During semester end at IIT, I picked up a fight with a senior. He was a Malang (didn’t care about world). I said – “money is everything”. He replied – “Didn’t you have it in Gujranwala? Why did you run away from there? And what’s the guaranty that you won’t run away from Amritsar 40 years later?” I was furious. I had no idea what he was saying.
Next week, I had a train to Amritsar in night. I was going home in semester break. The Malang came to see me off to station. “You got everything in life. But.. Ask your grandfather. Could money save his family?”
Train arrived. Malang returned. But I was stunned. What did he know about my grandfather that I didn’t? The train started moving.
I was home next day. Big beautiful house. Loving parents, but always under stress of business. I am going to meet Nanaji tomorrow, I told Mom. “What happened? Stay with us for some days. Will go together to meet Nanaji. He is ill”, she told.
I was in Jalandhar next day.
I : Nanaji, what happened in 1947?
Grandfather : Nothing, Puttar (son). What happened?
I : Where are your siblings currently?
G: I don’t have any. I was lone child of my parents.
I : How come? In your times, parents used to have 10-12 kids on an average. Why didn’t your parents have more?
G : Haha! They were great planners! Take rest now.
Next day, I was playing video game in my room. Nanaji came, sat besides me.
Grandfather : Playing Contra?
I : Yes.
G: Have you seen 7 colours of sun-rays ever?
I : No.
G : Let me show you, come to terrace.
We both went up. Beautiful sunshine. Sun was about to set.
G : Do you see the saffron?
I : Yes, whole sky is saffron!
G : There are 7 colours in this saffron. But they will be gone soon. There will be darkness all over.
I : That’s natural. It happens every evening.
G : Hmm. It happens once in centuries too. Do you know I have named 7 rays of sun as – Lajjo, Rajjo, Bhaggo, Paro, Gayo, Isho, and Urmi?
I : Why?
G : There was a Balwant Khatri in Gujranwala, a rich landlord. Big Haveli was among largest in Gujranwala. He had 7 daughters and a son from wife Prabhavati Devi.
Baldev (son) – 20
Lajwanti – 19
Rajwati – 17
Bhagvati – 16
Parvati – 15
Gayatri – 13
Ishvari – 11
Urmila – 9
Theirs was a beautiful family. A rich Punjabi Hindu Khatri family. They were looking for suitable grooms for Lajjo and Rajjo. However, something was not right in Punjab.
Barrister Jinnah had declared Direct Action Day for Pakistan. Hindu-Sikhs knew that Gandhi Ji’s ideals can’t be defeated by some miscreants. After all Hindu-Sikhs sang Avval Allah Noor upaayaa. Hindu-Sikhs used to sing Baba Bulleh Shah, Baba Farid’s poetry and visit Sufi Mazars. After all Gujranwala was full of Jatt, Gujjar and Rajput Muslims. How could they – the blood brothers – harm their own blood?
Soon, the news of massacre of hundreds of Hindu-Sikhs started coming from nearby places. Mobs chanting Allahu Akbar and Pakistan ka matlab kya La ilaah illillah were heard shouting – “no woman of Kafir will go to India, we will take them”.
It was morning of 18th Sep, 1947. A Sikh postman almost barged into the Haveli shouting – “Lala Ji, leave the place. They are coming for your daughters. Lajjo will be Salim’s. Sheikh Muhammad will take Rajwati. Bhagwati will go to…” Lala Balwant slapped him hard. What rubbish? Salim is Mukhtar Bhai’s son. Mukhtar Bhai is like our family.
“Mukhtar Bhai only is leading the mob, Lala Ji. All Hindu-Sikhs are fleeing to India. Will go in lots of 300-400 people in an hour. Get family to city Gurudwara fast”, the Sikh shouted and fled.
Lala Ji rushed to Prabhavati who was 7 months pregnant. She was in tears already. She overheard everything.
Prabhavati : We need to go, Lala Ji.
Balwant : We are going nowhere. Sardar is lying. Mukhtar Bhai can’t do that. Ideas of Gandhi Ji can’t be defeated.
Prabhavati : It’s not time to discuss ideas. We must go. I have asked daughters to pack jewellery and papers.
Balwant : But Mukhtar Bhai… I have to talk to him.
Prabhavati : He came last month when you were not home. He told Salim likes Lajjo and wanted to do Nikah with her. Lajjo told that Salim eve-teases her with his friends. She has stopped going out because of him.
Balwant : Why didn’t you tell this earlier? I could have talked to Mukhtar Bhai.
Prabhavati : You are too naive. He himself wanted to take Lajjo for Salim. Now he is coming to take her by force. Let’s leave.
City Gurudwara was full of Hindu-Sikhs. Men with swords and spears were guarding Gurudwara boundaries. Gujranwala, known for wrestlers, had Akhadas in many temples and Gurudwaras. Well built Hindu-Sikh men were deployed at the main entrance. Many were guarding the terrace. Many were sharpening swords on the stone near the well. Women, girls, and children were terrified. Mothers had pulled Infants/kids close to them.
Suddenly, a huge cry broke the silence. It came from the Badi Masjid from across the road. A mob of thousands was shouting slogans-
Pakistan ka matlab kya la ilah illillah (Pakistan means there is no god but Allah)
Hass ke litta vai Pakistan, khoon naal lavaange Hindustan (we took Pakistan with smile, will take India with blood)
Kaafron, kattna asi dikhaavange (Kafirs, see how we butcher you)
Kise mandir vich ghanti nahi vajjugi hun (no temple will remain, no bell will ring in temples)
Hindu di janaani bistar vich, te aadmi shamshaan vich (Hindu women belong to our bed, men to crematorium)
Prabhavati was sitting near window surrounded by 7 daughters. Her only son was guarding the main gate outside. Suddenly the mob from the mosque across had turned silent for some reason. In a minute, the screams of La ilah illillah started again. And this time, the volume kept going louder.
The mob with swords, daggers, spears and chains was approaching the Gurudwara. Prabhavati was first to witness from the window. She shouted – “They are coming” and held all her kids tightly in fear.
Gates of Gurudwara were locked from inside. All men took positions inside near walls and gates. All Hindu-Sikh men were asked to listen the announcement. Sukhdev Sharma, a wrestler and priest, stood up and said –
“They are coming for our mothers, sisters, wives and daughters. Their swords are for our necks. They will ask us to convert to their faith and surrender. I have decided. I won’t surrender. I won’t convert. Neither shall I allow them to touch our women.”
There was a pin drop silence for 3 seconds. And the Hindu-Sikhs roared
“Jo bole so nihaal sat Shri Akaal! Wahe Guru Ji da Khalsa waahe Guru Ji di fateh! No one will leave Dharma of our ancestors. Let them taste our swords”.
Mob had entered the Gurudwara. The first lot of 50-60 attackers was slaughtered in no time. People inside Gurudwara were prepared and in better position for small mob. There was hardly any casualty on this side. Hall of women & children was locked from inside.
The mob of hundreds chanting religious slogans stood at 50 meters distance from the Gurudwara for 30 minutes. They were waiting for something. Soon the reinforcement came. This time, they were in thousands. Hindu-Sikhs inside Gurudwara were hardly 400. Men were 50-60. Rest were old, women and children.
This had to be the final battle. The mob had displayed a Sikh woman they abducted from her home being dragged in front of everyone. Her clothes had been torn. She was being paraded naked while the men were cheering assaulting her sensitive organs. She fell unconscious. But many vultures from mob kept playing with her body. Finally, someone cut off her breasts and threw them towards Gurudwara.
Hindu-Sikhs of Gujranwala had heard about this barbarism in news. They were seeing it for first time. Suddenly, everyone started thinking about their women. What if our women fall in their hands after we die? This was the moment when even death was looking easy. Something else was scarier.
Mob had started breaking the gates.
