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Last Updated: Thursday, 9 August 2007, 14:20 GMT 15:20 UK
Staying behind in India

By Geeta Pandey
BBC News, Delhi

When Sir Cyril Radcliffe joined the dots on a map creating a Muslim Pakistan and a Hindu-majority India, 15 million refugees journeyed across the border to make a new life into the two newly-created nations.

But millions of Muslims refused to let the line eject them from the only home they had ever known - India. We spoke to three generations of one such family.


We lived in Delhi's Mori Gate area. I had three children - the oldest a five-year-old boy and the youngest a three-month-old girl. My husband owned an ice-cream factory.

Grandma Farooqi Begum (Pic: Geeta Pandey)

In August 1947, the situation was very bad. All my neighbours had moved out to a refugee camp. But I didn't go.

My husband used to say, "It's better to die with dignity then to live a life of insult and abuse in the camp."

At night, the men would patrol the roads and the women would take shelter in a house which had a big iron gate. I would go up to my attic and stay there with my children.

I had full faith in God. I said when our time comes, we will go. But if our time hasn't come, then no bullet will be able to harm us.

For three days that August, the situation was so bad, so many bullets were fired, people were dying like popping popcorns.

Many who tried to flee the city were butchered on the way, many lost their arms and legs. The marauders killed so many children - here is your Pakistan, they said.

But then, if God looks after you, no-one can hurt you. So my family and I came to no harm.

Even in our darkest days, we never thought about moving to Pakistan. My husband said, "We will go home to Rampur (in the northern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh) because all our family is there, that's our home."

On our last night in Delhi, I took a bottle of kerosene with me to the attic. I thought if someone attacked my honour, I would set myself and my children on fire. I thought it would be better to die than lose my honour.

When a little peace returned after a month of carnage, the Nawab of Rampur arranged for us to get back home. It took us 24 hours to do the journey from Delhi to Rampur.

If I had tried to run away, God alone knows what could have happened to us
We left a guard at our home, but a Sikh family threw him out and occupied our place. When the guard informed us, my husband returned to Delhi.

There are good people in every community. The occupants of the house were good people. They told my husband - everything is yours and you can take whatever is yours.

But we decided to stay away. We never went back.

My husband moved back to Delhi and revived his ice-cream factory.

A couple of years later when things had settled down, he wanted us to return to Delhi too, but I turned it down. I said to him "Delhi has been plundered so many times, what's the guarantee it will not happen again?" So we stayed on in Rampur.

If I had tried to run away, God alone knows what could have happened to us. So many people were killed in the trains when they tried to escape. Everyone had become crazy.

I understand why it happened - people on both sides had lost their loved ones, and they had been scarred forever.

If someone hurts my children, won't I go crazy too?


I was five at the time of partition.

Dr Shahabuddin Khan (Pic: Geeta Pandey)

I remember our house was close to the railway station and we could hear people crying and sometimes shouting for help.

The police officer in the area was very friendly to my uncle. One morning he came to our house and said, "Look we are trying our best to protect you, but we have heard there may be an attack on this lane. We think you should shift to a safe house."

My uncle discussed it with my parents. My mother refused to move out. "Whether we live or die, it will be here, in our home," she said.

She said we would not move to the refugee camp because there were rumours that women were being raped and molested there.

Eventually, we moved to our ancestral place Rampur.

I went to a new school there, I made new friends. Children adapt easily to new situations, so I did too.

My parents decided that India was our home and there has never been any question about it.

I've never dreamt about Pakistan. I have no close relatives there so there's no pull for me.

We are much better and more safe here than we could be in Pakistan or anywhere else in the world.

Today I'm proud of India's new achievements, the new generation which is doing so well.


The partition happened a long time ago and questions about it seem totally irrelevant to me.

Shiraz Khan (Pic: Geeta Pandey)

It's only when I talk to my grandmother, and hear her story, I feel the turmoil inside me, I feel her pain and empathise with her. I realise how much pain and struggle she and our country has gone through.

But then I think of the future - everyone is talking about India's progress, how fast it's growing and I feel proud of our country.

My grandparents and my parents had an option before them to leave and go to Pakistan, but they chose to live here.

And I think they chose wisely.

Looking at the present situation of Muslims elsewhere, I see that their condition is far worse in other countries.

If I have a problem here, people of different communities here will come to my aid. But people of my own community will not come and help me in any other country.

Living in India, you share your life with people of different communities and that makes you a lot more liberal - we all may belong to different religions, but from the inside we're all similar.

I have had a very secular upbringing and most of my friends are non-Muslims.

The first time I became aware of my Muslim identity was in 1992, just after the Babri Mosque had been demolished in the northern Indian town of Ayodhya.

I was in fifth standard then and one of my friends said, "You are a Mullah".

I didn't know what a Mullah was, so I came home and asked my mother.

She said, "Because you are a practising Muslim, it's just another name for you. You should not feel offended."

To be honest, I did feel a little offended then, but when I grew up I realised that in some areas people from the two communities are polarised, and then it's up to two friends to resolve their issues and work it out.

We resolved our issue and I'm still very close friends with this boy.

In my school and college and now at work, I'm the only Muslim.

Most people say they can't believe I'm a Muslim.

I think it's partly the media which is responsible for this image of Muslims - they are always portraying the hardliners.

During weekends, I go out for dinner or movies and hang out with my friends. I watched Harry Potter and Die Hard. I listen to Metallica, Green Day and Bryan Adams and my favourites.


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