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Train to India

Discussion in 'History of Sikhism' started by kds1980, Aug 15, 2009.

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  1. kds1980

    kds1980 India
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    Train to India
    Manmohan Singh Kohli

    Having survived the nightmare at Haripur, my father and I spent three days confined to the Haripur Fort. We were than shifted to the Kakul military camp near Abbottabad which was overflowing with refugees looking for safety. We were shifted to another camp at Wah near Rawalpindi when the Indian soldiers at Kakul were replaced by Pakistani soldiers. During all this we kept on cool with ardaas.

    The journey to Wah was no less dangerous. The truck in which we were travelling was stopped at several places while the mobs looked for Sikhs to attack them. We kept on ardaas as our constant company. I could hide my identity under a duppatta. I had not grown a beard till then. But it was different with my father. At one point he was heckled by half a dozen persons who started hitting him. He was rescued by two soldiers who were escorting us. The soldiers fired in the air as our truck sped towards the Wah refugee camp.

    The Wah Camp had thousands of displaced persons from all over the NWFP and Punjab. It was under the command of the Indian Army. Some Indian troops were allowed to continue in Pakistan for the safety of displaced persons. Wah had become a large tented township. Many trucks were pouring in every hour. There was a mile long queue of new arrivals, all seeking shelter.

    We spent over a month in Wah. Though there was nothing much to do we had a fairly busy routine and continued ardaas was a part of it. Most of our time was spent in joining long queues to collect rations or cooking, eating and sleeping. In between, we listened to the woes and tragic stories of others. To cheer our spirit, there was plenty of time for series of silent ardaas and meditations.

    The Wah Camp was full of men; there were hardly any women. Most of the young women had been either kidnapped or killed fighting the marauders. In the tent, next to ours, there were three men, a father and two sons. The men had themselves killed all the women in their family to save them from being raped and dishonoured by fanatic mobs. Another person would cry inconsolably as he told us about the self-immolation by six women in his large family. We heard the gory account about a village near Rawalpindi where scores of women of the village had jumped into a well. The number of those kidnapped was much larger.

    We also heard moving stories of some Muslims who, at the cost of their own lives, saved their Hindu and Sikh friends. There were quite a few refugees from Peshawar. A large number of their colleagues were killed while crossing the Indus at Attock. They told us the blood-curdling story of how a section of Pakistani soldiers had pounced on them, firing indiscriminately.

    Amazingly, there were very few Sikhs in the Wah Camp. Besides my father and I, there were only about a dozen others. It appeared that Sikhs were the main target everywhere in the Punjab and the Frontier and were sought to be wiped out almost totally. No newspapers were available in the Camp. The only news received daily was through refugees reaching Wah by trucks.

    Almost daily, or sometimes on alternate days, two to three thousand refugees left by train for India. I was not aware of the procedure adopted for evacuation. After about three weeks of stay a nagging fear gripped us. We became apprehensive that our turn to go to India may perhaps never come. The Indian troops guarding our Camp might be asked to leave all of a sudden in which case we will be left at the mercy of the local marauders.

    One day when my father and I had just finished our lunch, a soldier carrying a list of refugees with their tent numbers reached our tent. He advised us to get ready to board the train to India the following morning. Thank God, our ardaas was heard and our turn had come.

    Our spirits soared with the imminent prospect of leaving for India. We could hardly sleep that night. My father, as usual, got up the next morning when it was still dark. By dawn he had completed his morning prayers. As we came out of the tent, we saw people in a queue, waiting to board one of the trucks parked nearby to reach the Wah railway station. Indian soldiers escorted us to the station.

    A goods train was sent by the Pakistan authorities to transport us to India. It had only a couple of covered bogies, which were occupied by the Army convoy. All other bogies were roofless, with low walls. We got into one that appeared comparatively less crowded than the others. But it was a mighty struggle.

