1947, Agony and Ecstasy : Amrita’s Wailing over Partition of Punjab

1947 Flight to new home
1947 Flight to a new ‘home’
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A PERSONAL NARRATIVE

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by Nayyar Hashmey

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This month while India and Pakistan celebrate their independence, some pages of history unfold before me with a chill in spine, for they unfold the incidents of arson, loot, killing and rape during subcontinent’s partition- into two independent, sovereign states. The question at the moment is not who did what to whom, because it was a time when all religious communities in British India had indulged into madness, a madness which in those days betook horrendous proportions.

In British India, which had Hindu population in majority, it were the Muslims who were massacred. Millions had to flee their homes, the place where they with their forefathers had been living for centuries. In Pakistan where Muslims had the majority, it was the same story, the Hindus and Sikhs being hounded and put to brutality of every kind, every type.

I had in those days jumped into class I of my primary school (after having cleared the “Pakki class” equivalent to senior prep of modern days), yet I can vividly recall how the Hindus had to migrate under extreme anguish and chaos. Many were murdered by Muslims, those who escaped, just managed somehow to flee to India. I used to have a Hindu teacher, a tall, slim and fatherly figure. He was the teacher who never had a club nor a kikar twig “the chhamak” which was the sort of a trademark of our later day teachers in the school.

At noon his wife whom we called chachi ji used to bring parathas and achaar for us, this even though we had always some thing with us from home.

Our class was in session when came August and Hindus and Sikhs started running from our town which was in Western Punjab and therefore formed a part of Pakistan.

I don’t know what happened to my most affectionate “Master Ji” and our loving “Chachi Ji”. I only remember what I saw-the arson-the looting and slaughtering of Hindus and Sikhs in our town. But I also saw railway trains coming from India, trainloads of corpses, blood drippings on its footsteps and there was a foul stench in the air. It was terrible scene, a ghastly atmosphere every where – too horrifying for a boy of tender age. All these corpses were of course of Muslims who were likewise put to brutal deaths by Hindus and Sikhs in those parts of then British India,

Arson, loot and killing -every where
Arson, loot and killings -every where

remain and will Insha’ Allah remain intact.

And for a moment let us have a look at the Swiss, the Germans and the Austrians. Of these the latter two are 100 percent of German stock, speak same language – racially, culturally, socially same people, yet they are independent nations. The Swiss have a majority of population which speaks German but still Switzerland is a proud, independent nation. In spite of their national independence, all are enjoying excellent relations. Why can’t we then, in India and Pakistan have friendship and live in peace! Much time has passed, wars have been fought but still we are standing at the same point from where we started.

Coming back to the subject again:It was in 1947 and its aftermath – sixty one years hence. Much water has flown down the bridges of five rivers of Punjab. There is hardly any need to start a blame game. New generations have come. They are molding the patterns of a new society, a new age and new life style. Unfortunately, in spite of these many changes, the two states, the biggest actors on the scene in South Asia and part of the 1947 phenomenon are still at daggers drawn.

I, personally, a patriotic Pakistani like most of my other countrymen can never ever compromise over any thing like an “akhand Bharat” which our many friends in India start chanting when we Pakistanis say, we have so many things to share, the history, the poetry, the common tradition of movie making, and our Indian friends start ranting “Akhir tau ham aik hi haen iss liye ye seemaiain, ye borders jo artificial haen khatam honay chahiyain”. No Sir, these borders geographically though they may be artificial, yet are culturally and historically very natural and should remain and will Insha’ Allah remain intact.

And for a moment let us have a look at the Swiss, the Germans and the Austrians. Of these the latter two are 100 percent of German stock, speak same language – racially, culturally, socially same people, yet they are independent nations. The Swiss have a majority of population which speaks German but still Switzerland is a proud, independent nation. In spite of their national independence, all are enjoying excellent relations. Why can’t we then, in India and Pakistan have friendship and live in peace! Much time has passed, wars have been fought but still we are standing at the same point from where we started.

Coming back to the subject again:

During those days of turmoil and subsequent years; a voice always echoed in me, a voice that belonged to this part of the Punjab but had to migrate to India being a non Muslim Punjabi. At the time of partition she wrote a poem which became an epoch, an epic for all times to come.

As said, she migrated to New Delhi, India in 1947. Like many others; she lived the agony of the time when millions of people from all religions died due to communal violence. She expressed her agony in this poem, “Ajj Aakhaañ Waris Shah nooñ”, addressed to the Sufi poet Waris Shah, author of the tragic saga of Heer and Ranjah, the Punjabi national epic. This poem is my personal favorite one, screening her tenderness of pain caused due to the flames of fire of partition 1947, and I think this is one of the signature poems where she challenges but at the same time pays tribute to the genius of Waris Shah, the great littérateur of Punjab,

Utth Dard-mañdaañ deya dardiyaa uth tak apñrha Punjab
Ajj Bele laashaañ vichhiyaañ
Teh laoo da bhary Chanab

(Sharer of stricken hearts,
Look at your Punjab,
Corpses are strewn in the field
Blood flows in the Chenab)

This poem is Amrita’s best-known work and is addressed to the great eighteenth-century Sufi poet Waris Shah, in which she laments the carnage of Partition and calls on him to give voice from his grave).

