Muzaffarabad (Pakistan) : In search of roots

Muzaffarabad (Pakistan) : In search of roots

Postman to my father, “Sunder Singh, this is a strange postcard and I believe it is for you.”

 

With a two line address that just read “Sunder Singh, Gorakhpur,” it could only be a divine intervention that the postcard sent from Rawalpindi (Pakistan), found it’s way to my father in Gorakhpur (India).

 

In a crippled handwriting, it’s content was nothing else but an address of a Christian Missionary base in Rawalpindi, followed by the name “Hari Singh.” Just like the concise address, it’s content didn’t say much.

 

This was a moment of joy that Sunder Singh could not express any better but by letting the tsunami of tears roll down his cheeks. He rushed to the thatched hut at a short distance from his home. It was the sultry summer of 1949 and he was thankful to God that in the last two years, life was slowly limping back to normal for his siblings, who had moved to the city of Gorakhpur (Uttar Pradesh, India). In the pogrom conducted against non-Muslims in the city of Muzaffarabad (now in Pakistan Kashmir), his siblings had lost everything.

 

Wealth comes and goes but can life be replaced?

 

No mother can part with her children but when Pashtun tribals from Waziristan and adjoining areas entered Kashmir with an objective to cleanse the non-Muslim population and thereby occupy the region for the newly formed Pakistan, Sunder Singh’s sister was then in Muzaffarabad. The attackers parted women from men and children from women. The intent was to take into custody the young girls and shoot the adult males. Helpless, she had no clue what happened to her two boys, as much as they about their mother.

 

Sunder Singh pushed the door open and entered his sister’s hut, “Bhen (sister), I think the children are alive!”

 

My father, a goldsmith by profession from the region of Muzaffarabad, had left for Gorakhpur in 1945 to explore new business opportunities associated with supply of gold jewelery to the Gurkhas of British India army. The Gurkhas from Nepal would arrive at Gurkha Regiment Depot to collect their pension and this presented an opportunity as many would convert cash into gold, before heading back to their villages. In the two years prior to partition of India, Sunder Singh was busy setting up a business in Gorakhpur and his presence in a distant land became the reason why his siblings chose this city for migration.

 

IMGs

Photo : Sunder Singh in Nepal.

 

In the religion based partition of August 1947, Pakistan was formed with Islamic foundation, while India maintained an all inclusive religious position. It triggered violence across communities on both sides of the dividing line. The outcome was that Sikhs & Hindus got cleansed from West Punjab and the now Pakistan Administered Kashmir.

 

Kashmir was not included in the state of Pakistan as the option to join or remain independent was left for the ruler, Hari Singh. While he delayed the decision, in mid October 1947, Pashtun tribals from Waziristan & Khyber region attacked Kashmir, in order to force it to join Pakistan. On 21st & 22 October, over 300 male Sikhs from the surrounding valleys were rounded up at Ranbir Singh bridge (also called DUMEL bridge as the rivers Jhelum and Neelum/ Kishenganga rivers join close to it) in Muzaffarabad and shot by the tribals at a point blank range.

 

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Photo : The ill-fated Dumel bridge, where over 300 Sikhs were shot at point blank range by the invading Pashtun tribals.

 

Sunder Singh was helpless, stranded in Gorakhpur but it was also a blessing in disguise for his siblings, who saving their lives headed from Muzaffarabad to Baramulla and thereon to the valley of Srinagar.

 

Muzzafarabads

Photo : After the massacre, the family headed from Muzaffarabad to Srinagar.

 

In the months that followed, Sunder Singh was in turmoil, leaving the business activities behind he left for Delhi in hope to somehow reunite with his family. For three months he spent day and night at the Delhi Airport, sending messages through any defence personnel traveling to Srinagar. Luck would have it that one army man was able to locate his brother, Amar Singh and got back a message for Sunder Singh. My father spent his resources in reuniting the family by bringing them to Delhi. It was in December of 1947 an army Dakota plane carrying some refugees landed in Delhi and it included my father’s siblings.

 

This was a moment to celebrate but there was also an intolerable pain as one of his sister did not know what may have happened to her two boys, aged less than 10 years.

 

The two lads, Arjan Singh and Hari Singh, on being caught by the tribals were put through mental and physical humiliation. For Sikhs, keeping unshorn hair is the most sacred requirement and the tribals first action was to deprive them of this visible sign of their faith. For days they lived in fear of the unknown and being taken away from their loved ones. Finally, when the 1st Sikh regiment of the Indian army advanced and pushed the tribals back, they abandoned the children and left with looted wealth.

 

A Christian missionary outfit from Rawalpindi reached Muzzafarabad in November 1947 and took custody of the two destitute boys.

 

Time does not stop for anyone. Sunder Singh stabilized his uprooted brothers and sisters in Gorakhpur, helping them start their life from scratch but was always concerned about the well being of his sister who was under emotional pain of separation.

 

Strange are God’s ways for whom he desires to save. Even in a whirlpool, he leaves a twig to hold. As a young boy of around 7 years, Hari Singh had heard his mother often say that his Mama (Uncle), Sunder Singh has gone to Gorakhpur. Somehow in October 1949, Hari Singh managed to source a postcard and sent it by addressing to “Sunder Singh, Gorakhpur “, mentioning the address of the Rawalpindi Christian missionary.

 

The postcard did reach the hands of my father. This could only happen with divine intervention.

 

The challenge now was that the borders of the two nations were sealed. Travel to Rawalpindi to rescue the children was impossible. Sunder Singh headed to Delhi to leverage political strings. He met with Baldev Singh, the first Defence Minister of India, requesting his intervention.

 

Files moved across the borders and a few months later, the children were united with their mother.

 

Though I was born in the year 1966, nineteen years after partition but I grew up amongst such real lifetime stories. With passage of time the footprints have only grown bigger and were demanding a closure.

