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Last Updated: Monday, 13 August 2007, 14:11 GMT 15:11 UK
Partition memories
The 60th anniversary of the partition of India in 1947 and the birth of Pakistan was a momentous event in the region.

Millions of people found themselves on the wrong side of the border and hundreds of thousands lost their lives during the mass migration and communal bloodshed.

Generations of families, whose lives have been shaped by the partition, look back at the traumatic events of 1947 and the impact they had on the following 60 years.

SULTANA, 67, KARACHI, PAKISTAN

Sultana
Sixty years have passed but the faces of my old friends are still fresh in my memory

I was seven years old in 1947. We lived in Amritsar in Indian Punjab. My dad was a police inspector and our family was well off.

With each day the tensions were growing and the place began to look like a alien world.

One night our Hindu neighbour banged on our door and alerted us that angry Hindu mobs were coming towards this area, wanting to kill Muslims.

He said that we should go with him and he hid us in his house. When somebody came to question him, he denied knowledge of our whereabouts.

A few hours later my Dad decided that we should leave for Pakistan. The journey was by bus. It was one of the most terrifying and heart-aching moments of my entire life.

We left everything behind in a blink of an eye: all our friends, our house, our belongings.

Sixty years have passed but the faces of my old friends are still fresh in my memory.

I am a proud Pakistani now, but one day I wish to go back and walk on the streets of Amritsar, the place I called home for the first years of my life.

MIR 78, ST ALBANS, UK

I joined the British Indian army as a 16-year-old. I was based at the Royal Artillery unit in Hyderabad. A year before the partition, we were told that we had to make a choice about which army we wanted to join - the Indian or the Pakistani.

My parents were both from Kashmir - my father from what became the Pakistani side and my mother from what is now the Indian side. I made the decision to join the Pakistani army upon independence.

Then we were transferred to the North West Frontier Province town of Kohat. I still have vivid memories of the days that led up to independence on 14 August 1947. There was a mass movement of people crossing the border from both sides. I wasn't prepared for the scenes of violence and massacres that I witnessed.

I think the partition was a mistake. Pakistan is still a mess and to my mind it has suffered from partition
There were atrocities committed by all sides - Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims. I saw people arriving on the trains that had been mutilated, women who had been raped and children who had been traumatised. I remember thinking at the time: 'Is this what freedom means?'

I had three uncles who lived in Simla at the time. Amid the chaos, we had lost contact with them. We never found them.

There was harmony under British rule. There was never any conflict between Muslims, Sikhs and Hindus. Partition seemed to end all that.

I never thought it was right and I still think it was a mistake. India has gone on to progress, but what about Pakistan? It is still a mess and to my mind it has suffered from partition.

The partition has left a lasting disunity among the different communities. The only way to change the situation is to reunite the nations into a United States of India, Pakistan and Bangladesh. I don't think it will ever happen.

SATWANTI DEVI, 74, JALANDHAR, INDIA

Satwanti Devi
Satwanti Devi will never forget the man who helped her family
Our family came from Mir Niyala in Jhang [west Punjab, Pakistan] to Jalandhar [east Punjab, India] in August 1947.

I was 14 years old. I had just got married and began to live with my in-laws. We used to own large tracts of fertile land.

I can never forget the dreadful scenes of the partition of India.

Rumours were going around that Muslims had looted the homes of Hindus and killed their men and children. One gentleman, Mr Qureshi, helped several Hindu families reach the newly demarcated India-Pakistan border. He was respected all over Mir Niyala.

He came to our house and told my father-in-law that the massacres seemed to be spreading to our area and people had gone mad.

We packed whatever we could lay our hands on in a state of panic. Mr Qureshi helped us and several other Hindu families reach a refugee camp in Jhang and he later accompanied us to the border.

He was praying to God for our wellbeing and tears welled up in his eyes as he bade us farewell.

To me, he seemed like an angel sent by God. Afterwards we heard that he had been dubbed a 'kafir' [non-believer] for helping non-Muslims and was murdered by his own people.

In India, we arrived at the Jalandhar refugee camp. We were no better than beggars. The days when we looked after our fertile lands were gone for good.

Our condition is much better today. However, time and again I remember that angel of God and I think that whatever comfort and prosperity we enjoy today is because of that pious man.

From BBC Hindi.com

AGHA BAKHTIAR ALI, 58, PESHAWAR, PAKISTAN

I was born two years after the partition. Though I am not a witness myself, my father and my elder brother narrated the partition story to me.

My family was living in Amritsar. They fled in haste. Shops and houses belonging to Muslims were burned.

