Looting in the NWFP and Punjab: Property and Violence in the Partition of 1947

According to Police Special Branch intelligence reports, amidst the chaos of Partition, over 60,000 ounces of gold were stolen from fleeing Hindus and Sikhs in 1947. Alongside political identity and religious organisation and territorialisation, desire for wealth or property was a key trigger for the continuation of the Partition violence. This article documents organised communal violence which erupted in the NWFP and Punjab during 1946–47 using largely underutilised police and intelligence reports from the period. The empirical focus of the article is two-fold. First, to show that the intercommunity violence triggered in these provinces was organised and funded by the Muslim League through its volunteer wings, even if specific perpetrators were locals. Second, that looting was a feature of locally-rooted violence to acquire property owned by non-Muslim minorities. As well, individual motives for revenge or a desire to best one’s business rival fuelled the violence alongside ideological imperatives such as the commitment to the idea of Pakistan.

Ilyas Chattha
South Asia: Journal of South Asian Studies