Date: 07 Sep 2007


Our village lived in harmony

BBC Memoryshare Editor on behalf of Hardev Coonar's memory of 14/08/1947 - 16/08/1947

My family home is the village of Hindupur in the former independent kingdom of Patiala, now Punjab, India. I can trace the names of my ancestors in the village for eight generations (Hindupur is ten miles from Rajpura and 15miles from Khanna. Chandigarh is 25 miles away). 

The previous name of Hindupur was Hajipur, but changed to Hindupur. I have conjectured that this followed the Muslim Nawab of Sirhind’s defeat by the Sikh army in early eighteen century. ‘Haji’ is the term of respect reserved for a Muslim who has made the pilgrimage or ‘Haj’ to Mecca. 

I was not born in Hindupur. My father was the first person from our village to become a doctor. He qualified and joined the Indian Medical Department of the British Indian Army. At the time of my birth he was posted to the Cantonment Hospital Chakuratta up in the Himalayas at an altitude of seven thousand feet. 

Our village had about forty families. One third were Muslim and the rest were Sikh except two Hindu families. They all lived in harmony. 
During World War II when my father was away on active service in Burma our house was guarded by Uncle Sondhi a Muslim resident of our village. His son Ahmed was of my age and we were good friends. I used to play with him when I was home during the holidays. 

At the time of the Partition of Punjab my father was posted to Ambala. This is an important military station 120 miles north of Delhi and about 150 miles from Lahore now in Pakistan. My village is 25 miles from Ambala. 
There was hectic political activity in mid 1947: Independence was declared. It would have been a great time for rejoicing but instead Hell was let loose. There were heavy rains and villages were flooded. There were mass migrations of refugees. Sikhs and Hindus were killed in west Punjab and Muslims were slain in East Punjab. 

I was very worried about my Muslim friends. There was no danger to them from the residents of our own village but the village was being attacked by mobs searching for Muslims. 
They had to leave for their safety in to what came to be known as the Refugee Camp. We thought and wished that it would be a temporary move. I hoped that my Muslim ‘uncles’ and ‘aunts’ and play mates would come back to the village, but it was not to be so. It became very clear that the migration was permanent. 
Uncle Sondhi left his sons, Ahmed my friend and his younger brother Sadhoo behind in Hindupur in the care of my family. They lived with us until 1950. By that time Uncle Sondhi had been given land in a village called Mari Bhandran in West Punjab and had started to make a living. Ahmed and his brother Sadhoo joined the rest of their family in Pakistan. Ahmed joined the Post Office and still corresponds with us. 

The partition of Punjab was a sad chapter but we are all practical people and life must go on. My family and village have the satisfaction that none of our Muslim residents were killed and we are still in touch. 

Hardev Coonar was takling to Pam Thakral