    Over three hundred men, women and children had managed to squeeze into our bogie, which normally should have accommodated not more than fifty persons. It was a struggle for survival. After spending about an hour in the train I felt crushed from all sides. Some aggressive fellow travellers had literally spread themselves over us, and it became difficult even to breathe.

    As it steamed off, we forgot our discomfort and thanked our stars for finding a place in the train. It was now the first week of October. My father and I had spent almost six weeks in various camps.

    Within a few hours we reached Wazirabad, a large town about half-way between Wah and the Indo-Pak border. It was a railway junction with alternate routes to the Indian border, one via Lahore and the other via Kasur, the native town of my wife Pushpa whom I was to meet and marry fifteen years later in Delhi.

    The physical effort of getting into the bogie, and lying there packed like sardines, had left me all exhausted and thirsty. Little children were crying for water. But the train did not stop at Wazirabad. Nor did it follow the usual route to Amritsar via Gujranwala and Lahore. Instead, it took the route via Kasur. Was there anything wrong?

    Hardly had we passed the Wazirabad railway station when a deafening crash shook us. The engine of the train and perhaps the first few bogies had derailed. The railway line in front, as we discovered later, had been uprooted. The signal, though, was still down, signifying that all was well ahead. Our train was now facing an old building. Before we could recover from this sudden shock, a barrage of gunfire hit the train. We were under a shower of bullets. It was obvious that the entire operation was pre-planned. The derailing site was chosen with care.

    Within seconds, our army convoy also took positions and started returning the fire. They were, however, at a disadvantage. For over three hours we lay dazed and stunned under the onslaught of the continuous shower of bullets. We tried to keep our heads as low as possible to avoid being hit directly. The low walls of the bogies received several direct hits. Soon bullets came piercing through the steel walls. One bullet hit a person sitting next to me and he collapsed. Another bullet whizzed past me scratching my right arm.

    Just before dark, the shooting suddenly stopped. Three hours of firing had left many dead. Another engine was brought from the station to tow back the train to Wazirabad railway station. We prayed for some divine intervention to ensure our safety while we resumed our journey to Amritsar.

    No sooner did we reach Wazirabad than we came under another attack, another barrage of fire. Our attackers seemed bent upon killing each and every one of us. We learnt later that two trains, which had preceded ours, reached Amritsar full of corpses. It could have been our turn. Firing continued unabated till dawn. Our army escort kept up their retaliatory fire.

    The dawn brought a deadly silence. Many had been killed during the night, others were thirsty and hungry. A few had fainted and a couple of men who dared get down to drink from a water-tap on the platform were shot as sitting ducks. Children were in stupor. The more thirsty squeezed their vests soaked with sweat to extract some liquid. One or two persons even resorted to drinking their urine. Someone next to me had a bag full of sweets, and even in such a grave hour, when others in the bogie were on the verge of starvation and when we were all on the thin edge of life and death, he would not offer them to others. With great adroitness, I managed to pinch some of his sweets, one by one, and partly satisfied my growing hunger. I did not, even for a second, feel like a thief. In the circumstances even my father condoned this act.

    Two persons from our bogie took the courage to stir out for a chat with one of the army escorts. They brought back sad news. Our convoy escort had exhausted all their ammunition. We were now without any defence. There was no hope of survival. My father kept praying. Many others were doing the same.

    The non-stop firing for nearly 20 hours left one third of the passengers in our compartment dead. We pushed out the dead bodies, one by one, over the walls of the bogie. There was to be no cremation for any one of the nearly one thousand persons who had died in the train.

    Seeing so many deaths in Haripur, and now in Wazirabad, I had become shockproof. Death no more haunted me. I was simply one of the many who were paying the price of freedom. I later heard that over 10 million people had migrated, and over a million had lost their lives. This was undoubtedly the biggest and the saddest ever migration in the history of the world.

    Firing on our train continued with some interruptions. On the other side of the station were open fields with a large mosque visible in the distance. There were a few persons working in the fields oblivious of the carnage at the station.

