15 August 2013, Abhilasha and her grandfather were sitting in the living room and watching on the TV, the elegant way with which the Indian soldiers marched at the Red Fort. “So graceful Grandpa,” Abhilasha exclaimed! “Indeed!” Grandpa replied to her, but clearly lost in the memories of India’s independence. As the Prime Minister of India, Manmohan Singh, unfurled the tricolor of India from the bulwarks of the Red Fort, Abhilasha felt the goose bumps on her skin. Grandpa visibly looked bizarre as he saw all this with fascination on the LED screen of his television, the technology which at some point of the time was far from his imagination!
As the final ceremonies concluded at the Red Fort and the programme came to an end, Abhilasha and Grandpa started discussing about the fate of India, which they often did as a part of their conversation. Naturally, the conversation drifted back to the year 1947, when the horrific partition took place and the constant subject of discussion for India, The Pakistan, was born!
“So what was it like to be in Pakistan Grandpa?” Abhilasha often asked her grandfather the same question and he always replied, “We were never in Pakistan at the first place. It was always India, the united India and we were always Indians, right from our birth! It was Pakistan that was formed out of India. Everyone who lived in undivided India will always remain an Indian from his heart and soul.”
And so, Abhilasha knew that Grandpa didn’t like to be called “someone who came from Pakistan” because the fact was apparent that Pakistan never existed before 1947 and so they always belonged to India.
“Tell me your version of Partition Story Grandpa?” Abhilasha demanded. She always pondered over the scenes of partition. Albeit she had seen the movie Gadar umpteen times, but she knew that only part of it was true. Nevertheless, Grandpa’s mind always walked down the memory lane when he saw that movie and Abhilasha often noticed the charm on Grandpa’s face when he recalled his childhood in undivided India. On her demand, Grandpa started off with his tale of partition, his account of the tragedy.
“1934. I was born. I never saw my father and to call as my family, I only had my mother. So, that was it- me and my mother. Tibba Naina Vala village, near Shahalam- Bhakkar City, District Mianwali, Northwest of Punjab province, Pakistan. That’s where I was born!”
Abhilasha was fascinated and equally impressed by the way Grandpa remembered each and every detail of his place of birth. Alright, people never forgot where they were born, but he was 13 years old when partition brought him to the present India. And besides, he remembered each and every corner of the home where he lived. Amusingly, the memories of his childhood, where he played, his hideouts- each and everything was crystal-clear in his mind, even at this age! She rested her hand on her chin, as Grandpa continued with his story.
“I was in class 7 when the partition took place. It all started with an attack on our village. My mother, a very strong lady, grabbed my hand and we both ran in the direction of the escaping mob. We didn’t know where to go. It was all bloodshed and shrills of people. Eventually, the military from Baloch Regiment took us to a camp in Dariyakhan. I held my mother’s hand throughout because I was too young to understand everything. We were 6000-7000 people in the camp and as if death dragged us there, sudden firing started off from everywhere. I saw 4000-5000 people dead in front of my eyes there and then.”
Abhilasha allowed this part of Grandpa’s story to sink in. With every word of her Grandpa, her mind drew the picture of whatever happened in the camp. On the canvas of her mind, she drew the picture of her imagination as grandpa’s words registered in her mind. She saw the absorption on grandpa’s face as he narrated the story of partition in his own words. On seeing him, it felt as if he was witnessing and living the scenes of the camp once again in front of his own eyes. Abhilasha looked at his face, as he continued with the story further.
“Inside the camp, thousands of people were lying dead. Unfortunately, the chaos of the camp during firing separated me from my mother. I cried my heart out to find her. When I didn’t see her for long, I surrendered to the notion that she was no more. I had believed then, that my mother was dead and that the next task was to find her dead body. Crying all alone, I started searching for her amidst thousands of dead bodies inside the camp. As I moved from one body to another to search for my dead mother, all I could see was red! It pained my heart to see how thousands of people were stranded in this camp, some of them separated from their families, others looking for each other in utter horror. I was turning the “upside-down dead bodies” to see if it was my mother. Just when I was about to check yet another body, I saw my mother- alive! She was alive. On seeing me, she embraced me in her arms tight as we both cried out of joy and horror. She too was searching for me amongst the dead bodies.”
“We both took a haven in the camp and waited for the next to come. Just then I saw a little girl, around 5 years old, who was dying out of thirst. We didn’t have food or water. Children were dying out of hunger and thirst and so was that little girl. Such was the quandary of the camp that a man urinated and gave it to the little girl to save her life. She drank it!”
Abhilasha’s mind drifted to the scene as she imagined it in her mind. It was something she couldn’t even envision and it gave her jitters to think what all had happened during partition. She couldn’t imagine her grandpa had lived through such a predicament.
“From the camp in Dariyakhan, the Dogra regiment saved the people who were alive. We were made to sit in the open malgaadi. As the malgaadi made its commotion from Mianwali station to Lahore station, I and my mother felt a little sense of relief. But the trauma was yet not over. When the train made its move yet again from Lahore station to Attari station, another round of firing and killing started off. This time, my mother held my hand very tight. I hid behind her dupatta and closed my eyes. It was God’s grace on us that despite facing the tragedy like this, both of us escaped the death once again. We finally got the food and water when the train reached Attari. From there, we were transported to the Kurukshetra camp and it was then that we were assured to be at a place, which we could truly call Our India.”
“What I told you is just a little part of the entire tragedy. Imagine, there were millions of people stranded, killed, orphaned, widowed and left behind in the claws of dreadful death. Partition was indeed something that I wouldn’t forget for the lifetime. You have just heard it, we have lived, or rather “survived” through it!”
P.S.: This is a real-life story of my grandfather- K.D. Sharma, who came down from Mianwali District (a district in the northwest of Punjab province, Pakistan.) He came from the undivided India in the year 1947 due to the partition of British India on the basis of religious demographics.
The partition of India was set forth in the Indian Independence Act 1947 and resulted in the dissolution of the British Indian Empire and the end of the British Raj. It resulted in a struggle between the newly constituted states of India and Pakistan and displaced up to 12.5 million people with estimates of loss of life varying from several hundred thousand to a million. The violence of the partition haunts people even today and has created an ambience of mutual hostility between India and Pakistan which is prevalent till date.