70 years after Pakistan-India split, Sikhs search for home

70 years after Pakistan-India split, Sikhs search for home

70 years after Pakistan-India split, Sikhs search for home

PESHAWAR (Pakistan): Radesh Singh’s grandfather was only eleven years old when he left his village in the Punjab province of India to move to Peshawar in the northwest of the country on the border with Afghanistan.
It was the year 1901

The British ruled the Indian subcontinent, Pakistan was not even a flash in the eye of its founder, Mohammad Ali Jinnah and Peshawar out the promise of work and adventure.

Singh’s grandfather would never return to his village, not even in 1947, when the Indian subcontinent split into mostly Indian Hindu and Muslim Pakistan, generating one of the largest migrations in modern history and releasing a brutality that left little dead As mobs of Hindus and Muslims spun each other.

Singh’s family is neither Hindus nor Muslims, but there are religious minorities in both countries. In the 70 years since partition, they led a secessionist uprising in India demanding total independence for the Indian state of Punjab where they dominate.

They felt less at home on both sides of the border, but especially in recent years in Muslim-majority Pakistan, as they were also victims of local Taliban violence.

Singh said that poverty has kept his grandfather in Peshawar, at the foot of the famous Khyber Pass and dominated by fiercely independent ethnic Pashtun tribes.

“It’s not easy to start from scratch when you have very little,” he said.
Hostility after 1947 was brief in the northwest, Singh said. Decades of peace followed.

The decision to stay in the new country now called Pakistan seemed a good choice at the time. The Sikhs had lived in peace for centuries with their Pashtun Muslim compatriots.

After all, says Singh, the Sikhs had a glorious history in the northwest. For a time, in the 18th century, we monitored a dynasty. Its capital was the city of Lahore, in the east of Pakistan.

It was a Sikh ruler, Ranjit Singh, who rebuilt the famous Fort Bala Hisar in Peshawar, a fortified fortress that some historians say, is as old as the city itself, dating back more than 2000 years.

Today, Sikhs are among the smallest minorities in Pakistan. They are easily identifiable by their closely-tuned and often colored turbans, and because they share the surname Singh.

The CIA Factbook estimates that 3.6% of Pakistan’s 180 million people are Muslims, including Sikhs, Christians and Hindus.

Until 1984, Singh said that Hindus and Sikhs live in Pakistan as well as in northwest Pakistan. Her children are married, worshiped together. But then Prime Minister of India, Indira Gandhi was killed by her Sikh bodyguards.

“They (the Hindus) have cut off all relations with us, they said the Pakistani Sikhs are like all Sikhs everywhere. No Difference They said …” Now we’re going to be separated from you, “Singh said.

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