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Mumbai: Punjabi refugees settled on this stretch after Partition

Located near the Guru Tegh Bahadur (GTB) Nagar railway station, the street was once a stretch of land where several Punjabi refugees who had escaped Pakistan after Partition were accommodated.

Written by Mohamed Thaver | Mumbai |
October 25, 2018 5:47:46 am
Partition, India, Pakistan, refugees, Punjabi refugees, Morarji Desai, Punjabi migrants, J K Bhasin, Sunil Dutt, Indian Express  The road is famous for numerous dhaba-style eateries. (Express photo by Pradip Das)

J K BHASIN Road is the kind of street that makes it to lists of unexplored food joints, best budget food, or best dhaba-style eating within Mumbai.

Located near the Guru Tegh Bahadur (GTB) Nagar railway station, the street was once a stretch of land where several Punjabi refugees who had escaped Pakistan after Partition were accommodated.

Social activist J K Bhasin, who played an important role in resettling the refugees in Mumbai, worked extensively in this area through the 1950s.

MLA Sardar Tara Singh, who himself grew up in the GTB Nagar area, says: “During the Partition, Punjabi families that came to India were housed in several places in the country. In Mumbai, the Sion-Koliwada area that had a military camp was emptied by Congress leader S K Patil and former Prime Minister Morarji Desai so that the Punjabi migrants could live there. Activists like J K Bhasin and my father Sardar Partap Singh worked a lot for the migrant community here in what came to be called the Punjabi Camp area.”

Bhasin and his family eventually moved out from GTB Nagar to Bandra, but the road was named after him for the work he had done for the community. Sandeep Singh, a resident of the Punjabi Camp area, says: “To this day, the elders talk about Bhasin who had done a lot to ensure that the community does not face problems in this area.”

Reetika Subramanian, another local resident, says that people who have been living in the locality since the 1950s talk of it as a safe space that provided them with livelihood. “The experiences of partition are mainly restricted to north India while this area is one of the few places in Mumbai that witnessed the consequences first-hand,” she says.

Today, amongst other things, the influence of the Sikh and the erstwhile Koli community can be seen in the ‘Khau galli’ on J K Bhasin Marg that is dotted with dhabas, street-stalls and shops dishing out delights from fish koliwada to chhole kulche to the sweet Anarse, a Punjabi-style confectionary made with rice and jaggery.

Two of the most popular joints on the road are Mini Punjab and Hazara Restaurant & Bar — both located across the road from each other on the west end of Bhasin Road. Both restaurants had started out as stalls, and now pride themselves on delicacies such as fish koliwada. “The fact that the food prices are reasonable makes it accessible to everyone,” Sandeep says. Further ahead, payas from the Sardar Paya house are also quite famous.

A local legend goes that late actor and Congress leader Sunil Dutt would come to a stall near a lane off Hazara restaurant at nightfall, where the most delicious mutton in the city would be served.

Apart from the food joints, the road also has several gurdwaras, including the Dashmesh Darbar Gurdwara, one of the most prominent gurdwaras in the city.

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