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Pakistan Murdabad

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Pakistan Murdabad was a Hindu-Urdu slogan raised at the time of the Partition of India in 1947, used in the context of widespread ethnic violence in the Punjab. The slogan was coined in response to Mohammad Ali Jinnah's popular slogan "Pakistan Zindabad" ("Long live Pakistan").

Over the years, the phrase has appeared in the notable literature of South Asia, in the works of authors such as Sadat Hassan Manto, Bapsi Sidhwa, and Khushwant Singh. In the months immediately following the partition, the slogan was sometimes raised in the teeming refugee camps in Pakistan to express frustration with- or protest against the new governmental authorities.

The slogan was sometimes chanted during acts of anti-Muslim violence in the Punjab, and as with much political speech made in a highly-charged atmosphere of ethnic tension, contributed towards the provocation of reprisals. It translates literally to "Death to Pakistan,"[1][2] or, more generally, to "Down with Pakistan."[3]


Rural Sikhs in a long ox-cart train heading towards India. Margaret Bourke-White. Partition of India, 1947. The migration was a "massive exercise in human misery," wrote Bourke-White later


According to the Oxford Hindi English Dictionary, the Wikipedia:Hindi-Urdu Wikipedia:interjection "murdabad," a Wikipedia:compound word consisting of headword "murda," from the Persian adjective "murda" (dead),[3] and Persian precative suffix "-bad," (may it be),[2] translates as "death to!,"[2] "down with!" or "damnation to!"[3]


File:M.A. Jinnah, Master Tara Singh, and Khizar Hayat Tiwana.jpg

The slogan was raised by Sikh leader Wikipedia:Master Tara Singh in March, 1947, soon after the Unionist Party cabinet of Wikipedia:Malik Khizar Hayat Tiwana resigned in the Punjab, and immediately after it was announced that the Muslim League would take over the reins of provincial government.[4][5] The resignation of the Khizar Tiwana government, composed of Muslim, Hindu, and Sikhs, followed the unrest caused by the call for the Wikipedia:Direct Action Day by the Muslim League the previous year.[6][7]

According to historian Wikipedia:Stanley Wolpert, writing in A New History of India,[4]

While Mountbatten talked in Delhi, the Punjab burst into flames of communal rioting and destruction. Though 56 percent of its some thirty million inhabitants were Muslim, the Punjab had been administered by a precarious Unionist coalition of Hindus, Sikhs, and non-League Muslims under Khizr Hayat Khan until his resignation in March. The League was then asked to form its own ministry, under the Khan of Mamdot. Master Tara Singh, bearded leader of the militant Sikhs, called for direct action by his khalsa against the League at this time, igniting the powder keg of repressed violence that set the Punjab ablaze with his cry of "Pakistan Murdabad" ("Death to Pakistan"). Tara Singh and his followers were demanding a Sikh nation of their own, Sikhistan, and by demonstrating their willingness to die in defense of their homeland, they sought to prove the validity of their claim. Amritsar and Lahore became centers of carnage, while all of the major cities of the Punjab and much of its peasant countryside witnessed murders, arson, looting, and street fights throughout the last four fateful months of British rule.[4]

Historian Neeti Nair (in her book Changing Homelands: Hindu Politics and the Partition of India, Harvard University Press, 2011) writes:"[8]

... that evening in Lahore, Master Tara Singh held a sword unsheathed in his hand and declared: "O Hindus and Sikhs! Be ready for self-destruction like the Japanese and the Nazis. ... Dismissing these as "pompous" and "empty threats" did not detract from the power the Master had over certain members of his own community. Screaming Pakistan murdabad (death to Pakistan) was tantamount to "hurling a matchstick into a room full of explosive gas."[8]

The quote in Neeti Nair's book above, is in turn taken from author and historian Wikipedia:Khushwant Singh's Lahore, Partition, and Independence.[9] Says Singh:

Suddenly riots broke out in Lahore. They were sparked off by the Sikh leader Master Tara Singh making a melodramatic gesture outside the Punjab Legislative Assembly building. Inside the Chamber, the Chief Minister, Khizar Havat Tiwana, had succumbed to pressure from the Muslim League and resigned. It was now clear that the Muslims of the Punjab had also opted for Pakistan. As soon as the session was over, Master Tara Singh drew his kirpan out of its sheath and yelled 'Pakistan murdabad' (death to Pakistan). It was like hurling a lighted matchstick into a room lull of explosive gas. Communal riots broke out all over the province.[9]

