1947, Freedom At Midnight, The Pain

A common scene during the days of partition



Shekhar Kapur


This post has been taken from an internet site. Am sorry, while extracting the contents, the link was lost. My regrets to the website.

As I reproduce this report for viewers of WOP, many of my countrymen may raise their eyebrows on this side of the picture. It’s a fact, however, that Qaid-e-Azam too in the beginning did not support the idea of a separate homeland, and was demanding a way to safeguard due rights of Muslims as a sizable religious minority in undivided India.

It was primarily due to stubbornness of All India Congress leaders not to afford these rights to Muslims that he was compelled to ask for Pakistan. That is one side of the story.

The other side of the story is our history & geography. I personally believe that even geographically the Pakistani part of the Indian subcontinent has been having a distinct civilization, a separate identity and a distinct culture. The great historian Prof A. H. Dani, Aitzaz Ahson and so many other scholars including many Indians and Europeans, agree to this. The Indian subcontinent from time immemorial has had two distinct identities, the Indus and the Ganges Civilizations. But that is a subject I will dilate in another post.

The idea behind putting up this post by Shekhar Kapur is to feel the pain of killing each other in the name of religion, caste or just in the name of chauvinistic politics, no matter who does it. Both countries need to come together and frame policies by which an atmosphere of friendship is created. Its only friendship that can nurture the national goals of both India and Pakistan and this is the very idea of bringing this write up on our blog. [Nayyar]


Just watching a documentary of an Asian Indian actor tracing her roots. And then the documentary talked about her Grand Uncle and his family being massacred on a train as they fled from the newly created Pakistan. She even met her great aunt who was on that train when she was 20, but somehow survived. Why do I feel a stab of pain each time I hear or see anything on the partition of India in 1947? I am a partition baby, but I don’t really remember anything… but after all these years, whenever I see people from the other side of the border speaking Punjabi, looking and speaking exactly like my grandfather, I can’t help shedding tears …

….. Why did we allow this to happen ? What happened to us that we became such barbarians ? Ruthlessly massacring one million men, women and children on both sides. Ten million people became refugees, causing the greatest mass migration of people in known history.

I escape into blaming the British. Not willing to accept that I carry the genes of the people of Punjab that did this. My culture, my genes. How could you take a sword to an innocent child and ruthlessly run it through her heart? Could I do that in those circumstances…

.. so I escape. Escape into the politics of that time. I hate Mountbatten who came home as a hero, lauded for the fact that not a single British life was lost at that time. Who cared about a million Indian Hindus and Muslims? In my mind I rebuke leaders of All India Congress and the Muslim League for standing on their ego’s, unable to compromise their personal desires to be the first Prime Minister of India.

But it was not the British that did all the killing. It was us. Our forefathers.

My parents were in Lahore where my mother went to Kinnaird College. My father to the Government College in Lahore, and then the Medical College. After partition my family came to the newly formed India as refugees. But my father went back because there were not enough doctors to treat the wounded and the dying.

I would often talk to my father about that time, and I would see the pain on his face. About his Muslim friends lost in time. Friends with whom he stood shoulder to shoulder as they took the Hippocratic Oath. But the very friends that were too afraid to give him morphine to treat the wounded, just in case the raging, raving crowds found out they were helping the Hindus. And years later as I would go along on my scooter to my University in Delhi, I was shown a spot in Paharganj where apparently Muslim women and children were thrown alive in a burning bonfire.

My mother would recoil at talking about that time. Except for the memories of the drains around the houses filled with Kerosene and put on fire. But she would soon escape into the memories of better times. Of when Lahore was the cultural capital of Asia. Lahore was still the greatest city to anyone that had lived there.

Years later I went to Lahore. To record the music for Bandit Queen with the amazing Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. I remember walking into the local recording studios where a large orchestra suddenly broke out in the theme music from Mr. India and songs from Masoom to welcome me to Lahore. It was a moment I will always remember.

