The Taliban attacking Chakwal is understandable. A village with a history of co-existence would provoke the worst in fanatics of all kinds. I was born there. I have memories of lounging in my grandfathers lap as a little boy,as he sat in the drawing room,chatting in a leisurely,feudal way with his friend Raja Ghazanfar Ali Khan.
The Raja was Pakistans first High Commissioner to India,and performed that almost impossible job with a panache that will be remembered. What is not that well known,is the fact that in the spring of 1946,at a chapparh (a village meeting place) in Chakwal,Muslims said in a public meeting that the formation of Pakistan would not mean that Hindus would have to leave their homes.
Some well-off Hindu families had already left and come to Delhi. We lived in Lodi Estate,and many of them stayed with us. It is always wrenching to leave one’s hearth and home,and when news of the meeting in Chakwal became known,they went back. But the situation deteriorated,the town was surrounded by hostile elements,and they had to leave in August,this time in a hurry.
In the mid Eighties,I was sent to Pakistan at the head of the Indian delegation to the first meeting of the Indo-Pakistan Planning Group. The one and only Mahab-ul Haq was Finance and Planning Minister,and it was important for him to show the Indians that planning was taken seriously in Pakistan. I was not to be forgiven for asking Syed Raza Hashim to initiate the discussion from the Indian side. Hashim,an economist of some standing who was born in a land-owning family in Eastern UP,did the job with the thoroughness and expertise characteristic of all his work. The Syed Hashemites are of course,the purest of the pure.
When it was known that the Indian vizier was born in Chakwal,a visit was arranged for the sake of memories. Dr Sarfaraz Khan,then Deputy Director of the Pakistan Institute of Development Economics,accompanied. I felt it was unnecessary to waste his time but when we reached Chakwal,some very fierce types (ISI?) surrounded the car and Sarfarazsaheb had to tell them that I had come on an official visit.
In the village,I got only love and affection,in the chaste sweet Punjabi that is spoken in the area. I managed to locate the room in which I was born. In Islamabad,we got phonecalls the whole day from people who knew the family,sad that they had not been able to met me. At the Tarbela dam,I met the Chief Engineer who knew my story and told me how he had gone to his house in Ambala and cried on the terrace a month earlier.
The suburb of Kot Bawa Khan Singh in Chakwal was the home of a great Sikh ascetic,and I used to always tease my Brahmin bride-to-be in America that in my family,the eldest could any day become a Sardar. We live our lives at different levels in the subcontinent. Being the largest part of it,and doing reasonably well,we have the strength to tread the more difficult path for the future of the subcontinent’s destiny. Barack Obama can’t be the only Gandhian left.
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