Chandigarh: Those were the times when people didn’t keep note of the dates but of moments and days, said 92-year-old Sarwan Singh of Bahaudinpur village in Jalandhar. Sarwan met his nephew, 81-year-old Mohan Singh, now Afzal Khaliq, whom he lost during the bloodshed of Partition in 1947. The two met at the Kartarpur Sahib gurdwara in Pakistan on Monday.
“It was probably the first or second week of August,” recalls 92-year-old Sarwan Singh. His reference point is the Hiroshima bombing by America, “Amreekawalya ne pehla bamb sutya see (the day America dropped the first bomb, referring to the Hiroshima bombing). That day I mounted the horse for my journey across to India. Others in my family were to come later and they stayed back at our ancestral village Chak 37, in Sargodha, Pakistan. Hardly had I pulled the bridle, when my six-year-old nephew ran behind me and cried, “chachaji I am also coming with you.”
“I stopped for him. But my mother ran from behind and pulled back my nephew Mohan Singh. You might lose him,” she shouted and said, “He will come with us. That was the last I saw him and my mother.”
He added with a choked voice, “Of course, my mother’s words came to be true. I did lose him. But I have found him again by God’s grace.”
With a fragile voice he tries hard to remember the day they crossed the border, “Atte jis din duja bamb sutya os din asi bardar cross kita (On the day the second bomb was dropped (at Nagasaki) we crossed the border. I along with Bagga Singh, my elder brother Udham Singh, a cow and a buffalo.”
“Twenty-two members of our family were slaughtered. Women with children in their arms jumped into the village well. I thought Mohan Singh also met the same fate,” said Sarwan.
But Mohan had escaped. He somehow reached safe hands. But was passed on like a commodity from one person to the other. However, no one ill-treated him. His hair was sheared off, he was circumcised and the man who brought him up gave him a Muslim name – Afzal Khaliq. For the next 11 years Mohan was not allowed to step out of the house or meet outsiders for the fear of him being killed, said Sarwan, who came to know about these details yesterday itself after meeting his nephew.
How did they meet ?
A Pakistan YouTuber, who has helped unite hundreds of families from Pakistani Punjab and the Indian Punjab, interviewed Afzal Khaliq aka Mohan Singh sometime back.
On the Indian side, author Sukhdeep Singh shot a video of Afzal’s uncle Sarwan Singh who said that his nephew went missing during the Partition. Interestingly, a man of Punjab origin in Australia Gurdev Singh watched both the videos and found one thing in common: The video from Pakistan showed Afzal’s duplicate thumb (an extra thumb), and his uncle across the border Sarwan also mentioned, that his missing nephew had a duplicate thumb.
When Gurdev saw the video he thought it was clinching evidence and then helped connect the two families. Sarwan said, “We had started making video calls but yesterday’s meeting in person relieved me a lot.”
My daughter Rashpal Kaur also accompanied me yesterday to Kartarpur Sahib and tied a rakhi on Afzal’s arm yesterday. Afzal’s younger sister also survived the Partition carnage. She is in Canada and is also eager to meet her elder brother, said Sarwan.