Wednesday 25 October 2017

Choudhary Rahmat Ali - The Man Who Named Pakistan

A lot is written about the views, motives, and personalities of the persons, involved in the independence movement and the creation of Pakistan. We continuously discuss every aspect of these persons, from Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah to Liaquat Ali Khan, Khwaja Nazimuddin, Nawab Salimullah Khan and Allama Iqbal. Even some other leaders like Sir Syed Ahmad Khan and Maulana Muhammad Ali Jauhar appear more prominently in these discussions and writings. But the man, who gave this country its name Choudhry Rahmat Ali, seldom appears in our history. Frankly speaking, I know a lot more about Mahatma Gandhi or Pundit Jawaharlal Nehru than Choudhry Rahmat Ali. All that I know are some sketchy information about this person, who invented a word that is today the identity of more than 200 million people. In my view, if Quaia-i-Azam is the father of this nation, then we can call Rahmat Ali godfather of Pakistan. (I know it sounds a little bit amusing)

He was born on 16 November, 1897, in Mohar (31° 6'13.92"N;  76°19'0.22"E), a small village 4 kms north of Balachaur, district Hoshiarpur, now district Nawanshahr. This was confirmed to me by his family sources. His father was Haji Chaudhry Shah Muhammad Gujjar. The following excerpt is from Wikipedia:
After graduating from Islamia Madrassa Lahore in 1918, he taught at Aitchison College Lahore before joining Punjab University to study law. In 1930 he moved to England to join Emmanuel College, Cambridge in 1931. In 1933, he published a pamphlet, Now or Never, coining the word Pakistan for the first time. In 1946, he founded Pakistan National Movement in England. Subsequently, he obtained a BA degree in 1933 and MA in 1940 from the University of Cambridge. In 1943, he was called to the Bar, from Middle Temple, London. Until 1947, he continued publishing various booklets about his vision for South Asia. The final Partition of India disillusioned him due to the mass killings and mass migrations it ended up producing. He was also dissatisfied with the distribution of areas among the two countries and considered it a major reason for the disturbances.
Another website gives the following account of his political activity:
It was during the years 1930 through 1933, that he established the Pakistan National Movement, with its headquarter at Cambridge. Until 1947, he continued publishing various booklets about his vision for South Asia. On January 28, 1933, he issued his first memorable pamphlet “Now or Never; Are we to live or perish forever?” The pamphlet gave reasons for the establishment of Pakistan as a separate nation coining the word Pakistan for the first time.
The above-mentioned source also shed some light on his life after the creation of Pakistan in the following words:
Ali is known for his steadfast dedication to the idea of Pakistan. After its formation in 1947, he argued on its behalf at the United Nation over the issue of Kashmir. and the rights of Muslim minority of India.

While Choudhry Rahmat Ali was a leading figure for the conception of Pakistan, he lived most of his adult life in England. He had been voicing his dissatisfaction with the creation of Pakistan ever since his arrival in Lahore on April 6, 1948. He was unhappy over a Smaller Pakistan than the one he had conceived in his 1933 pamphlet “Now Or Never”.

After the creation of Pakistan he returned to Pakistan in April 1948, planning to stay in this country, but he was ordered by the then Prime Minister Liaquat Ali Khan to leave the country. His belongings were confiscated, and he left empty-handed for England in October 1948. He died in February 1951 and was buried on 20 February at Newmarket Road Cemetery Cambridge UK. Emmanuel College’s Master, who had been Rahmat Ali’s Tutor, himself arranged the burial in Cambridge on 20 February 1951.


But the question on my mind for a long time was his and his family roots in Pakistan. I could not find any information on that aspect. However, I got a clue from the picture of the tombstone of the grave of Choudhry Rahmat Ali in Cambridge.  

 بسم اللہ الرحمن الرحیم – لا إِلَهَ إِلاَّ اللَّهُ مُحَمَّدٌ رَسُولُ اللهِ
چوہدری رحمت علی، ایم-اے-ایل-ایل-بی بار ایٹ لاء کیمبرج
ولد حاجی شاہ محمد گجر عمر 54 سال تاریخ وفات 12 فروری 1951
بانی تحریک پاکستان – خالق لفظ "پاکستان"
تحریر کنندہ حاجی محمد بخش ولد چوہدری شاہ محمد چک نمبر 66، لائلپور، پاکستان


Now there was only one way to find more about the family and Choudhry Rahmat Ali's connection with the country, that was named by him and that was to visit the Chak No. 66JB. So on 13 July, 2017, I reached there. My intuition told me that I would be able to get some information from the oldest part of the Chak. Now, keep in mind that the Chak is very near to Faisalabad city is can be easily counted as a semi-urban area, unlike an ordinary traditional village. Apart from one part of the chak which was full of power looms, the residential section was very neat and clean. I was not expecting much. I thought that even if Rahmat Ali's family settled here 70 years ago after their migration from Hoshiarpur, most probably they would have moved to some other place a long time ago. 

A street in Chak No. 66JB, Faisalabad. (13.07.2017.)

Another view of the Chak No. 66JB, Faisalabad. (13.07.2017.)

House of Haji Muhammad Baksh, elder brother of Choudhry Rahmat Ali, Chak No. 66JB, Faisalabad. ( 31°23'29.99"N;  72°58'15.47"E)  (13.07.2017.)

