I remember my paternal grandfather’s house near Chaura Bazar in Ludhiana, a small, triple storey house with a tiny room, a small kitchen, a courtyard on the ground floor and a toilet without sewage on the top floor. It was a queer-looking house that he got in claim in lieu of the property left behind in Pakistan at the time of the partition. No different is the story of my maternal grandfather who was allotted a house in Gurgaon in early 50s, much before it became a Millennium City. Both my grandparents, paternal and maternal, hailed from Multan, now in Pakistan. They were uprooted and had to leave behind their home and hearth, when they came to India as refugees. A huge loss! But how can I forget that the houses they got in claim were the ones vacated by Muslims who had to flee India under similar circumstances?
I am lucky to have opened my eyes a decade after independence but my grandparents and parents witnessed the trauma of partition -mass migration, barbaric killings, senseless violence, arson and loot on a large scale on both sides of the border. When tension started brewing, my mother, a young unmarried girl at that time, was sent with her youngest brother to India by train. Fortunately, they did not face any mob attack or violent encounter on the way. However, there were instances when trains arrived with the bodies, and in retaliation, were sent across the border with bodies of passengers. My mother and my mama safely reached Beas, where they were received by their uncle who was the station master.It was much later that my grandparents joined them. Thankfully, the family did not have to put up in refugee camps; nevertheless, they were refugees who had to rebuild their life.
The story told by my father is no less horrific .He was a young government servant posted in Delhi at the time of partition. He had seen a truck- load of dead bodies being carried. Most horrifying was the image of a head that kept rising occasionally from the heap, obviously still alive but dumped with the dead.
There is no dearth of such gruesome tales of violence and bloodshed during the partition. People were targeted, killed, looted, destroyed, uprooted all because of the difference in faith. The tragedy was suffered by both the communities as terrible atrocities and senseless killings engulfed populace on both sides of the border. I feel those who let loose hell upon fellow human beings were religious fanatics- could be Muslims, Hindus or Sikhs but certainly not humans.
It has been 75 years. The memories have faded, most of the people who bore the brunt of the partition, suffered unspeakable hardships are gone, and the rest are in their twilight years, more or less at peace now. What is the point of reliving the trauma when men turned into savages? Why scratch the old wounds which may become a reason to promote hatred and discord?
No more displacement, no more violence, no more communal tension. Let harmony prevail.
(Published in The Tribune as MIDDLE on 20 August 2022)