1947 – The Day it Rained Blood

“Grandpa, I need to talk to you regarding the partition.” she said. Her last word had sent a shiver through my body. “I am planning a documentary on that topic so I thought who better than an eye-witness for that. So do you remember anything? Can you tell me what happened?” asked my 23-year-old granddaughter.

“Sure dear, I will tell you a story – a true story – from that time. Okay?” I asked.

And then she took a seat next to me in the veranda and listened to me as I started my story.

The summer had never stayed as long as it did in 1947. The black clouds did visit every now and then but never did they pour a drop of rain. The villagers, who were dependent on their farms for livelihood, prayed for some rainfall but if only they knew about the storm awaiting them.

The partition had been announced and the village of Mannat was to be in Pakistan. Looking at the tense situation in Bengal and Punjab, the Sikhs of Mannat had been advised to leave on the train to India the very next day. This gave them just one night to collect all their belongings and say good-bye to their beloved Muslim brothers and sisters who they grew up with. Some promised to meet soon while the others did not lie. It was past noon and Mujeed was helping his Aunt Rashmi with her packing. She was a school teacher for 10 years to the village kids, including Mujeed, before she retired at the age of 55. She was leaving him responsible with all her belongings and cattle while she stayed along with her daughter Riya in a refugee camp in India. Riya and Mujeed had been in love for the past three years but she was a Sikh and Mujeed a Muslim. They kept their love to their furtive visits to the common terrace or sometimes to Mujeed’s farm.

After a while Rashmi, dressed in an old red and orange gown, left for feeding the cows and Mujeed grabbed Riya in his arms and said “Don’t leave. Please stay. I love you and I will always love you. Please stay.” She looked back at him with her teary eyes and said “I wish I could but I can’t. We can never be together. They will never let us be together.” She was right. Even if people could forget about her being a Sikh they will never let a widow remarry, not even if she has a 2-year-old to take care of. Riya was married off at 16 and three years later her husband died in an accident, leaving her alone in this patriarchal world. Mujeed was her only friend in the village and the only one who looked at her with love and respect. A few minutes later Rashmi came back in and Riya went inside to cook some food for their journey the next day. As Mujeed was about to leave Riya came up to him and tied an amulet around his arm saying “This has protected me for the past 20 years. Now it will protect you while I am away from you.” Mujeed ran his hands through her cheek and left.

Partition-and-Independence

UNHCR estimates 14 million people – Sikhs, Hindus and Muslims – had been displaced and left homeless during the partition. It was the largest mass migration in human history.

Later that day, around midnight, the villagers were gathered in the Mosque for an urgent meeting. As Mujeed walked in he saw a man informing people about a flood in the river Satluj a few miles away. The man was dressed in a brown Kurta. He was thin and wore deep black kohl on his eyes, which gave him quite a devilish look. He said in a monotonous tone “It is raining on the other side and the River is flooded. The bridge might soon break down and your farms will be destroyed.” Everyone started murmuring and shouting. The man further added “But do you know what is worse? The bodies of the dead floating in the river” There was sudden silence and everyone looked at him. “Those were Muslims like you and me but they were not killed by the flood. No” said the tall man shaking his head angrily. “They were killed by the Sikhs on the other side. The women were raped and babies were smothered in their sleep and thrown into the river. The eyes of the dead demand revenge; they demand blood. The blood of all Sikhs must be poured on to this very ground.” A villager interrupted him saying “No! The Sikhs here did nothing, why should we hurt them!” The tall man grabbed the villager by the collar and said “Are they more of a brother to you then the Muslims who are lying in the river.” He took his sword out and holding it high said, “Remember even Allah has said “There is only one true god, only one.” So if you are a true Muslim and a believer of Allah stand up with me and say “Death to the Sikhs”.” Soon a few people stood up in his support and once they started chanting “Allahu Akbar! Allahu Akbar!” almost everyone stood by them. The people did not want justice they just wanted to prove their allegiance to their ‘God’. Mujeed ran away from there to the only person he could think of.

