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The Sins of My Fathers

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    The Sins of My Fathers

    At the time of the Partition of India and Pakistan, my father was 12 year old. He is visiting with me from Pakistan and last night I had a talk with my Dad. We often have long conversations, but this one was unusual. I asked him what he remembered as a young boy growing up during that period. After a long silence, he says “what have you reminded me of, ask me son, what is it that I don’t remember”. Here goes my Dad for about 4 hours:

    In a small village of District Sargodha (name withheld), there were 17 Hindu families (17 that he could recall). There was a Mandar (Hindu Chapel) in the village. Religion was never an issue. Hindus were part of the village community like all other groups. My Dad had Hindu friends, Hindu teachers, Hindu shopkeepers. He remembers Amar Nath Suri, who had a bookstore in the village. He remembers Dr. Roshan Lal (village doctor), Fakir Chand (English Teacher), Mulak Raj (Math Teacher), Hans Raj (History Teacher), GhiGhi Ram (Science Teacher) whose son was my Dad’s class-fellow. But most of all he remembers Madan Gopal, his childhood friend. Madan Gopal and my Dad were very close. They were like brothers. I could see a couple of tears coming out of his heavy eyes. That was precious. For me to see my Dad recall his childhood friend. Those memories, he says, will go with him into his grave. He then told me the wonderful time they had with all their Hindu friends. He gave me enough material for me to write a 50-page chapter on each of the people above, which I will one day.

    I asked him, “what happened when the country was divided”?

    There were small riots in the midst of this uncertainty of not knowing what is happening. It was a small village, unlike cities, news didn’t reach there right away. Radio was the only source, and there were only 2 or 3 radios in the village. The house of Dr. Roshan Lal was set on fire by some hoodlums. 2 people were killed. My dad got emotional again. Long pause.

    “What happened after that? What role the village leadership play?”

    The village leadership got themselves together, asked all Hindu families to fold up, collect their belongings and we will provide the passage. Whatever belongings people could fit into boxes, they did, collected their Gods, and headed towards the train station. The village provided 20 Jawans (my relatives included) who rode the train with them to provide security until the border crossing at Wahga (Lahore). After that whatever happened to those families is not known.

    “Did you ever try to find out what ever happened to those families?”

    In 1963, he got a letter from Amarnath Suri, who was then General Secretary of some business association in Jalindhar. He sent his regards for everyone in the village, and asked about the well being of each and everyone in the village.

    “Did you ever follow up?”

    Yes. I wrote back to him. We lost contact after the 1965 war.

    There is so much that he remembers. And there is so much guilty that I feel about those two deaths. I want to meet with the relatives of Dr. Roshan Lal, and ask for their forgiveness for the sins of my fathers.

    NYAhmadi yaar, why you had to bring this topic in. hain? tainu koi mazza aanda ay doosreyaN da dil dukha ke...It was really a bad chapter in the history of our region. Armies had fought wars before and after 47 but that day was when common people got junooni...
    I have dozens of stories told by my dada ji who died last year and by my dad(who was about the same as yours 6th grader in 1947). I have summaries written but when ever I try to write something in detail, I cann't. It is too intense an experience. I hope I do write them some day.

    My dad was going to a school in a neighbouring a village that is in Pakistan now. He talks about his school days there and talks about ti all the times. As I am duscussing about visiting Pakistan next time I go to India and he asked me If I can wait another 2 years when he be US citizen too and we can go together. He wants to visit that village and I asked him do you remember the streets there. He said, how can he forget. unless they changed it drastically, he can still find his way out through those streets and not get lost there.

    Say my sat siri akal to your dad from my dad.



      After reading your guys' posts I am thinking we are so lucky we never had to go through that. Sad it is that it happened (I know sad is not a strong enough word but my vocabulary runs out on something like this), but we never went through it ourselves and for me personally, it's a blessing.

      Another thought comes to mind. After 50 years, while our generation is young just like our fathers or grandfathers were, if same thing happens now would we show a better behavior? Would we be more tolerant? Would we be more responsible? Have we really improved 50 years later from that point of view?

      Tell me. I myself, don't have the answer.


        I was reading the talk with historian in Punjab Univ., Dr. Mubarik Ali in 'The Friday Times" One statement is worth note

        "The doctor also expressed his reservations about the educational system prevalent in Pakistan today. "Education is a positive thing but an ideological education can have disastrous effects. This is why I believe that an uneducated person is more broadminded, for he is tolerant". He expressed his disgust at the efforts aimed at twisting and distorting history which he said "is the victim of ideological states. Independent research and publication of textbooks have been compromised because of the state's intervention".

        So u donno how new generation will behave. At least old generation in Pakistan could meet enough Hindus and Sikhs personally and form opinion from experiences. New generation is going to know about Hindus and Sikhs from textbooks alone.

        [This message has been edited by ZZ (edited October 05, 1999).]


          ZZ: How does the new generation in India form their opinions? I think the same applies for both sides.