    At noon, we were startled when we saw a mob of a few hundred men, about 200 yards away, coming out of the mosque. I remember it was Friday when Muslims all over the world held special prayers. Carrying sticks, rifles, daggers and bricks, they rushed towards us, shouting Allah-ho-Akbar, the Muslim slogan for rousing passion. I had lost count of the date but the day of the week definitely was a Friday when Muslims congregate in mosques in large numbers for their weekly prayer, the Namaz-e-Jumma. It looked as if the final act of the horror drama was about to be enacted.

    My father stood up and addressed the other passengers in the bogie. “Brothers and sisters!” he said, “It looks like the end for all of us. Join me in the ardaas and offer whatever money you wish to. If we survive, I shall present the collection at the Golden Temple, Amritsar. If not, I shall pray to God that after our death, He, accept us at his feet”. My father's as well as mine faith in the ardaas was absolute.

    As soon as my father started the formal ardaas, everyone stood up. There was pin drop silence. It was no use looking towards the approaching mob. Many had closed their eyes, and were trying to get communion with the Gurus as was the case with me and my father. When it was completed, all bowed their heads as a mark of respect to God. And then as the heads lifted again, a miracle happened.

    A train carrying soldiers of the Pakistan Army pulled up opposite our train. A few men of the Baluch Regiment came out. We thought all these soldiers were sent to kill us. The mob of Muslims was now within a striking distance. Who would ultimately take our lives? Baluch soldiers or the unruly mob? It did not make any difference to us. I was mentally prepared to accept the worst.

    A senior Army officer, apparently the battalion commander, alighted from the train. In utter disbelief, my father, who had just completed the ardaas, recognised him. He was none other than Brigadier (later Field Marshal) Ayub Khan. Though he belonged to village Rehana near Haripur, he had a house quite close to ours in Haripur and was a good friend of my father. My father, on seeing him, jumped out of the train with joy and rushed to him. After a warm embrace, my father hurriedly apprised him of the situation. Ayub Khan saw the mob also approaching. He acted swiftly. Soldiers were ordered to encircle the train and drive away the mob. Within minutes the mob disappeared. The firing from the railway station building also stopped.

    Sujan Singh! I will arrange your safe journey to India”, Ayub Khan assured my father. Another engine was ordered to transfer our train to the Gujranwala-Lahore line. Within an hour we were on way to Gujranwala. What a fantastic power of ardaas. We were almost taken out of the jaws of death. This incident further strengthened my faith in the ardaas.

    Three to four Baluch soldiers took positions in each bogie to guard us. We were grateful to them for saving our lives. A few greedy ones among them, however, demanded jewellery, watches and other valuables. Everyone, without hesitation, offered whatever he or she was wearing. After all, life was far more precious than such trinkets.

    Our ardaas had saved our lives by sending Ayub Khan. We were most grateful to him and our deity, God. Recently while reading his autobiography, I discovered that his ancestors and our ancestors had fought against each other. Ayub Khan writes: “We belong to the Tarin tribe that ruled over parts of Hazara and Campbellpur districts and was involved in a long and bitter struggle against the Sikhs and the British. The people of this tribe came from Baluchistan, which was originally a part of the Afghan Empire. In the early decades of the nineteenth century he (Sardar Najibullah Khan Tarin, the most famous of President Ayub Khan’s ancestors, and after whom Kot Najibullah village near Haripur is named) faced a number of Sikh invasions." A few years ago I was happy to learn that his son, Gohar Ayub Khan, had become the foreign minister of Pakistan. I congratulated him on his appointment. He responded with warmth and affection.
    It was a scary ordeal but it was the most scary occasion that strengthened our faith in ardaas and our creator.


    [​IMG] Partition of Punjab in 1947.

    This map shows how the Boundary Commission partitioned the Punjab region between Pakistan and India in 1947. Pakistan was awarded 62% of the Punjab; India, 38%. Portions of this document include intellectual property of ESRI. Copyright © 1999 Environmental Systems Research Institute, Inc.