Fifteen minutes later, Mujeed was standing in front of Riya holding her hands and explaining everything. Riya was wearing a light green salwaar. Her huge pearl earrings complemented her fair skin and the confident face only belied the naïve girl inside her. Riya could hear the slogans “Allahu Akbar” and the fear made her hug her kid almost unconsciously. Mujeed decided to take them to his place as no one would attack a Muslim’s house. Mujeed, along with Riya and her daughter, took the back door from where his house was barely 50 meters away but what he saw on his route was devastating. Naseer Khan, the mosque Malawi, had a sword in his hand and was running towards the house of the Sikhs. The Sikh fraternity, who were busy packing their stuff, were taken by surprise and could only scream and beg for mercy. They wondered what had made their brothers turn on to them. This is when Mujeed saw the first killing of his life. A Muslim man pierced his knife through a Sikh man’s stomach and said “This one is for raping our sisters and daughters in your Hindustan”. Mujeed knew things were now out of hand and he rushed Riya and her kid to his house. He locked them inside and went back to look for Rashmi.

When he reached Rashmi’s house he saw from the window four Muslims looting the place. Rashmi’s clothes were torn and she lay on the feet of a man begging for mercy. He was the same man who was responsible for inducing hatred among the Muslims in the mosque earlier that night. Another guy held her by the hair and asked her about her daughter to which she said nothing and just kept crying. The fat bearded man dragged his feet out of her hands and kicked her to the wall saying “I will make an example out of you”. Mujeed was about to go inside when Rashmi looked towards him with a prayer in her eyes saying “Please go and save my daughter. Please save my granddaughter.” Other people saw Mujeed too and asked him if he had seen Riya to which he said no. One of them came forward and handed over a knife to him saying “Go avenge your sisters and daughters. Eye for an eye! Rape for rape! Blood for blood! Allahu Akbar.” With the knife in his trembling hands, Mujeed nodded his head and knew what he had to do. Before leaving he tried to argue with the fat leader saying “But leave the poor women alone, she …” and BANG! The fat leader had just shot Rashmi in the head and asked Mujeed “You were saying something?” He knew there and then that these people will show no mercy.

As he walked back he could see Rashmi’s house being set on fire. Rashmi was disrobed and her naked body was hung on the Peepal tree with “Pakistan Zindabad” branded on her chests with a sword. Under the same Peepal tree Rashmi had taught the children, both Hindu and Muslim, the ethics of life and the value of being a good human being.

Women

Patterns of tooth-marks disfiguring the skin of many rape victims were visible. Women’s bodies were tattooed with symbols of their attackers’ religions. Several attacks included men carving political slogans, such as “Pakistan Zindabad” (Pakistan forever) or “Jai Hind” (Long live India) into a woman’s skin—demonstrating the ways that women’s bodies formed living trophies of war – Borders and Boundaries

As he walked ponderously to his house, all he saw around him was blood and fire; Infants crying, friends fighting and widows wailing. Women were being raped by men who were brothers till yesterday. Men were beheaded and their body branded “Pakistan Zindabad”. He wanted someone’s help because he knew he won’t be able to fight hundred crazy people alone. He stood there looking for help but all he saw was bloodshed. He could see Kabir Singh shooting his own daughter and then using the same gun to kill himself. Many women had jumped inside the common well to escape the swords and bullets but they couldn’t escape death.

Mujeed went back to his house where he found Riya sitting in a corner with her daughter tightly held in her arms. She came up to him and asked “Maati? Where is she?” He held her face in his hands, looked in her eyes and just shook his head. She fell on her knees and started wailing “Maati! My beloved Maati!” Mujeed’s mind was only stuck at one thing, “How do I save Riya and her 2-year-old, how do I do that?” The next train was still 8 hours away and he dreaded the thoughts coming in his head. Many people came and banged his doors shouting “Mujeed are you inside?”, “Mujeed did you kill that bitch?” but he made sure no one entered. He could easily run away through the backdoor, but with Riya and her kid they would identify him in minutes. Riya could sense what was coming and she held Mujeed’s hand and said “Promise me you will save my daughter, promise me that.” He looked at her kissed her head and said “I will save both of you. I promise you that.” He knew someone would soon breakthrough that door so he brought Riya up close and said “Listen, I have a plan.”

Mujeed’s prediction was right and soon 3 Muslims entered his house. He got up and shouted “What happened! Can’t you see I am busy finishing a job?” They looked behind him and there lay Riya with her clothes partially torn. They looked back at Mujeed, who was standing shirtless, and said with a grin “Oh! So the kid has grown up. Good! You finish this job we have many more girls for you to finish your job with.” Another man, the same one who was giving the speech in the mosque, made a move towards Riya’s daughter whom Mujeed stopped saying “No! I will kill both of them. You can leave.” The other two held Mujeed back while their leader looked at Riya with anger. He took out his gun and aimed at her. Mujeed shouted “Leave her. I will kill her after I am done with her.” The leader looked back at Mujeed with a tilted face and without another look he shot Riya on her legs. He came close to Mujeed and said “You don’t need her legs for your ‘job’ do you?” and added “We will be back in ten minutes. You finish her then or we will.” They left Mujeed with her.

