Malerkotla district was the seat of the eponymous princely state during the British Raj. The state acceded to the union of India in 1947 and was merged with other nearby princely states to create the Patiala and East Punjab States Union (PEPSU).
When that political entity was reorganised in 1956, the territories of the erstwhile state of Malerkotla became part of Punjab. It is located on the Sangrur-Ludhiana State Highway (no. 11) and lies on the secondary Ludhiana-Delhi railway line. It is about 50 kilometres from Ludhiana and 35 kilometres from Sangrur district.
Punjab Chief Minister Capt Amarinder Singh announced on Eid (May 14) that the former princely state would be the 23rd district of the state21, the city along with some adjoining areas were carved out of Sangrur district to form the Malerkotla district.
History Of Malerkotla
Malerkotla, a Muslim majority state was established in 1454 A.D. by Sheikh Sadruddin-i-Jahan from Afghanistan, and was ruled by his Sherwani descendants. The State of Malerkotla was established in 1600 A.D. During the 1947 riots when Punjab was in flames, the State of Malerkotla did not witness a single incident of violence; through it all, it remained a lone island of peace.
The roots of communal harmony date back to 1705, when Sahibzada Zorawar Singh and Sahibzada Fateh Singh 9 and 7 year old sons of 10th Sikh Guru, Guru Gobind Singh, were ordered to be bricked alive by the governor of Sirhind Wazir Khan.
While his close relative, Sher Mohammed Khan, Nawab of Malerkotla, who was present in the court, lodged vehement protest against this inhuman act and said it was against the tenets of the Quran and Islam. Wazir Khan nevertheless had the Sahibzadas tortured and bricked into a section of wall while still alive. At this the Nawab of Malerkotla walked out of the court in protest. Guru Gobind Singh on learning of this kind and humanitarian approach had blessed the Nawab and the people of Malerkotla that the city will live in the peace and happiness . In recognition of this act, the State of Malerkotla did not witness a single incident of violence during partition.
Malerkotla had a population of 1,35,424 as of 2011 census report, Out of which Muslims form the majority numbering around 92,765 forming 68.50% of the city’s population, while Hindus are numerically 28,044 comprising 20.71 %, Sikhs are 12,864 comprising 9.5 % of the city’s population, Jains are 1,499 comprising 1.11% of the city’s population and rest are 0.18%.
The Nawab Sher Mohammad Khan Institute of Advanced Studies in Urdu, Persian and Arabic is part of Punjabi University, Patiala, and is named after one of the founders of Malerkotla State.
During the partition of India, there were no riots or bloodshed in any part of MalerKotla State. The last Nawab Iftkhar Ali Khan maintained calm and harmony during the turbulent period. He remained in India and died in the year 1982. His tomb is located in Shahi grave yard situated at Sirhandi gate, MalerKotla.
Hallmark of Communal Harmony
The mandir and masjid have shared a common wall for decades in Somsons Colony. And for years, their caretakers have greeted each other without fail on Eid and Diwali. The tradition has remained unbroken through the pandemic. Even as the second Covid wave muted Eid festivities this year, a box of sweets still quietly found its way from Malerkotla’s Aqsa Masjid to the town’s Laxmi Narayan temple with the message ‘Chand Mubarak’.
In the colony where Hindu and Sikh families are in majority, Aqsa Masjid caretaker says the community has never faced any issue.
Few kilometres away at Talaab Bazaar, prasad from shops of several Muslims owners is offered by devotees at the Hanuman temple.
At the historic Gurdwara Haa Da Naara Sahib, devotees irrespective of their faiths, prepare langar every day for Covid patients – something they have been doing since the pandemic started.
The sudden nationwide lockdown without any prior notice has put many people in a spot, leaving them stuck with no means to go back to their homes. This is the case with many students who are stuck in a Madrasa in Punjab. A gurdwara, Haa Da Naara Sahib in the Malerkotla region of the state played good samaritan and now provides food to the hungry Madrasa students.
On Eid, as CM Captain Amarinder Singh declared Malerkotla as Punjab’s 23rd district of Punjab, it was a decision welcomed by all irrespective of their faith. Miles away, Uttar Pradesh CM Yogi Adityanath found fault with it and tweeted, “Any distinction on the basis of belief and religion is contrary to the basic spirit of the Constitution of India. Presently, the formation of Malerkotla (Punjab) district is a reflection of the divisive policy of the Congress.”
Punjab Chief Minister Captain Amarinder Singh and his Uttar Pradesh counterpart Yogi Adityanath had a terse exchange over the creation of a new district in Punjab, which the saffron-robed Chief Minister of UP tweeted shows the Congress’s “divisive policy”.
Responding to Mr Adityanath, the Punjab Chief Minister in the statement today said his UP counterpart must stay out of Punjab’s affairs, “which are in much better shape than those in UP under the divisive and destructive BJP government, which has been actively promoting communal discord in the state for the past over four years.”
“What does he (Mr Adityanath) know of Punjab’s ethos or the history of Malerkotla, whose relationship with Sikhism and its Gurus was known to every Punjabi? And what does he understand of the Indian Constitution, which is being brazenly trampled every day by his own government in UP?” Mr Amarinder said.
Questioning the UP CM’s premise of divisiveness, Chetan Sharma, the priest of Laxmi Narayan temple, questioned: “If a medical college and hospital will come up in Malerkotla, will only Muslims get treatment there showing their ID cards? No, that hospital will be for all, be it Hindu, Muslim or Sikh. We, the people of Malerkotla, want development and better facilities for our town. If it is becoming a district, then facilities that will come along will be for all, not just Muslims. Our local MLA, Razia Sultana, had promised before polls that Malerkotla will be made a district. Everyone here is happy with this decision.”
A district would mean that we don’t have to travel to Sangrur for basic works. There is nothing related to a specific religion here,” says Mohammad Shabbir, caretaker, Aqsa Masjid.
Standing as a testimony of Malerkotla’s communal harmony is Gurdwara Haa Da Naara Sahib, which was built by Sikh community as a tribute to erstwhile ruler of Malerkotla Nawab Sher Mohammad Khan, who had raised his voice (‘Haa Da Naara’) against brutal execution of Chhote Saahibzaade (youngest sons of Guru Gobind Singh — Zorawar Singh (9) and Fateh Singh (6) – by Nawab of Sirhind, Wazir Khan.
“People who do not know about the glorious history of Malerkotla should not interfere. Now that it will become a district, people like us won’t have to go to Sangrur which is 35 km away for small works. We even have to pay toll tax for travelling from Malerkotla. Since the pandemic started, people here irrespective of their religion, are helping in preparing langar at the gurdwara which is delivered for Covid patients. There is hardly any person here who is unhappy about Malerkotla becoming a district,” said the gurdwara priest.
Yogi’s comments have even invited sharp reactions from his own party colleague Union Minister Som Parkash and Aam Aadmi Party MP Bhagwant Mann.
Government has announced setting up of a medical college in name of Nawab Sher Mohammad Khan for Rs 500 crore, a government college for girls, a police station managed by women staff only and restoration of Mubarak Manzil Palace for the new district.