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India: True tales from the Partition

Tuesday 24 August 2021, by siawi3

Source: https://www.dawn.com/news/1640588/true-tales-from-the-partition

True tales from the Partition

Gulrukh Tausif

Published August 14, 2021

The Partition of British India into two separate states of Pakistan and India, on 14th and 15th August, 1947, respectively, was a tumultuous time in history that caused communal riots, mass casualties and a colossal wave of migration. About 16 million people were displaced, with Muslims migrating towards the newly-established state of Pakistan, and Hindus and Sikhs in the direction of India. They travelled on foot, bullock carts and trains to their new countries.

Even though we study about this era in school and our history lessons and social studies books are full of chapters about the Independence move­ment, it is an entirely different experience listening to the tales of the Partition, from the people who actually witnessed the birth of Pakistan.

Here are a few precious stories from our elders who experienced the momentous times and are eye witnesses to the events as they unfolded.

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Shamim-ur-Rehman

I was 10 years old at the time of the Partition. Before the Partition, I used to go to a school in Aligarh like any other normal boy. We used to hear about the unstable political situation across the subcontinent and major incidents such as the Calcutta killings over the radio. My father was a member of the Muslim League and met many important leaders during his time as the secretary of Allahabad chapter. I once attended a passionate speech by Sardar Abdur Rab Nishtar, a prominent member of the Muslim League.

The time of the Partition was a very terrifying one. We used to keep piles of stones with us in case we were attacked by mobs. We had to leave all our belongings, such as furniture and books, behind when migrating, and carried only basic necessities, such as clothes and some food.

First, we tried to reserve seats on a plane from Bombay (Mumbai), but a huge number of Muslims were also trying to leave. Our belongings, jewellery and money, were stolen as it was a time of great chaos. The journey lasted long: through the deserts (where we travelled on camels) and mountains, to Hyderabad, and then by train to Karachi.

Due to a huge influx of refugees into Karachi, the population increased vastly. Often refugee families had to share one room or live inside tents next to the road. We then moved into quarters made of aluminium, which gave protection from rain and wind and granted some privacy, but the temperatures inside these structures were unbearable in hot summer days.

Eventually, Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan provided some flats to emigrants in Model Colony, in 1953. The only means of transport back then was a cycle or walking, so I had to traverse almost 10 miles on foot just to reach school.

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Abdus Sattar

At the time of the Partition, I was seven years old. I was too young to understand what was happening, but kept hearing that Pakistan was getting made. My father served in Hong Kong Police, but, being the only son, he was asked to come back to look after his fields in East Punjab.

When the Partition movement gained momentum, Muslims started becoming fearful. Instead of sleeping in the house, we slept in the fields. This went on for about two months. But things started getting worse and our village mosque was demolished.

Later at night, it was decided that we will migrate with other Muslims of our area. We put our belongings in a ‘gadda’ (cart pulled by oxen) and started moving towards Malir Kotla, a Muslim state which was 20 miles away from our village. Muslims from other villages also joined and a small caravan was formed.

The next day, in the evening we were attacked. Many people were martyred. My father took charge of the terrified group which now consisted mainly of women and children. We were told not to stop and just move on, hiding in the crops along the way. We met a Sikh man who had served in the Hong Kong Police along with my father. He told us to hide in the fields which he would guard.

We spent a part of night there and then started moving towards Malir Kotla. We used to walk about 15 miles daily and sleep at night. After we reached Malir Kotla, about two months later we were moved to Pakistan under supervision of the Gorkha Forces.

We stayed in refugee camps in many cities, but finally got some land in Liaquatpur and settled there.

Message: One should think positive and should never lose hope for good prospects in life. Allah helps those who believe in Him, work hard and look up to Him for help.

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Tayyaba Amanullah

I was about 12 years old at the time of the Partition and we lived in Sialkot. Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs had coexisted peacefully in this area, but with the Partition drawing near and independence movement reaching its apex, the relations became hostile.

There were mass migrations and Muslim refugees poured into Pakistan leaving behind homes, families, property and cattle. Whatever money and belongings they carried was stolen by dacoits on the way. There were many harrowing tales of loot and murder. But no matter what difficulties people faced, they all believed that this was necessary for their future generations.

There were many movements to help the refugees and people donated very generously. I remember a donation camp was set up and women took off their gold jewellery and donated them.

Message: My message to today’s youth is to realise the true cost of freedom that was paid by their ancestors. They should work hard to make this “Pak Sar Zameen” an epitome of peace and justice and a land that was Iqbal’s dream, and Quaid-i-Azam’s vision and what the Muslims in 1940s struggled for.

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Dr Abdul Rehman

I was six at the time of the Partition. We lived in a village near Abbottabad. Many Hindus lived in the area and they were quite well off. But when the independence movement started, most of them left with their belongings.

Many refugees also came to the area and were allotted lands nearby. But most stayed only for a few weeks before moving away to bigger cities and towns. In the village, they were housed in common areas called “hujras”. People treated them as guests and helped mostly by providing produce from the lands.

Message: Work hard and cherish this blessing that has been bestowed upon you.

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Arif Muhammad Khan

I was a young man at the time of the Partition. I remember Quaid-i-Azam used to address crowds consisting of thousands of Indian Muslims. Many could not even understand a word of English, but such was his personality that there would be pin drop silence while he spoke about his vision of a separate homeland for the Muslims. Quaid-i-Azam’s speech was usually followed by oration by Nawab Bahadur Yar Jung who spoke very eloquently in Urdu and would urge the Muslims to unite and struggle for a separate country. .

The Partition was a time of great chaos and bloodshed. There were riots everywhere. When the process of migration started, the ships that had maximum capacity of 1500-2000 passengers carried up to 4500 people. People travelled on the top of trains and those who could not find any vehicle travelled hundreds of miles on foot.

It was a common perception in India that Pakistan would collapse in a few months and there would be combined India once again. But people worked with great determination. Offices were setup under trees, with tables and chairs borrowed from nearby homes. Thorns were used as pins and the inside part of used envelopes were used as writing pads. The initial two-three years of survival was nothing less of a miracle and was only possible because of untiring and relentless hard work of the Muslim leaders and the people who believed in their cause.

Message: My message to the youth is to avoid lying. This is the basis of many bad practices in our society today. There should be no contradiction between your words and actions. Do not look for shortcuts like cheating or bribery in life.

This 14th August, let us sit down with our elderly grandparents and relatives who attended rallies and were part of the independence movement. Let us hear stories about Quaid-i-Azam, Liaquat Ali Khan, Fatima Jinnah, Sardar Abdur Rab Nishtar and numerous other leaders who struggled tirelessly for a separate homeland for the Muslims of the subcontinent. Let us record their stories and recollections whether in journal form or on camera, because these voices are now very few indeed. Let us preserve their memories and sacrifices so that our future generation would know that huge sacrifices of lives, properties, lands and honour formed the foundation of our country.

Published in Dawn, Young World, August 14th, 2021