BEAS (RIVER) RAILWAY STATION – SAFE PASSAGE DEADLOCKED
In the last part of My Journey of Fear and Hope, we were almost ready to leave Kalka Railway Station, after we had dis-possessed ourselves of our worldly possessions that we thought were precious to us when leaving Kasauli, after all we were not the owners of our places of residence. I am not sure, if there were some residents of Kasauli who owned their properties. Needless to say, I grew up knowing that my uncle was the richest man in Muslim community of Kasauli. Our luggage had the most expensive items packed in a few baggage hold-alls with and folded securely in top quality expensive carpets. I had prepared them so that no one could un-pack them. Nothing helped, I saw them piled up with other luggage on the platform.
The platform with a mountain of surrendered personal luggage of Kasauli Muslims made everyone to shed tears for the last time when the train was continuously whistling to move any moment. I was very sad to see
everything left behind on the Platform, including a small carry-on suitcase filled with Qurans (Holy Books).
Us and all other refugees who joined us in the Kalka camp, were empty handed with nothing to claim that they were the nationals of India by birth, being shipped against their will to a new country with uncertain future, if any. Also, we had a complete trust on the British Officer-in-Charge that he will obtain Safe Passage for us until we have reached the new country called Pakistan.
The train left slowly the Kalka Railway Station, while Kalka was under curfew, around noon I remember. From Kalka the newly created border between India and Pakistan, which we had to cross, was about 250 km. No idea how long it will take.
Along the train route from Kalka to the border, were other important Railway Stations that I remembered well, including Ludhiana, Jalandhar City (previously called Jullundur City, Punjab), my hometown where my mother was residing at that time. Other towns, Adampur (in Haryana District) I remember very well, as I had visited it with my parents. It was the birthplace of my uncle Rehman’s wife. My uncle was in Singapore at that time, had only one son, Ashraf, adopted by my mother. My uncle died in Singapore in 1980 and is buried there (He kept his Pakistani citizenship until his death) . His son, Ashraf, also died in 2012 and buried in Singapore. (Photo below)
Ashraf left a big family in Singapore (Ausman who died in 2005), Zohra Khatoon, Zarina Khatoon, Faridha Khatoon, Akhtar Khan and Rahat Bano – all have Singapore Citizenship).
Also, from Adampur came my uncle Sharif’s father. My Uncle Sharif had two daughters (Mussart who lived and died in Germany, and Farhat Jabeen, now living in Saudi Arabia) and five sons (Tariq, Khalid, Nasir, Asif and Arif, all have Pakistani/British Citizenships) who are still in touch with me until to day. Here is an old picture of my uncle Sharif’s family:
Amritsar was another City on the route which I remembered visiting twice. First time when my aunt got married to a gentleman (Ibrahim, father of Asghar, Akbar and Afzal) from Amritsar, and second time in the early fifties when I visited Amritsar City after I had settled in Lahore (Pakistan), on a trip with other colleagues from our workplace. I remember visiting The Golden Temple there, a place I fondly remembered thereafter, how polite were the caretakers to welcome us (me and my friends).
Our train, when promised to be accorded safe passage, is like a foreign embassy, to be protected by the national government where it is located. So we had reason to believe that we are in a British Embassy, to be entitled full protection from our enemies, if any. Indians were not our enemies, we ourselves were Indians, except that our national birthrights were transferred to a new country – Pakistan, against and without consent.
The train from Kalka Railway Station was a high speed train, very fast according to the Indian standard. It made the distance to shrink and in two hours, we were in BEAs Railway Station, just close to Amritsar.
Why BEAS, I don’t know, except what I think now, the BEAS was an isolated Railway Station, need of the time was to WELCOME Hindus coming from Pakistan, displaced by the Partition and also, BEAS was well located to say a GOODBY to Muslims leaving India under the exchange of population, involving 10 millions: 6 millions Muslims and 3 millions Hindus and one million lost their lives.
By 2:00 pm , on Sep. 9, 1947, we were at the BEAS Railway Station. Not excited by any means, we were quite exhausted by the hardships we had already endured. In the train, we were packed like animals, not enough place to move or give break to tired limbs. We were tightly seated and still there were others sitting on the floor of the train, between our feet. By this time, there were four deaths, natural. Their bodies were taken out of the carriages and placed on empty rail track next our train. One of these four dead was leaning on my legs. NO ONE WAS ALLOWED TO LEAVE THE TRAIN.
By the sight of BEAS Railway Station and its security guards all around on the roofs and high grounds, we felt insecure and indeed very intimidated, sending shivers in our spine. No body was willing to share with us, the 1,500 to 2,000 passengers, what is going on, why are we stopped here. Time was the essence of our survival. How long are we to stay, NO BODY KNEW.
We waited and waited, no word from anyone, no one was allowed to de-board the train, no body was on the platform (as it was under curfew) and no one could step on the platform from the train – time was ticking and western lights were changing color and everyone was thinking of the worst. From 2:00 to 5:00 pm, we were tormented with a feeling that all the guns on the roof of the BEAS Railway Station and nearby high areas were in fact aimed at us, only told around 5:00 pm, NOT TO PROTECT US BUT TO SHOOT AT US. The British Officer-in-Charge was hurrying around from platform to Station Master’s Office, calling and calling to whom, I wouldn’t know. I was more concerned from which side sharp shooter will kill me and my father. I was ducking without know the end. Feeling sorry for my father, sitting next to me, I could not share my uneasiness. To collected myself, I asked my father if he was hungry, thinking we all are to die soon, he should eat something. I got off the train, not on the platform side, where I had seen one villager form Haryana, from our own train, was sitting on the empty tracks, next to our train, and cooking something. I begged her to give something for my father, she was not responsive. I was getting uneasy, because we were not allowed to be out of the train. I told her that I will pay Rs. 10 for handful of uncooked rice and also reminding her that if we are all killed, nothing will help her or to us all. She felt mercy for my plea and gave me handful of uncooked rice (try how much rice your hand can hold). I got back to my seat and offered my father if he could chew.
