Reliving August 14, 1947 ‘The Pains of Partition’

Sunny Dua
“It was a race against time. We were supposed to cross undefined border in shortest possible time to save our lives forget about valuables that we had already left back home in newly created Pakistan. Not knowing how and where have the new boundaries been redrawn and when we will hit that particular imaginary line; we were supposed to run, walk or even crawl till someone confirmed we were in India and in safe hands. This was what partition was all about for Bimla Devi who still remembers “Pains of Partition”.
Brahm Dev Khajuria – “Every year when India celebrates Independence Day, tears roll down my cheeks on recollecting each and every detail about leaving my richness only to work as labourer to support my family on this side of the fence. Several people were unable to carry sick, infirm and children with them while running for their lives. They had no other option than to abandon them in fields to die and not to be traced ever again. August 14 of every year brings in that pain with it and continues to haunt me even today”.
“That must be ‘Partition’ for millions but for a chosen few like us it was ‘Separation’; reminder of which still pains me”. These gory tales of Separation have been passed on to me from my father and to my children from me. Now this third generation is able to recall those moments with precision even without having experienced the same. They are still living with ‘Pain of Partition’ that their grandparents had experienced, says Khajuria who was born in June 1932 in village Ambaryala in Tehsil Bhimbar of district Mirpur, Pakistan.
For Choudhary Bashir Ahmad (80) ‘Partition’ made them aliens in their own land. Those who were part and parcel of their life were now after that life. It will be wrong to paint everyone with same brush as many helped us as well yet those few days made our families play hide and seek with ‘life and death’. Partition proved ‘catastrophic’ to us in our own motherland. “Our families were neither willing to go to Pakistan nor were we provided any security but left to fend for our lives”, he recalls.
Gujjar families like that of Choudhary Bashir Ahmad were left with just the strength to save their lives which also ran short at one given point of time and several family members were killed, their houses burnt in brazen daylight and people left to take shelter in jungles to save their lives. Still worst was when ponds were poisoned so that those in lurch of water are killed. “This was the price that we were made to pay for just because we belonged to a particular community and India was divided on the same lines as well”, he recalls.
Today when India celebrates its 69th year of Independence, nothing has changed when it comes to hatred. Countries continue to blame each other, communities accuse each other and individuals still have trust deficit but the fact remains that damages were suffered by each one living on either sides of the fence. While the blame game of arson, loot and murders is still on there is no denying the fact that ‘weak’ and ‘minorities’ in dominated areas of both sides of the border were made soft targets and that blood is still on many hands.
Many Newspapers had published the story under Headline “Birth of Indian Freedom” but no one ever cared to acknowledge that this Freedom came at a cost. Though nothing matches a Free Nation yet the pain that people suffered is difficult to weave in words even today. It was August 14th, 1947 when British India was officially sliced into two nations triggering largest displacement of human population in the history of the world wherein about 14.5 million people crossed the borders that were not even known to them.
Many were pushed on other side of the fence just because they were Hindus, Sikhs or Muslims and were told that politically divided land and not their birth place was their homeland. People like Choudhary Bashir Ahmad, Bramh Dev Khajuria and Bimla Devi or Sardar Balbir Singh who have sharp memories of partition know that lines were not drawn on piece of paper or land but on hearts of those people who until then were living in harmony and their first collective war against freedom from British Imperialism had no boundaries.
While freedom fighters like Ram Prasad Bismil, Ashfaqulla Khan and Roshan Singh were hanged in India (Now), revolutionary Bhagat Singh was hanged in Lahore jail (Now Pakistan). Walls of Hatred that were created to appease communities on religious lines witnessed severest of bloodbath that was the outcome of absurd massacre. Several hundred people were killed on either side just because they wanted to reach their homeland crossing innumerable hurdles and journeys of several hundred remained unfinished.
Before partition Bimla Devi lived happily with her extended family in Mirpur Chowk and was studying in fifth standard when her parents buried some valuables underneath the ground before fleeing their home. Recalling those believed to be horrifying days she says, “People didn’t leave Mirpur till last minute as they were told that this particular portion is going to stay in India and was safe. It was only when neighbours told them that from this day onward Pakistan flag will have a crescent moon and your flag a Chakra, people realised that it’s not safe to stay back in Mirpur and left the town in haste”.
