At the time of independence

Published: August 12, 2014
The writer runs a consultancy company and was previously MD of Milkpak

The writer runs a consultancy company and was previously MD of Milkpak

August 14 takes me down the memory lane to the first Independence Day. The day Pakistan emerged as an independent state to the delight of its proud citizens who had to go through many sacrifices.

It was a memorable day for my family as my father took charge as the first deputy commissioner of Pakistan’s Gurdaspur District, which was his first posting as deputy commissioner. Before Partition, he was posted as Additional District Magistrate at Jhelum. Our family was left behind at our ancestral village, Sahowala, close to Sialkot. We were supposed to join our father at Gurdaspur after summer vacations.

The day was celebrated by Pakistani citizens of Gurdaspur district with prayers and celebrations. The Pakistani flag was hoisted on all government and private buildings, sweets were distributed and festivities continued till late in the night. My uncle, Haji Tufail Ahmad, the elder brother of Faiz Ahmad Faiz, was already in Gurdaspur with his family, posted as a sessions judge much before the Partition.

Then on August 17, tragedy struck. The treacherous Cyril Radcliffe serving as the chairman of the Boundary Commission appointed under the Indian Independence Act of 1947, transferred the whole of Gurdaspur District to India save for the Shakargarh Tehsil. Gurdaspur and Ferozpur districts with a Muslim majority became part of India. The final boundary, known as the Radcliffe Line, allotted some 62 per cent of the area of undivided Punjab to India.

This arrangement was planned by then viceroy Lord Mountbatten and executed via the Radcliffe Award. When my father took over as the deputy commissioner of Gurdaspur, his predecessor, a Hindu officer, requested that he should be allowed to stay with his family at the deputy commissioner’s residence as arrangement will soon be made for transfer to other area. As a gesture of goodwill, my father stayed at the Government Rest House and beefed up security at the residence of the Hindu deputy commissioner.

My father handed over the deputy commissioner’s charge to same Hindu officer and gloomily lowered the Pakistani flag to the grief of Pakistan citizens at Gurdaspur and was then appointed as liaison officer in Gurdaspur District for the evacuation of Pakistani citizens.

At the time of Independence Sahowala was a reasonable size village with majority Muslim population and a fairly large Sikh community. The young generation of our surrounding villages, hearing about atrocities on Muslims being committed in India specially by Sikhs, wanted to take revenge in the true Muslims “spirit”. They were stopped by the village panchayat committee, headed by my grandfather, Nabi Ahmad Cheema, sensing there will be needless casualties of Muslims of our village. One night, at the end of August, the younger generation (equivalent of modern Jayalas) armed with bamboo and hockey sticks raided the Sikh fortress. My father was eventually relieved of his liaison duties in Gurdaspur and was posted as the deputy commissioner of Jhang District. Jhang at that period was flooded with Muslim refugees from India and long convoys of Hindu/Sikh refugees migrating to India and the locals were quite compassionate. It was so peaceful.

Those days are now history. We are now fighting one another with zero tolerance. Where is the spirit of independence? Can we call our self, Pakistani? Indians and Jews with all their might do not want to finish us, we are capable of devastating our self, bringing a complete end to Jinnah’s Pakistan.

Published in The Express Tribune, August 12th, 2014.

Like Opinion & Editorial on Facebook, follow @ETOpEd on Twitter to receive all updates on all our daily pieces.


Facebook Conversations

Reader Comments (20)

  • Weird
    Aug 12, 2014 - 2:14AM

    Gurdaspur was a very interesting episode. One thing both Indian and Pakistani historians omit is that most of its “Muslim” inhabitants were actually Ahmedi. According to Pakistan’s constitution, this means Gurdaspur had a majority of non-Muslims and according to India’s constitution, Gurdaspur had a Muslim majority.


  • Suun Tzu
    Aug 12, 2014 - 2:42AM

    When you invoke religion to see the world around you – as you have done throughout your passage – only grief and destruction is the answere. Just wait for either the Taliban or ISIS to take over Pakistan now – or – to survive – you turn Secular.


  • Rahul
    Aug 12, 2014 - 3:43AM

    Maybe you should do real research on what went on during the partition instead of repeating the fairy tales you were fed. Like they say, dead people tell no tales and the victors write the history books. A million people died on both sides. If everybody was peaceful and compassionate, who did the killing!


