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Last train from Pakistan

Last train from Pakistan

Author: K.R. Phanda
Publication: The Pioneer
Date: August 20, 2007

In the past 60 years, I have never celebrated Independence Day. Nor will I do so in future as, to me, this day signifies a day of mourning. When the Radcliffe Award on the partition of Punjab was made public, Hindus and Sikhs protested vehemently. Shortly thereafter, Muslims told the Hindu families living in a small village on the border of North-West Frontier Province that either they must embrace Islam or leave, as they could not guarantee the safety of Hindu lives and property.

My parents, along with other Hindus, asked for some time to decide. But before a week had elapsed, our male relatives living in the neighbouring village were beheaded and their heads paraded in the village ground. I recall how shrill cries of Allah-u-Akbar all around would terrorise the Hindus.

Those of us who were still alive moved to a nearby town. From there we were hoarded in military trucks and dropped at a refugee camp on the outskirts of Sargodha district. But the sanitary conditions in the camp became so unbearable that it had to be shut down. A train was arranged. All those in the camp were informed that it was the only train to India. Since all the coaches were crammed with fleeing refugees, my parents put us on the roof of the train and tied us with ropes.

When the train was about to reach Lahore, the driver was asked to turn back as the passengers of the last train had been hacked to death and their bodies were still lying in the railway station.

Finally, after some detouring, our train reached Amritsar. Since there was no room at Amritsar station, we got down from the train at Ambala. My grandparents had died of shock in the train and their bodies were thrown into the Sutlej. While in Ambala, my father was deprived of all his cash. Then we headed for Delhi and remained in the refugee camp at Purana Qila.

To add to our misery, Gandhi would not allow the refugees from Pakistan to occupy the houses of Muslims who had left for Pakistan. How we survived thereafter is a different story.

Seeing the attitude of Hindu leaders towards Hindus, I am convinced that my parents made a mistake by not converting to Islam in 1947. Pakistan came into being on the bodies of Hindus and Sikhs. According to me, Gandhi and Nehru perpetrated a fraud by accepting India's division on religious lines and yet not asking Muslims to leave India.

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