After reaching almost in the centre of the Chak, I asked a shopkeeper about the house of Choudhry Rahmat Ali, the man who gave Pakistan its name. I was expecting him to ask me who was he? But he simply said to go a little ahead and then turn right. I was happily surprised and after a few minutes, I found myself in front of the home of his relatives. There was a shop beside it and the shop owner also turned out to be a member of this family. After a few minutes, we were welcomed in by an old lady. Her son was out and he joined us half an hour later. They were happy to know the purpose of our visit and served us with cold drinks. 

This was the immediate family of Choudhry Rahmat Ali. They informed us that he did not have any children and his elder brother Haji Muhammad Bakhsh had two sons and one daughter. During the violence of 1947, he lost all of his three children.  Later on, Haji Mohammad Bakhsh's wife adopted a daughter of her brother and that was Bilqis Begum. So this is the place, which we can call the home of Choudhry Rahmat Ali. I tried to keep in touch with Mr Muhammad Zakaria and asked him some more questions, but he did not extend any help and due to some reason ignored all my messages and calls. 

Bilqis Begum, adopted daughter of Haji Mohammad Baksh, the elder brother of Choudhry Rahmat Ali and her son Chaudhry Zakaria Gujar. Chak No. 66JB, Faisalabad. (13.07.2017.)

Choudhry Zakaria Gujar (left) with the writer. (13.07.2017.)

As can be well expected, they were acutely aware of the fact that Choudhry Rahmat Ali has not been given a status he deserved. They also mentioned an effort made about a decade ago to bring the body of Choudhry Rahmat Ali to Pakistan. They even offered to pay half of the expenses for this exercise. But nothing came out of that enterprise. This was a brief visit to that Chak but very satisfying. Finally, I was able to find a place in Pakistan, which we can call the home of the person who gave this country its name. I came to know for the first time the that he also gave the blood his dear ones to lay down the foundations of this country.

It was in 1933, when he wrote a pamphlet, presenting his view about the future of Muslims of five northern administrative units of India. In this pamphlet, he demanded a separate independent state for the Muslims and not only outlined the geographical boundaries for this state but also suggested a name for this state, PAKISTAN. Following is the complete text of this pamphlet.

Front Page of Now Or Never. 

28th January, 1933.

Dear Sir,
I am enclosing herewith an appeal on behalf of the thirty million Muslims of PAKISTAN, who live in the five Northern Units of India--Punjab, N.W.F.P. (Afghan Province), Kashmir, Sindh and Baluchistan, embodying their inexorable demand for the recognition of their separate national status, as distinct from the rest of India, by grant of a separate Federal Constitution on social, religious, political and historical grounds. 
May I venture to request you to acquaint me please with your valuable opinion as to the proposed solution of this great Indian problem as explained herein. 
I do hope and trust that, vitally interested as you are in the permanent solution of this problem, the objects outlined in the appeal will meet with your fullest approval and active support. 

Yours truly,

إِنَّ اللَّهَ لا يُغَيِّرُ مَا بِقَوْمٍ حَتَّى يُغَيِّرُوا مَا بِأَنفُسِهِمْ

 لَهُ مُعَقِّبَاتٌ مِّن بَيْنِ يَدَيْهِ وَمِنْ خَلْفِهِ يَحْفَظُونَهُ مِنْ أَمْرِ اللَّهِ إِنَّ اللَّهَ لَا يُغَيِّرُ مَا بِقَوْمٍ حَتَّى يُغَيِّرُوا مَا بِأَنفُسِهِمْ وَإِذَا أَرَادَ اللَّهُ بِقَوْمٍ سُوءًا فَلَا مَرَدَّ لَهُ وَمَا لَهُم مِّن دُونِهِ مِن وَالٍ
For each (such person) there are (angels) in succession, before and behind him: They guard him by command of Allah. Allah does not change a people's lot unless they change what is in their hearts. But when (once) Allah willeth a people's punishment, there can be no turning it back, nor will they find, besides Him, any to protect.

Ar-Ra'd, 11

Are We to Live or Perish for Ever?