          The mess during partition was inevitable, taking into account the breakdown in the implementation of the process. Confusion caused mayhem. You can blame that Mountbatten and his friends (including Nehru). They should have thought the process out a bit. They are responsible for the riots, the killings and the bloodshed. They should be held accountable.



            well.. the difference is that textbooks are secular. the BJP has not got in textboks yet. Secondly, 12-15% population being Muslim you meet them more often than Pakistan which has maybe 1% of Hindu/Sikhs. We are not an ideological state. Our identity may be ill defined but unlike Pakitsni newspapers we do not discuss the crisis of identity regularly. Being a older state, it is more comfortable on these questions.

            Blaming it on management.. i donno. Blaming it on Nehru is very funny. There is an incident in which Nehru jumped in riots in Delhi personally to save people. As far as Mountbatten is concerned, Jinnah is on record saying that till Mountbatten came there was no chance of partition. so whose friend Mountbatten was?

            I have my own opinions on partition and my opinion is that it was good for majority Hindus. It would have been tough for them in united India with Pak and Bangladesh which would have 50% Muslims. But that is another issue. Mode in which partition occured is another issue.

            [This message has been edited by ZZ (edited October 04, 1999).]


              I said something to the effect regarding burning text books on the same grounds ZZ, but you were amongst the people jumping on my back condemning me.
              fact is that, our formal education systems(majority of the countires) may be good at teaching us how to earn our bread but don't make us any better human beings than the ones who are totally illiterate.

              Roman has raised a interesitng question. I don't if the situation comes again whether we are going to behave any better or not. I doubt it. The mentality of the herds is not same as the indivuals.

              more later...



                Chann Yar, I will pass that on to my Dad, he will be touched!

                It was a sad period of our history. But we cannot let that experience take away the 1000s of years of brotherhood and common ancestry that we share. As everyone here has said, what is more important is the lessons we have learnt, and how we can use that as a guiding light for future generations to come. The only way forward is the common objective of love and prosperity for all, to respect each other and to accept the differences. Reconciliation at this stage is very important, as the generation that suffered the most is almost on its last leg. Most have passed away (my grandparents’ generation), and those still alive will only have to gain from forgiveness. My Father’s generation (those who were in their adolescent years) are now getting old and their time will pass soon, they need more than anyone to find out the fate of their loved ones before they pass away.

                That leaves our generation, those born after the partition, who have no memories (in physical sense) of that time. We need to bridge the gaps, and hopefully we will.

                It is understandably a sensitive issue for most people who have experienced it. One of my aunts (from my maternal side) was born in the Kafla (caravan) while crossing from India into Pakistan. Her mother wanted to abandon her, she placed the newborn under a tree and another relative picked her up. This aunt is now the same age as Pakistan, and she is glad to be alive and holds no grudges against anyone. I am so proud to be related to her.

                I hope that things between our countries will get better, because there is no other alternative.

                Chann Bh-ra, when you come to Pakistan, let me know, I will give you a special tour (I will be your personal guide) of Lahore, my city!


                  There is absolutely no reason why a Pakistani and an Indian cannot be friends in New York, Denver, London or wherever. Of course if you are living in Occupied Kashmir it is a different matter because then you are not free to make your own choices. That is probably one for the political forum though.







                      Funny how partition is blamed on Nehru, Gandhi, Patel etc and no one mentions Jinnah's name ---- was he not even a little guilty of the arson and the killing that followed !!??


                        ZZ wrote: "As far as Mountbatten is concerned, Jinnah is on record saying that till Mountbatten came there was no chance of partition. so whose friend Mountbatten was?"

                        Mountbatten didn’t particularly like Jinnah. Mountbatten vocally called Jinnah a cold man, a *******, a megalomaniac, a psychopath, and an egomaniac (Lawerence James, Raj: The Making and Unmaking of British India, Little Brown and Company, Great Britain, 1997, page 611 also Philip Ziegler, Mountbatten: The Official Biography, William Collins Sons and Co. Ltd., London, page 369.) . Mountbatten had a much closer relationship with Nehru. Jinnah was the “native who would not give ground, who would not be browbeaten, who had the support of his own people solidly behind him.” He commented that “Jinnah was the man who [he] had the greatest difficulty in getting through to,” he would be Mountbatten’s “toughest customer.” (Ayesha Jalal, The Sole Spokesman – Jinnah, The Muslim League and the Demand for Pakistan, page 250.) Mountbatten latter commented that he “drove the old gentlemen [Jinnah] quite mad” and that he “was trying every trick [he] could play on him.” (Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre, Freedom at Midnight, page 104 and 39.)