According to historian Penderel Moon,[5]

With Khizar's resignation the pent-up excitement of the past weeks broke loose. Though there was little or no chance now of the League being able to form a Ministry, the Governor had to go through the motions of asking them to do so before himself assuming control of the administration. The mere rumour of a League Ministry was sufficient to evoke demonstrations by the minority communities. ... The Sikh leader, Master Tara Singh, raised the slogan 'Pakistan Murdabad"1 and brandishing a sword shouted, 'Raj karega Khalsa, aqi rehega na koi'.2 This foolhardy bravado brought at once its own nemesis. It touched off violent communal rioting throughout the province in which Hindus and Sikhs were far the worst sufferers. The first outbreak took place in Lahore on March 4th immediately after Master Tara Singh's ill-timed vauntings. It was followed in the next couple of days by rioting in Multan, Rawalpindi and Amritsar, and minor disturbances in other towns. Footnotes: 1. Down with (death to) Pakistan. 2 The pure (Sikhs) will rule; no resister will remain. (A well-known saying of Guru Gobind Singh, the tenth and last Sikh Guru.)[5]

According to historian Ian Talbot and Darshan Singh Tatla, "This episode, which followed the resignation of the Khizr government, is often said to have precipitated the outbreak of communal violence in Lahore, which then spread to Amritsar, and westwards to the Rawalpindi Division, in March 1947."[10]

In his 1948 report on the turmoil in the Punjab, historian B. R. Nanda reported,[11] "The Muslim intelligentsia was convinced at the time by the press and politicians that the Sikhs were gratuitously provocative to the Muslims. There are various versions of the Sikh leaders' speeches; slogans of Pakistan Murdabad were alleged to have been raised and naked swords rattled in public. There is no doubt that many Sikh leaders have shown no sense of publicity; their utterances have been lacking in restraint and at least some of these utterances have been capable of being exploited by opponents to show them up as aggressors.[11]"

Its coining prompted by Sikhs' fear of Muslim domination, the slogan was also served as a counterpoint to Wikipedia:Mohammad Ali Jinnah's popular slogan "Wikipedia:Pakistan Zindabad" ("Long live Pakistan"). Historian Wikipedia:Lawrence James, writes in The Rise and Fall of the British Empire,[12]

Fear was greatest in the Punjab, home to a substantial portion of India's five-and-a-half million Sikhs (one in six of the province's population), which was to be split between India and Pakistan. The Sikhs rejected Muslim domination and answered Jinnah's newly-coined slogan Pakistan Zindabad! (Long Live Pakistan) with Pakistan Murdabad! (Death to Pakistan). By late spring, the Punjab was wracked by massacres, counter-massacres, looting and arson. Their heritage of Muslim persecution and their historic reaction to it gave the Sikhs a peculiar resilience, and a powerful urge to seek revenge.[12]

The slogan was dreaded by the Muslims, and its public chanting by the Sikhs provoked Muslim reprisals. According to historian Eric Pullin,[13]

In February 1947, riots between Muslims and Sikhs occurred throughout Punjab. Meanwhile, having boxed himself in politically, Tara Singh resorted to demagoguery. On March 11, he sought to mobilize Sikhs to "fight" for a homeland of "pure Sikhs" with the blood-chilling cry "Pakistan Murdabad" ("death to Pakistan"). In March, Muslim gangs turned Tara Singh's words against him and massacred thousands of Sikhs in the Rawalpindi region. They argued that Tara Singh's call for the rule of "pure Sikhs" and the destruction of the Muslim League justified the murder of several thousand Sikhs. Fearing further massacres, 80,000 Sikh refugees poured into east Punjab, the part eventually to be controlled by India. Despite their own local perspectives, many Sikhs believed that the Muslim League had organized paramilitary groups to harass Sikhs. In particular, they accused the Muslim League Guards of perpetrating the massacres. In addition, because the massacres had occurred under British rule, the Sikhs blamed the British for conspiring with the murderers. In turn, many Sikhs joined gangs organized with the help of Indian army veterans. As tensions rose between Muslims and Sikhs, the rhetoric of Tara Singh became increasingly incendiary. However, the more the leadership advocated violence against Muslims, the more Sikhs suffered.[13]