Refugee Camp

A consensus figure of 500,000 is often used, but the sources closer to the truth give figures that range between 200,000 and 360,000 dead. By other estimates, Partition resulted in as many as 1.5 million deaths.

As soon as the bandits left the house, Mujeed ran to Riya saying “Sorry, I am so sorry. I never thought that he would do this. I thought we will fool them with this.” Mujeed desperately tried stopping the blood with some clothes but to no avail. She was hurt badly and could not move at all. After some time she took his face in her hands and wiped off his tears saying “I love you.” He shook his heads saying “No. Don’t say it that way. You cannot leave me. We were supposed to grow old together.” She withered in pain so Mujeed took her head into his laps and said “Don’t leave, please.” Wiping his tears he said “You remember that night in the farm we discussed a life together? You remember? I would be a doctor and you my wife. I would spoil our kids and you will tidy them up. You promised to be with me my whole life. Don’t break it now. Don’t leave please.” He fought her but she kept looking at him saying “Do you love me?” He said “yes”. She asked “Do you love me enough to kill me?” He shouted “No! No, I won’t give up on you. No.” The three Muslims were back now and were banging the door angrily. He bent on his knees and hugged Riya in her arms tightly. She said “Please kill me. I would die in your hands rather than live with those monsters. Please save my daughter. Please.” The banging became more furious. He looked at her crying and he knew what he had to do. He took her in his arms and looking into her eyes he said “I will always love you” and pierced the knife through her stomach. She gave out a light sigh and said “I will see you in the next lifetime my love.” She died in his arms and he let out a silent wail looking up to the sky begging for some miracle. The door was about to break and he knew that he had to rush to save Riya’s daughter. He kissed Riya goodbye, took Riya’s daughter in his arms and escaped through the backdoor.

As he ran towards the railway station he could feel the first rain drops of the year lash his body. He looked around him and he noticed the water washing away the bloods from dead bodies on the ground. The amount of blood collected in a puddle made it seem like it had rained blood on the country that day. The truth wasn’t far from that.

A day later they were on a train to India. He decided to name the 2-year-old girl with him Riya and promised himself that he will take care of her just like his own daughter.

“This, my dear is the story of the Partition.” I concluded.

“But grandpa, I never heard such things. You did not speak of the political lines and the ongoing war in Kashmir at that time” asked my granddaughter.

“The guy in this story lost his village, his house and most importantly the love of his life. The story is an example of how a Muslim man fought Muslims away to protect a Hindu family. Not only that but he also became a Hindu just to protect his new daughter in a new land. Especially it tells you that no particular religion or country was responsible for the bloodshed. Hindus and Muslims were both equally responsible and were both equally bereaved of their loved ones.” I further added, “What did any of the countries gain? Was it strength to kill innocent children and women? Someone has lost her husband, some a father and some an infant. A line was drawn on the country that day but the scars of partition remain in everyone’s heart.” I said looking towards the clouds from my chair.

She looked at my sad face and asked “Grandpa, are you alright?”

“Yes” I said “Yes, I am. Don’t worry. Now go on I need to take my medicines. I will see you at dinner.” She kissed me goodbye and went off.

I called out for my daughter. She put my medicine on the table and asked me “The same Partition story of your friend again?” I said with a smile “Well that’s my favorite one.” She was about to leave when I said “Riya dear, please close the door behind you I need to rest.”

As she left I closed my eyes and started rubbing the amulet in my arm which took me back to my house in Mannat where Riya and I were still together.

“The fact is both sides killed. Both shot and stabbed and speared and clubbed. Both tortured. Both raped. The two sides had lost a million people in this mayhem” – Khushwant Singh

Memoirs of a prostitute

She held the pistol in her trembling hands and without wasting anytime she aimed the gun and shot. A deafening roar pierced through the air.

It was early morning at 7 and the city was already astir. I got out of my car, with a recorder in my hand I crossed the road and started looking for hotel Shaalimar. It is Bombay so the place was crowded even at this time. I could see people going to work and some waiting for their buses. A school going kid helped me with the directions and I finally saw the hotel. It was a very busy place with children as young as 12 wiping tables and providing tea. I made a note of mentioning it in my next article. I was wearing a brown jacket and with the number of eyes rounding up on me, I decided to take out the Press ID card from my neck and kept it inside my hand bag.