At this solemn hour in the history of India, when British and Indian statesmen are laying the foundations of a Federal Constitution for that land, we address this appeal to you, in the name of our common heritage, on behalf of our thirty million Muslim brethren who live in PAKISTAN -- by which we mean the five Northern units of India. viz.: Punjab, North West Frontier Province (Afghan Province), Kashmir, Sind and Baluchistan -- for your sympathy and support in our grim and fateful struggle against political crucifixion and complete annihilation.
Our brave but voiceless nation is being sacrificed on the altar of Hindu Nationalism not only by non-Muslims, but to the lasting disgrace of Islam, by our own so-called leaders, with reckless disregard to our future and in utter contempt of the teachings of history.
The Indian Muslim Delagation at the Round Table Conference have committed an inexcusable and prodigious blunder. They have submitted, in the name of Hindu Nationalism, to the perpetual subjection of the ill-starred Muslim nationa. These leaders have already agreed, without any protest or demur and without any reservation, to a Constitution based on the principle of an All-India Federation. This, in essence, amount to nothing less than signing the death-warrant of Islam and its future in India. In doing so, they have taken shelter behind the so-called Mandate from the community. But they forgot that suicidal Mandate was framed and formulated by their own hands. That Mandate was not the Mandate of the Muslims of India. Nations never give Mandates to their representatives to barter away their very soul; and men of conscience nevery accept such self-annihilating Mandates, if given -- mcuh less execute them. At a time of crisis of this magnitude, the foremost duty of saving staesmanship is to give a fair, form and fearless lead, which, alas, has been persistently denied to eighty millions of our co-religionists in India by our leaders during the last seventy five-years. These have been the years of false-issues, of lost opportunities and of utter blindness to the most essential and urgent needs of the Muslim interests. Their policy has throughout been paralysed with fear and doubt, and have deliberately, time and again, sacrificed their political principles for the sake of opportunism and expediency. To do so even at this momentous juncture is a policy of Bedlam. It is idle for us not to look this tragic truth in the face. The tighter we shut our eyes, the harder that truth will hit us. 
At this critical moment, when this tragedy is being enacted, permit us to appeal to you for your practical sympathy and active support for the demand of a separate Federation --a mtter of life and death for the Muslims of India -- as outlined and explained below.
India, constituted as it is at the present moment, is not the name of one single country; nor the home of one single nation. It is, in fact, the designation of a State created for the first time in history, bu the British. It includes peoples who have never previously formed part of India at any period of its history; but who have, on the other hand, from thhe dawn of history till the advent of the British, possessed and retained distinct nationalities of their own. 
In the five Northern Provinces of India, out of total population of about forty millions, we, the Muslims constitute about thirty millions. Our religion, culture, history, tradition, economic system, laws of inheritance, sucession and marriage are basically and fundamentally different from those of the people living in the rest of India. The ideals which move our thirty million brethren-in-faith living in these Provinces to make the highest sacrifices are fundamentally different from those which inspire the Hindus. These differences are not confined to the braod basic principles -- far from it. They extend to the minutest details of our lives. We do not inter-dine; we do not inter-marry. Our national customs and calendars, even our diet and dress and different. 
It is preposterous to compare, as some superficial observers do, the differences between Muslims and Hindus with those between Roman Catholics and Protestants. Both the Cathlics and Protestants are part and parcel of one religioius system -- Christianity, while the Hindus and Muslim are the followers of two essentially and fundamentally different religious systems. Religion in the case of Muslims and Hindus is not a matter of private opinion as it is in the case of Christians; but on the other hand constitute a Civic Church which lays down a code of conduct to be observed by their adherents from birth to death. 
If we, the Muslims of Pakistan, with our distinct marks of nationality, are deluded into the proposed Indian Federation by friends of foes, we are reduced to a minority of one to four. It is this which sounds the death-knell of the Muslim nation in India for ever. To realise the full magnitude of this impending catastrophe, let us remind you that we thirty millions constitute about one-tenth of the whole Muslim world. The total area of the five units comprising PAKISTAN, which are our homelands, is four times that of Italy, thee times that of Germany and twice that of France; and our population seven times that of the Commonwealth of Australia, four times that of the Dominion of Canada, twice that of Spain, and equal to France and Italy considered individually. 
These are facts -- hard facts and realities -- which we challenge anybody to contradict. It is on the basis of these facts that we make bold to assert without the least fear of contradiction that we, Muslims of PAKISTAN, do possess a separate and distinct nationality from the rest of India, where Hindu nation lives and has every right to live. We, therefore, deserve and must demand recognition of s separate national status by the grand of a separate Federal Constitution from the rest of India. 
In addressing this appeal to the Muslims of India, we are also addressing it to the two other great interests -- British and Hindu -- involved in the settlement of India's future. They must understand that in our conviction our body and soul are at stake. Our very being and well-being depends upon it. For our five great Northern to joinand All-India Federation would be disastrous , not only to ourselves, but to every other race and interest in India, including the British and the Hindu. 
