"....Undettered by the ban, the Khaksars continued to assemble in Lahore and
for some days the streets of the city resounded with their steps. It was
a thrilling spectacle to watch tall, handsome youths in spotless uniforms
with sparkling spades mounted on their shoulders marching up and down the
Circular Road. Their neatly set-up camps were an attraction for the
passersby and a source of consternation for the Government. With each
passing day, the Khaksars and the Government were drawing dangerously
closer to a confrontation till on March 19, at about 11 in the morning,
a lashkar of 313 Khaksars clashed with a contingent of the
police under SSP Gainford. The jaish was formed from the finest
Khaksar men at the Uchi Masjid, inside Bhati Gate. The two contingents,
one commanded by Zaigham and the other by Inayat Shah, were to meet at
the Hira Mandi chowk. Hardly had they reached the appointed place when
the police ordered them to halt. The marching columns refused to take
note of the warning. Gainsford stepped forward and slapped Inayat Shah
in the face.
"Simultaneously, the mounted wing of the posse tried to run through the
Khaksars. They tried their spades in reply. The frightened horses took
flight with their riders. The law and order agency completely lost
control of the situation, until the special police, rushing down in a
formidable array from the steps of the nearby Fort, mowed down the crowd.
"The shooting was no less ruthless than the notorious massacre Dyer
perpetrated at Amritsar in April 1919. The Khaksars were ordered by
their commanders to break up and seek refuge wherever they could. None
the less most of them decided to die in the open rather than drag their
riddled bodies to some hiding place and die a forlorn death.
"I and a friend, Asghar, were standing outside Delhi Gate when an
acquaintance came running to tell us of the holocaust. We rushed to the
spot. It was a scene of utter desolation. The police had left and so
had the Khaksars, dead or alive. Not a soul was to be seen nearby.
Looking around, I saw a man coming timidly out of a narrow lane. He
walked up to us and took us to the blank wall against which the captured
Khaksars were made to act as sitting ducks for trigger-happy policemen.
"There was a fruit shop at the corner of the street opening upon
grave. A middle-aged man managed it. He had fled during the slaughter and
what made the tragedy unbearably poignant for him was that on return he
noticed a one-anna coin on his seat. A wounded Khaksar had dragged
himself up to the shop and lifted an orange in order to quench his
thirst. But his end came too soon and he died before he could strip the
peel from it. Nevertheless he had managed to pull the coin out of his
blood-drenched pocket and leave it for the vendor to collect.
"No less thrilling was the story of two cousins narrated to us by the
third. He had procured a seat in the balcony of a prostitute to watch the
lashkar marching up the bazaar. No sooner had the Bazzar
Hakiman column arrived beneath that a great commotion endured.
Presently, a burst of rifle-fire rent the air. I peeped through the
chink of a wooden plank and located one of my cousins writing in blood.
'Water' he said, while gasping for breath. The other cousin came running
upstairs and shouted, 'where is the pitcher'? For a fraction of second,
he stood motionless, in perplexity, absolutely surprised on seeing me
there. But he did not talk to me and when I, along with other members of
the household, tried to stop him from returning to the scene of carnage,
he raised his spade in menacing manner. We funked. Like a flash of
lightening he ran down into the street. But before he could hand over
the glass of water to his dying cousin, a bullet pierced through his
youthful frame. He staggered for a few steps and dropped dead. Their
bodies were hurriedly removed, leaving a pool of blood to be evaporated by
the mid-March sun into crimson flakes. He always appeared to me as a
lover of death. I remember whenever I tried to remind him that his
movement was pursuing a deadly course he always smiled and said: 'What a
poor creature you are! I wish that people knew how sweet it is to die
"Immigiately after the clash, Lahore was placed virtually under
laws: censorship of the news, no processions, no speeches, no mention of
the organisation which was declared unlawful; the dead were not to be
mentioned as martyrs or the living as heroes; the newspaper columns were
to carry only the government version.
"A gloom hung over the city. Lahore lay utterly sullen under this
blanket. This 'jolly city' was expected to present its gayest face to
the guests drawn from the farthest end of the sub-continent for the
League session which by all indications was going to be one of the most
momentous in Indian annals. It could not. Lahore was caught between the
gaiety of Minto Park and the gloom of Hira Mandi. To be torn by two
opposite sentiments equally overpowering was an unprecedented expeience
"The Khaksars were unique movement. The police firing upon them was not
an unprecedented occurrence. Other movements, too, had been subjected to
such firings. But what was really unique was that while others were
taken mostly unawares, the Khaksars knew that a clash was inevitable.
They came in formation with their shrouds wrapped round their heads,
remained locked in battle till their commanders ordered them to
disperse. They saw heads rolling around them, but they did not flinch. ...."
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