 

I grew up delving into the history of my community and realized that 80% of the Sikh heritage lies in the area that now falls in Pakistan, and post partition it is lost forever.

 

It is with this backdrop, I had told myself that once in my lifetime, I will travel freely in Pakistan. Our next generation may not be able to associate closely with the events of partition but at least for me, the entire being desired to feel the energy of our ancestors.

 

In October 2014, at the age of 48 years, I was finally able to make the trip. In a backpacking style I traveled for 30 days, exploring the Sikh heritage that now lies in dilapidated condition across remote areas, unprotected and soon to become extinct. I visited the non-functional Gurudwaras in villages, forts, schools and more importantly met people who once had a Sikh lineage but had to convert their faith in order to survive.

 

Though I travelled extensively across Punjab, Khaibar and Pakistan Administered Kashmir but I knew the attraction of the trip was a visit to Muzaffarabad, the place where our paternal family hailed from. Driving from Abbottabad, I entered Pakistan Administered Kashmir, and the first glance of the city of Muzaffarabad from the top of the hill, peaked my emotions to a level that I had to ask the driver to halt the car. As I stood by the road, looking into the vast expanse of the valley, the meandering Jhelum river making a U-turn, I was asking myself, “is this the expanse of the valley that my father used to describe. He used to describe a small Shangri-La (a heavenly valley) but this is just like any other modern city.” Seeing the development it didn’t resonate with the image that I was carrying of the valley in my memory, but time has neither stopped. It is 67 years since partition and the valley has naturally expanded.

 

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Photo : A distant view of the Muzaffarabad valley.

 

Muzaffarabad is located on the banks of Jhelum and Neelum (Kishanganga) rivers. It is bordered by Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa in the west, by the Kupwara and Baramulla districts of Indian state of Jammu & Kashmir in the east, and the Neelum district of Pakistan Admnistered Kashmir.

 

Guru Hargobind, the 6th Guru had visited the valley and many residents had thereafter adopted Sikhism. Prior to partition the valley of Muzaffarabad and adjoining areas of Balakot and Ramkot consisted of a large Sikh population. The historical Gurudwara in the memory of Chatti Pathshahi (Guru Hargobind’s visit) used to be a fulcrum where the Sikh population of the valley would come together. Today, the Gurudwara premise is converted into a Police station and a CIA (Central Intelligence Agency) establishment. The north wall of the Gurudwara building is all that remains of the main structure as it has been reconstructed into the new establishment building. The resident hall and the kitchen areas of the Gurudwara area are though surviving and being used as residence.

 

Gurudwara 2 Walls

Photo : Remains of Chatti Pathshahi Gurudwara – North face wall.

 

Gurudwara 2 kitchens

Photo : Kitchen of Chatti Pathshahi Gurudwara.

 

Gurudwara 1s

Photo : Residential block of Chatti Pathshahi Gurudwara.

 

As we were parking the car in the market, a man approached asking in Punjabi, “Sardar Ji, what brings you to Muzaffarabad?”

 

We struck a conversation and he shared that he belonged to a nearby village. He had heard stories from his parents about the vibrant Sikh community that had existed in this region, scattered across remote villages. He offered to take me to his village where he can point to the houses which once belonged to the Sikhs and are now occupied by the local Muslim community. He shared an interesting observation that many Sikhs leaving Muzaffarabad had buried their valuables under the cooking area of the kitchen or in the walls. So years after 1947 migration, the occupiers of residences would continue to dig the kitchen area and break the walls in search of valuables and many did succeed. Going to his village would have required about 4 hours and therefore I politely requested to be excused.

 

At the Dumel bridge (Ranbir Singh bridge), the site with which many stories are associated with our extended family, we have grown up hearing, I became highly emotional. My mother-in-law, Satwant Kaur, who stays in Dehradun had also lost both her parents in the target Sikh killings conducted on this bridge by the attackers.

 

At the bridge, I took the stairs and headed down to the river bank, standing in silence, hearing the gushing water.

 

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Photo : Dumel bridge – a view from underneath.

 

A stone slab with the year 1885 indicates this bridge has been standing for 130 years. It is named after the Dogra King, Ranbir Singh of Jammu & Kashmir state.

 

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Photo : Dumel bridge – built in 1885.

 

The structure of the bridge and the existence of a Baradari (structure with twelve gates) at the lower section, with nearly extinct ghat structures indicates the prominence of this place for the Hindu community of the region, akin to the ghats of Varanasi. This bridge is the only footprint of the secular civilization that once co-existed.

 

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Photo : The Ranbir Singh bridge Baradari (twelve gated structure) and the ghats.

 

When I was planning for the Pakistan trip, a strong desire had manifested my being that I need to carry back the soil of Muzaffarabad from under this bridge and preserve it in a sealed bottle to pass on to next generation as a reminder of the holocaust. However as I stood here, I seemed to have a numb feeling. The valley did not resonate with the picture that I had created for myself. The people were not approachable, primarily because of my own perception that as a lone Sikh, I may be under risk. The bridge gave me a creepy sense of the past.

 

Suddenly, I decided I didn’t want to spend a minute more in Muzaffarabad. Hurriedly I climbed the stairs, got into the car and we were off to Murree in Punjab. I did not have any more desire to explore the valley and neither to carry back any soil.

 

The closure I had been seeking in my mind happened with the acceptance that things have changed and I need to move on in life.

126 Comments

  1. Thanks to share some good and some bad happens but you need brother change in text. 1 Gurdwara Sahib Chhaivien Patshahi Building destroyed by earth quick 60% you should mention in details.

    • Thanks for pointing that the Gurudwara complex, which is being used as a Police station after partition, was damaged extensively in the Muzaffarabad earthquake.

