Partition Journeys – a hindu Refugee’s Story

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Partition Journeys – A Hindu Refugee’s Story

A man and his brother show the Hindu symbols they had tattooed on their hands to prove their faith during the violence of partition. This is their account. ©Tim Smith

We left Sialkot on 12 August 1947.
It took us 12 hours to reach Lahore and when we got there, people were being massacred left right and centre at the Lahore Railway Station. Our driver was also a Hindu but he refused to go further until we were certain we were safe.
We got to Badami Bagh in Lahore and stopped. We didn’t know what to do. Then some soldiers took us to a refugee camp. My uncle refused to leave with us actually. He said, ‘If I’m going to die, I don’t want to do it trapped in a car’. We got to the train station and the train wasn’t going anywhere. The train driver was a Muslim and he refused to leave for Amritsar without a police escort. Nobody wanted to die. In our hearts of hearts we were thinking they’ll make an announcement on 15 August and then we’ll be able to go back home. We didn’t think partition was really going to happen, and even if it was, we just thought we’ll go back and carry on living where we’ve been living all our lives. We only left Sialkot to get away from the violence. We didn’t think to bring anything with us. We just locked the doors and left.

We got to Amritsar on the train in the end. Transport was free. You just got on whatever mode of transport you could find. Nobody charged you a fare or anything like that. The train came straight to Amritsar from Lahore. There was no question of it stopping anywhere in between. Forget it! You were told to keep the doors and windows closed. From there to Jalandhar on the train. We stayed in a camp they’d set up in the DAV College in Jalandhar, right on the GT Road. We were there just a fortnight. The government had set up a camp there for the refugees coming from Pakistan. But there were Muslims travelling up towards Amritsar as well. There we saw some slaughter. One of the Hindu officers had seen his son killed in Gujranwala and he’d now been appointed Deputy Commissioner of Jalandhar. He was inciting people, ‘Kill them first, and then loot them’.

Loads of Muslims died in Jalandhar. It stank outside the college, it really did. A body strewn here, another one there. And nobody was interested in picking up the dead either. Everybody was busy running for their own lives. Then Gandhi and Nehru came to Jalandhar to talk sense into the people here. We were only young boys, me, and my brother. I remember our elders telling us not to go near the main road because we might get shot or something. Some Hindus got killed by mistake you know. People mistaking them for Muslims because we all dressed the same. We had the ‘Om’ symbol tattooed on the backs of our hands so people would know we are definitely Hindus. Our elders insisted the whole family have it done.

There were a lot of Muslims in Jalandhar. Even the porters at Jalandhar station were Muslims and they were saying that Jalandhar was going to become part of Pakistan. So that’s when we went to Kapurthala. There’s more than 300 temples there so that’s where the refugees stayed.

From there we came to Panipat and we’ve been here ever since. We were allotted this house in Qalandar Chowk. This had been a Muslim area you know but all the Muslims had fled. This place was deserted. There was nobody here except for us. Just like we fled to save our skins, I suppose the Muslims did the same.

Resource provided by © Irna Qureshi & Tim Smith, Bradford Libraries

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