980s, blind and crippled. Jala, also blind for the last two decades of his life, was thrown out of the house by his sons and died virtually in the gutter unloved and uncared for. The other two accomplices, it is related, also died in misery. All four, they say, were wracked by guilt for the crime they had committed against humanity in that insane August.
There is no medical or scientific proof of it, but I am convinced that it was the immensity of their guilt that had brought physical disability to these men. Divine retribution is a belief and a topic for teachers of religion to expound upon, but it is the realisation within of misdeed that creates hell in this life for the perpetrator.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 22nd, 2012.
Comments are moderated and generally will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive.
For more information, please see our Comments FAQ