      • raja dawood

        Mr amardeep g . i m a resident of muzaffarabad city . my cast is raajpoot . our forefathers were non muslims but we are muslims . and infact the story u are is telling nodoubt it is true … somewhere in ur story u have pointed out that u were the lonely sikh in muzaffarabad well i must tell u that there are still some sikh community living in muzaffarabad and doing business as herbist . and as far as the sikh massacre during partition was concerned no doubt every man living in muzaffarabad express his sympathy towards the sikh community that existed before partition … we still believe that muzaffarabad still belongs to the sikhs as well as muslims … that is the thinking of the new generation of muzaffarabad who are educated and well aware of the history before partition … and in the end i must tell u that we the new generation respect sikh community and we will never ignore their share in the ancient glory of kashmir … my name is dawood raajpoot and i live in muzaffarabad … feel free to talk with me at any issue related to history … add me on facebook or instagram. thankyou

  2. Pradeep K Sharma

    Very vividly written !

  3. A story full of sentiments … Just loved it … Although it was a difficult time for everyone ,no matter Sikh or Muslim , indian or pakistani … It is very difficult for a person to leave his native land and move to a new place and then starting again from scratch leaving everything behind by just moving on in life.

  4. Aditya Madhok

    you’re blessed Amardeep to have visited the land of your forefathers and get the closure you seek. Very well written article detailing your family’s passage to India. Your travelogue can possibly be expanded to include more of your experiences in Pakistan and published in other media as well. All the very best.

  5. Dr.Sunanda Kumar

    A very poignant true story vividly written. Could feel the underneath emotions and how a partition that has affected millions of people on both sides.

  6. Baljinder Singh Bajaj

    Thanks for sharing this Amardeep. It was with a heavy heart I read this. It was brave if you to travel around so much and to seek these answers. I think there is so much more to the story and more pictures as one other comments suggested.
    1947 is a dark time for us all. My grandparents and my father lived Pakistan side and were landowners with livestock. It was all left behind. My father did the infamous walk where both communities were crossing by foot. They eventually settled in Jalandar where it didn’t smell so bad from all the death. Sometimes I can’t believe the suffering that has been forced upon the Sikhs, but we have endured. Long may we continue.

  7. Mustafa

    Amar..
    .you have written from your heart.
    your pics speak and your words show.

    It pains
    just like it did when I watched “milka singh”.
    I’m glad you didn’t carry the soil in the bottle.
    It might have weighed a few tonnes,
    now and forever.

    and the closure came in a realisation,
    not in a bottle.

    now,turn to the elements again,
    and bring us ethereal pictures.

  8. Hey Ranger, great going. Your skills at photography are par excellence!! Cheers

  9. Harpreet Singh

    somehow , my closure happened as soon the neighbours released the accused for 26/11 immediately after the peshawar episode … got an immediate disconnect after longing to visit atleast once

  10. Baba Ji

    Main sab kuj naal ho kay daikhia or sunia dill we roia taa Akhian we roian houn kuj we nai ho sakda Rab sohna hi insan day dukh ghat kar sakda aay insan ta insan nu dukh dain day sewa hor kuj nai karda see karda aay tay karda raway ga . Aoss day Rang Niralay aoss dian aao hi janay sab payar walay jee paida kiun nai keetay kaday kaday Rab nu kallay beh kay pouchda wan sohnia Raba Akhi kiun .Banda Banday da Daru Banda Banday da Maru

  11. Amrita Sehdave

    Beautifully summerized and very well written

  12. Kishore

    History drew a line. the drawing followed by deaths , pains, tears , violence ,uprooting and what not. It was a ‘ sin ‘ committed . Both sides of this subcontinent have to pay the price for many more years to come. God’s world was violated . Divine justice will not allow Peace in this region until the term to live in hell is over. The people of the both the sides ” we” have to live and nourish only hate and suspicion for each other. We are caged miserably for our sin.

  13. Harmeet Singh

    Very well captured

  14. Sukhbir Sahni

    Very touching

  15. Harbans Khakh

    Acceptance of the reality of change does free man from shackles of the sorrowful past…

  16. Babu Eluru

    Let there be love.
    Your roots exist in your photographs,
    In every album but this..

    This was painful.
    give peace a chance.

  17. Saswata Sanyal

    very touching

  18. Kulveer Singh

    The pathos and the pain in your words and in your pictures is overwhelming. The story of your family stuns in its cruelty. But the fact that this cruel fate is shared by millions, and all of them seek closure is a question that is left unanswered by fate

  19. Gurinder Jit Sinh Hara

    Dear Amardeep I have seen the area very closely from Indian side of Kishenganga…. The penury that area has gone into is due to design by the other side. Your pain is unfathomable!!!

  20. Baljinder Bajaj

    Thanks for sharing this Amardeep. It was with a heavy heart I read this. It was brave of you to travel around so much and to seek these answers. I think there is so much more to the story and more pictures as one other comment suggested.
    1947 is a dark time for us all. My grandparents and my father lived Pakistan side and were landowners with livestock. It was all left behind. My father did the infamous walk where both communities were crossing by foot. They eventually settled in Jalandar where it didn’t smell so bad from all the death. Sometimes I can’t believe the suffering that has been forced upon the Sikhs, but we have endured. Long may we continue.

  21. Yadvendra Singh

    Loved the story, beautifully written with so much of passion. Why don’t you think of expanding it into a book?