Trains full of refugees were attacked and indiscriminate killing was carried out. Women were raped in front of their fathers and husbands. The same happened on the other side of the partition line. Everyone became like mad.

It was not a partition of land but a partition of Muslims, separating families forever
My father's younger brother was killed by Sikhs and his other siblings never left India.

Looking back at these events after 60 years, this was an ugly game played by our elders. None of the ideals behind the creation of Pakistan have been fulfilled.

There's no peace, we are fighting terrorism and the country is economically bankrupt. And look where India is now!

It was not a partition of land but a partition of Muslims, separating families forever.

We have lost contact with our relatives in India. Me and my brother were very anxious to go to India to find them, but visa regulations are very strict.

It is high time that both countries settled their differences peacefully through negotiations. Spending on defence should come down and people of both countries should be allowed to meet freely.

JASVINDER KANDOLA, 46, NOTTINGHAM, UK

My mother, who passed away in April, told me a lot about the events of the partition.

Jasvinder Kandola's mother
Jasvinder's mother came to the UK in the 1960s
She was 21 at the time and lived in Lahore with my father and their first child.

They had to leave their house taking nothing but the clothes they were wearing.

They were fortunate that their original home was on the other side of the border, in the Indian part of Punjab.

The journey was horrifying, there were piles of dead bodies everywhere. Rivers and lakes were full of women's bodies, who committed suicide in order to escape rape and murder.

Their memories were so painful, that my father never spoke of the partition. My mother saw it as the parting vendetta of the withdrawing administration. Nobody I know thought that partition was a good thing.

Once my parents reached their home village, they were so traumatised that they thought they would never leave the village again. They did, in the end, to come to the UK.

The only nice memory from these times of hateful violence, is that my grandparents later got a letter of thanks from their Muslim neighbours, who fled to Pakistan.

MOHAMMED UMAR KHAN IRFANI, 80, KARACHI, PAKISTAN

When our country came into being, I was at university in India. I graduated in 1947.

My father was a great advocate for the formation of Pakistan. When it became clear that partition would happen, he wrote me a letter urging me to head straightaway towards Pakistan, without returning home first.

Once on Pakistani soil, I got off the camel and prostrated on the ground, saying thanks to God that we are in our own country
So I got on the train from Agra, which took us to the border area, where the rail track ended.

When we got off, we hired camels to walk thought the border area. Once on Pakistani soil, I got off the camel and prostrated on the ground, saying thanks to God that we are in our own country.

The country was full of refugees, but it was very peaceful. I didn't witness riots, killings and violence.

I am proud of our country. It is progressing very well by the grace of God.

But I'll never forget the place of my birth and I would like to revisit it. The problem is that it is still dangerous to travel to India.

Our government is trying very hard to become friends with our neighbour. It will happen, but it will take time.

MOHANLAL SHARMA, 74, JALANDHAR, INDIA

Our family fled from the Pakistani part of Punjab to Amritsar on the Indian side of the border. I was 14 years old.

I witnessed the terrible destruction of Kila Sheikhupura, the old Hindu locality, as it was engulfed in flames.
Mohanlal Sharma
Our locality had turned into a cremation ground
One night, as loud sounds of firing by military personnel could be heard, our family hid in a back room of our house. The mob set our front door on fire.

As a Hindu family living in a locality with mixed population, we had excellent relations with our Muslim neighbours. It was hard to believe, that those with whom we enjoyed a day-to-day contact could behave like strangers.

One family that we were particularly close to was that of Ishaan Mohammad. He had been staying outside our house all through that night, as if guarding his own family.

My father was an orderly of the district collector, an Englishman known as Disney. At dawn my father put on his uniform and set off from home on his bicycle. Later he told us that the streets were littered with dead bodies and many houses were smouldering ruins. It seemed Kila Sheikhupura had turned into a cremation ground.

When my father described the state of the town to Mr Disney, he became extremely distraught and sent a driver with a jeep to our house.

We packed our valuables in a chest and prepared to leave immediately. A Hindu friend of my father's came to our place with his family members, asking if they could leave with us. To make room for them, we threw the chest of our valuables out. We were all packed like sardines in that jeep.

We were given refuge by district collector Disney in the servant quarters of his own house. Then his driver drove us to a refugee camp in Lahore. After a couple of days, a military convoy brought us to Amritsar on the Indian side of the newly demarcated line.

We later settled down in Jalandhar and I retired as senior auditor in an insurance company. My two sons are leading businessmen dealing in motor-parts in Delhi and Jalandhar.

From BBC Hindi.com






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