Two muscular guys, dressed in black t-shirts and blue denims, came towards me and asked my name. One of them wore a golden necklace and the other was playing with his car keys. After seeing my ID and confirming with their boss they took me with them in a Scorpio. They dropped me in front of a three storied building and told me to go to the first floor. As I took a flight of stairs, I was really shocked at what I saw. The place was really not like what I had seen in the movies or read in some books. This place was actually neat and tidy, no shabby yellow-red lighting, it even had a good décor and frankly looked better than my own place. I was served with a hot cup of coffee and some snacks as I waited to meet the owner of the brothel, who was called ‘Aunty’ by everyone.

cropped-903742sad_girl

She looked forty years old and was wearing a beautiful blue sari. Again, I had hoped of meeting someone chewing tobacco, smoking a cigarette and dressed provocatively in a loud dress. She sat opposite to me and asked “How are you doing?” I replied “I am fine.” Looking at my amazed face she said “Not exactly what you were expecting? Well, what can I say, along with India even we have progressed and also we have some rich and powerful clients who prefer a tidy place.” I jumped in “oh so you have policemen, lawyers and businessmen over here too?” She grinned and said “This isn’t my first interview with you press pests. I agreed only because we have a mutual friend. So tell me what you want” Seeing that we were no longer cordial I said “I want an interview”

“You are already having one”

“No not you. With someone new in your business” She simply shook her head and said “not possible”. I said “I will give you 10000 for two hours of that girls time. I know you charge 6000, so it’s a good deal for you too.” She examined me through those steely cold eyes and then ordered one of her guys to call someone.

She was a young girl, maybe 19 or just 20 years old. She had black hair with huge brown eyes, clear pale skin and a few freckles on her upturned nose. She walked with a slight limp on her left leg. The landlady looked at her with a smile and said “Don’t do or speak anything you shouldn’t. Or you know how you will pay”. I was first asked to meet her in one of the rooms but I simply declined and said I will talk to her in the front garden. I paid 1000 rupees extra for it but I wanted the girl to be comfortable with me and not haunted by the past experiences she might have shared in those rooms. I wanted her to just come out of that place and see that a world around her still exists and it’s beautiful. “Can you walk down these stairs? Because I can see you are hurt” I asked. She nodded without even looking at me and started walking. We walked towards a rotten swing which squeaked as we sat. Her face flits from cute to beautiful when she smiles and says “This is the first time in the past ten months that I have come out here. So, thank you.” I tried to smile but all that went in my head was ‘TEN months’, the poor girl had been enslaved here for ten months.

I was shocked to know that she had done her schooling from a reputed school in Delhi and was the topper in her 10th standard. I talked about myself and told her how I ended up as a journalist. We talked how Bombay is different to Delhi and everything. We had two cups of coffee served for us. I took a small sip and seeing that she was comfortable, I asked “So why and how did you end up here?”

We were talking in Hindi up until now when she said “Talk in English if you want a real interview. The guards do not speak English and you can know everything then. I repeat do not say any word that they might understand.” I knew I was in for something real.

She started her story.

I was in class eleventh and I had my first boyfriend. He was one of the popular guys from school and I liked him a lot. I never knew that apart from just cigarettes and beer, he was into some harder things too. One night at his house he introduced me to some drugs which I later on realized was ecstasy. He was from a rich family and never had problems with buying such expensive stuff. I soon got addicted to him as well as his drugs. Then, one day he broke up with me. I got over him but I couldn’t get over my other addiction. Now I was really desperate to earn some money and get the drugs. I couldn’t tell my parents as they would have killed me, and if I didn’t get the drugs soon they will come to know eventually. So I started looking for some jobs online. I found one it said ‘Women employee needed. Aged 17-22. Urgent. Contact no:- 9XXXXXXXXX.’ I contacted that number and was asked to meet him at a restaurant. I asked him about the job. The guy was in his early 30s and looking at me asked my age to which I replied 18. He kept looking at me and then said “The job is simple. I want you to be mine for 3 hours. I want to play with you. I will give you 5000 rupees if you just let me play with you.” I wanted to slap him but I also knew I needed the money. He waited for a few minutes and said “I know you girls. Your constant itching and your fingers, they all scream drugs. I know you are desperate. It’s a safe deal for you too. Take it.” And I made the biggest mistake of my life, I said ‘yes.’

child-prostitute-poster A recent survey done by SanLaap, sates that 20% of the women employed in brothels are underage and 74% of them are forced into this red light business.