    • Himadri Banerjee, University of Kolkata

      I am grateful to read these lines and see these photographs. Possibly I would never meet its author nor Sunder Singh ji of Nepal. But for the last few months I have been reading the history of the Sikhs of Muzaffarbad, Mirpur, Punch and their sudden uprooting in 1947 and their subsequent re-settlement in different parts of India- from Shillong,Punjab to Uttrakhand and many other places. I could feel how the gurdwara of the sixth Guru and other sacred places like Danna were vandalized/destroyed, but their memories are never lost, but gone deep into hearts of these 60 plus people’ heart, otherwise they would not have responded with so much emotion and speed.
      But how can I meet the author? May I have the right of knowing more about the place through email or telephone because for the last few months I have been reading about the history of the Muzaffarabadi Sikhs ( sorry for using this term). But they have possibly their some distinct style of living,food, dialect, rituals which they have carried to their new home in Patiala, Delhi, Jammu, Rajasthan and other places.

      Himadri Banerjee, Kolkata

  22. Jagmeet Singh

    You should be a writer, apart from a photographer, Amardeep–very touching account !

  23. Very well written. One of course cannot say anything to take away the pain of personal narratives. However, one simply has to point out that the “Other” has many of the same painful stories in reverse. My own ancestry is from the Valley (some generations before Partition) and I cannot see any of those places. More immediately, my ancestors left Amritsar and Agra in 1947 and lost everything. So please be even-handed and acknowledge Muslim losses as well.

    Finally, please also acknowledge the Government of Pakistan’s efforts to protect Sikh heritage in Nankana Sahab. Many Sikhs come to Pakistan annually to see their religious places. So all is not lost.

    • Thanks Kabir for reading and leaving the comment.

      This narrative of Muzaffarabad is about the impact on my family and is out of scope to cover what happened elsewhere. Having said that, I have mentioned clearly that “It triggered violence across communities on both sides of the dividing line.” So I am acknowledging the killings happened on both sides of the line.

      Whatever I have observed, indeed I will share as is. So when I write about Nankana, I will share the upkeep efforts but at the same time the thousands of dilapidated places across the country will also be talked about.

      • Amardeep sahab,
        Reading your story brought tears to my eyes and reminded me of so many such incidents across both the countries…. But I feel, now is the time to moive forward and keep connected with our roots…… You are most welcome to my home in Delhi or Allahabad anytime.would be a great pleasure to meet up.

      • Himadri Banerjee, University of Kolkata

        After reading secondary printed sources for the last few months, I once more went back to the wonderful photographs of Muzaffarbad. I find them more beautiful and carry an appeal of roots there. A great done so wonderfully Amardeep ji

  24. Mantosh Singh

    Amardeep,

    Excellent feature

    Thank you for making the effort to record this for posterity. We collectively need to think about what we can do to save our history.

  25. Simon Gorwara

    Great story, Amardeep. My ancestors had a similar experience with the tragic and brutal 1947 partition, so naturally your story resonated with me – and I’m sure with many of our classmates. Glad you have some closure.
    Gorwara

  26. Ajay Tripathi

    Amardeep,

    Excellent narration of experience in very simple words. It’s very touching. But the way you have written, it gives a feeling that there is much more to hear and see from you. I want to know more about Muzaffarabad through your eyes.

  27. Harpreet Singh

    Nice article. Very moving.

  28. Vijit Malik

    Beautifully written Amardeep! Admire your deep resolve in tracing your roots. A very touching story that I’m sure resonates with a number of families that had to endure the holocaust of partition…..cheers Vijit

  29. Sorabh Jain

    Amardeep you’re good storyteller man!

  30. Gurjeet Singh

    Dear Amardeep
    thanks for letting me smell my land my mother would love to see it
    Gurjeet

  31. Guraman Singh

    This is amazing

  32. Manpreet Singh

    Absolutely class, poignant tacts of 1947 …. a tear jerker for me since may parents suffered

  33. Guddi Kapoor

    V NICE Plice

  34. Mrignain

    my forefather’s native place. i still remember as a kid hearing stories of muzfrabad from my father s, balwant singh and granfather s, sant singh kukal

  35. Dhruv Goyal

    Good stuff. I remember the Gorakpur and jeweler stuff from the Welham days my friend. Let us meet up next time you are around delhi / Dehra Dun.
    Have a fantastic day

  36. Harpreet Singh

    Read the entire post beautifully written , full of emotions !!

  37. Amarpal Matharu

    Amardeep, You are an amazing writer and photographer! I wish you could find a way to pursue your passion full time. I am so touched by your family’s history and the way you have narrated it! I grew up hearing stories about the places in Pakistan, where my Mother had lived with her family. I wanted to take my Mother to Lahore and Rawalpindi. I will now have to make the trip at some point without her. I hope we are all able to find some closure during our lifetime.

    • Baba Ji

      You are welcome sir and if you want any information about Punjab village on track Lahore to Rawalpindi i can help i am doing work on Historical places specially Non Muslim Heritage in Punjab and North West Punjab .If you like then ask about me from Veer Amardeep Singh Ji .

  38. Mirza Baig

    In search of roots, “yahni apni jaran di talash, apney purkhan di jagah, apni mitti di khich lay key aaee tusan nu.”

  39. Jaspal Sehdave

    My grandparents were uprooted from Abbotabad during the partition and people from both sides suffered unimaginable losses in the name of religion and political gains of a couple of power hungry politicians that were happy with the divide and carnage as long as they could sit on the Gaddi.
    I could walk down those pictures with your narration – thank you for sharing!

  40. Hari Menon

    Beautifully expressed. And kudos for moving on. It is so tough to do.

  41. Bambi Bakshi

    I cant imagine what a thrill and how many goose bumps and butterflies you felt in your stomach

  42. Rajan Puri

    Dear Amardeep, Such tragic days. Such beautiful words. Regards
    Rajan Puri

  43. Amar Abrol

    Must Read. A griping real life tale across borders and generations of closure and moving on. Very touching Amardeep.