  • Prakash
    Aug 12, 2014 - 5:30AM

    A very balance account of the situation prevailing during partition era.But I would like to know what did Author mean by storming the Sikh fortress in “True Muslim Spirit” as revenge.


  • Pawan kumar Singh
    Aug 12, 2014 - 5:54AM

    I dont know what is the point of writing this article. It started nicely and end abruptly. There are much better article on the same forum and on the same topic.


  • Dilip
    Aug 12, 2014 - 7:18AM

    So…in a nutshell, to summarize the article – Muslims (before 1947) did not want to be part of Hindus and Sikhs’ lands, so they fought them both and “won” for themselves a country called “Pakistan” (Heartiest Congrats!), but now having banished the two communities to remaining India (post 1947) the Muslims are fighting each other (a major such “fight” took place in 1971 as we know) because now they don’t wish to part of “__” (err.. please someone kindly fill in that blank – i.e. which land?)


  • BlackJack
    Aug 12, 2014 - 8:16AM

    Does the author think that there were no Hindu/ Sikh majority districts in Pakistan (East or West) prior to partition? It’s amazing how your blinkered vision allows you to selectively remember episodes that feed your victim complex.


  • Genius
    Aug 12, 2014 - 11:50AM

    @Rahul who wrote and rightly so “A million people died on both sides. If everybody was peaceful and compassionate, who did the killing ?”
    Who did the killing dear brother?

    Many people were kind compassionate and treated each other very brotherly as they had done for centuries and many still do.
    Guess what? It was probably in 1945 when bands of terrorists were organised made up of actors. One day they will pose as heavily armed Hindu gang who will ride into towns and villages terrorising Hindu population ordering them to stop their centuries old friendship with Muslim neighbours. The other day those actors will be made into Muslim terrorists doing the same to Muslim population.
    This was in response Gandhi Jee’s call for the British to “Quit India”.
    Here is a story told by an Anglo Indian train driver who looked more Anglo than Indian. He introduced himself to me by speaking a little bit of Hindi.
    He said he was forced to leave his job and India. He was on commuter train serving Calcutta and its suburbs. He said the day his train was on time he will hear people shouting “Bhalo driver” or good driver. The day train was late they will yell “Maar saalay ko” or beat him up. He said I decide to leave when one day all of sudden a bullet went through the windshield of the train while in transit.
    The US TIME magazine once wrote about Calcutta that to start a public riot anything would cause to spark it. It may be a hike in tram fares or annything like that.
    Dear brother majority of us are like that. Are we not?
    I feel that the biggest mistake was made by both Gandhi Jee and Mr Mohd Ali Jinnah. They both became barristers yet did not think any bit that the common men in this part of the world still live in stone age. They should never have asked the Brits to leave. Come to think about it. Was it was not a Himalya blunder made by both of them? Look around and see what is happening. Nothing of this sort will happen if the Brits with all their pride, prjudice and failings, were in charge. Should we all not go to them and tell them “All is forgiven. Please come back and take charge.” We are fed up with our daysee corrupt, heartless mismanagers.


  • Strategic Asset
    Aug 12, 2014 - 1:39PM

    @Genius: Pakistanis may wish the Brits to come back, but for us Indians it shall be NEVER.

    Indians made too many sacrifices during the independence movement.

    Subsequently and without knowing it entirely we nurtured democracy in small and meaningful ways. When Indira Gandhi declared emergency briefly, Indians got together and booted her out in the very next election.

    Indian share of global GDP went from sizeable (>20%) to minuscule (2%) during the British Raj. With a lot of difficulty, we are trying to regain our rightful position in the global economy.


  • Tariq
    Aug 12, 2014 - 3:46PM

    My mother, born and raised in Lahore, was seven years old in 1947. She remembers people marching in the streets of Lahore shouting slogans such as “Hindu Muslim bhai bhai, Angraiz ki shaamat aai”.

    So the idea that Hindus and Muslims were mortal enemies and partition was inevitable is a big lie. Mr. Jinnah had a huge ego and he hated Nehru and Gandhi with a passion. I believe he began the Pakistan demand as a means of getting a position of power for himself in a united post colonial India. Unfortunately, the communal forces he unleashed as a result of his “direct action” became out of control and led to the tragedy of 1947.

