What happens when a limb is torn from your body and made to survive on its own? Do these two portions of flesh, though bleeding and aching, learn to exist independently? Or do they spend the rest of their indeterminate lives longing for a reunion that will complete them? These questions still haunt those who survived the Partition Of India, when on 14th August 1947 a line tearing the Indian provinces of Punjab and Bengal, on religious demographics created a new limb; the Islamic State of Pakistan.
With a notice period of five weeks close to 17 million people were forced to bundle up their childhoods, belongings, future and head towards an unknown land that was now to be their ‘home’. While reconciling with permanent separation from ancestral land and relationships cultivated over a lifetime, almost 1 million people lost their lives in a communal carnage that has been etched into the regional consciousness of the people who survived it. Our series “Love In The Time Of Partition”, commemorates the 70th anniversary of Partition this year and brings to you stories of love, against the backdrop of one of the most tragic events in Indian history, which though absent from public records, restore our faith in humanity.
In this article, we cover stories where the love that transpired between two people produced remarkable acts of fortitude, so that the common bond of humanity between them could be preserved.
I. A Man From Amritsar Shares A Tale Of Trust Between Two Strangers
“Insaniyat toh sab jagah hai, humanity is everywhere.”
In an AV clip from Amritsar’s newly opened Partition Museum, survivor SP Rawal from Okara (near Lahore) tells a tale of love and trust shared between two strangers in one of the bloodiest times of India’s history. He recalls how a ‘sardarni’; a Sikh woman from his village saw her entire family slaughtered as they were getting on a train to India. The woman fled the scene with her son and was rescued by an elderly Muslim man who after giving her shelter from the murdering mobs accompanied her to numerous refugee camps in Kurkushetra, Haryana, to help her get settled.“Insaniyat toh sab jagah hai,” says Mr. Rawal concluding his story with a trembling voice. It’s stories like this, where the seeds of hatred have no place to take root in a soil so rich with love, that restore our faith in humanity.
This story is credited to The Partition Museum , India.
II. A Tale Of Friendship Across The Borders.
“.....distance has not made the slightest difference in our love and affection for you..”
Perhaps one of the most endearing memories of Partition is a letter of friendship. The letter is addressed to Amar Kapur by his friend Asif Khwaja, after the Kapurs had left Lahore during Partition. The letter dated 1949, two years after Partition reads, “[We] assure you with the utmost sincerity that distance has not made the slightest difference in our love and affection for you; that we remember you, and remember you very often, with the same brotherly feeling that for so long characterised our relations.” This piece of people’s history reflects that political boundaries drawn by strangers in power do little to affect the strength of relationships that have been cultivated over a lifetime of love.
This story is credited to The Partition Museum , India.
III. Stories Of Compassion Expressed Towards Strangers In A Time Of Turmoil.
“Partition taught us the virtues of adjustment and helping others which is sadly missing among the current generation.”
Mrs. Soi was born Surinder Sood in 1937 at Phagwara in Kapurthala District, Punjab. Phagwara did not remain unaffected by the events that followed Partition. Mrs. Soi remembers watching files of people walking on the Grand Trunk Road, with occasional spurts of violence breaking out among the travellers. She also recalls how her mother was deeply involved in helping the refugees. Mrs.Soi’s mother would work night and day to prepare food for the refugees and distribute the packets at Phagwara Railway Station. “She even deployed some people to cook at the station and provide other necessities to the refugees. She made all the arrangements in the midst of my father’s absence who was stuck in Lahore for some business work. We anxiously waited for our father in the middle of so much tension,” recalls Mrs. Soi. Mrs. Soi’s family did not have to cross the border but incurred major losses in the business which was deeply rooted in Lahore.“My husband’s family who was based in Delhi housed 50 refugees for two years. Partition taught us the virtues of adjustment and helping others which is sadly missing among the current generation,” says Mrs. Soi. We can’t think of a love purer than embracing and supporting those completely unknown to one in a time of turmoil.
This story is credited to1947 Partition Archive.
IV. A Survivor Describes The Violence On His Journey To The Indian Side.
“You could see young girls jumping into the well to save their honour because people would catch them and rape them.”
Survivor Ravi Chopra who crossed the border from Sialkot, now Pakistan was eight-years old when Partitiontook place. Recounting the dark year of 1947 he says, “Nobody imagined that such a holocaust would take place. We had to catch the mail train to take us to India. On the way what we saw was heartbreaking. You could see young girls jumping into the well to save their honour because people would catch them and rape them. The houses were on fire. People were running, killing each other, even on the railway track. You could see cut bodies and limbs. And then the train came. There was firing... There were bullets flying around and one hit me on my left leg. There was no bandage, nothing to sterilise it. My grandmother was in tears. She didn’t know what to do. She tore off the only dhoti she was wearing. But how to sterilise it? She soaked it in her urine, cleaned the wound and put a bandage.” Only indubitable love can show remarkable strength when put in dire circumstances.
This story is credited to 1947 Partition Archive.
If you enjoyed reading this article you might also like: