Ahmad Salim born in January 1945 has very interesting experiences to to share. First, his grandfather gave shelter to a Sikh family during Partition, but one day they escaped and were found dead in the fields of the village. Secondly, his father also told him a story of Muslim soldiers shooting a group of Muslims in order to save innocent non-Muslims. Finally, Salim has been active in the Indo-Pak peace movement and has some books on Indo-Pak relations and Partition to his credit. Ahmad Salim’s family lived in Meyana Gondal which was a part of district Gujarat. But after Partition during the Zia-ul-Haq Government, a new district was created with the name of Mandi Bahauddin. Therefore this village became a part of Mandi Bahauddin.
Ahmed Salim talking about his village says that Before the Partition Mayana Gondal had a mix of various communities. But Muslims were in a majority and Hindus and Sikhs were in minority. The area was famous for religious harmony and tolerance. Although there was no concept of intermarriage in the village, all communities used to attend the marriages of each other and actively participate in all functions. Religion used to matter in some way—since both Hindus and Muslims did not eat food in each other’s marriages but they used to pay respect by giving dry food like rice, wheat, etc. as marriage gifts—a very common tradition in the village and the area as well.
Ahmad Salim’s father was an Arora by caste and his mother was from a Seghal family. About five or six generations back, his forefathers were Hindus. But later they converted to Islam. His grandfather was running a cloth business. He had a shop in that village which was known as ‘Musalmana De Hutti’. Sikhs and Hindus comprised a significant part of their clientele. Although there was total peace and harmony among all the faiths in the village, outsiders began to disturb the calm and tranquil prevalent in the village.
Salim also explains how his grandfather tried to rescue a Sikh family which eventually escaped and died. “In September 1947, a Sikh couple along with their infant daughter requested my grandfather to provide them protection since their lives were in danger. So he took them to his house to protect them, even though my grandfather was warned not to help them or save them. The rioters wanted not only to slaughter the couple, but they also threatened my grandfather with dire consequences if case he continued protecting the couple. My family was socially boycotted for providing shelter to Sikhs. But my grandfather took all the social pressure and threats and he was determined to grant them shelter in his house. One day, the Sikh couple with their daughter left the house without informing or telling them. One of the reasons for leaving without information could be the pressure upon my family— especially grandfather”.
“The next day their dead bodies were found in the cotton fields, in the village there they had lived for years. My grandfather could not take this news; when he heard the tragic news, he died of a heart attack”.
Ahmad Salim further states that his father shared more memories of Partition with him, as well. “In September 1947 Hindus and Sikhs were migrating from that village to East Punjab, India. For this purpose they were using trucks and taralas. Some unlawful elements from other villagers wanted to attack these trucks plying on the main road of that village. Muslim army men were deputed for security of those trucks and to maintain law and order. The Muslim army was deputed there, and the army ordered those elements to keep away from those trucks. But they did not pay any attention and kept moving towards the trucks. At the army men opened fire on them in order to maintain security. Due to firing one Muslim died and one was injured, while the others ran away. This proved that Muslim army men were devotedly performing their duty to maintain law and order in that village; even if they had to kill Muslims themselves.
Ahmed Salim is of the view that people living in villages were not fully aware of the Partition and political change in united India. There were hospitals, schools and police stations in villages. But villages were lacking in news and information, regarding the partition.
Talking about the Indo-Pak relationship, Salim says that India and Pakistan are now two independent states and there is no question of borders being erased but mental blocks and barriers to travel can be removed. The Kashmir dispute should be solved in an amicable manner without ignoring any side’s interest.
Ahmad Salim has visited India a number of times and is the editor of Lalhore 1947, a book on partition.