Saturday, November 8, 2008

My Yatra to Fazilka..

In yatras one is supposed to come back to where one started from .Mine was different.It started from my chak 19 GD Haripur,Okara, Pakistan and ended at Fazilka, with no possibility of return.

Barely eleven years after the attached photograph radiating a happy mix of Sikhs and Muslims of the same family was taken in 1936,areas declared as Pakistan (for Muslims)saw unprecedented violence in 1947.Hindu breasts became trophies to Muslim knives.Erstwhile Hindu and Musim friends of years became instant enemies.Easily identifiable sikhs became automatic targets.Prime Minister Nehru wept in Amritsar,And we had only one Gandhi justifiably busy elsewhere to save Muslims.
Sustained British Govt. policy of DIVIDE and RULE had yielded its tsunami like results (It is sad that the people and their Govts are many times so different) .It would impact Indo-Pak relations for decades.
It is no cold comfort that there was violence in other areas too!
In my chak 19,Zaildar Chaudhry Bahadur Khan Dogar (?) herded all the Hindus into a mosque and converted them instantly to Islam.The story of areas around was no different.Human beings were being cut up like cows and goats.There were opportunities galore for settling old scores.The memory of small old arguments was enough to justify imposition of summary justice leading to punishment which courts award to 'rarest of the rare' crimes- death.
In these circumstances death was staring all Hindus of the village in the face.Conversion was no guaranttee for safety.It was felt by new power centres that we had not become genuine Muslims and were to be treated as kafirs any way!
The eight year old me did not understand.My school teacher Pir Mohammed had not returned after summer vacation.Resuming of classes was out of the question.

Two men of the village, Karam Chand Chillana and Lal Chand Pujara ,decided to go to the nearby big town Okara(8 km) to plead for some security.They left on horse back and kept reciting Muslim kalmas within the hearing distance of any human being they encountered.They rightly assumed that they would be spared as long as they were not ordered to undress and be discovered without the cut obligatory for a Muslim.
These two men went to the house of a Muslim friend in Okara but were very kindly asked to leave.He feared inimical reaction from his Muslim friends.This was not a happy time even for the right thinking Muslims.Devil had taken hold of most trusting but ignorant population.These two adventurers then hid in some unlikely place and planned their next moves.

For three days they knocked many door unsuccessfully.They then found out that Army had plans to escort Hindus to the new India according to a time table.They pleaded with men incharge that they must rescue chak 19 GD otherwise they will be left with nobody in the village to rescue.Eventually as a life saving concession it was granted that the Army would route a truck through the village and the rest would have to be taken care of by the two applicants.Same evening a military truck drove through the village and information was spread that Army had arrived and would shoot anything that moved.Some fled to the fields, others hid in their houses.Karam Chand and Lal Chand were now seen as venomous enemies of the local Muslims.Their belief that the Hindus were deceitful was confirmed! Hindus unleashed their animals (to allow them to go to graze and drink water on their own ) and collected in the village centre with roasted gram to sustain themselves.Messages were somehow sent to neighbouring villages that they should collect in chak 19 from where they would move to Okara next morning.They did this on cycles,horses,bullock carts and on foot pouring into chak 19 through the night.
Next mornig they started for Okara giving a last look to their houses.Since my house was located on the street we were moving on, I could see through the big open door the cows and buffaloes moving about as if confused.
In Okara we stayed in one of the vacant houses.We could take hold of anything, any article we wanted.Nobody had any use for any article.

Then on Setember 3,1947 we started in a kafla for new India.I made sure my school bag and wooden takhti was with me.Later school bag would become an obstruction to existence by its weight and would be thrown away.

The road was divided into three lanes.One for pedestrians,the second for private vehicles and the third for the escorting Army.
As people moved some of those on foot started failing.The old and the very young started giving up.Army trucks would pick them up and leave them far ahead of the main stream of kafla.This had to be done again and again.
Our share cropper Narain Singh was driving our bullock cart with his and our articles.Children among us were put on the cart by turns.
Next day people started collapsing.

We also had a horse which carried my dadi (grand mother) and some children in turn.We had gram some of it roasted.It sustained the horse and us but it soon was finished.The horse carried on but the bullocks collapsed.Our luggage on the cart vanished.One of the children was lost but later found.All food and water was now consumed and up. Wells near the kafla were no use.They were known to be poisoned.
Travellers were reduced in strength which ebbed to the minimum.Army trucks would take some who could not move.There were scrambles to get into the Army trucks and Army used sticks to drive away aspirants for lifts.Many fell with exhaustion.I was numb.Dont remember so much.Those with dal and atta would sit on the side of the road,would cook,eat and rest before resuming the journey.
On September 4, my father could not move and collapsed obviously due to tiredness and lack of nuitrition.He wanted to be left there to die.Then my mother saw a woman on the road side cooking,asked for a chapati and was give dal and one chapati both.My father took it, was revived ready to walk again.
Occasionally Army would open fire.I dont know how many people died or were walked upon and injured.

On 5th September kafla reached Head Suleimanki.I remember crossing a bridge walking.On crossing the bridge we found a lot of volunteers waiting to help.This was India we had
struggled extremely hard to reach.Any time I think of this moment, I cry, though it was years ago.
Next I remember is being in a dharamsala in Fazilka , the border town of India.I have gratefully written on the spirit of this town on this blog(

My father sold the horse for a hundred rupees.He was very fond of this horse and had great understanding with it.They both understood each other.This was a horse which avoided harming children in its way.My mother used to say it was not a horse but a human being.My father did not want to part with it but he had nothing else to fall back upon.A horse can kickstart life.
This is what an eight year old could remember of his one way yatra to Fazilka.This was travel from Hell to Heaven.At least this is what we felt at that time.
But struggle was to be expected to develop new roots.
This would take years.

I must add that my bitterness at being thrown out of my home in 1947 has given way to my refound liking for the people of chak 19 GD Haripur.They were like any other people,
victims of history which had to run its course (even mixed Sikh and Muslim family in the photo had to split in 1947!).I have spent a year trying to establish a contact with present teachers of my old school in this village.I phone these teachers and write to them (my knowledge of Urdu and some Persian and Arabic helps).They read these letters to the children there.
I have written on this blog how I established contact with my old village after 60 years.

The website started by Navdeep Asija ( ) is working hard to establish friendships across the two Punjabs ( there are numerous similarities between the two) and I hope that this article posting would also lead to a better understanding so that religion becomes a source of joy and not of suffering.Let 1947 not be allowed to repeat. Let relations existing in 1936 (see
the photo) be restored.This is possible!And I am committed to working for this.

Prof Dr. K.K Pujara
75,South Park,Kalkaji,
NEW DELHI 110019

Writer is a Guest Professor at IIT Delhi and Retired Prof from Mechanical Engineering Department IIT Delhi. He is also a Chairman of Hukmi Devi Pujara Trust and Practicing Acoustic Consultant.

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