Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Human side of India-Pakistan relations

Human side of India-Pakistan relations

In a span of six decades, India and Pakistan has formed many peak and valleys in its love and hate relationship. At times when frenzied emotions are whipped up war mongers have a field day.
However, when the temperatures are cooled, the talk about an everlasting friendship with Pakistan gains ground.

In this evolving India- Pakistan relationship, people-to people contact is digging out stories that have human face. It is helping in shaping the contours of new relationship between the two coun

Here is a story of a 77-year-old Indian woman who has two homelands, two husbands and two religions and who finally got united with her family after decades of separation, thanks again to the India- Pakistan peace process.

Harbajan Kaur and husband Banna Singh belong to a Kashmiri Sikh family living in the village of Pataika, 16 km northeast of Muzaffarabad in Pakistan side of Kashmir.

After Partition of India in 1947, Banna went to India alone to find work and a place to live before he could call his wife over. He left behind his wife with her father.

But around this time, both countries stopped issuing visas and Banna could not come back and Harbajan Kaur could not join him in India. Soon after, her father died and Harbajan was left all alone.

The lady assuming that that she would never be able to see her husband again, married a Muslim called Hadayatullah and adopted Islam. They had two children-son Manzoor and daughter, Zeenat.

In 1953, Pakistan and India signed an agreement for the return of relatives left behind in each other's country. Banna filed a claim for his wife, and Harbajan was forced to leave for India to be with her husband without her two children.

The poor ties between the two countries prevented Harbajan from visiting her children in Pakistan. Her son and daughter grew up with their father and she did not hear anything about them.
Meanwhile, Harbajan who re converted to Sikhism gave birth to another son and daughter, Dalbeer and Manmohan.

For many years, the members of the divided family did not know each other's whereabouts or even if they were alive.

The Pakistani children did not forget their mother and sought help from a visiting Sikh gentlemen in 2000 in locating their mother. To their surprise the gentleman found their mother living in Ahmedabad and provided her telephone number.

The children spoke to their mother on phone, wrote letters and exchanged pictures and became desperate to meet each other.

The daughter invited her mother to Muzaffabad where the latter was born and brought up. But India and Pakistan were then on the brink of war following a terrorist attack on Indian Parliament in 2001, and it was impossible for Harbajan Kaur to visit Pakistan.

The mother and children remained separated for another 30 months until the resumed Lahore-Delhi bus service in 2003 could finally unite them.

After more than 40 years, Harbajan crossed back into Pakistan, accompanied by her Sikh son, Dalbeer Singh, and her daughter-in-law.

She was greeted at the Wagah border crossing by her Muslim children Zeenat and Manzoor, along with grandchildren and other family members.

Later her Sikh daughter Manmohan also joined them along with her husband and their daughter.
But one person with whom she could not reunite was her Muslim husband who died some years after she left for India. Her Sikh husband was also dead.

These are the happy sides of the emerging peace process developing between India and Pakistan, thanks to the renewed people to people contact between the two countries.

However, there are many families not so fortunate enough to see such reunion.  The hostile India- Pakistan relation had kept them away from seeing each other relatives and in the process many have passed away.
Some could know the welfare of their relatives living across the border only through a common relative living in a third country but were unable to attend the wedding or funeral at their homes.

However, things are changing for better now. The second generation of the divided families now want the borders to be softened enough so that they could freely crisscross to meet their loved ones.  They want India and Pakistan to de-link their political differences from people’s to people’s contact.

The people in both the countries desire to have a peaceful and neighborly relationship each other. The general perception is the bridges of peace and friendship between the people would help the governments of both the countries to iron out their political differences in more amicable manner.

The new thaw in India-Pakistan relationship has been a boon for the divided families of the two countries.
There is no count as to how many of them live on the other side of the border. The migration from India to Pakistan has taken place from all over the country.

The majority of the separated families however live in the Indo-Gangetic plains where there is the largest concentration of Muslim population in India.  There would hardly be a family living in this region that many not have a relative in Pakistan.  They hope and pray that the juggernaut of peace and friendship between India and Pakistan keeps moving till a lasting peace is established in the subcontinent.
Syed Ali Mujtaba is a working journalist based in Chennai, India. He can be contacted at syedalimujtaba@yahoo.com

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