 This is more especially true when there is a just and reasonable alternative to the proposed settlement, which will lay the foundations of a peaceful future for this great sub-continent, and should certainly allow of the highest development of each of these two peoples without one being subject to another. This alternative is a separate Federation of these five predominantly Mulism units -- Punjab, North-West Frontier Province (Afghan Province), Kashmir Sind and Baluchistan. The Muslim Federation of Indian would provide bulwark of a buffer state against any invasion either of ideas or of arms from outside. The creation of such a federation would not materially disturb the ratio of the Muslim and Hindu population in the rest of India. It is wholly to the interest of Britsh and Hindu statesmanship to have as an ally a free, poweful and contented Muslim nation having a similar but separate Constitution to that which is being enacted for the rest of India. Nothing but a separate Federation of our own homelands would satisfy us. This demand is basically different from the suggestion put forward by Doctor Sir Muhammad Iqbal in his Presidential address to the All-India Muslim League in 1930. While he proposed the malgamation of these Provinces into a single state forming a unit of the All-India Federation, we propose that these Provinces should have a separate Federation of their own. There can be no peace and tranquility in the land if we, the Muslims, duped into a Hindu-dominated Federation where we cannot be the masters of our own destiny and captains of our own souls. 
Do the safeguards provided for in the Constitution give us any scope to work for our salvation along our own lines? Not a bit. Safeguard is the magic word which holds our leaders spellbound and has dulled their consciences. In the ecstacy of their hallucinations they think that the pills of safeguards can cure nation-annihilating earthquakes. Safeguards asked for by these leaders and agreed to by the makers of the Constituion can never be a substitute for the loss separate nationality. We, the Muslims, shall have to fight that course of suicidal insanity to death. What safeguards can be devised to prevent our minority of one in four in an All-India Federation from being sacrificed on every vital issue to the aims and interests of the majority race, which differs from us in every essential of individual and corporate life? What safeguards can prevent the catastrophe of the Muslim nation smarting and suffering eternally at the frustration of its every social and religious ideal? What safeguards can compensate our nation awakened to its national consciousness for the destruction of its distinct national status? However, effective and extensive the safegurds may be, the vital organs and proud symbols of our life, such as army and navy, foreign relations, trade and commerce, communications, posts and telegraphs, taxation and customs, will not be unde our control, but will be in the hands of a Federal Government, which is bound to be overwhelmingly Hindu. With all this, how can we, the Muslims, achieve any of our ideals if those ideals conflict--conflict as they must-- with the ideals of Hindus?
The history of the last century, in this respect, is full of unforgettable lessons for us. Even one who runs may read them. To take just one instance: Despite all these safegurds and guarantees we have enjoyed in the past, the very name of our national language--URDU, even now the lingua franca of that great sub-continent--has been wiped out of the list of Indian Languages. We have just to open the latest census report to verify it. This by itself is a tragic fall. Are we fated to fall farther? But that too is dust in the scales by comparison with the tremendous national issues involving our whole future as a nation and a power not only in India but also in the whole of Asia. 
 In the face of these incontrovertible facts, we are entitled to ask for what purpose we are being asked to make the supreme sacrifice of surrendering our national and submitting ourselves and our posterity to Non-Muslim domination? What good is likeky to accrue to Islam and Muslims by going into the Federation is a thing which passes our understanding. Are we to be crucified just to save the faces of our leaders, or to bolster up the preposterous falsehood that India can be a single nation? Is it with a view to achieve [sic] a compromise at all costs, or is it to support the illusion that Hindu nationalism is working in the interests of Muslims as well as Hindus? Irony is flattered to death by a mental muddle of such a nature and on such a scale. We have suffered in the past without a murmur and faced dangers without demur. The one thing we would never suffer is our own self-strangulation. We will not crucify ourselves upon the cross of Hindu nationalism in order to make a Hindu-holiday. 
May we be permitted to ask of all those statesmen--Muslim or British or Hindu--supporting the Federal Constitution, if it is really desirable to make our nation sacrifice all that Islam has given us during the last fourteen hundred years to make India a nation? Does humanity really stand to gain by this stupendous sacrifice? We dare say that still in Islam the ancient fire glows and promises much for the future, if only the leaders would let it live. Whilst in Europe, excluding Russia, in about the same area as that of India and with about the same population, there live and prosper as many as twenty-six nations, with one and the same religion, civilisation and economis system, surely it is not only possible byt hihgly desirable for two fundamentally different and distinct nations, i.e., Muslim and Hindu, to live as friendly neighbours in peace and prosperity in that vast sub-continent. What bitter irony is it that our leaders have not the courage to stand up and demand the minimum for our political salvation. 
We are face to face with a first-rate tragedy, the like of which has not been seen even in the long and eventful history of Islam. It is not the question of a sect or a community going down; but it is the supreme problem which affects the destiny of whole of Islam and the millions of human beings who, till quite recently, were the custodians of the glory of Islam in India and the defenders of its frontiers. We have still a greater future before us, if only our soul can be saved from the perpetual bondage of slavery forged in an All-India Federation. Let us make no mistake about it. The issue is now or never. Either we live or perish for ever. The future is ours only if we live up to our faith. It does not lie in the lap of gods, but it rests in our own hands. We can make or mar it. The history of the last century is full of open warnings and they are as plain as were ever given to any nation. Shall it be said of us that we ignored all these warnings and allowed our ancient heritage to perish in our own hands?

