From Gwalior to Chakwal
The following is based on my grandfather's diaries from the time of Independence in the subcontinent to him making his way to his new home in Pakistan.
Background: For the historical context, please read here.
The above map illustrates the journey my grandfather undertook in the years of 1947-1948 upon the independence of India & Pakistan from the British.
This is his story.
My grandfather's family lived in Gwalior, my granddad traveled frequently between his home and Laksar where he was at college, studying statistics. He made the journey described below largely on his own, as his family was forced to migrate separately. The house where my grandfather grew up, in Gwalior, was his ancestral home, but as violence grew, the family was forced to flee. Upon officially becoming refugees, the land they owned in India was taken over by the government of India. The whole family, after brief stays in many places in Pakistan, finally settled in Chakwal, where my grandfather’s eldest brother got a job, this is where his journey ends. In July of 1947, Mohammad Ali Jinnah was appointed Governor-General of Pakistan and that is where the story begins. The following is adapted from my grandfather’s diaries. Words in italics are straight from the diaries.
15th August is the day when two new countries are being born. Many a man feels happy today, many a man dies today.
Between Gwalior & Laksar (Lashkar), July - September 1947
There was a lot of violence in the month leading up to independence. Once the India Bill had been read; the city of Gwalior saw abductions of Muslims and a deteriorating situation, with false propaganda being distributed, shops and accommodation were being looted. In the nearby town of Danoli, mosques were being stoned with reports of Muslims killed. As my grandfather left for Lashkar, there were three casualties on the way; and in Lashkar itself, there were more casualties as well as cases of arson.
On 11th September, Nehru threatened to resign if the conditions did not improve. Martial law was imposed in Delhi, as the number of casualties continued to rise, a curfew was imposed in Lashkar as well. By September 15th, migration was in full-swing, and the conditions continued to deteriorate, with the worst of it in Delhi. Attacks on trains to Pakistan continued.
By then, I knew I had to leave Lashkar, leaving forever on 18th September. The motorbus we were on was about to be upturned but we were saved. The next day my family began to make their fractured way across, leaving for Moradabad.
By the end of September, I reached Agra, by way of Moradabad, a wrong step as the way was very dangerous.
Time in Bairagarh (refugee) Camp
By the beginning of October, I had reached the refugee camp in Bairagarh, close to the city of Bhopal. I was in the Bairagarh North Camp, it was gloomy and I was alone with no friends. It was my first ray of liberty, on the road to Pakistan. I relied on the help of strangers, many of whom were friendly and sympathetic. In the city, there was a great gathering on Saturday where the Hindus garlanded the Muslims, amidst all the violence across the country.
On 26th October, there were rebellions in Kashmir, with the liberation armies advancing in Kashmir.
My younger brothers had begun their journey by caravan to Pakistan on October 28th, by the end of November they had reached cities in Pakistan; Sargodha, Multan and Lahore.
By the end of October, people had begun to go back from Bairagarh, the camp was emptying. Restrictions to the city were put in place, with no entry for refugees in Bhopal from 4pm to 8am the next day.
As people moved away, and I continued to stay on my own among strangers, my peace of mind was highly disturbed, for apparent reasons. How long have I borne it? As the length of time apart from my family increased, I did not know when I would be reunited, the minutes and distance lengthened. All acquaintances had deserted me, it was becoming difficult to pass the time. Once, I had thought of settling here, in Bhopal, but not anymore, the circumstances had changed my mind. I wanted to go to Pakistan, I could not live here even for a day.
In early December, the situation was worsening, there was an accident, my brother was wounded in the head by Hindus on returning from the hospital. By the middle of December, the camp was being vacated.
To Pakistan 'Nomad' 1948
On the 9th of January, India broke the financial agreement with Pakistan by stopping sending 55 Crore Rupees(550 million) as well as arms and ammunition. On the 30th of January, Mr. MK Gandhi, the veteran Hindu leader of India was shot dead by Nathuram Vinayak Godse of Delhi.
In the middle of March, I left for Pakistan, the land of my hopes. How I had longed to go there, and how I removed the stumbling blocks to take my first step for Pakistan. I marched forward, with a glimpse of my acquaintances in Bairagarh, left Bairagarh. Onward moved the train; backward moved the land where for the first time, I had sought refuge. The lights of the camp gradually faded away into darkness. From Bairagarh, I went to Nagda - the train was 3 hours late, then to Ratlam, then to Chittogarh, to Mualvi, the landscape on this leg was good, with green fields of sugar cane and opium and wheat and barley. At Marwar Junction, I changed for Hyderabad. From Balshra began the true desert. Sand, sand everywhere, looking bad to the eyes. At Badhur, before Hyderabad all the passengers were searched. Finally Pakistan.
Finally, I reached Karachi, a friend had stayed here before me. In Karachi, I searched for my friend to no avail for a few days before finally finding him, so I could begin my journey north.
By April, I had begun my travel northwards in Pakistan, from Karachi to Shikarpur to Sukkur to Naushera to Khushab (where I spent some time) to Lahore. In Lahore, I registered at the employment exchange and received the ration card. July 1st was an historic day, with the opening ceremony of the State Bank of Pakistan, I heard Quaid-e-Azam's (Jinnah) speech for the first time.
At the end of July, I reached my destination - Chakwal. Chakwal is a small town, bigger than Khushab, smaller than Shikarpur. The people are better than those of Lahore. It resembles Gohad in some respect, it is dry but of growing importance.
Later, my grandfather returned to Lahore to continue his education. He completed a Masters in Mathematics and subsequently, did another Masters in Statistics. He became one of the pioneers in education and research in the field of Statistics in Pakistan.