Wikipedia:Time Magazine in an article, "Foreign News: Zindabad & Murdabad," published in the week of 17 March 1947, reported[14]:

The Punjab, athwart the historic northern invasion route, has long been India's political thermometer. Last week it read "high fever." In Lahore, Amritsar, Rawalpindi and over the intervening countryside, Moslems, Sikhs and Hindus slew and burned in wholesale lawlessness unsurpassed in British India in 90 years. The Punjab riots ended a period of peace that has been jittery ever since the Moslem League's Mohamed Ali Jinnah spurned participation with the All-India Congress in the Constituent Assembly (TIME, Feb. 10). The bearded, sword-carrying Sikhs sided with the Hindus, eventually exceeded them in uncompromising denunciation of the Moslem cry for Pakistan (a separate Moslem state). Not until the British last week proclaimed "Governor's Rule," and flew in substantial troop reinforcements, did the carnage begin to abate in the Punjab. By then, uncountable hundreds were dead, hundreds more were injured, and thousands of buildings had been smashed or burned. The riots came in a moment of governmental vacuum, after the resignation of Malik Khizar Hayat Khan Tiwana's coalition government. The issue was purely and simply Pakistan. The Moslems shouted "Pakistan Zindabad!" (Up with Pakistan!). The Hindus and Sikhs answered back: "Pakistan Murdabad!" (Death to Pakistan!). Then the knives began to flash."[14]

Appearance in literatureEdit

The phrase "Pakistan Murdabad" has appeared in the notable literature of South Asia. Urdu author Wikipedia:Sadat Hassan Manto mentions the phrase in a story, "Toba Tek Singh," which appears in many literary collections. Manto writes:

Most of the inmates appeared to be dead set against the entire operation. They simply could not understand why they were being forcibly removed, thrown into buses and driven to this strange place. There were slogans of 'Pakistan Zindabad' and 'Pakistan Murdabad', followed by fights.[15][16][17][18]

Author Wikipedia:Bapsi Sidhwa mentions the phrase in her novel Wikipedia:Cracking India. Sidhwa writes[19]:

The Sikhs milling about in a huge blob in front wildly wave and clash their swords, kirpans and hockey sticks, and punctuate his shrieks with roars: "Pakistan Murdabad! Death to Pakistan! ... And the Muslims shouting: "So? We'll play Holi-with-their-blood! Ho-o-o-li with their blo-o-o-d!" And the Holi festival of the Hindus and Sikhs coming up in a few days, when everybody splatters everybody with colored water and colored powders and laughs and romps... And instead the skyline of the old walled city ablaze, and people splattering each other with blood! And Ice-candy-man hustling Ayah and me up the steps of his tenement in Bhatti Gate, saying: "Wait till you see Shalmi burn!"[19]

The phrase has also appeared in collections of eye witness accounts. In Borders & Boundaries: Women in India's Partition, a woman, Kamila, remembers:[20]

I've never been able to visit Pakistan again but my older sister visited Lahore. Because Barkat is there, for us Pakistan is inhabited. In 1947 when my brother got married his baraat went to Lyallpur and Barkat went along. Rioting had begun so there was curfew in the city. We had to have passes to go through and tell everyone that Barkat was Barkat Ram! He was a League member, a big supporter of Jinnah's. We knew that, of course. When he came over my father would joke, "You'll only get a paratha if you curse Jinnah!" So he would say, "Pakistan, murdabad! Jinnah, murdabad! Now give me my paratha!" . . . Those were beautiful days, and it was a beautiful relationship. Now, after Partition, after 1984, where is my country? In a way, my country is where I was born, which is Pakistan.

In 1947: A Memoir of Indian Independence,[21] author M. Zahir described the slogan as a battle cry for revenge accompanying anti-Muslim violence.