Lajjo : Tusi katto bapuji, Main Musalmaanani nahi banugi (go ahead father, I won’t go to a Muslim)
Balwant : (crying, not able to speak)
Lajjo : Karo bapuji, te bhajjo jaldi etho (do it father, and run)
Balwant : (crying more, it was gut-wrenching) I can’t, my daughter. How can I?
Lajjo : If you don’t, they will cut my breas…(thak, the sword struck Lajjo’s neck)
Lajjo’s head rolled down the well. Balwant’s strike of sword was accurate. Her headless body was pushed down the well too. Now the mob could not touch her clothes. Nobody could cut her…. She was liberated.
It was Rajjo’s turn next.
and finally, Urmi’s.
The father would kiss forehead of each and take the head next.
Balwant liberated his seven daughters on 18th Sep 1947. The mobs chanting religious slogans were so close to the 7 sisters. But their father could manage to save them. What if the cost he paid was their lives? At least their breasts were intact. Their honour was intact. Their freedom was intact.
Even the remaining bodies were fed to the well because even the dead bodies of girls were not safe.
Gates of the Gurudwara had been broken. Swords of Hindu-Sikhs were chopping rioters left, right, and centre. Heavily outnumbered, the Hindu-Sikhs killed many times more. A great resistance was put up. The natives of Gujranwala showed for the last time that this land still belonged to Sardar Hari Singh Nalwa and Ram.
Balwant : Prabhavati, Lala Jagjeevan’s Tangas are waiting at the back gate of Gurudwara. He has just messaged me to escort as many women and children as we could. Take all women and children there. Baldev! You will go with mother.
Baldev : (silently nodded his head)
Prabhavati : But you? I wont go without you (was crying)
Balwant : You have to live. For the unborn. Baldev and you must reach India. I will come too.
Prabhavati : Why won’t you come with us?
Balwant : You are going with Baldev and the unborn. I will come in next lot. Lalaji and few men are taking you to station.
Balwant kissed her forehead, hugged Baldev and gently caressed the unborn. “Hurry up”.
Tanga of Prabhavati and Baldev had left for station.
Balwant had lost sanity. He was perhaps the only father to have killed seven of own children in order to protect them from something more gruesome. With trembling legs, he went to the well and shouted – “Two kids have their mother with them. 7 kids here must have their father. Jai Shri Krishna..”
Balwant had stabbed himself and jumped into the well. This man gave 7 Padminis to the society.
Nanaji’s tears couldn’t stop. Neither could mine.
I : How do you know all this?
Grandfather : Baldev was my friend in college.
I : Where is he now? I want to meet him.
Grandfather : He died.
I cried a lot that night. But suddenly, I recalled my senior’s words – “ask your grandfather, could money save his family?”.
I went straight to Nanaji’s personal room where his documents and belongings were kept. I slowly and quietly unlocked the locker.
There was a photograph of his teenage. With his parents sitting in middle while he stood at their backside. And there were seven smiling sisters. Like the seven rays of sun…
PS : We lost 28 family members in creation of Pakistan. My great grandfather, his brothers, sisters and their families were killed. All hailed from Gujranwala, Pakistan. All in the name of La ilah illillah – there is no god but Allah.
Protesters of Shaheen Bag, Delhi are no victims. I am the victim. There are millions more trapped in fanatic lands of Af-Pak-Ban who have been subject to worst religious persecution are the victims and need to be rescued.
We have moved on. But Pak-lovers in India haven’t. And now I believe unilateral moving on from history is dangerous. It can make culprits victims and vice versa. So no moving on from now on until all don’t move on.
Please keep my story in mind when you read my next article on why CAA-NRC is must for India and its survival.
Wrote this on insistence of my close friend, a scientist in US. This is his story. Have used some creative freedom to make it presentable to common people. Reality was way too disturbing.
– Courtesy Dr Vashi Sharma
(The author studied at IITB & taught at IITK, Energy Science, Defence, Religions, Pakistan.)