Journalist Hamid Mir wrote a moving piece in the Indian Express about his grandmother Ghulam Fatima who went missing in Jammu during the Partition. He also writes about the atrocities that women on both sides faced during the riots.
But as my grandmother’s bus drove out of Jammu city, it was stopped by a gang of armed Hindus and Sikhs. They ruthlessly killed all the males in front of the women and children. My mother was a small girl. When the attackers asked the women to come out from the buses, my grandmother Ghulam Fatima told my mother, Mumtaz, to hide under the dead bodies. She pushed her two smaller daughters, Jamila and Shamim, also under the bodies. A baby son was crying in her lap. He was too small to hide, so she ran with him into the nearby jungle. My mother, on the other hand, was able to conceal herself and her younger sisters amid the pools of congealing blood. They survived.
As for Ghulam Fatima and her baby son, my sobbing mother recounted what a relative had said, later. How Ghulam Fatima was last seen defending herself with a stick in her right hand and her little son in her left hand, but she was overpowered easily and dragged away by her attackers.
--------- Hamid Mir further writes------
Another book, “Partition and Locality” by Ilyas Chattha, is a moving account of the rape and murder of both Muslim and non-Muslim women in Punjab. I read horrifying details of a train carnage in Kamonke (near Lahore) and the abduction of Hindu women. I belong to a generation of Pakistanis brought up by a parent who witnessed the trauma of partition first hand. I simply cannot forget my mother’s tears, for her own missing mother. To me, independence is a reminder of the sacrifices made by my grandmother Ghulam Fatima and thousands of other women like her.
All these women wanted was to live in peace, but the brutal truth is that their successive generations are still searching for that elusive feeling. The people of the subcontinent certainly got freedom from British imperialisim, but they remain slaves to their biases and to the hatred they spawned for each other all those decades ago. Today they are no more slaves of foreign invaders, but are slaves of this consuming hatred for each other.
In fact, they fear each other; they fear that they may, perhaps, find it in themselves to like each other despite this hatred. These people of the subcontinent – us — are worse in our behavior towards each other than the British who ruled for nearly three centuries.