Chapter 14: Partition and After

 

The patriarch of Opana's family at the time of the Partition was Sardar Boor Singh. It was a family which had, over many years, earned the respect of tenants, villagers and residents around the region. Partition inflicted many indignities upon this noble clan.

The Muslims of the Kandan Sian, led by the kindly Ali Mohammad, told the family that they would like every one of them to stay on in Pakistan but on one condition only: that they convert to Islam. He explained that some unruly elements from other villages were banding into marauding gangs and he and his friends could ensure the safety of the Sardar's family only if they converted. Some members of the family put it to their benefactors that it would be impossible to persuade the patriarch and Babeji (grandmother) to accept any such thing. However, if only the Muslim friends could help to remove the elderly couple to the refugee camp at Daska, the rest of the clan would then be prepared to go through the exercise. This was agreed and the Sardar and his wife were sent to Daska on horseback with adequate escort. After that, a conversion ceremony was organised. All the men and boys were asked to assemble at the mosque and offer Namaz. They were then asked to partake of the traditional Islamic common meal. The meal, at the request of the Hindus, was free of beef. A rabid faction among the Muslims insisted that beef be fed to these 'converts' but were prevailed upon to relent by Ali Mohammad. When the gang of raiders from the neighbouring village arrived, it was told that as the clan had embraced Islam they must not to be harmed. After much coaxing, the gang went away.

The next day, however, the local rabid faction put forth another demand. Since the family was now Muslims, they said, some intermarriages should be solemnized and some of their daughters should be given in marriage to young Muslims. At this, the Hindus took up cudgels swearing that they would rather kill their girls than hand them over in this way. A message describing the crisis situation was sent to Opana's father in Daska. It so happened that around this time a young Captain of the Indian Army had arrived at Daska along with some soldiers, to set up a refugee camp. On being told about the situation he set off immediately for Kandan Sian and brought back with him the stranded members of the clan. They left behind all their belongings and arrived at the camp at Daska carrying nothing but the clothes they wore. They were indeed the fortunate ones; in some villages the entire population was massacred.

Most of the clan crossed over to India, but one of the uncles refused to leave his land which he felt was as dear as his life. He just disappeared. No one came to know how he met his than the meagre share of land and the small shop he had managed in Kandan Sian. Some flourished while some continued to live in the past, but the fabric of this small society was shredded for ever. The close kinship bond that held the clan at Kandan Sian was gone. In the cross exchange of refugee populations neighbours, relatives, friends and partners who had lived together as one community for centuries, were turned into enemies and strangers. end. That he was no longer alive was the bare fact that was established.

The clan was scattered far and wide. Some enterprising members set up small businesses after arriving in Delhi that gradually flourished and went on to become lucrative. Others just stuck to their old identity of the aristocratic landlord. They got their grant of some land from the government in lieu of the lands left behind, but it became more and more difficult to work these lands. The new land reform laws protecting the interest of tenants made the management of tenancy very difficult. Steadily the land passed bit by bit into the hands of die tillers.

The feudal aristocracy became a thing of the past and those who could not adapt to the changed times were driven to the wall. Hari Ram, son of Sardar Boor Singh, was one such person a true aristocrat of the landed gentry. He was reduced to a petty shopkeeper and even this he could never manage. His world crumbled around him with the creation of Pakistan. From the village of Ucha-Pind where he was allotted land he moved to Phagwara and then to Chandigarh and then to Delhi and finally to shelter in a temple or mandir, to live on charity.

Hari Ram, a very spirited person and the only son of Sardar Boor Singh, had grown up expecting to inherit thousands of acres of fertile land. The new situation was beyond his comprehension. On the other hand, Badri Shah, another uncle from Kandan Sian, started vending coal and kerosene on reaching Delhi, prospered to leave his progeny property worth millions and a business of far greater value.