  44. Gurmeet Singh Ranghar

    Dear Amardeep,

    I am glad you could draw closure for our elders. I lived the moments with you as you described the footprints. Time and tide wait for none, but in our hearts we youngsters have carried the desire to be with our ‘mitti’ burns strong.
    As we all have moving on to find new homes in a nomadic fashion, from Kashmir to Gorakhpur and moving on beyond our nursery, I feel we have turned truly global. We connect the past with our future, the dotted lines filling the landscape.

    Thanks for the visit through your eyes.

  45. Ashim Choudhary

    Very touching…write more.

  46. Harmet Kaur

    Speechless , emotional remembering home

  47. adarsh goindi

    It’s heart touching, I too have grown up listening to all such stories n each time gives me goosebumps……ur writeup n pictures have touched me n many more like us, in a way, difficult to explain…..the pictures along with the literature kind of feel scary n would never ever want anyone to go thru it……our Grand dads being real brothers have been through the ordeal together n I have learnt some more about it through ur work…..am glad u could disconnect, guess its the best way….thanks again for such indepth insight n a journey into past ….our roots.

  48. Shalini Mohan

    Amardeep, that’s exactly what my dad did…the ghosts of the past had been chasing him ever since partition. He, then went to Shekhupura( Pakistan) located their kothi, met its present residents, who coincidentally are, who’s kothi we live now at Jalandhar!

  49. Avanish Mishra

    For those whose family was impacted by 1947, or those just interested in history. Worth a read.

  50. Indermeet Sial

    Amardeep, through your journey, pictures and words, you have helped bring closure to others like you. Thanks!

  51. Shailindra Singh Kaushik

    My father along with us (we were 5 siblings) went through a similar harrowing experience in 1947. A very close friend Mr. Ranbir Singh Seehra helped me trace my roots in Shiekhupura on 03 Jan 2014. I am also planning to put my experience in writing. In this regard anyone can please help. I do want to share the everlasting agony and pain of partition.

  52. Meenu Kochhar

    Thanks Amar for penning down a beautiful, detailed and pictureous details of your visit. I had goosebumps as I was reading the article. We grew up listening to the horror stories from our Grand Parents and Parents about how they moved to Gorakhpur after the partition. Then came the wars that I remember vividly. As a kid we had to stay inside the house, cover the window glass with the newspaper or the brown paper, no lights on just the candles. Hearing my Dad and now my Husband talk about visiting their home in Pakistan. I didn’t understand then but I do now. Kudos to you for taking the trip which I am sure helped you to move on. Keep traveling and showing us the world form your eyes. The pictures are wonerful. Thanks again Amar 🙂

  53. Harindar Singh Bedi

    Dear Amardeep,

    A very interesting travelogue. The photography too is excellent.

    I can well imagine your pain and anguish on this ‘pilgrimage’. However, as you yourself have written, you have to move on in life.

    It is sad to see the state of the Gurdwara Chheveen Paatshahi. Being a historical gurdwara it should have been taken care of by the Pakistan Govt. just as it is doing in the case of Nankana Sahib and other Sikh shrines in Lahore and elsewhere. I hope the SGPC can be made to take a note of this.

  54. Geetali

    As always, you write with elegance and honesty. This piece was so moving. I have only heard stories of Partition, my family did not experience it personally. Yet, each story makes one sad for the terrible loss of life, and more than that, of innocence, of a way of life that is gone forever.
    Thank you for sharing your story. It takes rare courage to speak the truth about what we seek, and how we feel when we find it.
    Thank you for your lovely images.

  55. Atul Jain

    Dear Amardeep,
    Very well told true happening which quite a few have of us have heard from our parents who have migrated from now Pakistan.
    Imagine the courage of our parents – overcoming loss of loved ones, livelihood, roof etc and starting life all over again to bring us up as they did.
    Hats off to u for travelling to Pakistan.
    Regards,
    Atul

  56. Aditya Goenka

    Very emotional journey.

  57. Amitabh Malhotra

    ADS, gifted in many ways…

  58. Kulwant Kanta Singh

    The pain of losing free access to Nankana Sahib and all other Sikh historical-religious sites is still burning just as fiercely 60 years after partition. Our heritage there is turning to dust. Can you share some stories on the Sikhs who converted to Islam to stay in Pakistan please?

  59. Hamid Khawaja

    What happened was indeed very tragic. Both sides displayed human and inhuman behaviour and both sides blame each other. It is time to move on. The next generation must work for a better tomorrow like the nations of Europe have done. Our generation has to be better than the partition generation. Let’s work on that.

  60. Daljit Kaur Bains

    I don’t think I will ever go, but thanks to Amardeep photography I can imagine how Sikhs lived on the other side of the border. He has bought history to us.

  61. Amardeep Singh

    The moment I heard that you were going to explore Pakistan, I always wondered how would it go.. what would you see.. how would you feel, and after going through the above waited article.. its like a flashback in my mind.. listening to the stories from my Grandma.. The pain they felt the miseries they have been through.. The celebrations of reunion, The sentiments were all visible…
    I salute your gut to do so..
    and most of all I salute all the oldies … For being so strong physically and mentally.. They will always be praised and remembered in the stories of partition..

  62. Himadri Banerjee, University of Kolkata

    I am grateful to read these lines and see these photographs. Possibly I would never meet its author nor Sunder Singh ji of Nepal. But for the last few months I have been reading the history of the Sikhs of Muzaffarbad, Mirpur, Punch and their sudden uprooting in 1947 and their subsequent re-settlement in different parts of India- from Shillong,Punjab to Uttrakhand and many other places. I could feel how the gurdwara of the sixth Guru and other sacred places like Danna were vandalized/destroyed, but their memories are never lost, but gone deep into hearts of these 60 plus people’ heart, otherwise they would not have responded with so much emotion and speed.
    But how can I meet the author? May I have the right of knowing more about the place through email or telephone because for the last few months I have been reading about the history of the Muzaffarabadi Sikhs ( sorry for using this term). But they have possibly their some distinct style of living,food, dialect, rituals which they have carried to their new home in Patiala, Delhi, Jammu, Rajasthan and other places.

