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My Memoirs of Bantva, Part - II (Revised as of October 1, 2009)

Nightmare of Migration

     

By: Abdul Aziz Suleman Haji Ahmed Khanani, Karachi. Pakistan

I would like to add some unpleasant memories, which I hope, will be interesting for the new generation of Memon families, especially in America.

In my memoirs part I,  I had said that we migrated from Bantva but I did not describe the circumstances which forced us to migrate from our motherland. Here I would like to give a brief history of independence. 

As everybody knows Pakistan and India got their independence from the British rule on 14th and 15th of August 1947 respectively. This decision of division of India was based on religion. Punjab, Sindh, NWFP, Baluchistan and East Bengal where  majority were muslims became part of Pakistan and rest of the country where majority were Hindus became part of India. At that time British allowed Indian states to join either Pakistan or India. 

Our town Bantva which was part of Manavader State was ruled by Khan. Who was a Muslim and agreed to accede to Pakistan and announcement to that effect was made on September 25, 1947. However, no instrument of accession was signed. On October 3, 1947 Indian forces lead by Commander Himayat Singh took over Bantva and Khan of Manavader was arrested. Kutiyana was occupied by Aarzee Hukumat because it was part of Junagadh State. On the other hand Kashmir state was ruled by Maharaja Harrisingh who was Hindu and he decided to join India, although majority there were Muslims. Other state Hyderabad Deccan in south India was ruled by Nizam of Hyderabad who was Muslim and he decided to remain independent (didn't join either India or Pakistan) but majority there were Hindus. 

All this was not accepted by Indian leadership and they attacked all three states and took over Junagadh and Hyderabad, but in Kashmir Mujahideen and Pakistani troops retaliated and succeeded to take some part of Kashmir which is now called Azad Kashmir and this state is still disputed territory.

After this brief history of independence I will describe how the Indian forces invaded Bantva, which was part of Manavader and how all the Memon families of Bantva were forced to migrate.

Before independence there were many communal riots all over India between Hindus and Muslims but on our part of India (Junagadh/Kathiawar) Hindus and Muslims were living peacefully until after independence.

After Nawab of Junagadh decided to join Pakistan, Indian forces invaded Junagadh State including Bantva and imposed curfew in the town (curfew means nobody can go out of their homes and if anybody was found in the street he would be shot dead) Even if we looked from the windows Sikh soldiers would be pointing guns at us. 

Under the curfew although residents could not move out but Hindu villagers from outside Bantva were allowed to attack with the support of the Indian soldiers and started looting our houses. They were equipped with large axes to break open our wooden doors and take away whatever they could including cash and jewellery. They had come with bullock carts to carry heavy articles, furniture etc.  

We prepared ourselves to fight with sticks, boiling water and red chili powder and all family members and children were shifted on the roof top of our building. Fortunately our Cochinwala building was spared in which Siddiq Polani (famous social worker) was also living. However some other buildings were looted and set on fire and many people were injured but fortunately no one was killed. 

After this incident all Memon families decided to leave Bantva even if some Seth's such as Hussain Qasim Dada, Adam Haji Peer Muhammad, A. Rahman A. Ghani (ARAG) and A.Rahman Cochinwala etc. persuaded them not to leave and promised normalcy would return very soon but Indian forces and Hindu villagers continued looting and occupying other towns such as Manavader, Kutiyana, Dhoraji and Jetpur etc. so most of the families left for Karachi via Okha port which was very near Bantva however some families like ours left for other places in India but ultimately they had to re-migrate to Pakistan. 

At the end all Seth's (heads of rich families) also had to leave Bantva, although they had sent there families much earlier. They had no problem at all to leave Bantva as they had Hindu servants, cars and vast resources all over India including Karachi. But there were lot of problems for poor families like ours, such as when leaving Bantva in overcrowded trains we feared of looting on trains also fear of kidnapping of our young girls by Hindu Gundas and soldiers who were now and then stopping our train for searching. 

In this way Bantva became a ghost town when all families left Bantva. I found all houses and streets empty when I visited Bantva in 1948 with my late uncle (Mamoo) A. Sattar Akhai to bring back some valuables from our house because earlier we had left Bantva in haste with our families and had  taken only few clothes with us. Unfortunately at that time I did not have a camera with me but I did take pictures when I again visited Bantva in 1964 (see my Memoirs Part I )  

Such were the nightmares of our migration from Bantva.

FOLLOWING PORTION OF MY MEMOIRS ADDED ON OCTOBER 1, 2009.

Now I want to talk a little bit about my Memoirs of Rajkot and Junagadh  where I spent time as a student before the partition of 1947

In Bantva we had Madressah School where maximum of five classes were offered. So after 5th class if we wanted to continue to metric or 11th class or 11th standard we would have to go outside Bantva for further study. 

Rich families of Bantva used to send their children to far away places such as Bombay (now Mumbai) or Calcutta (now Kolkota). Where as poor or middle class families like ours were going to nearby places like Junagadh or Rajkot where we could study in High School or Colleges. 

In Rajkot there was a Memon Boarding House which was run by Memon Philanthropists from Jetpur, Kutiyana, Bantva etc. and about 500 students mainly Memons were living there and I was one of them (you can see pictures of Memon Boarding House shown below)

(PHOTOS TAKEN IN RAJKOT DURING 1964)

   

 

Although donations were given to this Boarding House but that was not enough. So they were collecting some monthly fees from the students even then we were not provided enough food and other facilities such as Beds etc. we would sleep on the floors. Only limited quantity of food such as Daal or Vegetables with one or two Chapattis were served each time and most of the time we remained hungry. Rich students could afford to eat out side but poor and middle class students like us had no money to eat outside so most of the time we remained hungry. 

Then I went to Junagadh to join High School, there 8 or 10 students from Bantva hired two rooms and were living there jointly and sharing the charge of rent and food etc. Also we were cooking in the same rooms.  

Rajkot and Junagadh were beautiful and clean cities of Kathiawar and there were many Gates and Makbaras in the city of Junagadh which were Masterpieces of Architecture. I took pictures of these Gates and Makbaras during my visit to Bantva in 1964, which you can see below. The buildings in Junagadh in 1964 were in the same condition as were in 1947 and were very well maintained.

(PHOTOS TAKEN IN JUNAGADH DURING 1964)

     

There was another specialty of Junagadh, where one of the tallest mountain "Girnar" was and the city of Junagadh was at the base of this mountain. On top of the mountain there was a Dargah of a Muslim Saint called "Datar" and to climb this mountain special stairs were built which were about one thousand steps and it took many hours to climb to the top of the mountain. Only able bodied persons could climb this mountain. I was fortunate to climb this mountain when I was young and offered Fateha on this Dargah. Also forests of this mountain were housing many wild animals such as Lions, Monkeys etc.

Unfortunately as I have explained in my previous memoirs Junagadh was invaded by Indian troops after Nawab of Junagadh decided to join Pakistan, after that I left Junagadh to join my family in Bantva and from there our family migrated to Pakistan.

In conclusion, I am thankful to Brother Abdul Ghaffar Variend of Memon Point for posting my memoirs on his website www.memonpoint.com

 

 

 

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