    As a result of partition, Lahore has gained in political importance. It is no longer the capital of a unitary Panjab, but it has now become the capital of a unitary Western Pakistan. Yet it is no longer what it was when Kim clambered over the famous cannon (which still stands in its place) in a city that was still a common home for the followers of three faiths.
    Amritsar has a surer future, for it will remain the religious center of the Sikhs so long as the Khalsa endures; and the Sikhs, in losing the Panjab, have gained the world. Today they are established all over India (above the wheel of every second bus or taxi, you spy that unmistakable bearded and turbaned head). And they have not kept within India’s frontiers.
    They have made their way eastwards through Burma and Singapore and Hong Kong to the Pacific slope of Canada. They are the burliest men on the face of the planet – tough and capable and slightly grim. If human life survives the present chapter of man’s history, the Sikhs for sure, will still be on the map.
    East to West – A Journey Around the World, by Arnold Toynbee, Oxford University Press, London, 1958.
    Dedication

    [​IMG]


    Sujan Singh Kohli, father of the author, is the real inspiration behind the publication of Miracles of Ardaas. His ancestor, Kirpa Singh, was baptised personally by Guru Gobind Singh on the Baisakhi Day of 1699 at Anandpur Sahib. Three hundered years later, on the Baisakhi Day of 1999, Captain Kohli was honoured at Anandpur Sahib by the Chief Minister of Punjab with the award of Nishan-e-Khalsa.


    [​IMG]


    Sujan Singh inherited the faith in ardaas – Sikh's special appeal to God, from his ancestors and faithfully passed this on to his son. This implicit faith resulted in several incredible climbs, miraculous escapes and divine situations in their lives.


    Copyright©2003 Manmohan Singh Kohli. About the author
     
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  3. Gyani Jarnail Singh

    Gyani Jarnail Singh Malaysia
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    BEAUTIFUL and Inspirational...A Sikhs ardass is for everyone..Sarbatt Da Bhalla Always..
     
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  4. harbansj24

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    My mother used to relate us the story of their escape from Pakistan. They belonged to a town of Kamalia in erstwhile district of Lyllpur. Kamalia was well known because of Sant Sangat Singh Ji a very close associate of Bhai Vir Singh ji during the Sikh revival movement.

    Sant Sangat Singh ji had got the news that marauders were on the way to ransack the town. He immediately sent a message to all the Sikhs numbering much more than 1000 and a few Hindus who were there and asked them to immediately assemble in the Khalsa School building. Within next to no time everyone gathered there. He did ardas and asked sangat to continuosly recite japji Sahib. The marauders came but some how they got the impression that the school was empty!

    Next day the Pakistan military arrived and safely put them in several trucks and escorted them to the border.

    My mother sincerely believed that it was the miracle of Sant ji that not a single person from Kamalia was harmed.
     
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  5. spnadmin

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    Harbansj24

    I read this with excitement, and caught myself, the fact that I was holding my breath. The story had a way of pulling all my attention into it. I am glad all survived -- though the years to follow had to have been heavy with care. Thank you for helping me understand, each story does.
     
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  6. Gyani Jarnail Singh

    Gyani Jarnail Singh Malaysia
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    YES..this story is amazing..TRUTH is stranger than FICTION.
    Guru Ji "dhaks" our Pardeh..in this world and the next..IF we ask Him to...with complete devotion. When our ardass/prayers are "not answered"..the fault lies with US.

    2. When Droupadi was rescued by Bhagwan Krishan Ji, she asked Him..why it took you so long ? Krishan Ji replied..because it took YOU that long to ask me. First you had faith in the Sabha...then you had faith in your husbands...and so on..when you finally Gave up on ALL of them and relied ONLY ON ME..I came INSTANTLY. THAT is also our failing..we always assume we can do it...and ONLY ask Him at the very last moment..or Give up along the way..and say..God didnt hear my ardass...we never called HIM.
     
