Editor-in-Chief & Publisher: MIR JAVED RAHMAN


TALES FROM 1947


Issue Date 12 - 18 Aug, 2017 at 2:00 PM

In the words of distinguished Pakistani historian, Ayesha Jalal, Pakistan’s independence was “A defining moment that is neither beginning nor end, partition continues to influence how the peoples and states of postcolonial South Asia envisage their past, present and future.” The British lawyer, Cyril Radcliffe was given the task to draw the borders, and only 40 days to mark out the boundaries of the two states, Muslim-majority state of Pakistan and Hindu-majority state of India. Once the Muslims and Hindus realised they were on the wrong side of the border, so began the mass exodus which resulted in more than 500,000 being killed and left about 12,000,000 as refugees. On the 70th Independence Day, MAG got in touch with the Citizens Archive of Pakistan (CAP). These first-hand tales sketch a picture of the hardships that were faced by the migrants who reached the newly-born state of Pakistan amidst pain and agony, while holding close to heart the excitement of setting foot on earth they would soon call home.
CAP is actively working on collecting oral history narratives of the partition generation since 2007. They have collected over 2,200 oral histories and 97,000 archival photographs. Here are some of their stories:

Agha Muzaffar Abbas
Agha Muzaffar Abbas
“We lost my brother, Nisar, while we were travelling by train from India to Pakistan. After that every station we stopped at we tried looking for him. My father also had announcements made on the All India Radio in order to find him. In the end, my father decided to send us to Karachi while he stayed back in Lahore to find my brother at the refugee camps. Till date, we have not found him and I believe he travelled back to India.”

Riaz Iqbal
Riaz Iqbal
“When the partition happened I was in Meerut, India. Riots began and after certain incidents we did not feel safe anymore. The animosity that took place was more targeted towards the poor. As students, we had to take shelter in a different hostel to ensure our safety. Given the situation at hand we finally decided to migrate to Pakistan.”

Chaudhry Zafarullah Khan
Chaudhry Zafarullah Khan
“In Wazirabad, the majority of Hindus had migrated to India. The refugees coming in took over and claimed any empty house they could find, as there was no official claimant present at that time. Over time, as immigrants kept coming in, an official body was created and administrators were hired to officially allot houses and lands. They allotted 10 acres of Sikh land to each refugee for cultivation (until the government gave a verdict in accordance with the records received from India).”

Dr. Safia Moin
Dr. Safia Moin
“We boarded the train on 11th August 1947 from Delhi to Karachi. It took us three days to reach here. However, it was the month of Ramazan, so every station we stopped at in Punjab and Sindh, people from the surrounding villages would send big pots of food for Sehri and Iftar for the passengers. That was the kind of fervour and empathy that existed at that point.”

Amrah Alam
Amrah Alam
“When our siblings had migrated to Pakistan me and my younger sister longed to go there as well. So we made a plan to go to the train station and walked along the tracks to go to Pakistan. We packed our clothes and water bottles. At the railway station we came across a Hindu procession, these processions were quite common, but because we were alone, we got terrified and left our belongings on the train tracks and ran back home, when we got home we realised that we left our Eid clothes on the tracks.”

Jehan Ara Asad
Jehan Ara Asad
“I was a member of All Pakistan Women’s Association (APWA). Wajeeha Hashmi was the president at that time and she made me the vice president and treasurer. We did a lot of good work and girls/ women working there were from good families and backgrounds, they were educated, some of them were doing their masters, but they joined APWA for its social causes and the work we did. We maintained the social essence of the organisation and that is something many people applauded.”

Dr. Rafiq Ahmad
Dr. Rafiq Ahmad
“We, five or six friends, ran towards him and together we raised our voices and called out to him like hyenas, “Quaid-e-Azam, Quaid-e-Azam.” So he turned towards us and said, “What’s the matter boys?” We… in our broken language told him, “We wish to attend your speech and this and that.” Well, he laughed and directed the management, in Urdu, “Let them go in and let all the youth inside free of cost.”

Khwaja Ejaz Hussain
Khwaja Ejaz Hussain
“We left Nagpur on 14th August and reached Delhi the next day. After leaving Delhi we got stuck in Ferozpur. That was the last station before this side of the Sutlej. The train stopped there for a day and we kept sitting in the compartment, there were people patrolling outside. We had two guns with us but believe me there was not a single cartridge in them. I don’t know why my father didn’t think of it. Then an Anglo-Indian train driver finally came between 5pm-6pm and we shifted into that train. After that it was total chaos, looting began in Ferozpur and all our belongings were looted away from us, we reached Pakistan with nothing.”

Quotations and Photographs
Courtesy The Citizens Archive of Pakistan






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