I went to Kinnaird College. Where my mother went. I saw shy girls, giggling as they recognized me, looking so beautiful in flowing Salwar Kameez’s. I tried to imagine my mother as one of them. I saw her as a pretty young girl who passed me, and then looked back and smiled that eternal smile my mother always used to have. Everywhere I walked I imagined myself as one of everyone.

And I wondered, what turned us all into such beasts ?


Title Photo: Courtesy BBC London



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9 replies to “1947, Freedom At Midnight, The Pain

  1. I agree that it was a huge ego-clash between Nehru and Jinnah that ultimately led to the demand for Pakistan. I believe there was no such demand even up to 1935, when the Muslim League and the Congress contested an election as coalition partners. Later, however, there was a huge disagreement with the Nehru-led Congress refusing to concede the key Home Ministry portfolio to the Muslim league. This lack of trust on the part of the Congress drove a deep wedge between the two parties and, soon thereafter, the demand for Pakistan.

    Earlier, Mr. Jinnah had been a member of the Indian National Congress and it was Nehru’s ambition that led him to poison Gandhi’s mind against Jinnah and to help aggravate differences between the two leaders, ultimately leading to Jinnah’s exit from the Congress party.

    It is such a monumental tragedy that the two ego-clash between these men led not only to the brutal deaths of millions during the partition, but also during subsequent conflicts between India and Pakistan in the past six decades or so.

    I do not, however, agree with the two nation theory. The reasons for that are not based on any book that I have read or anything that I have heard from any one or from anywhere. I have formed my opinion on the basis of what I have found out on my own, especially while travelling across Punjab on either side of the Indo-Pak border. The people from both parts of Punjab, as far as I know, come mostly from the same ethnic stock and some of them became followers of Islam, while others chose to follow Hinduism or Sikhism or Christianity, depending on their being impressed with the teachings of any of these religious faiths. I have written a little bit about that at http://sidhusaaheb.blogspot.com/2006/07/pakistan-visit-part-4.html .

    Having said that, I realise and respect the fact that Pakistan is a sovereign nation and has been so for more than 60 years now.

    However, even when two brothers divide the land and property of their father between themselves, their children and future generations can still have, or rather, should have cordial relations with each other and so should it be with the citizens of India and Pakistan. 🙂

    I experienced the same kind of warmth, hospitality and affection, mixed with a sense of loss and sadness on account of restrictions upon travel between the two Punjabs, which Shekhar Kapur has written about, when I visited West Punjab.

  2. NH from WOP:

    I perfectly agree with the first part of your comments, however, am sorry to disagree with the second part of your mail but again my disagreement with you here is partial.

    There are certain ambiguities in the whole scenario that came into fore during the partition phenomena. Actually Jinnah’s demand for partition of British India into two independent states on basis of religious following was to protect the rights of Muslims in Independent India which Congress would not acknowledge. This was to lead to partition’s original plan where both Punjab and Bengal (the whole, undivided provinces with their total geographical space intact) were to become part of Pakistan. Since both provinces had a Muslim majority, therefore, to Jinnah it appeared quite natural, but neither Mountbatten nor Pandit Jawahar Lal Nehru would consent to this. They used the same agreement, protection of minorities’ rights in Punjab and Bengal going in totality to Pakistan.

    In Punjab Sikh factor was another irritant because Master Tara Singh was no where going to agree to the idea of Pakistan. Another aspect to this issue was also the political tact by both Mountbatten and Pandit Nehru that Jinnah would never accept a weaker truncated Pakistan and in this way the partition of India would be avoided. This is one aspect of the story of 1947 partition. Meanwhile Jinnah having been much frustrated from this Nehru Mountbatten axis, much to the amazement of both these gentlemen, accepted the idea o f a ‘weakling’ which he termed a ‘truncated’ and ‘moth eaten’ Pakistan.

    I fully agree with you the people in Punjab on both sides of the border are same There is absolutely no difference in them accept the religion, but here again, Jinnah had offered complete protection to Sikhs in Pakistan (should they join Pakistan) but Master Tara Singh would not budge an inch to accept Pakistan.