Some scenes are frozen in my memory ... three or four Sikhs with kirpans entered. My mother stepped up to one of the Sikhs, with both hands raised in supplication, "Bhai, why are you killing us?" she asked. "We have done no harm to you." "We know that," replied the Sikh. "Our people had done no harm when they were mercilessly butchered in Lahore and Rawalpindi." ... We are not maan de bete (son's of our mothers) if we don't take revenge." "Pakistan Murdabad (Death to Pakistan)," he shouted at the top of his voice, raising his gleaming sword high. Rashida who was standing next to my mother said to the Sikhs, "But we have nothing to do with Pakistan. We did not even want it created. We have always believed in one Hindustan." Rashida was a striking-looking girl of 20. Two Sikhs now grabbed Rashida, one arm each, and told her to come out of the carriage with them. My mother, fearing the worst, grabbed Rashida and tried to stop the Sikhs from taking her. Rashida looked back at my mother. "Don't worry mother, I will be all right," she said. They pulled her down on to the platform and we saw Sikhs with swords and spears gathering around her and walking her away. That was the last we saw of Rashida.[21]

Transformed and figurative usageEdit

Even in the months immediately following the partition, the slogan was being used to register frustration with or protest against the new authorities in Pakistan. Penderel Moon, in Divide and Quit, describes the seething frustration in the refugee camps in West Punjab in the immediate aftermath of independence:[22]

The West Punjab Government, erroneously thinking that most of the available land had already been allotted to bona fide refugees, were at a loss how to empty these camps and were disturbed because in some of them there had been minor demonstrations and cries of 'Pakistan Murdabad" and ' Jinnah Murdabad'. They appealed to the Pakistan Government for assistance and early in December the latter called a conference in Lahore to consider the whole problem. At this conference a general, if cynical, hope was expressed—though not officially recorded—that with the onset of the really cold weather, due in two to three weeks' time, a good proportion of the refugees would die of pneumonia and so relieve us, partially at least, of our difficulties. But we could not rely on these forces of nature, nor in the event did they give us much aid—the refugees proved remarkably tough.[22]

Yasmin Khan, in The Great Partition: The Making of India and Pakistan (Yale University Press, 2007), describes the raising of the slogan in the teeming refugee camps and the pressure felt by the new government authorities in Pakistan:[23]

In Pakistan, the League's treatment of refugees was soon causing headaches for the leading national party, which feared for its electoral future in the face of such a human catastrophe. The Governor of West Punjab was before long reporting on refugee demonstrations against the government in which the treacherous slogan 'Pakistan Murdabad', Death to Pakistan, was shouted, and he told Jinnah that 'I am told that Shaukat [Shaukat Hyat Khan, Minister for Revenue] is afraid to show his face in the Muslim refugee camp here'.[23]

Earlier, in Bengal, in the mid-1940s, the slogan had become a part of the propaganda war between Muslims and Hindus. Historian Suranjan Das, in Communal riots in Bengal, 1905–1947 (Oxford, 1991), writes:[24]

In 1926 the Muslim rioters had raised religious and communal cries but in 1941 and 1946 they were shouting Pakistan ki jai (Victory to Pakistan). Similarly, the Hindu crowd now cried Pakistan Murdabad (Death to Pakistan), Akhand Hindusthan ki jai (Victory for Undivided India). This period of propaganda warfare was interestingly ... matched by a transformation in the character of the Hindu-Muslim leadership. Initiatives for the mobilisation and direction of violence no longer came chiefly from local religious and other influential figures, but from such political personalities as members of the District Boards, leaders of the Muslim League, Hindu Mahasabha and the Congress.[24]


