August 14th, 2020

By Asra Haque


When it comes to the Indo-Pak Partition, there is a stark dichotomy between the experiences of the scores of displaced Muslims on both sides of divided Punjab and the fanfare with which the leaders of newly created Pakistan took up the reigns.

In order to fill this chasm, the national narrative has lauded the material, mental, emotional and mortal sacrifices made by the millions who undertook the long, arduous and certainly dangerous journey from East Punjab to West Punjab – what was to be the promised homeland. These sacrifices, the state tells us, were necessary in order for the oppressed minority Muslims of India to finally break free from the tyranny of the British Raj and the hatred of many of the Indian Hindus.

But was it all as simple as how it has been presented to us?

In our video “Tales from the Big Divide’, we talk to three Pakistanis who tell us their experiences of the mass exodus of 1947 in some form.

Peace and rights activist, and columnist Mr Ibn Abdur Rehman, who as a young student at the Aligarh Muslim University saw the chaos and confusion of Muslims in South Punjab over whether or not they were strangers in their own land. He would later travel from Palwal (which became part of Haryana in Indian Punjab) to Lahore after communal riots broke out in his village a few months after Partition.

Ms Tehseen Jehan, who was among those who had partaken in the exodus from Palwal in India to Lahore in Pakistan on the day of Partition, having left behind their belongings and cramming into trains loaded with desperate Muslims headed for refugee camps in Lahore.

Mr Habib-ur-Rehman, born in Mianwali but settled in Sialkot at the time of Partition – was barely 18 when he bore witness to swathes of Hindus and Sikhs abandoning their homes and fleeing to India. Having been spared the horrors of Partition, he has been far more accepting of the State’s attitude towards the great divide.