Unknown Facet of Partition Holocaust

Col J P Singh
I came across ‘Sehswan Di Deodi’, a book written by Lt Col Joginder Singh Jasrotia which I found a wonderful recollection of his ancestral village Sehswan, founded by Jasrotia Rajputs in 1770 and its community centre in the outskirts called ‘Deodi’, meant for community and social activities. The book takes one 250 years back with focus on how Sehswan was sited, developed and how it thrived as self sustaining unit. It tells how our ancestors lived as a well knit community and how they created various traditions, customs and rituals and followed them religiously. Deodi, as face of the village was jointly maintained as a valuable heritage which subsequently turned out to be a close witness to some significant social and political changes. This book, a mirror to see how people lived in the past is an inquisitive reading. But a chapter of 4 pages (52 to 55), which covers the effect of ill-fated partition, impressed me the most and prompted me to write the review.
Till 1946 Jammu was an embodiment of communal harmony. Come partition, cracks developed in the society. A lot has been spoken, written and debated about communal killings in Jammu region and the Muslim migration. Col Joginder Singh has covered a most significant aspect of partition holocaust in this book which will shake the head for disapproval of those who think that something like exodus of Pandits of nineties had happened in Jammu in 1947. Thus the story of migration from Sehswan certainly deserves a mention.
12 large Muslim families lived in Sehswan at the time of partition. The ripple effect of partition didn’t spare them. Hearing what was happening in Punjab and various other places and seeing people coming to Jammu from Sialkot side, they felt insecure and decided to migrate to Pakistan. On this proposal, a village meeting was called in Deodi where Hindus assured them of their safety should they stay back but when the consensus arrived at was for their departure, they were promised safe passage across the border.
A plan was drawn by which next morning everyone from the village was to gather at the Deodi to bid farewell to Muslim brethren. Scene was such that those who were leaving were repentant and those unable to keep them were feeling guilty of losing their faith & trust. With heavy hearts Muslims bid farewell to the village where their ancestors had lived for centuries and vice-versa. As per the plan, nominated people escorted their procession (Jatha) to the border. After crossing Ujh River, they reached the border village Sumoan to cross over at night. Ensuring they crossed over safely, the escort returned to Sehswan.
During the hurried and stealthily crossing, Khursheda, the daughter of Saain got separated from the Jatha and landed up back in village Sumoan from where the Jatha had crossed over. She hit the house of village Lambardar for shelter. As the luck would have it, there she met Amloo, the wife of Kaka Ram, Saain’s neighbour in Sehswan. Khursheda used to address Amloo as Chachi. After becoming a widow, Amloo had shifted to her parental village Jogwan and was working in the house of Lambardar of village Sumoan. With the concurrence of Lambardar, Khursheda stayed in Amloo’s house for sometime hoping that her family will come looking for her. Once the hopes of reuniting with family were lost, and Sumoan being a border village, Khursheda felt that safest place for her was her own village Sehswan. She disclosed it to her Amloo Chachi. Amloo shared it with Lambardar who deputed her to escort Khursheda to her native village. Amloo took Khursheda to Sehswan and spent a day in her inlaws house. Next morning Amloo left Khursheda at the Deodi and returned to Sumoan. Sitting alone inside the Deodi lot of thoughts came to her mind. She thought of her friend Kaushalya (cousin-sister of the author of this book, now 95, residing at Rehari, Jammu). Coincidentally Kaushalya thought of going to the Deodi that morning. When she reached there, to her utter surprise she saw Khursheda. Seeing Kaushalya, Khursheda burst into tears. Kaushalya consoled and hugged her. Kaushalya took Khursheda to her home where she also met her other friend Vidhya, Col Joginder Singh’s sister. Vidhya’s father Th. Chain Singh and Kaushalya’s father Th. Ram Singh were brothers and their mothers were also sisters. Khursheda was welcomed with open arms in the family. They complimented her for returning to the village after separation from her parents. Despite living happily with her friends, Khursheda remained concerned about the whereabouts and safety of her parents.
After sometime, when postal services were restored, Th. Ram Singh received a letter from Mangtu, brother of Saain, in which besides other things he had mentioned about the ill-fated separation of Khursheda. Khursheda was overjoyed to see her Uncle’s letter. Her desire to meet her family increased. In the return reply Mangtu was informed that Khursheda had come back to the village and was staying in their house. He was told to tell Saain that besides being his daughter, she was their daughter as well. Intermittent letter exchanges continued. Mangtu was told that in case they come to take Khursheda, they will be treated as guests and helped in their deportation.
Two years passed by. Finally Saain & Mangtu with two others arrived at Sehswan. They went to Govind Ram Sangra’s house which was slightly away from the village hutments. Govind Ram was pleased to meet and look after them. Next morning Govind Ram took Saain to Ram Singh’s house where father and daughter met. Ram Singh’s cousin Mukhtiar Singh had gone to Himachal. Pakistani guests were shifted to this vacant house for further stay. Their presence was kept secret. Only five families knew it. These families planned to send them back after three days of their stay. A day prior to their departure, they shifted to Ram Singh’s house. Before they could leave for Pakistan, villagers came to know and inquisitively gathered in Ram Singh’s house. Usual pleasantries were exchanged. People were keen that they stay longer and tell them about their life in Pakistan. Since that wasn’t possible, deportation plan was discussed. The consensus was that they be deported through the govt controlled deportation policy. Ladies cooked delicacies for their journey. A tearful farewell was given to Khursheda Beti from the Deodi where the atmosphere turned serene. Kaushalya, Vidhya and their mothers were inconsolable. Ram Singh, Chain Singh, Devi Singh and Risaldar Prem Singh took them to Hiranagar Police Station for deportation from where they were formally deported to Pakistan. After a few months a letter was received from Mangtu thanking Ram Singh & Chain Singh for looking after their daughter. Written contact between them continued till it was replaced by social media.
Author of the book was 6 years old during partition and 9 when Khursheda left for Pakistan. He remembered those happenings and thus wrote. An important outcome from his book is its demand in Pakistan. Asghar Ali, real nephew of Khursheda Begum came to know of this book through social media. He called Col Joginder Singh on 14 January 2022. Both spoke at length. Asghar Ali requested Col Joginder to send him a book on his address; House No 521. B Block, Sher Shah Colony, Raiwind Road, Lahore for its translation in Urdu & English for Sehswan migrant families. The book has since been dispatched to Asghar Ali.
There is a clear message in just 5 pages of this book and a clarion call for a Holiday on the birthday of Maharaja Hari Singh who had created a culture of brotherhood among his subjects and those whose efforts to label Maharaja as communal, inadvertently/deliberately, have failed and those who have been facing bouncers, one after the other, to commemorate such bond by just a holiday.
This 133 pages book costing Rs. 250 is published by Classic Publications B D Bari. It covers the historians predicaments of manipulating truths with his memory for its reflections on the present and future. It should be an attraction for true proponents of Hindu-Muslim brotherhood and those fuelling the fire. Book is considered necessary for wider readership especially in light of where we were and where we have been brought today by the communal politics of the UT. I am sure it will please the readers as much it pleases me to write.
Lt Col Joginder Singh Jasrotia lives in House No-126/8, Greater Kailash Jammu and can be contacted at 9469505644.