    Similarly in Bengal, the people had every thing similar except the difference was of religion. But then again the Hindus in West Bengal would not wish to become part of Pakistan and both Nehru and Mountbatten used this leverage to pressurize Jinnah to accept the partition of these two Muslim majority provinces. This is one aspect.(Had there been no partition of these two provinces, may be the bloodshed that followed the partition of Punjab and Bengal could have been avoided!!!!!)

    However, when I say (and this is my personal opinion), based on historical facts and in this regard I would suggest you to read Indus Saga by Aitzaz Ahson (who is presently the President of Pakistan Supreme Court Bar Association and who has been and still is the right hand man of Iftikhar Chaudhry the deposed Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of Pakistan) and the writings and research by Ahmed Hassan Dani. The latter is a Pakistani Scholar, historian and Archeologist, the only living Sanskritologist and Archeologist in Pakistan who partially deciphered the Indus script which was used in the Indus Valley (the Harrapa and Moenjo-daro civilizations). I too have been reading the historical records and came to conclusion that since ancient times the great Indian subcontinent has been culturally distinct into two parts: One part, around river Indus where the Indus Civilization prospered thru different ages of the history and the other part where the second civilization developed along the river Ganges. Both culturally distinct civilizations developed on two independent distant religious, ethnic and cultural lines. And if you do read the writings and research by Ahmed Hassan Dani, he has quoted many reasoning’s which prove that this part of the subcontinent (the Indus Civilization) had always a distinct role (geographically, culturally and socially). However, religion comes no where in this conclusion because this great divide is not a present day phenomena but owes it origin to the days of Harrapa and Moenjo daro, who had certain beliefs which were altogether different from present faiths of the subcontinent namely Hinduism, Islam and Sikkhism. Unfortunately many historians in Pakistan start the history of this country from the advent of Muslim Arabs but that’s only a small part of our history. The Indus Civilization existed and flourished thousands of years before Muhammad bin Qasim came to this part of the subcontinent.
    Frankly speaking, I too have had certain reservations about the partition phenomenon (the political aspect) but then through the interaction I had with my friends from India (I mean the friends from India’s places such as UP and Bihar, which AA terms the areas developed along Gangatec civilization) I could establish the veracity of the two nations theory and these two nations are based not any religious divide but on geographical and cultural lines.
    All said and done this is just the academic part of the whole Indo-Pak saga. As far the present scenario, I firmly believe we in Pakistan can retain our own independence and as patriotic Pakistanis can look towards India as a friend and same should be the feeling in India as well. But in both countries there are groups, parties and communities (with vested interests of course) who would never wish that the two countries cultivate friendship because in that case they would not be able to grind their axes.
    So whatever the case, we the people in India and Pakistan, can look forward to a pleasant, happy and peaceful future for this subcontinent.
    As I already said in a previous post, in spite of some stark differences in opinion, still we have many things in common, our history, our poetry, the foods and a lot of things where peoples of both nations reverberate on similar lines, so why fight. Unfortunately both countries have been formulating their politics, like in India as ‘Pakistani centric’ and more so our politicians here in Pakistan as ‘India centric’. For our own country I would say we should be only ‘Pakistan centric’. Once we become true patriots, perhaps then and only then shall we get rid of these biases and prejudices which come in the way of common citizens of both India and Pakistan e.g. a Pakistani can travel all around the world but cannot travel in India as one might wish to. Same applies to Indian nationals who come to Pakistan and move in restricted zones. This enemy syndrome which afflicts both nations has to be gotten rid of and this is possible only when people of both nations will recognize the stupidity of the political aggrandizements between the two countries and pressurize their respective political parties, their governments to turn Indo-Pak border into soft borders so that people can travel with ease and see how friendly the environment in the subcontinent is for each other.

    In the end, would call one episode told by a common friend.