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  7. spnadmin

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    God didnt hear my ardass...we never called HIM. /quote

    Take time to do it...Everything works out..one may not realize how or why.
     
  8. harbansj24

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    Yes the years that followed had been years of individual riveting stories of success, trauma and tragedy.

    Initially the administration of GOI did an outstanding job. They had set up camps all along borders to receive the influx of refugees. In the camps they issued refugee cards to individual refugees. They ran special trains to all over India and refugees could travel to any part of India free. Fortunately my father was already having a job in Calcutta. So with my elder sister my mother headed straight for Calcutta.

    Many refugees had some cash and jewelry (which they had attached to their their undergarments). Most of them headed for Delhi, Punjab and other North Indian Cities and some traveled South too. Some who were educated got preferential jobs in the Govt. Some took to hawking. Some set up street corner shacks and started peddling whatever they were capable of.

    A few years later, GOI made built some resettlement colonies in Delhi and some cities of Punjab. The refugees had earlier been asked to to file with evidence the immovable properties they possessed in Punjab and account of livestock they had. Many refugees had carried with them their property documents which they submitted and ofcoarse many gave an exaggerated account of livestock. Tribunals were set up to settle the claims and on these basis. Many could get hold of properties in the resettlement colonies. And as it always happens there were several cases of forcible occupations and resulting fights and chaos. My father had given up his claim in favour of his siblings as he already had a job and they had none.
    The settled citizenry of the country did not show much hostility to the refugees making their task that much less arduous.
     
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  9. Gyani Jarnail Singh

    Gyani Jarnail Singh Malaysia
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    I wish the GOI would take a understanding/HELPFUL stand vis a vis the Afghan Sikh Refugees as well..
     
  10. AusDesi

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    Yeh my grandad( maternal) had a claim too. He died in 1971 fighting for his claim. Both sides of my family paid for their houses which the government built in Faridabad.

    @topic Partition was a terrible time but I guess its stupid to say it shouldn't have happened. I wouldn't be here if it hadn't lol. My grand parents lost everything. From having fertile land near the Indus to being settled in a semi-arid land with no farmland. However, they were brave. I guess destiny favours the brave and within a generation they built it all back and bigger than before. They lost family members yet they didn't preach hate. My grandad always said the time was bad not the muslims. I guess you can't blame them, its human nature to try and gain advantage of others.

    Another interesting thing my grandfather told me was that wealth was reversed when they came to India. Mostly people who were rich ended up having nothing in India while the poor started from scratch and in many cases had a lot more than the rich.
     
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  11. Gyani Jarnail Singh

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    AsuDesi wrote:<<<My grandad always said the time was bad not the muslims. I guess you can't blame them, its human nature to try and gain advantage of others.>>>

    EXACTLY....no Kaum/religious Group per se is all bad or all good.

    My late mum used to relate how in her village in sangrur, a group of "Sikhs" ( from outside her village) came and surrounded the muslims..men, women and children. The "Jathedar" was using his Kirpan and cutting off their heads one by one and his asistants ere throwing the bodies into the nearby Bhatinda Canal..when it came to the turn of a barely five yar old marassan girl...she covered her eyes with her tiny hands...but this didnt strike any chord of pity in the Jathedar..swish went his kirpan..and off flew the tiny head....Until her last days my mum had this 'vision" she used to rleate so viivdly to us to warn us that should such a time come..we must not let our hearts become weak that we forget Sikhi teachings and sarbatt da bhalla...
    Later the Sikh Villagers rued the day they sat by and watched...their Muslim neighbours slaughtered in this way...Times were such that no body dared oppose the OUTSIDERS.
    In the case of the Sikh Massacres in Pakistan also the REAL CULPRITS were almost always OUTSIDERS. The only mistake the LOCALS did was to be scared and let these {censored word, do not repeat.} do their murdering and pillaging of people who for centuries had shared nearly everything..and were like blood brothers..
     
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