MOHD ASLAM KHAN,                                                  RAHMAT ALI
                      (Khattak),                                                       (Choudhary)
President, Khyber Union                                                                    

SHEIKH MOHD SADIQ,                                 INAYAT ULLAH KHAN      
         (Sahibzada)                                                             (of Charsaddah)
                                                                             Secretary, Khyber Union
The above map shows the idea of Pakistan as envisaged by Choudhry Rahmat Ali. 

Choudhry Rahmat Ali is a unique person in the history of the world. I am not aware of any person, who not only deliberated about a new country but also suggested a name for it. A name that never existed before. It is indeed strange that why we as a nation have failed to give him a place he deserves in our hearts and minds? Why did we choose to ignore a person who gave us a name? Sometimes voices are raised to bring his body back to Pakistan for the burial and give him the honour he rightly deserves, but that too are so faint that most of us never hear of them. Perhaps the state has not forgiven him for criticising it in the early days. He had criticised the leadership for accepting the partition as it was done. He also blamed the violence on the leadership. Perhaps they did not appreciate the circumstances through which his immediate family had to pass during their migration. Now I must say that his views whether right or wrong cannot change the fact that he gave us a word, which we daily use to identify ourselves. 

Tariq Amir

October 25, 2017.
Doha - Qatar

Wednesday 18 October 2017

Gurdwara of Baba Badan Singh Dhillon in Chak 68JB Leelan, Faisalabad.

1947 was a milestone in the history of India. It ended the rule of the British and brought independence to 400 million people of south Asia. But it was not a happy time for all. Millions of people suffered terribly in result of the events surrounding this event, which caused cataclysmic changes in some parts of India, particularly Punjab. A friend of mine told me about his maternal grandfather who never celebrated the independence day. Instead on 14th August, he used to confine himself to his room and mourned the death of his dear ones, whom he lost in 1947. His family had migrated from Bhojjian village near Amritsar. Similarly millions of Hindus and Sikhs had to leave their houses and ancestral land to the safety of the other side of the border. Here, I want to share a similar story with you.

This is the story of a family who lived happily in Chak 68JB near Leelan, district Lyallpur. They too had to leave their home and gurdwara due to the turmoils of 1947. I received an email from Gurmail Singh, who is currently based in Toronto, Canada, on 30 May, 2017. This is how he introduced himself and expressed his feelings:
Dear Tariq,

I found your blog on internet. You are doing a great job. I am very touched by your research and hardwork. 

I am very close to this part of the world. My dad was born in Chak 68 JB Leelan in Lyallpur ( Faisalabad ). He was 13 years old in 1947. We talked about our village everyday. It is close to Sadhar City. Even though I am never been in Pakistan but I can imagine our village. I have lot of pakistani friends in Canada. Trying to come to Pakistan from last few years. I will come to Pakistan with my dad one day to show his birthplace, school and ghanta ghar of Lyallpur bazar. If you know anyone from this village, please send the contact.

Before moving to Canada, we were living in Village Hambran near Ludhiana ( 10 miles east of Ludhiana* ) on Sidhwan Bet/ Salempura Rd. Close city are Mullanpur Dakha, Jagraon and Raikot etc. I seen muslim homes and mosques in my village. Our elementary school was in one of the biggest mosque of our village. Native hindus of this village were telling us that Rangher muslim were living in this village from centuries. There were two slaughter homes in this village. If you know anyone from my village Hambran, I will be very happy to talk to them and share info.

Keep up the good work and stay in touch.

Gurmail Singh Dhillon

* Actually just 10 kms West of Ludhiana.

Gurmail's story and his love for his ancestral village touched me deeply and I promised him that I would try my best to visit his chak as soon as I get an opportunity. Fortunately, we did not have to wait for long. I reached Pakistan on 27 June, 2017 and on 13 July, I found myself in Chak 68JB.

When we started from Sargodha in the morning the weather was good, but by the time we reached the chak around 1100, it can best be described as sweltering. First of all, we tried to find the house of Noor Muhamamd and Gul Muhammad. They were sons of Muhammad Ali Lohar and Gurmail Singh's father Bhagat Singh knew them. We were told that both the brothers had died during last 10 to 15 years. However, we found their house in the Chak. But unfortunately, no senior male members were at home. We could meet only a daughter of Noor Muhammad and her son. They had heard about the family of Gurmail Singh, but could not give us any other information. However, after a few inquiries in the neighbourhood we found the gurdwara. Frankly speaking, I was not expecting much, at the most some partial ruins or a small heap of debris. But for a change, a very pleasant surprise was in store for me. The gurdwara is located at  31°22'34.63"N;  72°55'12.50"E.

This gurdwara was built by Sardar Badan Singh Dhillon s/o Sardar Hazara Singh, the grandfather of Gurmail Singh in 1928. Its shape is unlike most of the other gurdwaras, that are square in shape and has entrances on all the four sides. It looks almost like an ordinary house. So far everything was good. But then I ran out of my luck. The current owners were not at home and the caretaker was reluctant to let us enter the gurdwara/home. In the meanwhile Rana Shoaib, a young man in his early twenties got wind of our visit and reached there on his bike. He proved helpful in convincing the caretaker to let me in the courtyard and take some photos. But we could not enter the building. However, the caretaker relented a little and agreed to take some pictures from inside by himself. It is a beautiful building and in a very good condition. Now, this is in possession of current owners since 1947 and they got it repaired a few years ago. The owners live in Faisalabad and were not there at the time of my visit. However, I took a few pictures from outside. I was satisfied that now I can inform Gurmail proudly that their gurdwara has not only survived the vagaries of the time but is in a very good condition.

The owner of this building is Rana Mohsin, his father Rana Ghalib migrated from Zarab Dial ( 31°34'21.58"N;  75°46'39.36"E) , district Hoshiarpur.

A former gurdwara in Chak 68JB Leelan, Faisalabad. (13.07.2017.)

The left side of the courtyard. (13.07.2017.)

The right side of the courtyard. (13.07.2017.)

Another view fo the gurdwara.  (13.07.2017.)

View of the former gurdwara from outside. (13.07.2017.)

A side view from outside. (13.07.2017.)

View of the former gurdwara from inside. (13.07.2017.)

Another view from the inside. (13.07.2017.)

Beautiful woodwork inside the former gurdwara. (13.07.2017.) 

The gurdwara from inside. (13.07.2017.)