    He says” When a Pakistani journalist went to India in furtherance of the cause of Indo-Pak friendship through Safma’s platform (of which he is the Secretary General), ex Governor Punjab who happens to be from Faisalabad (my home town as well), told him the futility of this exercise, which he Lt. Gen. Retd. Khalid Maqbool termed unpatriotic, to go to India and work for this friendship. To this Imtiaz Alam (Secretary General SAFMA) replied Sir, my dilemma is that I want peace between India and Pakistan but when I go to India, am branded there as an agent of ISI and when I come back to Pakistan, am branded as agent of RAW. Fact is I am only agent of Pakistan and in that very capacity am struggling for Indo-Pak Friendship. The struggle for this cause is in no way, can in no way and shall ever compromise my Pakistanism or taint my patriotism for my country.

  3. dear kapur,
    Hindues are always fool and like to routed by others. We are divided in many caste and even a literate hindu. I am sorry to see that in future we will also routed and killed by muslim and cristians.

  4. Yes, dear Pandey you are correct to so extand .Cast system is not religious divisions among Hindus that is why is loosing its impact gradually .Think about the others .Shia, sunni ,Ahmedia etc. etc .Now the most organized and united religious communities are creating a situation where no body will survive . They are not treating nature not as a image of God .See the rape of our godess every where .They dont treat Monkey as their ancesters and cow as their mother .Wait and see the result of such thinking it is only the you will realize the importance of Hinduism and Buddhism .

    1. FYI, here is a news about the state of state in India.
      With its fast growing economy, India today perhaps, has a dozen of the multi-billon dollar families, yet the gap between the Have-alls and the Have-nots is getting wider every day. So much so that it now poses a grave security threat to the Indian State. There are more people below the line of poverty in India, says a recent survey, than they are in 23 countries of extremely poor Africa.
      The caste bias and prejudices are so much rampant that low caste Hindus are treated worse than dogs. A story is currently circulating in the press. According to this story, in the Indian state of Bhopal, an upper caste family had a pet dog. Out of compassion, Sunita, a low caste Hindu lady fed this dog. To bad luck of Sunita, the owner of the pet dog learnt that his pet had been fed by an untouchable, the low caste Hindu woman. He got so infuriated that first he tortured the poor lady himself and later took the case to the Panchayat or the village court.
      The panchayat decided that since the dog had been fed by a low class Shudra (the untouchable) therefore, it too had been debased i.e. turned into a lower (degraded) caste, hence was no more worthy of being kept by its former owner, an upper caste Hindu.
      Additionally the low caste Hindu lady had to pay a fine of Rs.15000/- for committing the “offence”.
      Such shameful treatment to humanity (merely because of one’s caste) is possible only in India, a country where even today certain human beings are considered worse than the animals.
      Unfortunately, we in Pakistan too, to some extent have a semblance of this caste prejudice, however, because of our religion; we do not have the extremes that you have in India.
      Sunita’s story is the story of 480 million Indians who are downtrodden of the society (the outcasts, scheduled castes or the dalits) amongst whom sometimes the Brahmo Samaj includes minorities like Muslims, the Sikhs and the Christians too.
      So dear A.K Tewari, it would serve no good if you go on repeating the harangues against Islam, the Muslims and Pakistan.
      Dr. Sb., we respect your religion and we expect same from you.
      If you go on accusing Islam, Pakistan and the Muslims, in such case I’m afraid even in this new millennium the pain of 1947 might be carried to the younger generations of India and Pakistan.

      Wasi of Kundian

  5. Well dear Husnu ., Both india and Pakistan are in fact being ruled by MOBOCRACY .We ignored the importance of family planning .Mrs. Gandhi tried it to implement like China but lost Muslim support and her govt. fell on the ground .ideal democracy needs !00% literacy .it is a distant dream for us what to say about Pakistan .Islam has sink it partially in India and totally in Pakistan . Now Pakistan can not exist as a free soverein country till it is a Islamic republic .

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