Time was the essence for our survival as we learnt our whole train will be a graveyard of dead bodies. It so happened that a train coming from Pakistan that entered BEAS Railway Station a day earlier came with not a single human being alive. All its passenger were cut into pieces, such a brutality from the extremists from Pakistan. Therefore, AS A REVENGE WE HAVE TO PAY THE PRICE OF THAT BRUTALITY.
The British Officer-in-Charge was getting the picture clearly that if he fails to obtain permission to take the train out of BEAS Railway Station, and I saw him getting more and more nervous and angry, there will be a slaughter in no time. From inside the train, my eyes were glued on his movement when he shouted on those who were outside the train, saying: GET IN, GET IN. As we later learnt, he got 10 minutes to move out of the BEAS Railway Station as it was getting dark. We heard the whistling of the train and felt slow movement of the train, yet not sure we can make it. Not if were out of danger. NEVER CAME SO CLOSE TO DEATH IN MY ENTIRE LIFE.
Once out of the BEAS Railway Station, the train picked up speed and we were not very far, may be 30 minutes away from the border of India and Pakistan. Once we crossed AMRITSAR Railway Station, without stopping, next came the Indian Border Post and train continued to other side – the WAHGA Border of Pakistan. WE MADE IT.
There is no way I can describe the reaction, at that moment, in the loudest voices everyone saying ALLAH O AKBAR, ALLAH O AKBAR, PAKISTAN ZINDABAD, PAKISTAN ZINDABAD all crying with happiness that they made it alive.
OURS WAS THE FIRST TRAIN THAT ENTERED LAHORE ON SEP. 9, 1947, WITHOUT BLOODSHED AND HUMAN LOSS, EXCEPT OF FOUR NATURAL DEATHS, I mentioned earlier.
IT WAS MY STORY OF SURVIVAL AND ENTERING A COUNTRY THAT I HAD NEVER KNOWN, AGAIN AND AGAIN NEW FEARS STARTED COMING TO MY MIND. WHAT DOES ALL THIS MEAN THAT WE HAVE GOT A NEW COUNTRY. TO START ALL OVER AGAIN, ANOTHER LIFE OF UNCERTAINTIES ???
POSTSCRIPT: IN MY JOURNEY OF FEAR AND HOPE, Part 1 and 2, many of the people mentioned have passed away but their memories are alive. To mention a few and dedicate this blog to their memory:
1- My uncle Yacoub, mentioned in the Background of Part 1, died in 1961 in Faisalabad, where he was visiting his old friends from India, had settled. His body was brought to Karachi (I was grief stricken by the site of him come in a coffin) and he was buried in Karachi, Pakistan.
2- My cousin Bashir who held my hand all the way from Kasauli to Kalka via the 33 km walk on the mountain road, died in Sheikhupura, Punjab, Pakistan, where he is buried. (Photo below)
3- My cousin Ameen and his wife died in Karachi, Pakistan and buried there. (Photo below)
4- My cousin Ameen’s only child (3 years old) at that time of Partition, mentioned in the Blog Part 1, Najma Parveen is in her 70s, living in Lahore and have a family of 3 sons: Asad, Yasir, Saad and a daughter: Amna. All these four are Canadian citizen, Yasir is in Dubai, Saad is in Saudi Arabia and others are in Canada. (Photo below)
MY GRAND FATHER AND MY ELDEST AUNT – LEFT IN INDIA
My grandfather (Ghulam Nabi) died in the early 1940s, in Basti Sheikh Dervaish, Jullundur City,India and is buried in the same town, in our family graveyard. Another person buried in the same graveyard is my aunt (Karim Bibi), eldest sister of my mother, whose funeral and burial I still remember vividly. I am not sure if the picture below I took or someone else. However, my grandfather and grandmother in the picture are at the burial of my eldest aunt (Kareem Bibi), mother of Allah Ditta who is living in Karachi, Pakistan in his 70s now.
RELATIVES WHO PASSED AWAY AFTER ARRIVAL IN PAKISTAN
5- My grand mother (Sultan Bibi) died on Jul. 14, 1961 and buried in Nazimabad Graveyard, Karachi, Pakistan.
6- My mother (Azizah Begum) died on Oct. 1, 1969 in Karachi and she is buried their in Nazimabad Graveyard, Karachi, Pakistan, next to my Grand Mother.
7- My father died on Aug. 18, 1978 at the age of 93, in Munianwala, Chak 198 RB, Faisalabad District, Pakistan
and he is buried in his ancestral village (Munianwala) where his eldest and two younger brothers are also buried. My father’s eldest brother died at the age of 108.
MY JOURNEY OF FEAR AND HOPE IS DEDICATED TO THE MEMORY OF ALL THOSE (MENTIONED ABOVE) WHO ARE NOT WITH US TO DAY. My cousin, Anwar is living in Catonville, Maryland (USA), in his 80s (older than me by 6 months only) in good health.