Partition, Separation and Fading links

Memories of a family torn in two
By Ilyas Khan: BBC News, Karachi: August 13, 2007

Abdul Majid Iqbal Qadri remembers hearing the news of the Partition Plan of June 1947 when he was travelling in Iran.

He was 21 then. Now he is 81.

"I had gone to Basra, Iraq, with my father on a pilgrimage to the holy sites, and on our way back to India we made a stop at the eastern Iranian city of Zahidan. It was 3 June," he recalls.

When they crossed into Balochistan on a train the next morning, the fever of independence had already gripped the masses.

One scene from that day is permanently imprinted on his mind.

He was at a station in Sindh province where some local Sindhi men bought tea from a Hindu vendor and refused to pay him.

"The men told the poor tea seller, 'this is Pakistan now, no more payments to Hindus'," he remembers.

But the fact that Pakistan was about to be born made no impression on Mr Qadri or his father.

"Our chief consideration at the time was that the Hyderabad state in central India would become independent. We thought we would have our own government, independent of either India, Pakistan or the British," he says.

Hailing from a prominent family of Badaun, in northern India, Mr Qadri's father, Maulana Abdul Qadeer Badauni, had been involved with known rebels like Hasrat Mohani and C R Das during the turbulent 1920s.

As pressure from the government grew, he was advised by family and friends to move to the princely state of Hyderabad Deccan, whose ruler had already offered him the job of chief cleric at his court.

The family moved to Hyderabad in 1932, when Mr Qadri was six years old, leaving the family estate and a religious seminary in the care of a cousin.

Mr Qadri grew up amid the courtiers and ministers of Hyderabad Deccan, and completed graduate college from the state's renowned Usmania University.

He was also involved with groups that sought Hyderabad's independence, and when the Indian army moved to annex the state in September 1947, the family advised him to go to Pakistan.

Painful separation

"Hyderabad was a Hindu majority state, and our lives were threatened. But one of my uncles, who had migrated to Pakistan and was at that time visiting Delhi as an official delegate to negotiate the distribution of assets with India, helped me get out," he says.

Mr Qadri flew to Karachi in Pakistan along with a nephew in December 1947. The rest of the family stayed in Hyderabad until 1950, after which they moved back to their ancestral home in Badaun.

Sixty years on, he has still not recovered from the separation from his family.

"I have been happy here. My children have done well. My grandchildren are doing even better. But I guess there is a regret lurking in the shadows of my mind," he says.

The first time he felt that regret was in 1956.

"My father was on his death bed and the Indian embassy wouldn't issue me a visit permit. I decided to use the only option I had," he says. He wrote a letter to Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, an important leader of the Congress party and member of the Indian parliament, who was a friend of his father's.

"The permit came home to me, with the instructions that I must see Mr Azad in Delhi before I proceed to Badaun."

He did that, and was given a thorough dressing-down by Mr Azad.

"[He] taunted me of having run away to Pakistan when my father was dying in India. I felt shame inside, but the deed had been done," he says.

Fading link

Earlier, he had been to Badaun in 1949 to get married, and had brought his wife back to Karachi where he had set up a business.

"I tried my hand at several things, but always failed in the end," he says.

But there was wealth in the family, and his wife was working.

After the death of his father, he visited Badaun every year to see his mother. Until 1980, when she too died. Since then, his visits have become few and far between.

"After she was gone, I realised that an essential link had vanished. The strength to keep shuttling between Badaun and Karachi started to fade."


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