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Humiliated and Harassed They Left (9999)

Author Information
Writer: Shorish Kashmiri (1917 - )
Writer's Country: India
Genre: Essays
Event: India - Pakistan Partition

Fourteenth August was certainly the Independence Day of Pakistan--it was actually the day the country gained its freedom. But what a strange revolution; the common people were dying while the gentry was lost in revelry. From Ras Kumari to Amritsar, from Sialkot to Dhaka or from Calcutta to Delhi and Lahore to Khyber, the whole subcontinent was drenched in blood. In a word it had become one big slaughter house.

Fifteenth August, the proclamation of India's Independence was read at five past twelve midnight. Along with Jawaharlal Nehru, Khaliq-uz-Zaman saluted the tricolor and took the pledge of loyalty. But Abul Kalam Azad, who had once personally received the proposal of Independence from the Cabinet Mission, was lying quietly in the retiring room of his residence. His heart was sinking as he thought: 'Was this the day to which we looked forward all these years?'

His lips were sealed. Abul Kalam Azad--which means literally master of oratory--was not himself. He had become someone else. His heart was pounding. In his subconscious, his eloquence had conceded defeat. All his joys seemed fictitious. His cheerful countenance was struck with sorrow. He was overcome by depression. Outside Parliament, thousands of sadhus were blowing their conch shells. But Abul Kalam Azad wept in solitude. Lakhs of Hindus in the country were rejoicing. With them was a throng of Nationalist Muslims, indulging in hollow laughter. But the hearts of crores of Muslims, were seized with fear at the approaching morrow about to dawn, with dagger drawn and knives aimed at them.

Those who got the worst of it, both in India and Pakistan, were honest, sincere, Nationalist Muslims who, in the eyes of the Hindus were Muslims, and vice versa. All their sacrifices had been reduced to ashes. Their personal integrity and loyalty were derided. Their morale had been shattered like a disintegrating shooting star; their lives had lost meaning. Like the crumbling pillars of a mosque, they could neither be saved nor used. India, for whose independence they had kept fighting the British, had refused to give them refuge. So much so, that for doing just that they had invited the wrath of their own community. They were like that distant sound which rises in the desert and then descends and disappears into the sand dunes. To them Pakistan was a political orphanage, where ordinary people looked at them with hatred and suspicion. The joy of winning freedom had not even touched them remotely. For them the special day of Independence was unusual, spent in the seclusion of the four walls of their homes. The League had made them untouchables to their fellow-Indians; they had been reduced to the state of political harijams in India.

Conches were blown in India. Drums were beaten in Pakistan. All India Radio proclaimed Independence by broadcasting Bande Mataram and Pakistan Radio did so with recitation of the Quran. But as day dawned, both sides began to butcher their minorities in the name of religion. The clashes that had ensued sporadically for the last eighteen months became one-sided and fierce on August 14 and 15. In India it was the Muslims who were butchered: in Pakistan the Sikhs and Hindus. Now the riots ceased to be communal. On the contrary, it was genocide of the minorities by the majorities.

The upper classes were running away while the poor people were dying. Girls were stripped of their clothes just as bananas are peeled. The skulls of the young ones were cracked open like almonds. The old were thrown into the fire like dry wood: the middle-aged were made to smoulder like cowdung cakes. But even so, in deep cavernous, dark night, the light emitted by some jugnus, fireflies, persisted.

There were still some people in Pakistan who protected Hindu and Sikh families like their own. In India, too there were people determined to save the lives of Muslims. In the Frontier Province, the Red Shirts did a wonderful job by saving the lives of thousands of Hindus. If, in India, Patel and Kripalani behaved like Maharana Pratap and Rana Sanga, then Gandhi and Nehru became the shield of Muslims. Pandit Nehru went to meet the Hindu refugees at Haridwar. They were people there who had lost their children and parents in Pakistan. Some young people, whose parents had been butchered and whose sisters and daughters had been left in Pakistan, surrounded Panditji. He said to them: 'The argument over the excesses committed by Hindus or Muslims is useless. Just think that so many human beings were butchered in Pakistan and so many lost their lives in India.' One young man lost his temper and gave Panditji a resounding slap; a slap on the face of the Prime Minister of India. But Panditji said nothing to him. He just placed his hand on the young man's shoulder. The young man shouted: 'Give my mother back to me! Bring my sisters to me!' Panditji's eyes filled with tears. He said: 'Your anger is justified, but, be it Pakistan or India, the calamity that has overtaken us all is the same. We have both to pass through it.'

Credit: Excerpted from "Harrassed and Humiliated They Left" by Shorish Kashimiri, from the book India Partitioned: The Other Face of Freedom (1995). Reprint courtesy of Roli Books, New Delhi.


Shorish Kashmiri was born in 1917. His family was originally from Kashmir, but later settled in Amritsar, India. Kashmiri was active politically and also worked as a journalist, editing the weekly publication Chattan for three decades. He is the author of a number of books, including Pas-I Deewari Zindan and Tehrik-I Khatm-I Nabuwat.