All of us have heard stories of partition and have also read about it in history books. Here is a real life story of a man who had gone through all those circumstances.
The author has penned down in the book his memories of the lost culture, the pain and agony caused by partition, his movement from the other side of the shadow line i.e. Pakistan to India, his post-partition struggles and his tussle with life.
The book is an explicit picture of all those who had to leave their hearth and home and adjust to the multifarious demands of the new land and situations.
Though the book is the author’s autobiographical account, it actually epitomizes all those who have suffered, struggled and survived the tyranny, chaos and pain of partition. The book depicts the angst of the people who were trapped unaware into the violence created by the Muslim League of India and which finally led to then migration from the land of their forefathers. It would be of special interest to the generations born and brought up on both sides of the border line, after the Great Divide.
The author, Shri V. N. Sekhri, was born in a business family in 1922 at Sialkot, a flourishing and historical town in Pakistan. He had an eventful childhood which matured into an, impassioned young life of earnest social activities. The family lost everything in 1947 but re-established themselves by T sheer hard work and devotion. He is a highly emotional person with ideas and vision.
The author has penned down his memories of a lost culture, the pain and agony caused by partition, his movement from the other side of the shadow line i.e., Pakistan to India, his post-partition struggles and his tussle with life.
Vishwanath’s anguish is understandable because a country where people belonging to different religions and different regions had lived for centuries was divided on the basis of religion. But his lament for Hindus alone is not justified. Muslims were as mercilessly cut off from their routs as non- Muslims. On the Indian side, victims were Muslims and on the Pakistan side, Hindus and Sikhs.
I too travelled from Sialkot to the Indian border and saw murder and the worst. But it was the killing all the way, this side of the border or that. There was no difference in brutality. It was late in the afternoon on Sep.l3, 1947, when we reached the outskirts of Lahore. We halted; nobody knew why. Word was that a convoy of Muslims had been attacked in Amritsar and that the Muslims of Lahore were waiting to take revenge. We were ordered to get down from the trucks which were then parked in a circle to form a sort of first line of defence. The men took up positions behind the trucks and the women and children were asked to sit in the middle. We waited in silence. There was some stray shooting in the distance and from the nearby fields came the strench of decomposed flesh. Slogans of Allah ho Akbar, Ya Ali, Pakistan Zindabad came to our ears. But there was no attack. After a long wait our fears were proved wrong. We were off again.
I saw piles of bodies on both sides of the road, empty trucks here and there bore testimony to the looting which had taken place either before or after the killing.
There was nervousness as we neared our destination. And then we heard Bharat Mata Ki Jai (Salute to Mother India).
It was an avalanche of migration; humanity was on the move 0n both sides. None expected it; none wanted it, but none could help it. The two countries blamed each other as they tried to grapple with this and other chaotic problems of Partition after the first few heady days of independence.
The refugees carried with them to the country they went not only bitterness and vengeful thoughts but also stories of atrocities in the villages where they had lived peacefully with other communities for centuries. If partition was on the basis of religion, these instances only furrowed it deep.
On paper, both India and Pakistan declared that "there shall be no discrimination against those who before 15 August may have been political opponents." In practice there was no accommodation, no forgiveness. The two countries behaved as the Congress Party and the Muslim League had done before partition; it was the same old effort to see the other side go down.
Whoever was to blame-or, rather, more to blame—the few weeks of madness on both sides of the border embittered the relations between the two countries, for two generation and more. The two countries differed on every subject, at every step. Fear and mistrust of each other made even trivial matters major issues.
I am glad that Vishwa had his grievance off his chest. But there are in Pakistan many Vishwas who too want to tell their tale of woes. They too left their homes and hearths, friends and neighbours, businesses and factories. They too were broken on the wrack of history. They too became refugees.
I attempted to write this book very late in my life and now when I have finished it, I am 83 years old. I had been pushed into it by a highly accomplished gentleman, who once heard my experiences of the partition of India. He suggested that I might put my experiences in writing as those were extraordinary such that he had never heard or read. When I laughed at his suggestion and told him that I could not put my stories in writing, he promptly offered his cooperation for editing it if I wrote in English as he is an MA in English. But I remained unconvinced.
My wife, when told of this, gave an affirmative reaction. She felt that the book would reveal to our children, the type of situations their father had to face in his young life. That clinched the subject and early next morning I sat with a copy and pencil.
It was September l999 and I had to spend two/three days in searching my way to begin and for that I had to look into all the autobiographies on my bookshelves. I started from my birth and very soon realized that I had a bagful of unusual stories to write about. I wrote and re-wrote my manuscript at least six times so as to do justice and be true to my experiences.
Though the book is mainly my autobiographical account, it actually epitomizes all those who suffered, struggled and survived the tyranny, chaos and pain of partition.
It was in November 2005, that I handed over my final manuscript to my publishers. But for the strength given to me by the Almighty God, it would not have been possible to complete this project.
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