I was barely three and a half years old at the time of the split. As hard as it may be to imagine, our village, Chak No. 96 (District of Sargodha Pakistan). My grandfather built a spacious house where we used to play.
Without knowing what was going on around us, we children became part of the Great Migration. At night, no one was even allowed to light a lamp or switch on a torch. When the old man accidentally switched, he was severely reprimanded. It took ten days to reach the Kemkaran border.
While crossing the border in relief, no one knew where they were going. Anxiety, fear, nostalgia and uncertainty were palpable on every face. Our family was told to go to Rehal village near Dhaliwal in Guldaspur. As I entered the small house holding my grandmother’s hand, tears welled up in her eyes. My grandfather told her it was a temporary arrangement until we got a permanent place.
Everything about this new land was unfamiliar. We didn’t know anyone there. Life suddenly got pretty volatile. The land allocation was temporary, so I had no interest in building a house, digging a well, or applying for an electrical connection. Everyone eagerly awaited a permanent allotment of land and houses.
The number of landowners coming from Pakistan was 2.5 times the number of migrants from India to Pakistan. Only 40% of his land was allotted to refugee landowners from Pakistan. Temporary land was then allocated near a village near Batala. It was barren and far from the village, so we pitched tents and covered it with bamboo. This assignment has since been cancelled. In 1953 it acquired land again in Dhariwal. In 1955, eight years after the split, he finally built his own home.
When I had the opportunity to travel to Sargoda in 2005, I decided to visit my home. In 1947, it was the largest building in the village, so I thought I could see it from afar, but strangely enough, I couldn’t find it. In fact, there were no two-story houses in the entire village. Two years ago, we were told that our house was demolished after being divided among a dozen residents.
My conversations with some locals were inspiring. They spoke of the love and respect of the villagers for their Sikh families who had to leave Pakistan.
There was an episode that I heard from my grandfather and father. When it became certain that the Sikh family would have to relocate, the grandfather pleaded with his Muslim neighbor and friend Aziz to rob him of everything, including the cattle, before the looters came. But Aziz started crying loudly and ran to his house and he said this would never happen and he would keep our belongings safe.
According to locals, a Muslim neighbor was able to look after a Sikh family’s home for two days, and the village remained peaceful, but on the third day, an outside mob broke out. attacked the village. They opened fire and two people were seriously injured. Raiders have looted valuable items. The next day another set looted everything. Our village Muslim family has returned with the heartwarming knowledge that no one has touched the abandoned house.
— I live in Amritsar