                        Mountbatten was accused, by his own British staff, of seeing the world through “Hindu eyes.” (Akbar Ahmed, page 134) Mountbatten was very much influenced by his friendship with Nehru. According to leading British politicians Mountbatten was not an impartial Viceroy. According to Lord Wavell “he was very much gone over to the Congress side, as was, I suppose, inevitable.” (Philip Ziegler, Mountbatten: The Official Biography, page 461.) Similarly Ian Stephens commented that he “was startled by the [Mountbatten’s] one-sided verdicts on affairs. They seemed to have become almost wholly pro-Hindu. The atmosphere at Government House that night [prior to partition] was almost one of war. Pakistan, the Muslim League, and Mr. Jinnah were the enemy.” (Altaf Hussein, From Mutiny to Mountbatten: A Biographical Sketch of and Writings by Altaf Hussein, Kegan Paul International, London, 1996, page 72.)

                        Mountbatten closed down British offices, which were sympathetic to Jinnah’s cause. Field Marshall Auchinleck’s office was closed down in this manner because it was sympathetic to Muslims. Hamid, private secretary of Auchinleck called it a “degrading and dirty trick.” Mountbatten also retained a sense of bigotry. On a number of occasions he asked “whether there were likely to be sufficiently intelligent Muslim officials to administer Pakistan.” He also placed V.P. Menon a partisan Hindu “in a position where he could influence plans for Jinnah’s Muslim State,” as one of his ADC’s. In another lapse of judgment Krishna Iyer, another partisan Hindu and Congress sympathizer, was made assistant secretary to Sir Radcliffe, the lawyer heading the Boundary Commission. Christopher Beumont, Secretary on the Boundary Commission, commented that he had “not the slightest doubt that Iyer kept Nehru and V.P. Menon informed of the [partition] progress.” Mountbatten’s bias was in particular evident a few weeks before partition in Simla. At this time he chose to go against all protocol and show his guests, Nehru and V.P. Menon secret plans for the division of India. After Nehru viewed the plans he supposedly became outraged. Nehru along with Menon, chopped up the map and created what was known as the Menon Plan, a newly revised plan for partition. Plans were also made to counter Jinnah if he balked at the Menon Plan. These secret meetings behind closed doors shaped the coming bloodshed along the divided India-Pakistan border.

                        It was these plans combined with the confusion caused by a lack of awareness amongst the public regarding partition, and the removal of authority (ie. British Army and personal) which precipitaed the violence. In my opinion, Jinnah was not to blame for the bloodshed. He attempted to avoid it, the only thing he came short of was giving up on the idea of Pakistan - which he obviously would never do.



                          I think the way discussion is going now, it is is more suitable for poilitics forum. But let me add a note.

                          If a person is forgetful, you may say he is forgetful or if you like him, you may say he is philosopher. Similar is the analysis of political personalities. You paint Jinnah as a person who could not be browbeaten, would not give ground or whatever. Other way to look at it is a an adamant person who will not budge from the maximalist and arbitrary demands he presents. No wonder Mountbatten could not do business with him and not only he failed in getting everything he wanted, but got far less. Maybe Jinnah was not a rational negotiator. As far as Jinnah's support is concerned, it is post 42 event. It was there for three-four years (Even Mulayam singh yadav had muslims solidly behing him for 5-6 years) So that was not for a very long time. In fact, it was Congress who kept winning in Muslim majority constituencies before that.

                          What was the demand? Demand was a representation to Muslims in all walks of life which was disproportionate to their percentage in population (otherwise we will riot, was the threat) It was true that Muslims were/are educationally backward. But Hindus were not responsible for this backwardness (Immediately on independence, India established quotas for lower castes and tribes. there was no agitation to get it. it was because they believed that atr least in lower castes, others were responsible for backwardn ess and should pay for it. this is much stronger measure than affirmative action in US. But in case of Muslims who take pride in telling around that they ruled for 1000 years or 1200 years or whatever, others failed to understand why they should pay for the backwardness of ex-rulers. In fact, even after independence, the eduction standards in Pakistan and Bangladesh remains miserable compared to India. Ask any Pakistan professor you have around. Rate of population increase in Pak/BD used to be full one point more than India till recently, though now rate has fallen. Why should others pay for all this?)

                          Again demands were continuously changing. It was not clear what was the end. It was not clear that partition will be avoided once and for all if you accept everything league says. Where Lahore is followed by Kargil in one month, the word could hardy be trusted and League did nothing to create the trust. They felt fear will help them to get them what they want.


                            I don't get it, why can't we at least once forget freakin' Jinnah, Nehro, and Mountbaten and look at the matter soley as a grave human tragedy?

                            We are not talking about leasders and what they did for their respective nations. We are talking about groups of people, the families, the individuals, and the memories of blood and friedship.

                            Every individual, whether a Muslim, Pakistani, Hindu, or Indian died in the process is the sadest part of the story.

                            Why don't take your crap of Jinnah or Nehro where it belongs.


                              Apparently I was in pretty crapy (here goes that word again!) mood to spit out such harsness. Must be one of those weekends, uh? Anyway, I apologize for the harshness, please ignore my previous post.

                              Thank you.