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Last Updated: Wednesday, 15 August 2007, 16:57 GMT 17:57 UK
Historic partition marked in Southall
By Sarah Bell
BBC News

The bustling streets of Southall - a west London suburb with a high Asian population - on a grey August day are a world away from Delhi or Islamabad.

Narendra Thakrar (right)
Many people celebrated at home with friends and family

In India and Pakistan, 60 years of independence from the UK was marked with the ceremonial raising of flags, fireworks, concerts and gun salutes.

But among the shops selling salwar kameez and stalls serving mahal sweets, British Asians have been celebrating the anniversary in a more low-key, but no less meaningful manner.

For some, Pakistan's Independence Day on 14 August and India's, a day later, are key dates for friends and family to gather in celebration.

But for others they mark a turbulent point in history which witnessed mass migration and huge violence.


Asians started arriving in Southall in the 1950s and now over 55% of its 70,000 population is Indian or Pakistani, the Commission for Racial Equality says.

Iqbal Mohamed, 34, is manager of the TKC restaurant on Southall High Street, which held a grand party complete with a red carpet on Tuesday.

He said England and Pakistan may be far apart, but on commemoration day they feel strongly linked.

Shivani and Anjala Amand
When they left Pakistan all they had was what they were wearing at the time
Anjala Amand

"We feel very good. Yesterday we felt very close to Pakistan. We all have relatives there, we wished them well and said, 'long live Pakistan'.

"We stop on this day and think of our forefathers, it took a lot of strength to get the new country. There has been a lot of fighting, killings, but there is a lot which Pakistan can be proud of."

Anjala Amand, 46, was celebrating daughter Shivani's 16th birthday - she was born on India's Independence Day.

"It makes it extra special for us," she says. "We would usually do something at home to celebrate, not go out."

But her mother's experience shows why the anniversary holds traumatic memories for many people.

She was 10 and vaguely remembers her family, including six sisters and two brothers, being forced to move from Pakistan to India after the partition.

"When they left Pakistan all they had was what they were wearing at the time, no other belongings," Mrs Amand says.

"They were left with nothing at all, her mother and father had to rebuild everything."

Tariq Rashid (centre)
Many young Pakistanis flew flags in their cars on Tuesday

This history is passed on to the younger generations of the family. Shivani and her brother were born in England but are taught about their Indian roots.

Narendra Thakrar, who has run a business in the area for 30 years, says people of all nationalities wish each other well on the two days.

"Southall is a cosmopolitan community, we are always helpful to each other and celebrate together," he says.

He is marking India's day with a party at home with about 100 people, food and the national anthem.

Although the days are packed with meaning for many people, for others, it's just an excuse to celebrate.

As Tariq Rashid, a 41-year-old Pakistani explains: "Yesterday there were people driving up and down with flags. For the younger generation it's an excuse to go out for the day."

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