Separated by Partition, families long to meet Muslim relatives in Pakistan

By:Varinder Walia

The Tribune. 19 December 2007

Many Muslim families of this Majha heartland who were converted to Sikhism so that they could save themselves from the communal frenzy in 1947 yearn to meet their relatives in Pakistan.
Bhai Gurmohinder Singh (born as a Muslim) holds his picture with Nawaz Sharif, former Prime Minister of Pakistan. Sitting by his side is Baba Sewa Singh, chief of the Kar Sewa Samprada, Khadoor Sahib. — Photo by Vishal Kumar

Many who stayed back in India or were left behind, were converted to Sikhism. They grew up believing in Waheguru, while their families across the border believed in Allah.

These are true-life tales of families separated during Partition, building separate lives across the India-Pakistan border, and then finding each other through determination and luck.

Mahana Ali, who was born in a Muslim family in 1932 at Bhail village, near Jatti Umra (the native village of Nawaz Sharif, former Prime Minister of Pakistan), is now Bhai Gurmohinder Singh. He still remembers offering prayers in a mosque before Partition. However, after the killing of his elder brother, Jana, by a frenzied mob, his mother Karm Bhari urged a Sikh farmer, Manna Singh, to take care of her son and left for the newly created Pakistan. She feared that her second son could also be killed if taken to Pakistan. Bhail village was a Muslim-dominated. Later, Baba Uttan Singh, the then dera chief of Kar Sewa, Khadoor Sahib, took him (Mahana) to a gurdwara and brought him up like his own son. Now, Gurmohinder Singh (earlier Mahana) is a staunch follower of Baba Sewa Singh, the new chief of the dera. The dera chief gives him a lot of respect and calls him "Bhail Sahib" (Bhail is the native village of Mahana). Being one of the most trustworthy followers, the dera chief has entrusted him the assignment to collect donations from a particular region. Now, Bhai Gurmohinder Singh recites Gurbani every day.
During a visit to Khadoor Sahib, Bhai Gurmohinder Singh told The Tribune that he had visited Pakistan on the initiative of Col Partap Singh Gill, a former Lieutenant-Governor of Goa, Daman and Diu, who founded the Jatti Umra-Hind-Pak Milap Trust and met his elder sister Jano after more than half century. He had also met Nawaz Sharif who gave the delegation a red carpet welcome. Sharif had hosted lunch and dinner at his residence and put vehicles at their disposal for taking a round of various cities and towns of the country.

Similarly, there are a number of families in villages of Bhullar and Thathi Khara in Tarn Taran district who were converted from Islam to Sikhism after Partition. Din Mohammad of Bhullar village is now Dewan Singh, while Sardar Ali has become Dara Singh. Another villager Surjit Singh was Khurshid Ahmad, while Gyan Singh was Alla Baksh. Most of the converted families in Bhullar village are followers of Dera Radha Soami, Beas.

Though the Jatti Umra Mel Milap Trust did a yeoman's service in bridging the great divide by arranging meetings between the split families of India and Pakistan, after the death of Colonel Gill nobody has come forward to revive its activities.

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