After attacks by Muslims we stayed in our maternal grandparents house in second locality for eight days but when they started burning homes and killing people a final call was given to flee Mirpur. From that day onward it was a journey through villages, forests, roads, ditches and unknown and unfamiliar lands towards that boundary which was marked on maps and was unknown to us. After having travelled through forests for two days we reached Kasgumma where our group was attacked and several of us killed.
Many of us fall prey to invites by local villagers who on the pretext of giving food killed them. Scenes of children sucking milk from the breasts of their dead mothers were horrifying but no one was ever willing, caring or daring enough to stop for anyone’s help. Thereafter we reached Sarya village in Nowshehra after travelling on foot for seven days without food and water.
“Aeroplanes used to throw food packets for refuges and those packets guided us to border. It was only when someone told us that we were in Jammu that our race against time finished. Several girls in Alibeg area of Pakistan were massacred or taken away by attackers, the scene of which still reminds of that bloody partition”, says Bimla Devi. Since we were on a run and not able to carry my infant sister, it was suggested to leave her behind but then my brother gathered some strength and decided to carry her while fleeing to India. This was how she was saved, she recalls.
‘At Talab Khatikan several Muslim women used to weep for hours as their families were brutally killed by Hindus living on this side of the fence. At Bawa area several Gujjars were killed and information that reached us used to make us shiver. Many girls were also taken away by Sikhs and Hindus though major impact of partition was felt in Punjab. This was nothing but loot and arson herein Jammu. Jammu known as City of Temples was in distress where graveyard was all sticking with bodies of people killed in mayhem. Limbs of people were scattered all over and it was a free for all situation in a town that we had come to live in’, Bimla Devi said.
Born and brought up in village Raika of Bawa in 1936 area Ch Bashir Ahmad (79) used to study in fifth standard under a Peepal Tree and Master Abdul Aziz and another teacher Lakam Chand used to teach him. Having sharp memory of Partition, he recalls that those who arrived from Pakistan were joined by some local goons who then unleashed a terror in the area. Jathas (Groups) that moved from Pakistan to India joined by some locals started killing Muslims.
“They even didn’t spare those who at that time had gone to supply milk in the city and were massacred in river Tawi. My father gathered his family and we all moved to thick jungles of Surinsar. A Police officer Raja Sobat Ali who was trying to save fleeing Muslims was shot dead by some other people in uniform probably to avenge killings of Hindus in Pakistan. There was a virtual mayhem in Jammu until we were all made to gather at a place now (Gole Market). Instead of lending a helping hand, we were fired upon and my father’s brother was also killed in that disorder”, recalls Choudhary Bashir.
He said, ‘my sister was feeding her child when a bullet hit her and she died on the spot. At one given point of time I overheard my father telling someone that the then Maharaja wanted us all to be sent to Pakistan for our safety but Gujjars in large number never wanted to flee the state. We stayed back but paid a heavy price to be in our homeland. Our people were massacred, cattle killed, houses burnt, articles looted and we were made to stay in jungles without food and water for days together’. The entire city had gone virtually mad over partition and several people were trying to avenge killings of Hindus in Pakistan while others were into loot and arson just because law and order situation had slipped out of the hands of rulers.
Choudhary Bashir Ahmad also remembers his community having gathered near a pond in Digiana. Scared and shocked people there were unable to take water from the only available source as someone had mixed poison in it. As if this was not enough an epidemic struck the area and we were shifted to Eidgah area of Jammu city where the local administration provided us some rice and water for our sustenance. The race for survival never ended here and some Hindus attacked us in the night there as well after which we rushed towards Christian Graveyard.
‘Several Muslim families travelled along the bank of River Tawi to reach safe places but were occasionally confronted and asked to go to Pakistan as our share was on that side of the fence. This was painful moment which when is recalled sends shiver down the spine. Forests of Mahamaya, Raika, Tehsil area and Bahu besides Tawi bed were all filled with limbs of Gujjars which were finally washed away in floods. There were no burials, no ceremonial tributes or any other rituals to bid an honourable farewell to the lives lost’, he added.
Some Gujjars were saved in Kotli Shah Daula as some Sikhs of Labana community used to buy milk from them and had a great respect for all communities. I had lost all family members of my maternal side which was painful and can never be forgotten. There are times when I remember these gory tales and can’t eat food for the day. When order was restored after that mayhem government helped several people identify culprits and their looted articles were also restored to them. That was a relief for some but the loss of lives is still ‘irreparable’ that cannot be compensated in any way.