Here is a complete reproduction of this original poem in Punjabi:-

Ajj aakhañ Waaris Shah nooñ, kitoñ Qabrañ vichooñ bol!
te ajj Kitab-e-ishq da koi agla varka phol!

ik roi si dhee punjab dee tuu likh-likh mare vaiñrh
ajj lakkhañ Dheeyañ rondiañ tainuuñ Waaris Shah nooñ kaehn

uth Darmandañ diaa dardiaa uth tak apñrha Punjaab!
ajj bele laashaañ vichhiaañ te laoo dii bharii Chenaab!

kise ne panja paañrhiañ vich dittii zaehr rala!
te unhaañ paañrgiaañ dharat nun dittaa paanii laa!

jitthe vajdii huuk pyaar di ve oh vanjhli gayi guaach
Ranjhe de sab veer ajj bhul gaye usdi jaach

dharti te laoo vasiya, Qabrañ payiyañ choñrh
preet diyañ shaahazaadiiaañ aj vich mazaaraañ roñrh

ajj sabbay ‘Kaedo’ ban gaye, husn ishq de chor
aj kithoñ liaaiie labbh ke Waaris Shah ik hor

ajj aakhañ Waaris Shah nooñ kiton qabrañ vichoñ bol!
te ajj kitab-e-ishq da koi agla varka phol!

And here the English Translation.

I say to Waris Shah today, speak from your grave
And add a new page to your book of love

Once one daughter of Punjab wept, and you wrote your long saga;
Today thousands weep, calling to you Waris Shah:

Arise, o friend of the afflicted; arise and see the state of Punjab,
Corpses strewn on fields, and the Chenab flowing with much blood.

Someone filled the five rivers with poison,
And this same water now irrigates our soil.

Where was lost the flute, where the songs of love sounded?
And all Ranjha’s brothers forgotten to play the flute.

Blood has rained on the soil, graves are oozing with blood,
The princesses of love cry their hearts out in the graveyards.

Today all the Kaedo’s have become the thieves of love and beauty,
Where can we find another one like Waris Shah?

Waris Shah! I say to you, speak from your grave
And add a new page to your book of love.

(Translation from a book in English by Darshan Singh Maini titled: Studies in Punjabi Poetry)

Many years later when I was in my senior schooldays, I happened to listen to this poem sung in the voice of Inayat Hussain Bhatti. Bhatti sang this song in the film “Kartar Singh”.  Kartar Singh is a film based on a true story in which one Boota Singh, a Sikh who had entered into marriage with a Muslim girl at the time of partition (after saving her from possible rape by some Sikh gangsters). The girl named Zainab had a daughter from Boota Singh.

After an agreement between India and Pakistan of persons who were left without their families (in possession of the majority community) and were to be repatriated to their respective countries, Zainab was located (It is said that Boota Singh’s uncle spotted Zainab because he wanted to grab the piece of land owned by Boota Singh by putting the lover husband into a family crisis) and it was decided that she be brought to Pakistan where her family was now residing.

Boota Singh who had an intense love for his wife could not bear out the agony of separation, so he came to Pakistan. But time had changed. Zainab’s family would not allow Boota Singh to meet his wife who was married to another Muslim man. Poor Boota Singh was so much in despair that he took his life under a train in Shahdara near Lahore. Later Boota Singh was declared Shaheed-e-Muhabbat by Lahoris and the story was filmed in Pakistan under the title Kartar Singh. It was screened in Pakistani cinemas during the early sixties and I understand in India they have filmed this story too in which Gurdas Mann plays the lead role.

All these are the things of past now. But just to go down the memory lane, a nostalgic journey into the bygone days, I have uploaded two videos, from film Kartar Singh. Here Inayat Hussain Bhatti sings Ajj Aakhañ Waris Shah nooñ.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0avRsHDV9ns

Coming now to end of my narrative, I still feel and believe, the time has now come when differences and enmity between India and Pakistan should come to end. As far the political difference like Kashmir, they are very much there and we cannot do away with them either but there are peaceful ways also to solve such differences and disputes. It should not be a fate of this subcontinent to remain forever a hostage to those events where there was nothing but arson, loot and killings???

Note: The alphabet n with a wave over it, has the sound of a nasal n like baañ [meaning arm in Punjabi] and maañ [mother] in Urdu. The syllable rh used here sounds like the last syllable rh in Urdu word Paharh [meaning a mountain].

Images Video 

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Published in: on 26/08/2008 at 6:09 pm  Comments (7)  
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7 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. […] This cup of tea was served by: Wonders of Pakistan […]

  2. I would like to know the authenticity of the information provided by a fellow Indian on prophet Mohammad [pbuH] from an Islamic scholar or is it an attemptmerely to defame Islam???.

    • Anil, the comment you are referring to, has been a deliberate but futile attempt to defame our holy prophet and our religion. It has therefore, been removed from the comment box.
      Whereas we welcome constructive debate, yet insults of individuals, communities and religious beliefs / faiths are not tolerated and such commentators therefore lose their commenting privileges.
      Such readers may feel free to email us again if they would like this decision in which case they can come back and discuss things in a constructive and mature manner.

  3. Well to remember the tragic incidents of 1947 …We have to avenge the Sikhs for the mass killings of Muslims…And at the same time the Hindus, the British and Nehru govt. who were equally involved in these massacres…

  4. Ali,
    Brutal killings were perpetrated by all communities. Those were the days of communal madness. The Sikhs and Hindus brutalised the Muslims and on their part Muslims did the same to the people of other faiths. Hence thinking of taking revenge in this new century is a story that’s quite out of context. All countries in the South Asian region need to come togeter under the SAARC umbrella. The new age demands a totally new outlook. Old biases and prejudices have done no good to either of the people, hence a totally new chapter need be opened now and this chapter will be a south Asia or the SAARC Union on the pattern of European Union.

  5. […] 1. Can India and Pakistan live in Peace 2. 1947, Freedom At Midnight, The Pain 3. 1947, Agony and Ecstasy : Amrita’s Wailing over Partition of Punjab […]


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