    Himadri Banerjee, Kolkata

  63. Hammad

    Amardeep g, sukhi raho. very well written. balance between emotion and realization is great in your writing.

  64. Baljit Sidhu

    This is most touching story of the struggles that our community had to endure. Even though my family always lived around Mukatsar area and did not have to migrate but I can feel the pain of those who suffered. Thank you brother,for sharing this painful past with us. May Waheguru bless you with energy and strength to continue your mission.
    Warm regards
    Baljit

  65. Jaspreet

    Comment: Very well written Veerji, gives me nostalgia from the stories I heard about Rawalpindi from my grandfather, and the partition.

  66. Masood Akhtar

    Amardeep Bhai great sentimental article. I didn’t know that you were so much attached with Muzzarabad. Even the story was so moving that I forgot were I was sitting and even slightly burn my foot in front of heater. I was completely buried in the story. Amardeep Bhai if you can please put up these stories in 1947 Partition Archive Website. I think this is best forum to preserve the memories of our shared history.

    • Thanks Hamid.

      I have personally met Salman in Lahore and had dinner together. Have heard the story from him personally. It was not a partition of India but the partition of Punjab. Stories like these happened on both sides and it was a very sad event in the history of Punjab.

      Thanks for sharing.

      Amardeep Singh

  67. Neelo Fazal Tiwana

    Yadgar

  68. Arjit Mahal

    Dear Amardeep: This is a remarkable story of human suffering and drama that plays out in Nature. You have done a great job to capture history…the link which shows who we are and whence we came. Best wishes to you. Keep up this amazing work.

  69. Moninder Singh Modgil

    Very poigant Amardeep.

  70. Jaspreet

    Very well written Veerji, gives me nostalgia from the stories I heard about Rawalpindi from my grandfather, and the partition.

  71. Baljit Sidhu

    Amardeep
    This is most touching story of the struggles that our community had to endure. Even though my family always lived around Mukatsar area and did not have to migrate but I can feel the pain of those who suffered. Thank you brother,for sharing this painful past with us. May Waheguru bless you with energy and strength to continue your mission.
    Warm regards
    Baljit

  72. Hardev Thethy

    A very moving account.

  73. PRabhdeep Singh Sudan

    My maternal side belonged to the same place. They came to kashmir then reached jammu and got settled there.

  74. Rajinder Sharad

    we hail from this area before partition, it was very touching to read what happened in 1947. A really very good efforts of sh Amardeep Singh to highlight the events.

  75. Jagjit Singh Joura

    A moving true story well narrated reminds us of the sad happenings during partition of India. The concluding lines are a very practical approach we need to adopt. All concerned should learn appropriate lessons from it.

  76. Hutch Singh

    My heart bleeds for our dear Sikh brothers alive and dead who had to see these days. And my mind numb to the cruelty of the Muslims who perpetrated such a rape on my people and its culture and religion. May such devils never ever get peace till they right the wrongs of our Gurus and our civilisation. Salutations to the writer. We need more like you. Thanks for such pieces.

  77. Karanjit Gill

    Pashtun tribals, are increasingly conservative and backward. Criminal and War minded. What they did, it not a surprise they paid back for it/are paying for it. What is Pak Kashmir is one of the most backward regions in Pak. Very limited education/progress. Providence does pay back.

  78. Ajit Chawla

    painful

  79. Brijinder Singh Bhatia

    Very sad.

  80. vininder Kaur

    I am ever so grateful to my dear husband to have taken upon the journey to a foreign land which was once our land. His travel has given a closure to known, unknown direct and in direct victims of Muzzafarabad massacre. My mother at the tender age of 2 lost her biological parents a brother and many immediate family members to this inhumane madness. Hatred is the cause of all pain and love is the healer of all pain. My mother blossomed to be a beautiful human being full of love and compassion. I have marveled at her genuine and enormous heart, she has never expressed anger or animosity towards the killers of her family . I guess hatred never surfaced because she was nurtured with the unconditional love of her paternal grand mother (Roop Kaur), her post partition parents S Rawail Singh (her phuphraji), Sdn Uttam Kaur (her bhua), her six siblings from them – Gurcharan Singh , Kawaljeet Singh, Gurmeet Singh, Bhupinder Kaur, Jaspal Kaur and biological brother late S Avtar singh Chandan (an eye witness to the massacre, who till his death reminisced and yearned to visit his motherland Muzaffarabad). Our 10th Guru says “Jin prem kiya tin hi Prabh payo” meaning – “One who has found love, has obtained the Almighty”. My grandparents, Rawail Singh and Uttam Kaur found their God in the unconditional love for my mother and I found my God in them. While I am writing, I am unable to contain my tears as my heart is filled with gratitude to the Almighty for blessing us with an amazing family who has showered us with unconditional love – which is above any relation, religion, caste and so on .

  81. Salman Rashid

    Incredible story, Amardeep. And images to match. Or are the images better. Can’t decide which is tops: story or images.

  82. Gurpal Singh Kalra

    Very well written.

  83. R Kaurr Dhesi

    A very personal poignant account.

  84. Vijay Kulkarni

    touching

  85. Jatendra Virk

    true majority of punjabi people suffered heavily directly or indirectly but it was beyond their control as it could be worse and we have to move on this is life….i suppose.

  86. Upinder KAur

    A very touching post. I could just feel your emotions as I was reading it. The photograph of the bridge and the incident associated with it sent shivers down my spine.
    Amazing post!

