Story of 1947: Independence Day: There was no sleep in my eyes that night …
‘There was no sleep in anyone’s eyes that night’
Mahesh Sabharwal, who came to Delhi from Rawalpindi, has witnessed the days of independence very closely. He says, ‘A few months after partition, I moved from Rawalpindi to Delhi. Here I was living with my uncle in Palam, where I felt a true celebration of freedom. The part where I lived in Palam was a military area and the tricolor was flying on every house here. Unlike other parts of Delhi, there was no fear. People began to live the feeling of living with freedom in their country. Then we were giving the three idols a different kind of pleasure. ‘
Sabharwal says that independence came first and partition came later. My uncle was in the army at the time of partition and was living in the Palam area. Both Pakistan and India had a festive atmosphere on the eve of independence. As soon as the partition was announced, riots broke out in both the countries. Seeing the terror and violence, my father, mother, two sisters, brother, grandmother and I came to my uncle in Delhi from Lunda Bazaar in Rawalpindi. Even after 15th August 1947, the Independence Day celebrations were going on in Delhi for many months. At the same time, the period of panic and killing continued. There was no event to celebrate at the government level, but people danced and sang at their level. When the atmosphere in Delhi calmed down, Mama moved to Pune. After he went there, my father also came to Delhi from Rawalpindi and started teaching here. We were living on Robert Road. There was an open space next to the wall of the Prime Minister’s residence, where we used to play. Where is the embassy premises today, opened a school on Kitchener Road in which I studied.
‘Sleep in Slavery, Freed’
Chiranjilal is now 90 years old. He lives in the beautiful part of Delhi. He says, ‘When the country became independent, I used to live in the Harduaganj police station area of Aligarh. A few days before independence, there was a festive atmosphere in the villages. People were waving flags in the house. Children used to wave the tricolor flag from morning to evening. I did not know what freedom was. Just knew that the British would leave our country now. On Independence Day, utensils were being made in all the houses in the village.
He says that if there was no TV-radio, village volunteers would be deployed to spread the message of freedom. He was informing prominent people about the independence of the country. On the morning of Independence Day, there was a big celebration in the whole village. Handwritten sheets were being distributed. On which was written ‘The handcuffs have been broken, the chains of slavery have been broken. Rise, do good to the country, create a new era. ‘This is the first time that people have lit a lamp in their house at night before Diwali. I slept in slavery, woke up in a free country. This happiness was unique in itself. A few years later I came to Delhi from Harduaganj in search of a job. There was a sense of freedom every day. Now we can breathe free air. Anyone can chant whatever they want. It was a pleasure to be free from the British bondage that had been suffocating the people for hundreds of years. But there is still the sadness of being separated from those who decided to cross the border.
‘A terrible journey from Lahore to Delhi’
The 85-year-old B. who lives in Amar Colony. Sahni had traveled from Lahore to Delhi. He says, ‘My father was a stock broker in Lahore. There was no shortage of money and life was going well. The freedom gained from the British had added to the joy. There was a festive atmosphere in both India and Pakistan. But then the split happened. The terrible journey from Lahore to Delhi in 1947 will not be forgotten. Somehow Dad took care of us.
Sahni says, ‘My parents accepted my 4 sisters and me to live in India. We were taken by army truck to the local railway station in Lahore. We rarely got a seat in the crowded train there. I still remember the day when the train stopped near the field for a few hours. The bodies of women, men and children lying on donkeys in the fields outside the train caught my breath. Mom hid me in her lap so I couldn’t see it all. We reached Delhi in a panic. Here he was in a Dharamshala in Sitaram Bazaar near Chandni Chowk. The ramparts of the Red Fort, from which the Prime Minister delivered his speech, were kept for several months. Even in Dharamshala, people stayed awake for a long time. Whatever money my father had, he rented a house on New Street from a property broker. He then set up his business in Dr. Surena’s building. Gradually, our condition began to improve. The government gave us land in Amar Colony and we started living there.
‘People used to go to the team with tricolor’
I was 26-27 years old then. The whole country was painted in the colors of freedom. From the village to the city, people were marching on the streets with tricolors in their hands. Some sang patriotic songs and some told stories of their contribution to the freedom struggle. But the color of freedom faded due to partition. There were ups and downs everywhere. Rural areas were no exception. The situation in Aligarh was extremely delicate. That’s what 102-year-old Parvati says. In those days Parvati was living in a village in Aligarh.
Parvati can no longer hear or speak properly. But they have some memories of freedom. He said the partition was being planned a few days before independence. Those who wanted to go to Pakistan were approaching Aligarh railway station. No one had seen so many crowds leaving the country at the railway stations. Then there was a sudden shout in the village, ‘Run, run, they have come’. Everyone was hiding in their own house. People used to form groups for the safety of women living in the village and stay in one place at night. The celebration of independence was in an atmosphere of terror everywhere. A few months later she came to Delhi. Now lives in Ambabagh e-block in Kishanganj area. She says Chandni Chowk was completely unstable. There was a big crowd of people going to Pakistan at the New Delhi railway station. It also had a large number of women. It is more sad to be separated from old homes and loved ones than to be happy in a new country. People crossed the border losing their loved ones. There was an atmosphere of fear in Delhi for many months. It took about a year for this atmosphere to reverse.
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