Narrating tales of Bloody Partition Sardar Balbir Singh, born on December 4, 1923 said that the tales of refuges who came from Pakistan instigated locals after which the mayhem started. Scared of anarchy some Muslim families came to us and we made them gather in a big hall at Residency Road. That hall was known as Ghore Walla Ahata where we protected those families until situation subsided. We had to resist some attacks but could ultimately succeed in saving several precious lives.
Our house was also attacked on night but since we were armed we could save ourselves. After two days lot of Muslims expressed their desire to move to Pakistan and at the same time Hindus were pouring in from Pakistan into Jammu. Since I was grown up I remember having heard about seventy people of Muslim community getting killed while trying to cross over to Pakistan. They had made an attempt to cross over from Sialkot area. That was a mad race of each community to reach India or Pakistan for which several hundred paid the price with their lives, Sardar Balbir Singh recalls.
‘A good number of Muslim families were also massacred in Udhampur. When the Government took over the reins of Jammu and Kashmir majority of officials belonged to majority community and instigated by Refugees they wanted to take revenge of genocide. Maharaja was Hari Singh, Chet Ram Chopra was the Governor, Tehsildar and other top officials were also from same community. There was just one Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) for entire Jammu and Kashmir and the population of Jammu was about 30,000 in which about 7000 were Muslims. Several hundred refugees from Mirpur who had suffered a lot in Mirpur too had joined this number and wanted to take revenge’, he added.
Brahm Dev Khajuria, another aged person who remembers how partition ruined his family was born in village Ambaryala of Tehsil Bhimbar in district Mirpur. He was 16 when he was forced to bear the burden of raising his family just because India was divided into two. He had to switch over his role from being a student to a bread earner for his family who had all migrated to Jammu. “I and my sister were on terrace when we were asked to come down as firing had started in Ambrayal on that fateful night. We all gathered in the Verandah and left for a school where others had also come to decide future course of action”.
‘Minute later some Pakistan nationals came sloganeering and triggered a blast outside the main gate of school. They didn’t force open the gate but planned killings. This scared us all and given an opportunity we all ran for our lives. Night was spent on the banks of Manavar Tawi while rest of our family members kept looking for us in otherwise treated as safe areas. Next day we were in Chamb and from there went to Deva Batala, Bhimbar. Scattered from our family me, my brother and my sister were running for our lives while my father and mother along with another younger brother were home. For a day we kept hiding in Rakh (Forest) and when situation turned little normal we returned home’.
Khajuria remembers that situation didn’t remain calm for more time and finally they had to run for their life once again. Our houses were burned and we were made to virtually flee Pakistan. After passing through tough terrains we returned to Manavar Tawi and from there inside India. We spent two nights in two different villages and finally landed up in a home in Amb Garota, Jammu considered as safe. In Bhimber those who stayed back were all killed. I used to go to school on horse but this partition reduced us to misery and I landed up working as messenger with army. When the army later moved to Nasik, I left my job only to stay with my family in Jammu. Here in Jammu complete commotion prevailed where looters were running with booty. Some were seen running with two different pair of shoes others household articles. This was the partition where goons had a free run irrespective of their cast, creed or religion.
Now that India celebrates its Independence Day, there are still innumerable people who have Pains of Partition buried deep in their hearts. When the country is illuminated our hearts bleed for the simple reason that millions celebrate their freedom at the cost which we paid by losing our pieces and leaving our hearths. We love India and this place is our home but I still remember the quote – “Home is where the Heart is”, says Khajuria.
Hatred might have brought us to a point of no return but freedom fighter Ashfaqulla Khan’s words still are relevant which go like this – “kiye the kaam hamane bhii, jo kuchh bhii humse ban paaye; ye baatein tab ki hain aazaad the aur tha shabaab apanaa. magar ab to jo kuchh bhii hai ummidein bas vo tum se hain, javaan tum ho labe-baam aa chukaa hai aafataab apnaa.” (We too had done some of the works which we could, but those were the days, we had the glamour on face and strength in the chest. But now is the hope only hope from you, you are now grown up and we are at the verge of setting like a Sun in the west.)


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