Sikh Diaspora - 20th Century

20th Century

The Sikhs made tremendous contributions to Punjab from 1857 to 1947. Sikhs founded the city of Rawalpindi. Sikh agricultural and entrepreneurial skills brought prosperity to Sheikhupura, Sialkot, Jhelum, Multan, Sargodha, Gujrat, Ludhiana, Amritsar, Jullundar. Lahore, the capital of undivided Punjab, had thriving Sikh neighborhoods.

The era of peace and prosperity turned into a nightmare in 1947. The partition of Punjab between India and Pakistan was a seminal tragedy for Sikhs. Attacks were launched by Muslims on Sikh communities in villages and cities across West Punjab. Initially Sikhs thought the attacks were temporary but their intensity increased after Pakistan's independence on August 14, 1947, when the Pakistani police and military failed to protect the Sikh community. Sikhs were killed, raped, robbed, forcibly converted and deported en masse. The Sikh communities were practically wiped out from Lahore, Rawalpindi, Multan, Sialkot, Lyallpur, Jhelum, Gujrat, Sargodha, Sheikhupura and other districts of West Punjab. The birthplace of Sikhism, Nankana Sahib, was split away in West Punjab. Millions of Sikhs fled to freedom and safety in East Punjab in India. On the other hand, in East Punjab many Sikhs took revenge and slaughtered a great number of the Muslim population of Amritsar, Ludhiana, and Qadian in just three months. Other cities such as Gurdaspur, Faridkot, Ambala, Moga, Jalandhar, and Batala had large casualties against Muslims. Most of the Muslims in East Punjab were wiped out in the middle of 1948, but some converted just to stay alive. Such intense violence in East Punjab had caused many villages and cities to go through construction.

In 1960s and beyond many Sikhs migrated to the UK and North America in search of economic opportunities. Some of the Sikhs who had settled in eastern Africa were expelled by Ugandan dictator Idi Amin in 1972. Sikhs are primarily an agrarian community and with the pressures of having only a limited amount of land, high birth rates and the desire to make a better living, the male offspring of Sikh farmers were encouraged to migrate to foreign countries. Subsequently the main 'push' factor for Sikh migration has been economic with significant Sikh communities now being found in Canada, the United Kingdom, the United States, Malaysia, East Africa, Australia and Thailand.

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