>>>IN RESPONSE TO A REQUEST FROM LAYLA (OUR GRANDDAUGHTER)
The above map is an exact mountain dirt path from Kasauli to Kalka, that we followed to escape. Thanks to the latest GPS Apps (Apple and Google Maps) that has helped me in mapping and to relive what I went through.
1 – KASAULI TO KALKA IN INDIA
MOUNTAIN ROAD ESCAPE ROUTE
Background: I was with my uncle Yaqub and is family in Kasauli Hill (a hill resort) in Himachal Pradesh, India, where my uncle had a well established shop: French Wear House, alternating between, Simla Hill (Summer Capital of India in British time) , Kasauli Hill and New Delhi, all in India. My uncle’s family in Kasauli, included his three sons (Bashir, Amin and Anwar) and the wives of two married ones, plus a youngest member named Najma Parveen (b. Apr. 27, 1944, living in Lahore). While my father was also in Kasauli, living in my uncle’s place (a huge Villa with 4-5 bedrooms), my mother was back in Jullundur city, from where she migrated to Pakistan with her own ordeal, a separate story. Suffice to say, my uncle had a very big house in Kasmiri Mohallah, in Kasauli, and he was well respected in Kasauli for his philanthropy to Hindu Temples and Indian Arts and Music. I myself enjoyed several of Temple festivals of dance and music whenever I accompanied with him or family members.
In August 1947, soon after the declaration of Partition of India into Bharat and Pakistan, we, the residents of Kasauli were told (via local Radio Broadcast, I am not sure though) that we will be evacuated from Kasauli to Pakistan and safe passage will be provided. In early Sep. we were notified that we should assemble on the grounds of Anglican Church of Kasauli, built in 1853, from where we will be evacuated to safety. Once we assembled, with our limited but valuable luggage, at the appointed place, the British Commander-In-Charge of our evacuation addressed us and laid out the ‘evacuation strategy’, meaning, that those who are able to walk will go by mountain road, accompanied by 4 Cadets Trainees as security guards, all the way to Kalka Railway Station, 24 km away downhill. The remaining ones, that included women, older men, and children, will follow the following day in trucks, via regular paved road from Kasauli (Himachal Pradesh) to Kalka Railway Station (Harayana).
“Christ’s Church is situated on the busiest street of the town, the Mall Road. Constructed during the British era in Gothic style architecture, the grand church is amongst famous tourist attractions of the town. It is one of the prominent churches of the hill station. Dedicated to St. Francis and St. Barnabas, the Anglican Church was constructed in the year 1884. Church is constructed in the shape of a cross, built by the British families that laid the foundation of Kasauli town in year 1842.The heritage church features a clock tower and a sundial in the front. There is a cemetery along with the church with graves dating back to 1850s and earlier.
The Anglican Church was previously managed by the Church of England till the year 1970, when Churches of North India (CNI) took over the management. The church is situated on the Lower Mall, which is at a walking distance from the main bus stand.” (Photo and text credit: Wikipedia)
About 200-250 (approximately) of us started our march from the Anglican Church compound, before noon, I remember, following our guides, four Muslim Cadets who were the Trainees at the British Cadets Training Academy in Kasauli, who divided themselves into two: two up front of 250+ of us and two at the back of the long line, winding along the mountain dirt road, close to the crest. Being in the front 10 lines with my cousin, I don’t remember if I saw the end of our entire group, skirting around the mountain and winding road. I It was 33 km walk downhill all the way, stopping for security reasons. The 4 Cadets put their lives on line to make it sure that we make it to our destination safely in Kalka. It took us 10 hours in all to enter Kalka where we faced our first attack by the Hindu extremists.
Kalka was put under curfew so that we could pass through safely to a military camp ground outside the town. I (just turned 15 years old – 5 days after the announcement of the Partition, at that time, and the only child of my parents) was holding hand of my first cousin Bashir, when we heard an ear piercing sound and saw thick smoke, that set us apart with fear and a break in our 4 men file formation. There was awful smell from the thick smoke. It turned out that a grenade was hurled from inside the side street (though under curfew around 10:00 pm) which hit the huge tree at the corner of the street, missing the target, i.e., us. We kept walking, though terrified and apprehensive, after that incidence until our destination, the camp ground.
On reaching our destination in Kalka, the camp ground, we were ordered to relax at that place until next day when our dear ones, who were left behind to follow us by trucks, join us. This so called camp ground, had 3 ft. high grass all over, due to recent rains in the valley. Being dead tired, the minute we lied down, we were completely covered by the grass. Moreover, there was cold mountain water running under our backs and yet we slept like dead, so tired we were. Only next morning we saw the scene where we spent the night.
Following day, we had nothing to eat or drink. However, some of us had food brought with us in Tiffin carriers for our families to survive until we get ration of some sort wherever we are stationed.
Another tragedy struck us when we learnt that our dear ones, who were evacuated via road, were also attacked by the Hindu extremists, when they learnt that evacuation of Muslims is under way. There was no loss of life but one truck full of luggage was destroyed by the attackers. British Commander-in-Charge had anticipated all that, that is why the luggage trucks were placed at the front, to avoid loss of life.
Saddest news hit us on the third day when we learnt that all four Cadets who had safely evacuated us, were shot dead back in Kasauli by the angry Hindu extremists. It was sad to see yesterday’s friends turning to strangers over night. It was on both sides I suppose.
We stayed about 10 days in the Kalka Camp, until the Muslims were evacuated from the surrounding villages in Harayana District. During our stay (10 days) in the barbed open field camp at the foot of the mountains was not a place to be, feeling as a cattle yard, guarded by soldiers, no structure within sight, rain every day, no facilities to cook or even make a cup of tea, worst of all, with tree branches and wet leaves none of us could make fire to prepare anything. Besides, the British Commander-in-Charge was doing his best to protect everyone’s life but his hands were tied and situation was turning bad to worse by the day, no evacuation in sight.
Will continue soon