The street outside the former gurdwara. (13.07.2017.)

Rana Shoaib is an energetic young man and has a lot of interest in the history of partition and related matters. He is a surveyor by profession. He informed us many stories about the Sikhs of this Chak. One of them was how they helped Muslims to claim a piece of land and build a mosque over there. He also took us to the home of his uncle and served us with cold drinks, a most desirable thing in that weather. He told us many stories of his chak and showed us some old houses.

Rana Shoaib's grandfather was Rana Sardar Ali s/o Rana Yusuf Khan. They belonged to Chhota Chaunta, tehsil Rupar, district Ambala. Now it is district Rupnagar.   (30°55'59.66"N;  76°27'43.76"E) Later on, he sent me the following link about this gurdwara:

The main street of the Chak 68JB Leelan. (13.07.2017.)

Another street in the Chak. (13.07.2017.)

House of Baba Badan Singh ji Chak 68JB Leelan. (13.07.2017.)

He also invited there two old gentlemen. One of them was Chacha Bashir who was born in 1937 and along with his family had migrated from Kathgarh in district Hoshiarpur (now probably Shaheed Bhagat Singh Nagar). He told us that how the Sardarni of his village, wife of Sardar Bakhtawar Singh, first tried to stop them from migrating, but seeing the worsening situation, provided them with food and her men for protection for some distance. The Sardarni ji they told belonged to the family of the Maharaja of Patiala. So there are not only bad stories from 1947.

From Left: Bashir Ahmad, Mohammad Rafiq, Muhammad Shoaib and his cousin Rana Asad Ali. Chak 68JB Leelan (13.07.2017.)

Rana Muhammad Shoab, Chak 68JB Leelan. (13.07.2017.)

Another picture of  Rana Shoaib. 

Following is the ancestral tree of Gurmail Singh.

Sardar Hazara Singh Dhillon
(He had two sons)

1. Baba Badan Singh Dhillon    2. Ratan Singh Dhillon   

BabaBadan Singh had four sons

1. Kehar Singh       (born 1921)  
2. Santa Singh        (born 1925) 
3. Harbans Singh   (born 1929)  
4. Bhagat Singh      (born 1933) 

Now out of these four brothers only Bhagat Sinch Dhillon, father of Gurmail Singh is alive. I sent the pictures of the gurdwara same day to Gurmail and soon received his response. 
Thanks Tariq ji,

I got your email. Sorry, I was away, I showed these pictures to my dad today. He is very happy to see this place. It is very well kept. Whoever is living there, I salute him. 

This Gurudwara was build by my grand father and others. He was very religious person and used to go to this Gurudwara every morning and evening to perform kirtan (religious songs from Guru Granth) there. He helped in building a similar Gurudwara in our native village Leelan ( Ludhiana ) same time. My grandfather told us that there were old trees in this place. When they removed trees from there, they found treasures ( silver and gold coins). They used this to build two beautiful gurudwaras in 1930s. They both stand in good condition today. We will save these historical pictures for our future generations. Thanks you from the bottom of my heart for sparing your valuable time for us. My father is emotional to see these pictures. He is disappointed to find out about the passing of Noor Mohammad and Gul Mohamand. He told me that they had little sister Shariffan. She used to play with them.

Similarly, I want to know about the Muslims from my current village Hambran ( near Ludhiana). We were given replacement land against our Chak 68 land in this village. Migrate  Jat families like us from Lyallpur district are living here now. They are from nearby Chaks. Hambran was purely muslim village before 1947 and had 3 Mosques and several our sacred places. I studied in a Mosque, which was converted into School. I want to find out about the native families from this village and want to write there names in our village library. Rajpoots and Kasai used to live this village. I am working hard to find out about them, time is running out.

Thanks once again, keep in touch. Please meet us, whenever you visit Canada. We are living in Toronto now and visiting home every year in the winter. It will be my pleasure to host you. 

Gurmail Singh Dhillon
I was about to finish this article when I received the following email from Gurmail. Many questions were raising their heads in my mind, this email answered many of those and in a sense completed this story.
Dear Tariq,

There was no name, it was called Gurudwara Sahib Leelan. Made by local villagers around 1928, no Government or Sikh organization involved. 

Chak No 68 was given to'' abadkars’’ from village Leel, Tehsil Raikot, Distt. Ludhiana. They moved here 1896. This chak was called Leel and later Leelan in Government documents. There were total 34 morubdas of land given to 17 families. My Great Grand Father Hazara Singh Dhillon was on of them,. They were all Jats from Dhillon clan. My Grand Father Badan Singh Dhillon was born here in 1899. 

They settled down slowly in new area, Guru Granth Sahib was kept in our house. My great grand father and grad father were very religious persons. After they all settled down and got wealthy with good production of cotton, they decided to build Gurudwara in centre of the village. This plot was originally kept for religious place by the Government and Hindu Nanga Sadhus ( naked sadhus who wear only lowers 12 months of the year ).

After Nankana Sahib incident Sikhs in the bar became more religious, and lot of Hindu Khatris started to convert their first child into Sikh religion. ( it was still happening until 1980s in India). 

I think around 1925, they started to build Gurudwara because few of our villagers enrolled into newly created Sikh political party Shiromani Akali Dal.