  87. Avinash Kaur

    We are proud of our parents, who stood on their feet after a long struggle. I’m proud of Sunder taya ji who saved the lives of many of his relatives. After reading your note, I don’t have words to describe my feelings. Thinking of the situations that our parents have faced, tears rolled down my eyes. But I’m glad that due to their efforts, we’re able to lead our lives peacefully. Thanks a lot for sharing it…!!

  88. balraj nijhon

    the story is the story of many hindu and sikh families who , before 1947, called Muzaffarabad home. The Nijhon/ Nijhawan family was a very prominent family of Muzaffarabad. I grew up listening to the wonderful stories of how the life used to be for many generations before 1947 and how , in a matters of hours, it became a story of ultimate loss and carnage. The Nijhon clan lost 24 members in a matter of three days. About forty five years back it became possible to travel back to Muzzafrabad and some prominent members of the muslim community from Muzzafrabad approached my father, shri Melaram Nijhon , who was the patriarch of the family –then living in Srinagar, Kashmir , to visit his ancestral home. My father politely refused the offer. He said that he had barely survived the inflictions of that holocaust and was not sure if he could survive reopening of the deep wounds. Few years back I started my dream project of writing down an account of the history of Nijhon clan with my father as the central figure and Muzzafrabad as the central place. The half completed manuscript was lost in a fire. I mourned over this loss—but then it occurred to me that perhaps it was not meant to be and I don’t have to keep looking back to somehow capture my border identity. The examples of life of my father provided the answer—. Our true identity lies within us. It is that inner place that we need to find–. Muzzarabad figures prominently in the story of my ancestors. However , I too have lost the desire to go/be there. Thanks for the wonderful account of your experience Amardeep. God bless.

  89. Ashish Chatterjee

    A wonderful tale well told with equally captivating pictures conveying the present dereliction of the majestic past.

  90. Ajay Aggarwal

    A moving narration from a era gone by. Glad you got your closure.

  91. Amit Sharma

    One of the most amazing accounts I have ever read. Very well written sir

  92. This is a real insight into the turmoil of what happened, so sad, yest such a moving account…I feel for you.

  93. Kishore Kumar Biswas

    Time flowed on far away from that point of history , a period of bloodshed and disaster. all on a sudden the sky fell down on innocent people. Pages of our history books did not hold the saga of tears . Being biased with political theories we forgot the tragedy of human being . We completely forgot thousands of people just melt away for ever , millions of people were ousted for no fault of theirs to find nowhere to go. Can we fell those pains ? No we can’t. Now for us it is just a tragic story . The sin we committed by cutting a land in two parts made us devoid of any human feelings. We are sinners . We the people of both the sides have to pay for it. We are paying .It is evident from the social condition of both the countries. We are slowly moving towards the dooms day.We have to pay for spilling innocent blood on the earth.
    Your pictorial notes written with tears and moistened our eyes.
    Thanks you brought remorse to us , what we deserve.

  94. amarjit s wasan

    I was so emotionally touched by this story and your bravery Amardeep. My mother also hailed from West Punjab and lost two brothers in the partition and I can very well relate to the feelings you went through. Your narration and the photography was just amazing. Keep up this super work you are doing to connect us to our heritage and history. Many would wish to emulate your deeds but few are blessed to do so. And at that young age for you to embark on this adventure is just awesome, to say the least. Well done and congrats.

  95. tariq gujjar

    Sweray sweray rwa ditta ee zalma

  96. I lost my grandfather Col Narain Singh , OBE at that bridge in 1947 on night of 21/22 Oct 1947 when he was commanding 4 Jak Rifle the army battalion which was responsible for defence of Domel and eventually Srinagar. That night there was a mutiny wherein the 50% muslim troops of his unit made contact with raiders from across the bridge in Pakistan and betrayed their 50% Hindu comrade in arms by attacking them while Hindu troops were sleeping. My grandfather died that night last seen firing at the raiders defending valley of Kashmir and we never got to hear of him ever again. And all that happened in name of religion by his own men he had fought with and shed blood with in second world war at Burma.

  97. Chan Makhan

    one very fine morning i received my moms call i have a nephew from Singapore, puttar jaldi aa o milna chanda way. i said pohanchiya ammi ji. and i saw you…. a sikh with very similar face cuts just like my onwn….we met for the first time and who knows for the last time, (Rawalpindi pakistan) i stressed that you should visit Peshawer but be in touch with me all the time as its very unsafe for a sikh to be there. thanks God you visited before peshawer incidence.

  98. Aamir Shahzad

    Just read it in detail. Well written. I agree the partition (Manto always called it Batwara) was one of the worst tragedy. To divide human beings on the basis of religion and to force people to abandon places where they had been living for centuries left a festering wound which is still raw even after a long time. The resultant hatred has forced both countries to spend resources meant for public welfare on warfare.My own perceptions on this colossal loss was clarified when I started reading literature and history after school life where we were fed on official version on the whole incident.

  99. jagmohan singh raina

    It is a pathetic story of sikh community which suffered during “kabali raid” october 1947.35000 sikhs were killed by tribal raiders,sikhs were burnt inside gurdwaras and houses in distt baramulla muzfrabad and other nearby now border districts like mirpur poonch. ladies and young girls were badly treated after killing males and many they took along to their area.many girls and women preferred to die by jumping in river.
    during my visit to pakistan including islamabad and rawalpindi i came across many sikh womens converted to islam having children of 3rd generation But 1947 episode very close to their heart.
    it is very sad that this ethenic cleansing in j&k was not explored by any one.sikh leadership was killed but non other could take up with UNO or redcross for saving thousands of kidnapped ladies in 1947.
    another tragedy which i recently took up with former pm of muzafrabad mr.chowdry during his visit to the valley 1n 2013 regarding property left by sikhs in pakistan kashmir.i wanted the govt of muzafrabad to identify the land and notify on net the proprerty left by sikhs on the pattern of in india kashmir as the entire property of muslims who left this side which is safe as custodian property undet evacue property act.