  1. DeReouen, Karl; Heo, U. K. (editors), Civil Wars of the World: Major Conflicts Since World War II, ABC-CLIO, pp. 420–, Template:Citation/identifier,, retrieved 24 July 2012  Quote: Glossary: "Pakistan Murdabad (death to Pakistan), a phrase used by Master Tara Singh and his followers."
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 McGregor, Ronald Stuart (1997), The Oxford Hindi-English Dictionary, Oxford University Press, p. 723, Template:Citation/identifier, 
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 McGregor, Ronald Stuart (1997), The Oxford Hindi-English Dictionary, Oxford University Press, p. 824, Template:Citation/identifier, 
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Wolpert, Stanley A. (2004), A new history of India, New York: Oxford University Press, p. 347, Template:Citation/identifier,, retrieved 21 July 2012 
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 Moon, Penderel (1962), Divide and Quit, University of California Press, p. 77, GGKEY:4N8AYYFTYFJ,, retrieved 23 July 2012 
  6. Vohra, Ranbir (2001), The Making of India: A Historical Survey, M.E. Sharpe, pp. 177–, Template:Citation/identifier,, retrieved 19 July 2012 
  7. Singh, Anita Inder (2002), "The Origins of the Partition of India 1936–1947", in Mushrul Hasan, The Partition Omnibus, Delhi: Oxford University Press, p. 218, Template:Citation/identifier,, retrieved 19 July 2012  Quote: The attitude of the provincial Congress and Sikh leaders was provocative and hysterical. But it was explicable because the League's attitude during its agitation against the Khizar coalition was one of arrogance towards the minorities and it had never given them any indication of what Pakistan meant or what it might offer them in return for support. The League, as Jenkins pointed out, had also set a foreboding precedent by overthrowing a popular ministry by force, and, after the announcement of 20 February, had made every suggestion that it would capture the Punjab by any means. On 4 March Hindu and Sikh students took out a procession through the main part of Lahore shouting "Pakistan Murdabad", "Jinnah Murdabad" and according to Dawn "Allaho-Akbar Murdabad". Rioting broke out in Lahore and Multan, and Khizar resigned as caretaker Prime Minister, chiefly because his ministry could not control the situation.
  8. 8.0 8.1 Nair, Neeti (2011), Changing Homelands: Hindu Politics and the Partition of India, Harvard University Press, Template:Citation/identifier,, retrieved 24 July 2012 
  9. 9.0 9.1 Khushwant Singh (2005), "Lahore, Partition and Independence", in Bapsi Sadhwa, City of sin and splendour: writings on Lahore, Penguin Books, p. 202,, retrieved 24 July 2012 
  10. Talbot, Ian; Tatla, Darshan Singh (2006), Epicentre of violence: partition voices and memories from Amritsar, Permanent Black, p. 167, Template:Citation/identifier,, retrieved 21 July 2012 
  11. 11.0 11.1 Nanda, B. R. (1948), Punjab uprooted: a survey of the Punjab riots and rehabilitation problems, Hind Kitabs, p. 17, 
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  13. 13.0 13.1 Pullin, Eric, "India: 1946–1949", in Karl DeRouen, Civil Wars of the World: Major Conflicts since World War II, U. K. Heo, ABC-CLIO, p. 411, Template:Citation/identifier, 
  14. 14.0 14.1 Neville, Robert; Editors (17 March 1947), Foreign News:Zindabad & Murdabad, Time Magazine,,9171,793406,00.html 
  15. Manto, Saadat Hasan (1997), Mottled dawn: fifty sketches and stories of partition, Penguin Books, p. 8, 
  16. Rushdie, Salman; West, Elizabeth (1997), Mirrorwork: 50 Years of Indian Writing 1947-1997, Macmillan, p. 31, Template:Citation/identifier,, retrieved 24 July 2012 
  17. Singh, Khushwant; Sahni, Bhisham; Manto, Saadat Hasan (2002), Memories of madness: stories of 1947, Penguin, p. 523, Template:Citation/identifier,, retrieved 24 July 2012 
  18. Trivedi, Harish; Allen, Richard (2000), Literature & Nation: Britain and India, 1800-1990, Routledge, p. 355, Template:Citation/identifier,, retrieved 24 July 2012 
  19. 19.0 19.1 Bapsi Sidhwa (2006), Cracking India: A Novel, Milkweed Editions, pp. 143–144, Template:Citation/identifier,, retrieved 24 July 2012 
  20. Menon, Ritu; Bhasin, Kamla (1 May 1998), Borders & Boundaries: Women in India's Partition, Rutgers University Press, pp. 247-248, Template:Citation/identifier,, retrieved 24 July 2012 
  21. 21.0 21.1 Zahir, M. (2009), 1947: A Memoir of Indian Independence, Trafford Publishing, p. 84, Template:Citation/identifier,, retrieved 19 July 2012 
  22. 22.0 22.1 Moon, Penderel (1962), Divide and Quit, University of California Press, pp. 256–,, retrieved 24 July 2012 
  23. 23.0 23.1 Khan, Yasmin (2007), The Great Partition: The Making of India and Pakistan, Yale University Press, pp. 336–, Template:Citation/identifier,, retrieved 24 July 2012 
  24. 24.0 24.1 Das, Suranjan (1991), Communal riots in Bengal, 1905-1947, Oxford University Press, p. 211,, retrieved 24 July 2012 

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