Oral Histories

Sudershana Kumari was eight years old at the time of Partition. She remembers how they had to suddenly leave their home one evening in the middle of preparing dinner.

Pran Nevile speaks about the cultural richness of Lahore in the 1930s-40s and which was known as the “Paris of the East”. He mentions the leading singers of classical music, the Punjabi film industry and the many educational institutions, that were all based out of Lahore.

Sahib Singh Virdi recalls an incident when his father defended himself with a double-bore gun against Muslims on horseback while migrating from Pakistan and enroute to Dera Baba Nanak in India. The family then was forced to take a much longer route to the border in Jammu and Kashmir, instead of heading straight for their destination, in order to avoid mobs, and narrowly escaped being killed a number of times during their journey.

Sunil Chandra Ghosh recalls his father’s friend, Hamid Miyan, who helped the family cross the border from East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) to India. Hamid Miyan visited Sunil Chandra Ghosh’s father several times, at their house in Barrackpore, on the pretext of getting him his desired Hilsa fish, a delicacy specially from the home left behind by Ghosh.

Hamida recalls leaving her village in India and heading to Pirojpur, East Pakistan after riots broke out. During the struggle of leaving their home behind, a Hindu washerman provided shelter for the night. They took refuge in a nursery, where the government of East Pakistan assisted the refugees and provided them the necessities to observe the festival of Bakr-Eid.

Ila Banerjee was from Mymensingh, East Pakistan (now Bangladesh). Her family didn’t migrate immediately after Partition as the situation at that time in East Bengal (East Pakistan) was not as severe as that in Punjab. The circumstances changed in 1950 and cases of arson and stabbing became more frequent which forced the family to migrate.

During the riots, women were often victims of violence. Amol Swani talks about her cousin who along with other girls had to take shelter in a hospital after they were followed by 15-20 Muslim men with malicious intentions. She also recalls the fear she felt when her father instructed her mother to immolate herself and Swani if they were attacked and to not let the Muslims capture them.

Asha Gupta talks about her grandfather who didn’t wanted to leave his property behind in Pakistan. With the help of a Muslim friend, he disguised himself as a Muslim and stayed back in Karachi for 5-6 years after Partition.

Ijaz Khan describes the experience of his father and other members of his family when they went back to their home in Jalandhar a few years after Partition. He says the warmth and love with which they were received by their Hindu friends and neighbours was overwhelming.