    I believe partition was a huge mistake, but it is too late to put the genie back in the bottle now. However, there is no reason why todays generation of Indians, Pakistanis, and Bangaladeshis cannot forget the bitterness of the past and create a sort of South Asian union along the lines of the E.U. Afte all the Europeans fought each other with much more bitterness and for a much longer periods of time than subcontinentals ever did, and they managed to create a successful economic union. Why not us.


  • Thotatum25
    Aug 12, 2014 - 4:41PM

    As long as the state of Pakistan is controlled by its armed forces and security agencies with the help of mullahs, this is unlikely. Don’t you see at the slightest gesture by Nawaz Sharif to extend a hand to India, the LOC becomes active.


  • Ratnam
    Aug 12, 2014 - 5:39PM

    The partition was a terrible time. Blaming Hindus and Sikhs for the killing of Muslims is only half the story. Each side killed the other. That is our sorrow and our shame.

    My mother was a child in Old Delhi during partition. Her family (parents and 6 siblings) were Hindus, and lived in a predominantly Muslim locality. There were roving bands of rioters roaming the neighbourhood looking for Hindus who lived among them. A Muslim family hid my grandparents and the entire family in their house and refused to let the mob get their hands on them. A Muslim family protected a Hindu family. My grand parents and their family survived, and my mother came of age in independent India. And I exist, I was born, because of the kindness of a Muslim family.

    Several streets away, in a Hindu locality, there were Hindus and Sikhs roaming the streets murdering Muslims. The madness had a momentum of its own. Everyone was to blame. It was a savage and brutal time. Indians from that time look back and feel the sorrow of that time and never blamed only Muslims or Hindus or Sikhs. They blame everyone. Sadly, that generation will soon pass away and we will have no direct memory of that time, except through the written word.

    I can understand the author’s sense of pain and sadness. I feel sad that so many Muslims of Gurdaspur lost their land and their livelihood. But it is important to forgive and forget, and understand that neither party was innocent. The partition will always be the Subcontinent’s shame. Let us learn to be better human beings. At least that is a promise that we can make knowing what happened.


  • Anonymouse
    Aug 12, 2014 - 5:42PM


    Is that the reason, instead of a Brit a Canadian is wreaking/wielding so much power in Pakistan? I think one of the things Pakistan must do this independence day is scrap dual citizenship for both MNAs/MPs . How can you owe allegiance two different nations and values ?


  • Abdullah
    Aug 12, 2014 - 5:48PM

    Yes Rahul. This version doesn’t reconciles with the twisted version of tales you are fed with in your history books and widely believed in your country. Wake up to reality…


  • Abdullah
    Aug 12, 2014 - 5:54PM

    This is exactly the mis-information portrayed by indian media to its public. As a matter of fact, the LOC trouble started by indian border forces and there are irrefutable evidence of the same with the UN mission.


  • Vijay K
    Aug 12, 2014 - 6:26PM

    @Tariq: Well said brother. I am an atheist and living in USA my best friends are all Pakistanis and like my brothers. I feel Partition was an artificial creation and several reasons (including super-power rivalry) went into it. I see no other way out except to follow the european model and make boundaries redundant, unless we want to doom our future generations. Hate has to be removed from the text-books. Hate only feeds the politicians, not hungry stomaches of the poor.


  • Udaya Bose
    Aug 12, 2014 - 8:16PM

    What’s wrong with Partition? Everyone got what they wanted.Now be happy!


  • someone
    Aug 12, 2014 - 8:39PM

    I bet you have never read the history books of India. Would it not be a huge favor to you if you read them first and then comment?


  • Aug 12, 2014 - 11:16PM

    Appointing Mountbatten as Governor General by Nehru was a masterstroke. Jinnah driven by ambition, appointed himself as Governor General.

    Only if Nehru had allowed all Hindus and Sikhs to move to India, lot of lives would have been saved. And, many Muslims who wanted to migrate would have made India less pure and less violent.


  • observer
    Aug 13, 2014 - 1:21PM

    For the next 60 years, starting from today, Pakistan and India should work hard towards,peace, individually, collectively, officially, unofficially. There is a tremendous potential for both these two countries. People have to realize that the salvation for both lies in peace and only peace. Open the borders, let travel between the two countries become easier, let people to people contact take place freely. India and Pakistan are one people, they have lived together for thousands of years, yes thousands of years, there really is no difference between us, differences are caused by people of ulterior motive. Peace is the panacea for the many problems both countries face, both will be so much better off with peace. The possibilities are beyond imagination with peace between our two great nations.


More in Opinion