LAHORE: The Partition in 1947 not only divided the Subcontinent into two different countries, but also separated thousands of families that lived in towns and villages that dotted the then newly demarcated border between Pakistan and India.
Although there are many households – both in Pakistan and India – who had to part ways with their loved ones because of the Partition, the family of a young boy named Sardar Saifullah has a unique story to share.
Saifullah’s ancestors belonged to a practising Sikh family. At the time of partition, most of his family migrated to India. However, a few members of his family, including his great grandfather Haricharan Singh, decided to stay back in the village of Padhana in Pakistan. Not only that, but Haricharan also decided to convert to Islam.
The family used to live in a huge mansion called the Sardar Hawala Singh Haveli. Even after 200 years, traces of the structure are still found in the village. Sardar Saifullah and his family reside in the remaining part of the old mansion.
“When my great grandfather converted to Islam, he changed his name from Haricharan Singh to Sardar Nasrullah,” Saifullah told The Express Tribune. “My great grandfather had two wives, one of whom converted to Islam and decided to live with her husband, while the other wife moved to India.”
He revealed that his great grandmother changed her name to Fatima while her son – Saifullah’s grandfather – changed his name to Sardar Amanullah.
“Even though my family converted to Islam and the Indo-Pak border separated us from our family in India, we did not sever ties with them,” he said. “The Sikh half of my family has visited us here in Pakistan several times, but we could never go to India.”
Shedding light on the history of the village, a retired schoolteacher named Muhammad Hanif said that at the time of partition, the majority of the villagers here belonged to the Sikh faith.
“The Muslims of the village were farmers and they used to work on the lands of Sardar Hawala Singh,” he said. “Once the Sikhs left Pakistan, the newly-converted family members of Haricharan Singh decided to reside there.”
Recalling the horrible incidents that took place during the Partition, a senior citizen of the village Muhammad Yousuf said that before the split, people belonging to different religions were living in the village peacefully. However, the majority of them belonged to the Sikh faith.
“When riots erupted in 1947, the head of the village (sarpanch) gathered all the members of the Sikh community and advised them to leave for India. The majority, however, was unwilling to leave, Yousuf recalled. “When the sarpanch himself crossed the border with this family, many Sikhs started following suit and moved to India.”
Another elderly villager named Baba Meraj Deen said that although Muslims and Sikhs lived together in complete harmony for many years, when the devastated and blood-soaked caravans started reaching Pakistan from the other side of the border, Muslims of the village got angry and started scuffling with the Sikhs and the Hindus.
“The Sikhs were better armed with swords and kirpans as compared to the Muslims who only had sticks,” Baba Mairaj Deen recalled. “Under such a situation, the Sikh family of the haveli provided refuge to many Muslims. Owing to that, many Muslim families became indebted to their kindness for the rest of their lives.”
Published in The Express Tribune, August 14th, 2019.