As per my father, when they started to build the Gurudwara, there were lot of large old trees in the lot ( possible tahli tree ). They decided to remove them and used the wood for windows and doors. They found gold coins and or money when they were digging the trees so their budget got bigger and they made one of the top building in the area and similar Gurudwara was built in native village Leel, Ludhiana in 1937. My grand was chosen to go back and build Gurudwara in Leel, Ludhiana.

My grand father and his brother Ratan Singh Dhillon were the ones who performed religious ceremony in the morning and evening before going to work in the farm. Later they brought specialist Bhai ji from Nankana Sahib given by SGPC. But they were still performing kirtan till 1947.

My grand father brought Guru Granth Sahib in 1947 with him and kept in village Leel, Ludhiana. They moved to Hambran in 1951 ( replacement land chak 68 was given to us ) and brought Guru Garath Sahib was brought to Hambran. I seen and read from this saroop, which was in good condition till late 1980s. My grand father made a small Gurudwara only for our family in our home, which still exist and my grand father’s name  and passed away date ( March 06,1970 ) is written on the front later during renovation. My grand father was so attached to this that he passed away after reading morning prayer and put his head on Guru Garanth Sahib while taking his last breath. Whole village came to see this. He was so highly regarded as a religious person in  Chak 68 that even today families from that village and their children(they all moved to different villages) are very happy to meet us. 

It happened with me, when I moved to Canada in 1994. I went to my friend’s house in Surrey, BC. A lady was living in his basement. His parents were from Chak 68 and she was born in India. She touched my feet ( I was not aware why she was doing). I asked her, why she did this as you are 20 years older than me. I should touch your feet instead. She told me that she touched my feet because I am grand son of Baba Badan Singh. It made me emotional ( i am writing this with tears in my eyes ).

All the other families moved to villages of Malwa. They moved to different places because not enough land was available in one village. As per my info, they moved to near by Halwara, Talwandi Rai, Kasba and city Jagroan. Few families sold their allotted land and came back to native Leel. I want to meet all these families one day.

Gurmail Dhillon
In another message, he gave the following information about the post 1947 life of his grandfather.

My grand father born in Chak 68, moved to native Leel, Ludhiana in 1947, moved to Hambran, Ludhiana in 1951 with his three son. One son remained in Leel to do agriculture on native land. We were allotted 61 acres in Hambran as replacement land for chak 68. In 1957 sold Leel village land and bought more in Hambran. All four sons of grand father stayed in Hambran. My father was youngest and I was youngest in my family. So most of my nephews from my three taya ji are either older than me or litte younger. My grand father passed away peacefully on March 06, 1970 in Hambran.  

Baba Badan Singh Ji (1899 - 06.03.1970.)

I am happy and satisfied deep inside my heart that I was helpful to Gurmail Singh in finding the home of his father and his beloved gurdwara. I pray to Allah that nobody will ever have to leave his home and suffer this kind of emotional nostalgia forever. Another good news is that Gurmail is in touch with Rana Shoaib and is planning to visit his Chak 68JB Leelan, in the near future. He has also found Muslim families of Hambran, who are currently living in different villages of Toba Tek Singh. But that is a story which I leave to Gurmail Singh and his friend Rana Shoaib to complete.

Tariq Amir

October 18, 2017.

Doha - Qatar. 

Saturday 14 October 2017

Krishen Niwas in Miani, Pakistan.

Miani, a small town in district Sargodha, is a very old town of Punjab. Its history goes back to many centuries and in the past it enjoyed a considerable importance as a commercial centre in this area. Due to proximity to Pind Dadan Khan and Khewra salt mines, it was an important centre for trade in salt.

After the collapse of Mughal authority in Punjab in 1750s the whole province suffered from a political turmoil and deterioration in law and order. Local chiefs became independent of any central authority and competed with each other to carve their own fiefdoms. Two factors further inflamed the situation, first the rising power of the Sikhs in eastern and central Punjab and the second Afghan incursions from the west. Like other areas of Punjab, Miani and surrounding areas also suffered a lot. This is how the situation is described in the Gazetteer of The Shahpur District of 1917:
In the year 1757 a force under Nur-ud-Din Bamizai, deputed by Ahmad Shah to assist his son Timur in repelling Mahrattas, crossing the river Jhelum at Khushab, marched up the left bank of the river. Proceedings of this man may be taken as a type of the excesses committed by the invading armies; and some idea will be formed of the amount of misery caused by these inroads. Nur ud Din, finding that the inhabitants would not pay the large ransoms demanded of them, successively plundered and laid waste with fire and sword three of the largest towns of the district. Two of these, Bhera and Miani, rose again on their ruins, without however completely recovering the shock they had sustained; but of the third, Chak Sahnu, nothing remains but a mound of earth and potsherds. 
According to the above mentioned gazetteer Sikhs of Bhangi Misl, took control of this region, after their final success against Ahmad Shah Abdali in 1767. In 1783 Maha Singh sardar of Sukher Chakia Misl took control of the town, from Tara Singh of Bhangi Misl. Later on his son, Ranjit Singh continued his march to expand his state and took possession of Bhera and Jhawrian in 1803, then in control of Jodh Singh. Next important step in this expansion of Ranjit's territories came in 1809, when he conquered two important cities of this region, Khushab and Sahiwal. Next year he conquered Farooka and Kalowal, thus completely conquering the present day Sargodha district. For the next four decades, this area remained a part of the Maharaja Ranjit Singh's states. In 1849 the British after their victory in the Second Anglo-Sikh war annexed Punjab to their Indian Empire.