The next day I went over to his place. He just wanted to look at me naked and kiss me and say dirty things to me. When he was done I put my clothes back on and he gave me my money. I counted it and it was only 2000. I barked at him “What the hell is this! You promised me 5000!” He slapped me on my left cheek and said “Shut up bitch! I can easily throw you out of here without paying you a single penny. Walk out of here with what you have or I will take that back too.” I went back to my room that day and cried. I cried a lot. I felt used, disgusted and wanted to kill myself. I tried jumping off the building but well it’s not really that easy. The first thing I did with that money was buy my drugs. Please don’t mistake me here, I started reducing it and soon I also joined a support group for the drug addicts.

I kept on doing this for a few more months and just needed a few more thousand to get myself into rehab. Then, one day I was called by a client to a hotel. It was a dirty hotel in the Pahadganj Area of Delhi, close to the railway station. When I entered the room he welcomed me with a drink, which I refused. But he insisted again and again. I kept on refusing and suddenly he was on top of me with the glass in his hand, he forced the liquor inside me. The next thing I remember was waking up in a shabby room, lying on a wooden bed with dirty linens and the sexually decorated walls. I was scared and started banging the door but no one opened it. I looked inside the drawers and found packets of condom and a box of pills. I looked outside through a small hole in the broken window and I realized where I was. It was the famous G. B. Road of Delhi.

I cried for the next four days, without water or food. One day a man dressed up in a white shirt and black trousers came with two goons and fed me. I was hungry and ate everything on the plate. After I was done he said with a straight tone “you are my property now. I will handle you, sell you and do whatever I want. This door will be left open but do not try to run from here.” He left saying that. Later that night at 3, I woke up and slowly got out of my bed. I looked for the stairs and made a run for it. I was walking slowly and only when I was about to reach the ground floor, a man snatched my hair from behind. He grabbed me and threw me on the floor. He was the same man who I had met at the hotel in Delhi. I tried fighting him and the whole building was up now. The man, whose ‘property’ I was, came down and slapped me. Once, twice and thrice! He brought his face close to me and started abusing me to which I replied by spitting back at him. He wiped his face and whispered something to his goons. Then two guys came towards me, one held my arms and the other held my right feet on the ground. A third man came with a drilling machine towards me and drilled a small hole through my left leg calves.

1_8 Falkland Road-S

Over 80% of the agents bring young women into the profession were known people and not traffickers such as neighbors, relatives, etc.

After that I could no longer run and I never asked anyone for help. I made a few friends and realized almost half of them shared my story. No one came here voluntarily and no one can leave voluntarily either. I still remember my first time with a man. He was a fifty year old. Remembering that night still sends shivers down my body which kills a part of me every day.”

She took another sip of her coffee and jut lay quiet for some time. She wiped a tear off her right cheek and said “After some months I was sold off to the Kamatipura area of Bombay and since then I have been here. I have been used by more than hundred men already. I cannot have a child because the Aunty here forced me into an operation. I will be forced out of here as soon as I turn 30 as Aunty says ‘You are useful to me only as long as you are useful to my clients’. Every day I wake up in pain and live in pain. Every day I just want to kill myself and wish to end this suffering for ever. But guess what, a whore has no rights. Not even the right to end her life.”

Two guys standing closer to me now picked me up with my collar and said “It is time for you to leave now. Your two hours are over.” I fought back saying “No, but I am not done yet. I want to talk more. Leave me you bastards.” The goons looked up towards the terrace where the Aunty shook her head signalling a big ‘No’. I looked at the girl sitting on that swing and as they dragged me out I said “I am sorry. I wish I could do something for you. I am really sorry.”

She stood up all of a sudden and ran towards the guy who was standing in front of me with my neck in his hands. He couldn’t see her coming. She forced her hands on that guy and took out his pistol which was pushed into his jeans on the back. She held the pistol in her trembling hands and without wasting anytime she aimed the gun and shot. A deafening roar pierced through the air.

She was lying on the ground as blood poured out of her shattered skull. The grief ridden face was now gone and she welcomed the calm sleep.

Meghna committed suicide on 28th April 2014.

Where will I find again, my old dreams, my lost innocence and my forgotten childhood? Where is gone the shade of the trees that were once my home?