  100. Sandeep Dayal

    Amardeep
    I can feel your emotions.I am happy that you can now momentarily block a part of your emotions for we really do not know when and how emotions can reappear inour lives.
    You have done something very nice to have made such efforts.God bless you.
    It is a privelege to have been so closely associated with your family at Gorakhpur.I am sure all yourancestors and loved ones will bless you for this one.
    Regards
    Sandeep Dayal

  101. Ezaz Hazarika

    I salute Amardeep for this brilliant write-up. My prayers to Almighty for Granting Eternal Peace to the Departed Souls of those who perished in such mindless Holocausts. May this world see reason….

  102. Paramvir Singh

    Very well written article Veerji…. The description almost took me to Muzafarabad. Talking of finding my roots, after reading this, i think i also want to visit Shiekhupura, where supposedly my paternal family came from during 1947. Have heard stories from my father about pre and post partition life. Guess should see for myself how does it feel to visit a place like that. How did u find the people there? Were they welcoming? Suspicious? I can imagine with the amount of hate spread across both sides of the line by the political machinery, would have been difficult for you to evade some suspicious stares. Guess not many stories of friendship and sacrifice anymore which our fathers told us from back in the days…. But all said and done, u r doing a great service to the community by documenting part of our heritage and history which is on the verge of getting lost forever. I always feel proud and fortunate to have met a juggernaut like yourself in person…. Keep up the good work, may Waheguru bless you with all the strength u need to keep going..

  103. Harshpal Singh

    I was always a fan of your photography skills. You have now open a chapter that was not much known to many of us. How the people left there lived, there generations, how they look towards future………….
    Must read for every person……..
    Great contribution.

  104. Parminder kaur

    Amardeep, thank you for taking the time to share your travelogue. As I was reading it! I was remembering the different stories I have heard from my parents. My mother carried me in her lap as an infant to cross over the new border in a million strong caravan. In 2004-2005 I along with my husband traveled to Pakistan in a delegation of the Sikh Foundation. I got to visit my dad’s ancestral village near Narowal, a short distance from Kartarpur. My husband got to visit the home they lived in before the Partition. The home was on Balram Street, in the suburb of Krishan Nagar, Lahore. The name of the owner,Hazara Singh was still there on top of the house. We visited many places on this trip. I often sit with my 89 year old mother and talk about her life then, the upheaval in 1947 and the difficult times that followed. Many a loved ones were lost! She has made peace, is thankful to Waheguru and continues to relay small events whenever something comes up! I keep recording. Thanks again.

  105. Dr Vinod Kumar

    really painful and touching. most of us have suffered this pain reflecting in the eyes of our parents and grand parents.

  106. Harcharan Singh

    Sad and suffocating account of man being torn between past n present.

  107. Harbhajan Singh Soch

    Fine description of your visit. Well done! Kudos!

  108. Sandeep Zutshi

    Beautifully written

  109. Rupinder Shillon

    heart touching

  110. Harcharan Singh

    Yur description pulsates with fear foreboding the dreariness of being unwittingly sucked in into an abysmal tunnel where one can’t breathe n one seems to die a hundred deaths slowly just becos of the stares of destitute evil creatures

  111. Dev Inder

    Thanks Amardeep for sending the link. Got emotional while reading the script. More so coz i myself have lots of stories to share regarding some real black days in J&K.
    My father was 5 when Tribals n Pakistan troopers disguised as Tribals invaded Independent kingdom called Jammu & Kashmir. My father saw his mother n sister and 28 other members of his extended family perish in village Ichahama, district Budgam, Kashmir. He still carries a bullet mark on his forearm as reminder of those horrid days.
    Thousands of Sikhs died in undivided J&K in 1947-48, from Mirpur to Poonch and from Muzaffarabad to Baramulla n Budgam. Blogs like yours wud save those memories for posterity

  112. wasiq mushtaq

    Amar,iM from Muzaffarabad,
    Respect and love for you

  113. Story resonates with most hindu /sikh families that had to leave West Punjab. Very well told

  114. Surender Pruthi

    We do commiserate with all the human lives lost,badly crippled.uprooted from the native places,re-establishment at a newer place,without means,in merciless conditions and indifferent locals.But,we must not be unmindful of the fact that there were mutual valid recriminations from every community and no side had remained unaffected/impeccable in this madness of causing untold miseries.If we are non-muslims,and had been living in West Punjab,our grouse is targeted at the atrocities caused by the muslims,without being prepared to be singled out as the perpetrators of crimes committed in East Punjab on the fleeing muslims.Only a thorough,just,impartial and truthful admission of guilt on part of every community can present a reliable,valuable and honest account.We,without being defensive or counter-aggressive,must admit the blameworthy criminal and anti-humanity acts on our part,individually and collectively and make an honest promise not to indulge in these in times to come.Our this resolve to remain united,pious,secular,not communal and non-aggressive may be a tribute to those who had suffered during the Partition.And,we must not be dilly-dallying this anymore.A sin is a sin and our being brazenly arrogant does not conceal this.With regards,Surender Pruthi,Sonipat(India).

  115. Ankit kapoor

    Sir my late grand father Ram lal shah kapoor also came from muzaffarabad . He left all his property there.We also have the state subject of muzaffarabad. My grand father was mla in the hari singh’s assembly. Really I got very emotional after reading your article.

  116. It’s emotional read. I’m a local restaurant of Muzaffarabad. I’m working on the restoration of the Sikh heritage but I need some support from Sikh brothers to form a group so that we can work together. I have many ideas to preserve these places as well as to allow our Sikh brothers to visit these places. Please contact me at wasimworldwide@gmail.com

    Regards

    Malik Wasim

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