Indo-Pak peacekeeping efforts have much importance for this region and whole world

September 24, 2019 08:38 PM
Partition 1947 (file pic)

Asiya Mougal*

All of them were sitting contentedly in their homes in two villages Dag and Toot, located on the banks of river Ravi in Amritsar, with a thick Muslim population. There were rumours rife that India is going to be  divided and Pakistan is emerging as a new country for the Muslims of the sub-continent. Everyone in the area was sitting tight, believing that their villages will be part of Pakistan. The few Sikh and Hindu families have already shifted to deeper towards Indian Punjab in Sikh dominated areas.

Fearing the attack from the raging Sikh mobs, the grandfather put the sister in a saddle bag and whenever they saw a crowd close by, he would push the head of the young girl deep in the sack and put some clothes over her to hide her.

And then all of a sudden they watched the Sikh families returning to these villages. They were told that their villages have been made part of India instead of Pakistan. They were dazed by the shocking news as the reality gradually sunk in their minds and hearts that they have to leave their homes and everything behind and cross the river to enter Pakistan. The news of violence have already started trickling down from surrounding areas and they can easily feel the change of behavior of Sikh and Hindu people around them. The seething anger was about to burst!

My great grand maternal father was sturdy, over six-feet tall strong man. They were three brothers, all tall and very strong men. One day he rushed home from the fields and told my maternal grandfather to quickly get ready as they had to cross the river (Ravi) to be safe inside Pakistan as the Sikh hoards were coming towards these Muslim dominated villages to kill and loot. My maternal grandmother jumped up and started collecting the valuable items. The great grandfather shouted at her to leave everything behind and leave without any further delay and head for the river. She was in a shock but still she quickly put all the jewellery in a pouch (gathri) and also grabbed the Holy Quraan and left home following others who were rushing towards the river. There were eight brothers and one sister. The children were young. Fearing the attack from the raging Sikh mobs, the grandfather put the sister in a saddle bag and whenever they saw a crowd close by, he would push the head of the young girl deep in the sack and put some clothes over her to hide her. However, as they were strong people, armed with thick batons and axes, and openly in aggressive posture to defend themselves, they continued on their way without any attack.

When they reached the river bank there was a boat available and the boatman was helping the Muslims cross the river over to Mahmood Booti in Pakistan’s side. He turned out to be a greedy person as when he saw my grandmother clutching the pouch (gathri) close to her chest, he guessed there must be valuables in that. As the boat started drifting away towards the bank on Pakistan’s side, he quickly snatched two young boys and threw them in the river, saying that the load has become too much for the boat to carry all of them. My grandfather immediately jumped in the river after the young boys and saved them as the boatman slowly pulled back towards the Indian side of the river bank. After some arguments he asked to hand over the ‘gathri’ to him if they wanted to cross the river. Grandmother handed over the ‘gathri’ and showed the copy of Holy Quraan to him. He snatched the ‘gathri’ and never touched the Holy Quraan and quietly rowed the boat to Pakistan’s side of the river.

Once disembarked to safety, they kept walking slowly, eventually to reach the home of a relative who was living in a house near Regal Chowk in Lahore. After spending a few days there and recovering from the shock, they were told to go to Sheikhupura because the refugees coming from Amritsar and adjacent areas were being registered and accommodated there. In Sheikhupura the government officials told them that they have to move to a small village named Kanwanwali near Panwan on Faisalabad Road. They were told that they will be allotted 16 acres of agricultural land and a piece of land to build their house there. They went to Kanwanwali. However, the ‘Patwari’ never allotted them the promised 16 acres of land. Instead they were given just an acre and half. They were too busy trying to survive and had no time to indulge in any legal battle to get their claim of land. Over the last 70 years we are in third generation. We are born and bred in Pakistan. But since my childhood I used to listen to all those fascinating stories from my grandmother as to how happily they used to live in their village before partition and how highly respected and prosperous their family was in the village.

But here our three generations have been struggling day and night to maintain a lower-middle class status in the society, still striving to rebuild our lives. I completed my education, doing my Masters in Political Science from the University of the Punjab, Lahore besides doing my law graduation. And I am working in the development sector for the last 10 years. I am an active human rights activist, especially fighting for the women rights and for gender equality in the society.

I had been to India twice over the last 13 years. First time I was part of a delegation from Pakistan that participated in a ‘Youth Conference’ held in Delhi back in November 2005. Then I got another chance to visit India, this time to participate in a conference organized by an NGO, ‘Society for Promotion of Peace’ in Chandigarh. I always wished to visit the villages of my ancestors but unfortunately could not go there because of the legal implications. I wish and I hope one day I will be able to visit these villages!

*Editor ‘The Developmentalist’

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