Excerpt from "From Okara to Ludhiana" by Anand Saroop.
When I read the analysis of the violence during the Partition, I do not find adequate recognition of the significance of the fact that even before the actual transfer of power, all the government servants had been given the choice of opting for either India or Pakistan. This meant that many Hindu and Sikh government personnel left the areas likely to be included in Pakistan, and most of the Muslim officials had left the areas likely to be in India. As a result, government personnel, including Army units, members of the ICS, IPS and the lower echelons of civil and police services, could no longer be counted on being neutral. In fact, many government officials looked the other way when their co-religionists rioted and pushed vulnerable minorities out of their homes. I have always wanted to find out who ordered this exchange of army, police and civil officials, and why no body reflected on its likely impact on the law and order situation.
One day, we unexpectedly ran into the poet Sahir Ludhianvi's mother, who had refused to abandon her house when Sahir and other Muslim families had left for Pakistan. She was now in the refugee camp. Har Krishan and Madan Didi knew her very well because, as Sahir's friends, they had enjoyed her hospitality almost every day. I too was a great admirer of Sahir's poetry and knew his Talkhiyan by heart.
None of us was willing to let her stay on in the refugee camp. We moved her back into her own house close to the Jagraon Bridge. We also arranged for all the provisions for her and also found a giant tin of egg powder. We visited her every day to inquire about her welfare, recite Sahir's poetry, talk about the inequities of the partition and eat her delicious parathas with large helpings of omelettes made from the egg powder.
After a while we learnt that Sahir had come back and was living in Bombay. Seeing what was happening to Non-Muslims, he had refused to take a pledge of allegiance to Pakistan. Naturally, his mother too left for Bombay to join up with her son.
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