By Sreyashi Mazumdar
After the draconian rule of the Britishers for a stint of 200 years -that had fettered the citizenry of the country, 15th of August 1947 came as a relief for many. Citizens across the board were found jubilating over the newfound independence, an independence that had unshackled a million out of the clutches of the colonial rule. At the crack of dawn the newly independent country was imbued with an essence of revelry, with speeches of the sought after freedom fighters orchestrating the sovereign alleys.
However, the looked-for independence had struck a staccato of delirium, hounding the people of the country with the imminent peril of partition. The country was still in sync with revelry when its citizens were forced to abandon their abodes, property and livestock, attuning to the geographical divide which resulted in the formation of Pakistan and India.
Despite toeing the 68th year of Independence, there are people who still find themselves in a dither while retrieving those shrivelled memories of independence. The twitch on their faces unravels a sense of woes attached to the bygone days of freedom.
Dipping his coveted Parle-G biscuit into his cup of black coffee, the garrulous 80-year-old Roshan Lal Thackral unfolded his treasure trove; a trove filled with memories of the past. Recalling his experience of the country’s much awaited independence on the 15th of August 1947, he said, “Independence for me was nothing less than a death knell which kicked off a journey of hysteria, pain and sufferings. With the country’s independence knocking at the door, the tremors of partition seemed to crack down upon us- me, my family and my fellow countrymen- with a seemingly impending danger waiting at the other end of the threshold.”
Flipping through the withered pages of past, he further lamented, “We were forced to leave Multan. I was in class six then; the Strum and Drang that was unleashed by partition had left us tongue tied. The seething tension in the newly formed Pakistan wasn’t conducive for us Hindus.”
“I still remember how my father Bhagat Parmanand ji left no stone unturned in an attempt at salvaging the Hindus settled in Multan from the perils of partition. He was the last one to board the India-bound train; he made it sure that each and every Hindu from Multan or nearby villages was transported to India safe and sound,” he retailed.
Expatiating the long-lost moments of struggle, Dhinanath Gogia who had testified partition as a toddler lamented, “We were not in a position to celebrate our independence. We were forced out of our houses. We had to struggle a lot initially. Most of the refugees like us had taken to the streets of Old Delhi. In order to make both ends meet, we had to take up menial jobs.”
“My elder brother used to inflate balloons and I used to sell them near the temple,” interrupted old Thackral. “We wouldn’t have stood our grounds hadn’t it been for the Indian government. The government made sure that each and every one of us ended up with land and food. The entire stretch of G.B.Road and Kamala Market was rendered to the refugees, they were allotted houses and shops,” recalled Thackral.
“I was 10-year-old in the year 1947. We were left to ourselves; the Indian government didn’t do its bit to save us from the precariousness. Both Hindus and Muslims had to go through terrible circumstances. Trains carrying Hindu passengers were vandalized, they were set ablaze,” recollected the puckered face Harish Mukki with his eyes still reflecting the pangs of partition.
“I would never like to go back to Pakistan. I am happy here in India. For me bygones are bygones and I do not intend to jaunt in those alleys of Pakistan which force me to stumble upon dreadful memories of partition,” Thackral added.
On the contrary Mukki had a different idea of Pakistan. He revels in the fact that he was bestowed with a warm welcome on his last visit to the country in the year 2000. He was happy to gab with his friends settled in Pakistan. “People still remember me over there and I couldn’t feel any form of agnosticism pervading our reunion. I was happy to junket in those streets which drove me back to my childhood,” he said.
Therefore, even though the crack of dawn on the 15th of August brought with itself freedom and exempted Indians of incessant misery and bondage, the surging climate wasn’t all hunky-dory. There was an India which was still bemoaning at the country’s uncalled partition; a partition which kicked off an era of neo colonial politics with people still being fettered by territorial limits and communal propositions.
However, fending off politics and territorial hegemony, their voices in unison reiterated their faith in the country, hailing “Hamara Bharat Mahan, Jai Hind!”