I had heard about the antiquity of Miani, its wealth in the past and its beautiful havelis. When I heard a few months ago about a particular haveli, having forty rooms and beautiful wooden doors and windows, I decided to visit it. On 29 June, 2017, I reached this town to explore it by myself. Through a mutual friend, Malik Sikandar Khan, we already had informed the owner of the haveli about our visit. The haveli is located at  32°31'49.56"N;  73° 4'30.88"E.

Krishen Niwas. (29.06.2017.)

Beautiful wooden door of Krishen Niwas. (29.06.2017.)

Facade of Krishen Niwas(29.06.2017.) 

Another view of the facade(29.06.2017.)

It was a hot and humid summer day. The owner of the house Dilawar Hussain Rana was expecting us and he received us warmly. He took a great interest in our questions and showed his haveli in detail. The ground floor is rectangular in shapes, with verandah in front of rooms on three sides. The walls, arches and pillars are painted in red and yellow. This contrast looks quite attractive. The condition of the ground floor is not quite good. However, repair work is going on. 

A view of the ground floor. (29.06.2017.)

Another view of the ground floor. (29.06.2017.)

Windows in a room on the ground floor. (29.06.2017.)

A fireplace on the ground floor. (29.06.2017.)

A painting of deities on the ceiling. (29.06.2017.)

Beautiful ceilings of a room. (29.06.2017.)

Dilawar Hussain could not inform us about the history of the haveli or his original owners, who migrated after the partition of the country. His own family migrated from Ramba, ten kilometers north of Karnal in Haryana. His grandfather Noor Muhammad was the zaildar of his area. About the haveli he told us that nobody possessed such a big claim to acquire this haveli. So the government auctioned it in 1958 and his father Zakir Ali Rana bought it in the auction for Rs 40,000/-. They had to spend a further Rs 10,000/- to get it vacated by the squatters. Zakir sahib was principal of the government college Bhagtanwala. 

Dilawar Hussain Rana (left) and Malik Sikandar Khan. (29.06.2017.)

A beautiful room on the first floor.  (29.06.2017.)

Ventilators of a room.  (29.06.2017.)

Probably a Hindu religious symbol.  (29.06.2017.)

A view of the first floor.  (29.06.2017.)

A view from the first floor of the haveli.  (29.06.2017.)

Windows of a room.  (29.06.2017.)

As we have seen above the condition of the first floor is very good. Everything, including doors, windows, ventilators and cupboards are in their original condition. After serving us tea and having a little chat, Dilawar sahib took us to the roof of the house. The roof has two beautiful structures, opposite to each other, having two rooms each. This haveli is still the highest building in Miani. I wonder what would be its magnificence, when it was constructed.  

Two rooms on the eastern side of the roof.  (29.06.2017.)

Two rooms on the western side of the roof.  (29.06.2017.)

A room on the second floor.  (29.06.2017.)

A fireplace.  (29.06.2017.)

A wooden staircase on the top floor.  (29.06.2017.)

A view of the top floor.  (29.06.2017.)

A view of Miani, with the Salt Range in the background.  (29.06.2017.)

View of the old Sabzi Mandi, from the haveli. The spire of an old Hindu temple is visible in the centre right.  (29.06.2017.)

A view from the highest point of the haveli.  (29.06.2017.)

An old house in front of the Krishen Niwas.  (29.06.2017.)

A view of the Krishen Niwas from the ground of the old Sabzi Mandi.  (29.06.2017.)

During my visit I could not find much about the history of the haveli or its original owner. However, I found the following information in Wikipedia:
Pre-partition, there were also many Hindu Brahmin families living in Miani. There were Gosain Brahmins of six clans, some of which are Balak-nathiye, Dabre, Bhature. The details are available with Purohits at Haridwar, India, a most holy place for Hindus on the banks of holy river Ganges. They were living, before partition, in and around Jhikki Gali of Miani, which was near a 'Roni Khui' or a well. These Gosain families would marry their children into Bagge, Kapooriye Saraswat Brahmins of the region. Other Brahmin families of Miani were Mohyal Brahmins, mainly Dutt. A very large house belonging to a Dutt family still stands tall in Miani with the name 'Krishen Niwas' inscribed in Hindi on the elaborately carved, large wooden doors (for which Miani & Bhera were famous). This door has also engravings of Lord Krishna, lotus etc.
The visit to by all means was pleasant. We met Dilawar Hussain Rana a man of knowledge and experience. He is an advocate by profession. He was very conscious of this haveli's historic, cultural and architectural value. He recently convinced his brothers to cooperate in its renovation. Not an easy task. He was expecting the renovation to cost them more than 2 million rupees. Unlike many other such havelis and buildings, this is a success story. Dilwar sahib invited me to visit the haveli again after the completion of the renovation. Now I am eagerly awaiting my next visit to this haveli. 

Tariq Amir

October 14, 2017.
Doha - Qatar.