I was just 7-8 years old when India got freedom on August 15, 1947, and Pakistan another nation was created. Just with the creation of Pakistan, Muslims in Rawalpindi side started attacking Hindus and Sikhs and killed many of them.
The first riots by the Muslims were done in Rawalpindi side and many of the Sikh families moved to Nankana Sahib with the hope that Nankana Sahib would remain in India and it would be safe to stay there. But soon tension started building in Nankana Sahib and neighboring places.
KS Chawla Nankana Sahib – the birth place of Guru Nanak Dev was a tehsil headquarters and was part of Sheikhupura district. Now Nankana Sahib has been elevated as a full district by the Pakistan government.
The first attack on Sheikhupura was made by the Muslims and they burnt almost the complete city and killed a large number of Hindus and Sikhs. After incidents of Sheikhupura, the residents of Nankana Sahib also started living in fear and many of them moved to the gurdwaras for safety.
Our house was located on the GT Road and was a big size house. Our family was one of the prominent families of Nankana Sahib. As the migration of Hindus and Sikhs started, Nankana Sahib was put under the control of Baloch units of the army.
Since the residents were living in fear and were expecting attack anytime, our family took steps to protect ourselves. As our house was situated on the main highway, our family members had collected large number bricks and lathis on the roof tops of our house. Our relations from the villages had also come to our house. Our grand mother was a very brave and bold lady and she would sit as chowkidar at the main gate with a heavy lathi (daang).
Our house had a big size well and she had ordered all the ladies of the house that in the case of any attack by the Muslims, they would not get caught and would jump into the well to save themselves from the Muslims.
A big size bulb had also been put up in front of the main door on the main road to notice the movement of the people and Muslims and army in particular. The small children like me had been made to put on two suits-kurta pyjama and each one was given Rs. 100/- to feed ourselves in the case of separation from the family.
The Muslims had been planning to attack Nankana Sahib and on one night a huge number of Muslims had gathered outside the Nankana Sahib to attack when signaled by the Baloch faujis. But this attack did not happen as Guru Nanak Dev himself came to the rescue of the Nankanvis.
It is said that one night when the Muslims were to attack Nankana Sahib, one Sikh youth who was sleeping on the roof top along with his family members in the area of Balleela (where Guru Nanak Dev had spent his childhood) had a dream that Guru Nanak Dev was sitting with Bhai Bala and Bhai Mardana and discussing the difficult situation prevailing in Nankana Sahib. The youth immediately got up and told her mother to get up immediately – and there was going to be very heavy rain. He told his mother that he had a dream Guru Nanak Dev told Bhai Bala and Mardana that Nankana Sahib was under serious threat and the question was how to save the people. Guru Nanak Dev told them there was the only solution that there should be heavy rain and only then the attackers could be prevented from coming to Nankana Sahib. Immediately there was very heavy rain and the residents of Nankana Sahib were saved by Guru Nanak Dev himself.
As the rain started, the Baloch army truck stopped just outside our house and they said that the entire plan had failed. This talk was heard by our family elders who were watching them while sitting on the roof top. While leaving, the army men broke the electric bulb which had been put up in front of our gate.
Next morning, Tehsildar of Nankana Sahib called my father and told him ‘Bawa Ji hun tuseen gurdwara which shift kar jao’ being a prominent family of Nankana Sahib, whenever there was posting of the new Tehsildar, the new man would have his first ‘Khana’ in our house and the outgoing Tehsildar would have his farewell dinner with us.
So we moved to Gurdwara Malji Sahib at night and during the day we would come to our house. This process continued for a few days and our family was looking for some arrangement to leave Nankana Sahib. Just one day two army trucks arrived and our father contacted one of the truck drivers and settled the payment with him to reach Lahore. The entire families including relations were boarded in the truck and some baggage was also loaded. Our family had got two bags of atta which our uncle (Masar) was loading, he had just loaded the bags and the truck driver sped away the truck leaving our Masar behind despite raising alarm. The poor man was left in Nankana Sahib. It may be mentioned here that the truck driver was a Muslim and the fauji guard was a Sikh.
On way to Lahore, the truck driver stopped the truck and demanded more money from our father and he gave some more money to him. The truck driver threatened that he would not let us reach Lahore. To our bad luck just as we crossed river Ravi and entered Lahore, the fuel in the truck was exhausted. We were left at the mercy of God.
Since we were destined to live, the Sikh guard spotted one Gorkha guard standing in front of a gate-this was the camp of the Gorkha army. He immediately rushed to the Gorkha and told him about the plight of our truck and with the help of Gorkhas, the truck was taken to the Gorkha camp and Gorkhas provided the security cover to us. After getting fuel, the Gorkhas took our truck to the refugee camp in Government College Lahore building where we stayed for three days. As we had two bags of Atta, we could manage to cook chapattis to eat and also distributed Atta to other campers.
I would also like to mention here as our father had a flour mill in Nankana Sahib, he started free distribution of atta which was lying in stock to the refugees who had come from Rawalpindi side. This lasted for a month.
After three days of staying in the camp at Lahore, one evening some buses came from Amritsar to collect the refugees from the camp. Our father saw one bus which had come from Nankana Sahib and he contacted the driver who brought us to Amritsar from the Lahore camp.
I simply remember that bus left us in Amritsar on a road in the open sky. We spent the night without any food on the road. Next day morning, we had some relations in Dhab Wasti Ram area and we contacted them. They came and took us to their house and there we stayed for a week or so. They had a house in some locality which was lying vacant. They gave us that house to live in and we stayed there for about a month and from Amritsar, we moved to Ludhiana.
While traveling in a train from Amritsar, the track had been damaged and human dead bodies were floating in the floodwaters. It had rained heavily during that year. In Ludhiana, we came to a house where already some people were living. We could get some accommodation in a veranda without any proper cover.
We had a big family. Gradually all moved from that house and got the possession of the house and started living independently. Now the question was how to run the house as we had become ‘Runk’ from a ‘Raja.’. We started working in a hosiery factory to earn some money. Our father was looking for some business and he found a deserted diesel engine run atta chakki at Machhiwara and he got it on lease from the government. After great labor, he started the atta chakki. But there was a hostile reception from the local chakki owners and our father did not lose heart and came into competition with them. Our father reduced the milling rate and ‘karta’.
The refugees who had settled at Machhiwara and adjoining villages came to our support and for three-four years, they extended whole hearted support to us. During this period we could start our studies also. Our father had to go back to Nankana Sahib to bring back our Masar and he succeeded in his mission.
As we reached Lahore from Nankana Sahib, since the Muslim driver had harassed us, there was a rumor in Nankana Sahib that the entire Bawa family had been looted and eliminated at Lahore. But people had a sigh of relief when they learned that we all were safe and hail and hearty at Amritsar.
We are grateful to Almighty Guru Nanak Dev Ji who protected us at all the difficult times and finally settled at Ludhiana three of our brothers became renowned journalists who served the people with great sense of honesty and dedication and earned the goodwill of the people of the Punjab and the National Capital New Delhi.
The writer is a senior journalist.
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